After leaving Paris, I have been living in my obsession with the city. Besides, a lot of people react negatively when hearing that our next destination is Brussels. When asked why we choose to go there, I can't even convince myself that tasting chocolate is a self-justifiable reason.
Fortunately I found a B and B at a more-than-reasonable price, and the hosts are really wonderful people--La Dame de Carreau. Though we spend only two nights, it feels very much like home.
It is nearly impossible to find another city whose people are as glamorous-looking as Parisians. Despite my bias, I know from the beginning to the end that I am not objective.
On the other hand, it feels more relaxing in Brussels, and people look more down-to-earth.
My super-optimistic friend Jazel is in the habit of saying, "It's beautiful here! I want to live here!" whenever we visit a new place. Interestingly, she and her friend Doris are exhausted by their superhuman itineraries in Paris, so she doesn't think very highly of the city. And she immediately falls in love with the relatively slow pace of Brussels upon arriving, which makes me believe that this can be a rather nice place.
One day I again, accidentally walk into the neighborhood near Midi Train Station. Every Turkish/north African style tea house is packed with men, only men!
In Belgium, the official languages are French and Dutch. It might be my illusion, but I have the feeling that Belgium lives in the shadow of France. In fact, some really famous people are from Belgium, such as the world-renowned surrealist painter Rene Magritte.
Also, a very important figure in the history of chansons--Jacques Brel.
Brussels Town Hall is situated on Grand Place. It was built during the first half of the 15th century.
Grand Place is one of the major tourist attractions in Brussels. At the beginning, it was used as market, so in Dutch it is called Grote Markt. Now it is lined with shops, especially chocolate stores.
After the construction of Brussels Town Hall, Duke of Brabant built Maison du Roi opposite the hall in the early 16th century. Since it was built on the site of the first cloth and bread market, it is called "Broodhuis (Bread house)" in Dutch. The latter makes more sense because no king ever lived inside.
The most famous Manneken Pis. The real sculpture is quite small. My young companions go before 6 pm and take photos of the boy dressed as Dracula!
Place Ste. Catherine.
Belgium is known for its mussels. Around Place Ste. Catherine, there are rows of seafood restaurants. However, the costs of dining out are no less than those of Paris. Even an ordinary-looking restaurant (which looks more like a fast-food place) near major tourist attractions offers a meal of steak and chips at the price of at least 13 euros. Then you can imagine how much more money you'll have to pay in a better restaurant.
Parc de Bruxelles. It's very refreshing to take a walk in Brussels because there aren't so many people on the roads.
Palais Royal. The king exercises his prerogatives as Head of State and deals with affairs of state here, but he and his family live in the Royal Palace of Laeken on the outskirts of Brussels.
Next to the palace is Musee Belvue.
The moment I arrive at the city center, I find a design gallery.
There is still much to see. Sablon is the hub of antique shops and galleries.
Herge, the creator of Tintin, is from Belgium, and the comic figure is compared to the personification of the country. The comic industry here is very prosperous, which can be seen even from murals on the streets.
The metro stations are known for art on the move.
We stay right around the outlet of the famous chocolate brand, but the host of our BnB says the chocolate of this brand isn't especially yummy, not to mention its high price.
The host says the most people eat Leonidas in Belgium, but if you are looking for something high-class, Neuhaus is the brand. He also recommends a new brand Marcolini. One day I, once more, accidentally find the shop. When I see the chocolate, I buy a box without even thinking and mail it home right away. Other brands such as Mary are pretty nice. There is also a chain chocolate shop Corne. In Taiwan, chocolate of Leonidas and Mary is available. The prices are more friendly than the G brand.
My biggest happiness in Brussels is that I have completely got rid of the habit of consuming chocolate. In London I developed the bad habit of buying a bar of chocolate when I felt hungry or low. Later, some friends suggested that I not eat any chocolate because of my insomnia. Chocolate in Belgium tends to be quite sweet. I sample chocolate no more than three times, and I feel like turning away at the sight of sweets before leaving Brussels.
People in Belgium love to drink beer.
My favorite spot in Brussels is a bookstore named Tropismes. I spend one or two hours reading there every day.
I end up buying a pile of books. Brussels is where I take away the most souvenirs for myself. Goodbye Brussels!