Monday, December 19, 2011

From Z(agreb) to B(russels) Part II

Remember way back when I was on vacation?  It seems so long ago!  Finally I'm getting around to the second half of the trip.  Missed the first part?  Check it out here.

Day 6
The alarm went off way too early.  When we booked the plane tickets, it seemed like a good idea.  Plus it was the only direct flight from Zagreb to Brussels.  But when the alarm went off, it was not feeling like a good idea.  We put the finishing touches on our packing and started lugging our suitcases down the two flights of stairs.  As soon as I got into the taxi I realized I had forgotten to give my postcards to the hotel clerk to mail.  But guess what?  There was a post office at the airport!  Hooray!

The flight was uneventful.  I tried to to sleep but settled for keeping my eyes closed and drifting in and out of wakefulness.

We landed in Brussels and passport control took forever but finally we were in a taxi heading for our hotel.  The sight that greeted us outside our hotel was the beginnings of a Christmas market!  Unfortunately it seems we were about a week too early for Christmas and Christmas markets - decorations were up or being set up but not turned on.
The hotel clerk checked us in and told us we were in the Istanbul room.  We stepped inside of the room and found out why - the room even had a hookah pipe!  Instantly the song of the trip became Istanbul (Not Constantinople).  In fact, it's still in my head!  We started calling it our Cave of Wonders room.  Or our Princess Jasmine room.

It was by now definitely lunch time!  We ended up at a seafood restaurant across the square from our hotel.  Our waiter was awesome!  I had salmon, which was good.  But dessert was DELICIOUS!!  It was my first exposure to speculoos, a type of gingerbread, but my dessert was in ice cream form.  Yum!!  And shockingly this was to be my only ice cream of the trip.  I know, right?  Me, the queen of gelato.  It was just too cold.

Our next stop was Church of Ste. Catherine, which was just a block from our hotel.  The church was completely under construction.  From there we walked to the Grand Place, which is a super cool.  I really like this square.  Since we were there, we visited the City Museum, which was inside the King's House.  The top floor held a collection of Manneken-Pis costumes.  That little statue has lots and lots of costumes!!

We wandered around a little bit more, poking our heads into chocolate, lace, tapestry and beer stores before walking over to see Manneken-Pis himself.  And then it was dinner time.  We found a little pizzeria close to our hotel (delicious!) and then headed back to the hotel for an early night.

Day 7
We slept in a little and then had the joy of using our Princess Jasmine shower (oh how I missed our Zagreb shower).  It was on the small side which wouldn't have been too bad except the shower head was right in the middle.  And it was sort of at a slant so everything kept sliding.

Breakfast was a decent spread.  And they had a make your own cappuccino machine!  And remember that delicious gingerbread ice cream?  They had it in a spread which tasted fantastic on toast!

We set off to explore Brussels.  We walked through the Grand Place up to St. Michael's Cathedral.  This is where the royals are married and buried.

From there we walked up to the Upper Town and went through the BELvue Museum, which went through Belgium history (from 1830 to the present day) as well as a look at the kings.  In 1830, Belgium gained independence from the Netherlands.  Underneath the BELvue Museum were the remains of a 12th century palace which we explored as well.

Our tummies were telling us it was time to eat, so we had lunch at the restaurant at the top of the Museum of Musical Instruments.  The view was nice and the food was good.  The menu was all in French and Dutch so we had to guess a little but I ended up with a curry chicken which I enjoyed.

Next up was the Magritte Museum - Rene Magritte was a surrealist painter.  I wasn't sure what to expect with a surrealist painter, but I enjoyed the museum, much more than I expected to.  It was a good mix of paintings and letters and photos from his life.

We explored a bit more, did some shopping and by then it was dinner time.  We had crepes for dinner!  Yum!!  It was a super tiny little restaurant, but very good.  And I had peach beer which was delicious.  I am not much of a beer drinker (I just don't like the taste) but this peach beer was something else.  So good!!

Day 8
After breakfast at the hotel, we took the metro to the train station and caught a train to Brugge (about an hour or so away).  For their honeymoon, my parents had bicycled around Europe.  One of the places they had gone to was Brugge and some of the photos they had taken in Brugge are still hanging up in their house.  So of course I wanted to go!  I had been to Brugge once before and was blown away by its charm so I was eager to go back.

We arrived in Brugge and didn't read Rick's instructions close enough and the 4 minute bus ride we thought we were taking into town turned into a 34 minute bus ride.  Darn!  Guess it would have been better to take the 20 minute stroll into town.  But we made it to the Market Square to find more preparations for a Christmas market.

We started following Rick's City Walk, passing by Burg Square, the Basilica of the Holy Blood, and the Blind Donkey Street.  Lunch ended up being frites (or french fries) which we ate while sitting by the river. 

Our next stop was the Groeninge Museum, which was mostly Flemish painters (Flemish primitive, which basically means pre-Renaissance).  Whenever I hear Flemish, I generally think dark paintings, but that just goes to show you what I know.  These paintings had a lot of color!  From there we went to the Church of Our Lady, which had a beautiful Madonna and Child (by Michelangelo) as well as paintings from the 13th Century, which were fascinating.

Even though it was cold, we decided to brave it and take a boat ride through the canals.  Waiting in line, we were entertained by 4-ish yr old boy who was singing about ducks.  Swim, ducky swim.  It was quite the song.  The boat ride was fun, if cold!

Since lunch really wasn't that substantial, it was definitely time for an afternoon snack of waffles!!  We went into this little restaurant and were the only people there.  But I had probably the best cappuccino I have ever had!  I don't know if it was the cinnamon or the whip cream that made it so good.  Probably both.  And the waffles were good too!

We finished up our day by meandering through the town, going in and out of chocolate and lace shops.  There was a post office in the Market Square so I stopped to get my stamps and even though there was no one else in the shop, they wouldn't help me until I got a number.  But as soon as I took a number, it came up and I was helped.

It was dark by now and the Christmas decorations were actually lit up!!  Hooray!!

We were trying to decide whether to eat in Brugge, or wait until we made it back to Brussels.  We decided on a Rick restaurant and set off to find it.  We completely missed the street the first time, but finally found it.  Between the bus and trying to find this restaurant, Rick was not on our favorite people list.  Thank goodness we didn't give up on the restaurant, because the food was so good!  It served "Flemish specialties" and we had the beef stew.  Which came with a side of applesauce (random, right?  but oh so good!).  And I tried the cherry beer tonight.  Yum!  The restaurant was on the small side but it was decorated for Christmas and they sat us next to the fireplace (which after a cold day was a great way to warm up).

Then it was bus to the train station, train back to Brussels, metro to the hotel and bed.

Day 9
Our last day, and our last breakfast at the hotel.   Gearing up for the Christmas market was in full swing as we stepped out of our hotel and saw the Ferris Wheel they were assembling.  On the next block was a merry-go-round with random sea creatures and birds.  We slowly made our way over to Mannekin Pis to see him in the daytime.  And we started walking towards Notre Dame, passing by a section of the old city wall leftover from the 13th Century.  Notre Dame had beautiful stained glass.

From there we walked over to the Museum of Ancient Art (the Modern Art section was closed).  I don't know if I would consider the art we saw to be ancient.  There were lots of paintings of St. Sebastian, St. Anne and St. Barbara.

We walked back down and had lunch at the crepe place, which was once again delicious.  And finished up the day by going to the Costume & Lace Museum, which had lots of beautiful clothes.

We made it back to Grand Place where they were in the process of putting lights up on the Christmas tree.  But the stupid crane they were using did not make it easy to take good pictures.

Dinner was at the Italian restaurant near our hotel.  Pizza - but just any pizza - pizza with salami, mushrooms, and Gorgonzola!  Wow, that sure isn't margherita pizza!!

Then we headed back to the hotel room to pack.  Packing is never my favorite thing to do.  But finally everything was in the suitcase.

Day 10
No breakfast at the hotel this morning.  Instead we were in a cab on our way to the airport.  We said our goodbyes and then Jana was off to Houston and I was off to Seattle.  

Istanbul Room

Grand Place

View of Brussels

I forgot who he was...

Watch out when you are taking feet pictures!

Yummy fries!


Christmas Decorations

Ferris Wheel being assembled outside our hotel

Mannekin Pis

Our last day and they finally put the lights on the tree

No comments: