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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Brussels - Day 3

Breakfast is a slight variation from yesterdays - croissant and strawberry jam and a vanilla yoghurt - I decide to skip the meat and cheese.

I set off just after 10, making a quick pass by Manneken-Pis to get some snaps of the (tacky) quality tourist merchandise.

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The streets were surprisingly deserted except for anywhere around the leaky boy. It was unfortunate but little Manneken seemed to be having some problems - I'm not sure if they call a plumber or a urologist but two men with beer bottles were taking samples.

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On the way to my first real stop of the day I go past the Tour D'Angle. This is a segment of orginal 11th-12th century fortifications.
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My destination is the Grand Sablon (Grote Zaval). This area is known for it's upmarket boutiques, antiques and famous antique market, chocolatiers, cafes and restaurants.

At the head of the Place du Grand Sablon is a statue of Minerva - a gift to the city in 1751.
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The antique market, which is reportedly one of Europe's best is held every weekend under the shadow of the Notre-Dame du Sablon.
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I just really liked the look of this table.

Pierre Marcolini Chocolatier can be found in the neighbourhood - The window displays are to die for, though to my chagrin I failed to actually try any of the products. For shame!
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Maybe I could have bought that box of 127 pieces of truffles for €58 - I'm sure it would last until november, umm, october...umm tomorrow.

I haven't seen this before - work is currently taking place on the facade of the Notre-Dame du Sablon but the scaffolding is covered with cloth that has been printed with the churchs facade. What an excellent idea.
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From the second photo you can see that the renovation work has been completed on the side facing the Rue de la Régence and they are now doing the entrance (on the Rue de Sablons) and the side facing the market.

I wasn't able to get any photos of the inside due to wedding preparations taking place.

Across the road is the Petit Sablon - this park was formed when the Grand Sablon was dissected when they made the Rue de La Régence. Le Petit Sablon (Klein Zavel) was designed by Henri Beyaert in 1890 and is dedicated to the memory of Counts Egmont and Hornes.

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Their statues form the centrepoint of this park - they were excecuted in 1568 for treason, by the order of Philip II, the King of Spain.

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The gardens are fenced and surrounded by 48 statues each representing a medievel guild. Within the gardens there are another 18 statues of important figures in the history of Belgium.

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Now I'm sure by this stage you might be thinking that this sounds like a lovely little park and indeed it is. It's quite beautiful and peaceful. It's also a place where I had the opportunity to sit for a while as I'd filled up the SD cards and needed to download them onto the Ipod. Imagine my surprise when I heard some rustling coming from the bushes to one side of me. More surprising was to see a woman emerging having, from the state of her clothing, taken the opportunity to "spend a penny or two." Without going into too many details, the dribble marks kind of gave it away.

Suitably disgusted it wasn't the end of this scatalogical adventure. A few minutes or so later an older couple came meandering down the path towards me - the male veering off into the bushes for some relief as his wife milled around. Memo to the citizens of brussels - umm, have you heard a thing called a toilet? No, I am not referring to trees, okay?

If you'd like to see more pictures of the Grand Sablon (promise there's no candid camera shots) you can click on this link Grand/Petit Sablon Set.

A short walk down the Rue de la Régence leads you straight to the Palais de Justice.
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Built by Joseph Poelaert between 1866-1883 it was considered to be the biggest building constructed in the 19th century. It's the home to the Supreme Court of Belgium. Since it's located at the top of a hill, it's the perfect spot to get a sweeping view of the city.

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One of the things you can see from here is the Atomium - a site I've had to postpone visiting since it is currently undergoing restoration. The Atomium was built for the 1958 World's Fair and is a model of a cystalline metal molecule magnified 150 billion times.

On Poelaert Place, in front of the Palais de Justice you'll also see two war memorials - the photo to the left, is the Infantry Memorial (dedicated to the memory of Belgium foot soldiers) and the one on the right is the British War Memorial (dedicated to the memory of British soldiers that died in WWI)
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Having taking in the views I headed back following a different route. This would lead to the next stop of the Eglise Saints Jean et Etienne aux Minimes (The Church of St Jean & Etienne on Mimiemenstratt).

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This is a mix of 17th century Baroque and 18th century Neo-Classicism.

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If you'd like to see more photos just click on the link Eglise Saints Jean et Etienne

Before reaching my next destination I took the opportunity to stop for what is one of Brussels most famous dishes - frites! Swades of cyber forests have been chopped down so people from one end of the universe to the other can wax lyrical on the virtues of these frites. "Worlds best", "National pride", "Must experience" and "Incredible" are just some of the ridiculous words people will use to describe what are essentially...chips. Chips with tartare sauce! Armed with my little blue plastic fork (just that alone should tell you how special they are), I sat and nibbled, as only a conisseur like myself (or Paalo) could possibly do. Yes, these were in fact....chips with tartare sauce. You can call them frites, you can say you invented them but mate, they are chips. I hear the cyber drums beating..but but, the tartare...the tartare is special they are saying. Yes, indeed it is...I thought it was very special as it was squirted out of it's 4 litre container.
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Where I stopped for this gastronomic highpoint was the Place de la Chapelle by the truely gorgeous Notre-Dame de la Chapelle.
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It is romanesque gothic in style and contains some beautiful stained glass windows.

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If you'd like to see more photos just click on the link Notre-Dame de la Chapelle

Last, but not least, and yes it's another church, I visited Cathédrale des Sts-Michel et Gudule/Saint Michael and Saint Gudula Cathedral.
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It's a 13th century Gothic church - it's facade follows the French Gothic style and was completed in 1490.

If I thought the Notre-Dame de la Chapelle had wonderful stained glass, then this was nirvana. They were donated by the 16th century Habsburg Emperor Charles V. The whole building is in fantastic condition, though I should mention it's last restoration work was completed in 1999. There's a lot of work going on outside in the gardens below the Cathedral.

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If you'd like to see more photos, you know the drill, click on the link Cathédrale Sts-Michel et Gudule

Having completed a sizeable loop of the city I returned to the Grote Markt. Though I should have tweaked that something was up by the music that was filling the streets and the odd costumed pedestrians.
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In fact when I came into the square itself all was made clear. I'd come upon a festival - huge mannekins were being carried around followed by their respective bands or fraternities.
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Even little Manneken was being carted around - every so often he'd stop to pee on the crowd. No-one's as wacky as those belgium folks.

It's here as I stood and watched the festivities that a smiling Rene approached me and said hello. I smiled and being the polite person that I am, said hello back. Obvious that was all the encouragement he needed and he proceeded in very bad english to see if I wanted to have a drink with him - just a coffee - just 5 minutes. Umm, no. Okay, how about a drink, you like wine, let's have some wine, it will just take 15 minutes. Umm, no. Okay, okay, how about dinner, half an hour, make it an hour tops. Umm, no. He was a most persistant fellow but with a few concerned looks at my watch and "i'll be running late" I finally managed to get away.

I don't know he could have been genuine or perhaps he was looking for someone to finish his human skin sofa - either way I wasn't going to risk it. Unfortunately it kinda put a damper on my plans of lingering in the square and continuing to watch the festivities. I'll just have to do that tomorrow!

For more photos from the festival just click on the following Brussels Festival
For more general photos from today you can see view the following Brussels Set

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