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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My take on Brussels

Parc de Bruxelles is where I spent, comparatively, the biggest amount of time while in Brussels because the kids wanted to play and run outdoors. This park was great for us because it is very central, so it was relatively close to our apartment, and it is in a nice part of town, surrounded by museums, galleries and royal palaces.

Around lunch time it gets filled with office workers eating their sandwiches and take away food in plastic boxes; otherwise, it is a pretty quiet place and even the children's playground was completely empty when we were there one morning.

Still in the same park, you can see Andrej by the fountain, about to grab a pebble or piece of trash and throw it into the water. Great fun.

This is Rue du Midi, a street parallel with Boulevard Anspach, leading all the way from Grande Place to the Central train station (Gare du Midi, thus the name). My guidebook described the quarter around the train station as at best seedy by day and threatening by night, so there was no compelling reason to go there. Still, Rue du Midi had a certain charm and a nice coffee place with coffee to go, so I came back a few times. I liked this street corner, with lots of flowers and a warmly-colored facade.

Look at the sky--it's so dramatic and threatening, but in a five minute's time the sun might be shining brightly. After which there might be some rain. And clouds.

The closest I ever experienced to a weather so volatile was when I lived in London, although people say that Brussels is much worse. I didn't it mind it in Brussels--I accepted it as part of the package--but I see how it can get to you after a while. It could be depressing to have so much rain and low-hanging grey clouds for days and months on end (with only brief spells of sunshine). At least they have delicious chocolate (and plenty of it) as an antidote.

I was asked for directions at least once a day every day. People assume that a single mother with two kids on a busy street must be a native because tourism of sightseeing kind and kids do not usually mix. Plus, I looked like I knew where I was going, which was true. It took me one morning to figure out the central area and I ditched the map afterwords--once you're uptown, almost anywhere you go downhill you can't miss the Grande Place. Plus, signposts are plentiful and Brussels is not that big after all.

Boris's claim to fame ("I'm a famous artist") is not entirely unfounded, as you can see. He was very proud that his name was up there--vanity runs in the family (although not so much on my side, akhm...)


ivana said...

sounds like nice, but boring place....well, you can`t have it all:)

Jelica said...

it's actually very lively, i wouldn't call it boring. it's definitely not as "sleepy" as budapest ;)

Polly said...

my friends who work for the EU institutions and live in Brussels call it a bit boring. I visited a couple of times and I must say, other than Grand Place, which is stunning, I didn't really find much there...

Jelica said...

I liked the area around St. Catherine church and St. Gery, and that entire area around the museums and Petit and Grand Sablon. Ixelle is also pretty and interesting, according to my friends, and the quarters above the Cinquantainare park (Jambline de Meux and around) are very pretty, although quite residential.

I looked up their equivalent of "Time Out" and there were tons of exhibitions, films, festivals, etc going on so there are things to do. Next time when I go there without kids, I'll explore some more to see if it really is boring or not!

Seaside Girl said...

I love the picture of your son by the fountain. He looks so small against the spray. I tagged you will random lists of 5 - if you want to play along go and check it out.

Delwyn said...

Hi Jelica

the architecture is very imposing and orderly looking...does the city have a regimented feel?

thank heavens for parks and gardens in cities, we have to thank our forefathers for thinking ahead in that regard...

Happy days

Jelica said...

Not at all, Delwyn. It's located on hills and has lots of small, quirky streets--nothing like the grand boulevards of Paris. It has a nice mixture of old architecture and new buildings and is, altogether, a pleasant place, visually and otherwise.

I_am_Tulsa said...

I love the strolls you take us on through the various cities! I like "sleepy places" as long as they have nice cafes...and a bookstore or two!
The architecture is great to look at and the fountain looks huge!
Boris is a lovely boy with a lovely name, I am not surprised to see his name on a sign! ;-)

Oh, one of my favorite authors is Boris Akunin too!
I just realized that!

all the best!