There was no Easter Bunny in our house growing up. Our parents would give us an Easter egg each, usually one we’d chosen during Lent. Our aunt usually got us a big one each too. And most years our uncle would have some waiting for us whenever we next visited. I remember lots of my school friends got way more than that. Maybe that’s why I never grew out of them – I was always left wanting more!
I’m just back from an Easter weekend in Brussels, and sure enough, silly amounts of Belgian chocolate were consumed.My wife and I first visited Brussels a number of years ago, before we were married. That was an Easter weekend too and maybe it’s part of the reason we got hooked on the place. We’ve been back three or four times since and no-one seems to understand what the appeal is. I think it’s just a holiday that we got right frist time and now it’s an easy getaway that we know we’ll enjoy.
Every time we’ve been to the city, we’ve booked into the Marriott on Rue Anspach. It doesn’t have a long list of amenities, it’s pricier than what we normally go for, and I’m not sure exactly why we picked it on our first trip. Regardless, once there, we found it particularly pleasant, very central, plus it had the biggest comfiest bed we’d ever known! Just a stone’s throw away, the Grand Place or Grote Markt is as pretty a town square as you might wish for. Its numerous approaches all wind up as narrow alleys dotted with chocolate shops and cosy cafés.
Finding your way around the city isn’t a big problem and we’ve found the Metro service quite convenient. I suppose, in comparison to other tourist destinations, sights are a little bit thin on the ground. But unless you’re staying for more than a few days, there should be enough to keep you entertained.
Sightseeing wasn’t on the agenda this time, but over the last few years we’ve seen a few of them. Manneken Pis is worth a quick stroll through the city centre. The Atomium is impressively huge but I wasn’t really glad I’d paid and queued to go inside it. Just next to the Atomium, Mini-Europe was good fun. I’d imagine the AutoWorld museum is less of a tourist draw – we took a trip out to it once, I think we enjoyed it but I wouldn’t put it on a must-see in Brussels list.
I visited one sight in Brussels this year by accident. I wandered down to Sainte Catherine hoping to catch the Easter Vigil but found that the church was closed for renovations. A nice helpful man directed me across town to St. Michael & St. Gudula Cathedral and I found myself in a very spectacular place of worship. As I walked in the direction of the altar, gigantic organ pipes dominated the left hand wall above the pews. An imposing black pulpit with a winding staircase on the right hand side looked stark and medieval. I took a seat on the left and took in the enormity of the whole building. The bishop and his fellow clergy drifted between French, Flemish and Latin and every so often gave way to the booming organ. The choir’s attempts to compete hardly seemed worthwhile.
For entertainment in Brussels, there are lots of places to drink. I gather beer is a big thing in Belgium. There’s a great place near the Grand Place called the Music Village that’s good for jazz. For a different kind of entertainment, take the train out to Walibi – it’s a theme park with lots of super rides. We went on almost everything there and loved it!
So that’s why we love Brussels – a beautiful historic town square, relaxed atmosphere, great chocolate, a few fun things to do, easy sightseeing, good transport. And a chance for me to practice my French.
Next up: Curacao