Belgium – Brussels – Day 1 of 2

Today was the start of another travel adventure. This adventure involves Belgium, Luxembourg and Czech Republic.

My first stop was Brussels, Belgium via Amsterdam. I boarded my KLM Airbus A330-200 flight to Amsterdam at 2:20pm. The flight departed on time at 3:10pm. Flight time was roughly 9 hours gate to gate and went quite smoothly. There was free WiFi in the flight so I ended up chatting with a few friends. The flight arrived at 7:30am the following day.

I was supposed to have a quick 50 minute layover before boarding my next flight, but it ended up being almost 2 hours due to a technical fault. The original plane (an Embraer ERJ-190) was swapped for a Boeing 737-800. Flight time was roughly 45 minutes gate to gate.

After landing in Brussels I caught the train to the inner city for €8.90 ($11.70 CDN). After arriving at Brussels Central Station I visited St. Michael and St Gudula Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church in Gothic architecture style. The Cathedral was started sometime in the 9th Century but wasn’t completed until 1519.

The next stop was the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert, a spectacular covered alleyway built by architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer completed in 1847. The gallery includes shops auditoriums, cafes, restaurants and apartments. I decided to visit Maison Danboy, a renowned bakery chain, where I ordered some delicious lemon and ginger cookies.

Next up was the Grand Place and surrounding Grand Square. The history of the Grand Palace started in the 11th and 12th Century, when a building was built on Coudenberg hill to house the Dukes of Brabant. Over the next few centuries the building was rebuilt, extended and improved to align with the increased prestige of the Dukes of Braband and their successors. The complex was destroyed in 1731 by a large fire and was eventually rebuilt in 1775. During this time excavations of the site unearthed various remains of different parts of the original palace as well as surrounding town. The monumental vaults still remain under the square and can be visited.

Next stop was a quick stop at the Brussels Stock Exchange, a beautiful building designed by architect Léon-Pierre Suys. The building was completed on the site of a former butter market in 1873 and housed the Brussels Stock Exchange until 1996. The building has since been transformed to a museum.

I then stumbled upon the Brussels Les Halles Saint-Géry, a former covered market that was completed in 1881. The market now houses Brussels Vintage Market, which is a collection of 40 vintage and second-hand merchants and more than 20 designers.

At this point in time I was starting to get hungry so I started to seek out some food at the well renowned Tonton Garby, but more on that in a minute. On my way to Tonton Garby I stopped at a famous fountain of a young boy peeing called “Manneken Pis”. Okay now onto Tonton Garby; the best way to describe this place is it has the most delicious sandwiches being served up by one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my entire life. I was recommended this place by numerous blogs and YouTube videos, so I figured it had to be good; I was not disappointed. While I was eating my sandwich I met a wonderful couple from the Rochester area in the US. They had just recently gotten married and are travelling the world together. We chatted for a bit before going our separate ways.

Next up was a few other sights before visiting the Place Royale and Royal Palace. Place Royale, also known as the King’s Square, is a historic neoclassical square in the Royal Quarter that was completed in 1782 as part of an urban project.

The Royal Palace is situated in front of Brussles Park and was designed by multiple architects including Chislain-Joseph Henry, Charles Vander Straeten, Tilman-François Suys, Alphonse Balat, Henri Maquet, and Octave Flanneau. Construction started in 1783, but wasn’t completed until 1934 when the new facade was finally completed. The impressive facade is 50% longer thatn that of Buckingham Palace in Great Britain, but it has less than half of the square footage of Buckingham Palace.

My energy levels were starting to dwindle so I walked towards my Hotel; Hotel Retro, a cozy mid-range boutique hotel. Before checking into the hotel I checked out the beautiful Le Botanique conservatory.

Check-in was very seamless. I was placed in Room 501, a penthouse room at the top with wonderful skylights overlooking the city. I decided to take a 3 hour nap before continuing on my grand adventure.

After waking up from my nap I was feeling much refreshed and ready to do more exploring. I walked to the nearby Metro station and boarded a train to the University area where I took a bunch of pictures of some beautiful buildings; one in particular caught my eye; Villa Empain. Villa Empain was built in 1934 by swiss architect Michel Polak in the Art Deco style. As many of you may know from reading previous blog posts of mine; I’m a huge sucker for Art Deco.

It was time to get some dinner so I walked towards Flagey square, where there was a beautiful building and somewhere I wanted to eat called Frit Flagey. Unfortunately at this time is when a group of men tried to rob me, but I managed to escape through some alleyways. Never in my 38 countries of travel have I had an attempted robbery. I’m a fairly careful person but they surrounded me so quickly as I was trying to take a photo of the Art Deco style Flagey building.

I walked around for a bit and came back to Flagey square about 45 minutes lated to eat at Frit Flagey; I was not disanointed. I then obtained some beers from a local beer store called Melting Pot. The gentleman recommended me a few beers to try.

I then took a bus back to my hotel where I enjoyed my beers, edited photos, and typed up my blog.

Be sure to check back tomorrow when I explore Brussels in further detail!

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2018-03-11 – Paris

Today I woke up at 5:45am. I started the day off by going to Moulin Rouge to take a photo of the exterior, but was disappointed that it wasn’t lit up. I’ll have to try again later. I then visited the two remaining Art Nouveau stations left in Paris (Abbesses and Point Dauphine). After that I went to Sacre Coure. It’s absolutely beautiful inside but sadly you’re not allowed to take pictures inside, and in fact I tried to take a photo but got in trouble and they made me delete the photo. My camera is so noisy you can’t hide the fact that it’s taking a photo. After that I took the Funicular down and went to the Grand and Petit Palaces, and Pont Alexandre III Bridge.
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I decided it was time for a break so I went to a Starbucks near Arc du Triumph. There was quite a bunch of hungover young women draped all over the couches in there. I was laughing on the inside remembering a few of those days in my youth. After having a coffee at Starbucks I went to The Arc. It was absolutely stunning and well worth the 200 or so steps to climb to the top!
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After visiting the Arc I went and saw the Eiffel Tower, found a good Vietnamese restaurant for lunch, and then went back to my hotel for a short nap.
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After waking from my nap I went to see the Parisian Catacombs. The lineup was about 1 1/2 hours but it was well worth the wait. The catacombs was originally used as a rock quarry and then later used as a mass burial ground when the city ran out of cemetery space and later bared burials from happening within city limits. Its estimated over 4 million people’s remains are in the catacombs. It’s an incredible but creepy sight to see.
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Random fact about the catacombs; during 2004, police discovered a fully equipped movie theatre in one of the caverns. It was equipped with a giant cinema screen, seats for the audience, projection equipment, film reels of recent thrillers and film noir classics, a fully stocked bar, and a complete restaurant with tables and chairs. The source of its electrical power and the identity of those responsible remain unknown.
After the catacombs I went to a highly rated (on Google) beer market called Brewberry Beer Cellar. There I picked up three beers; Jet Lag IPA, Jai Alai White Oak IPA, and HibouBerry Double IPA. All were absolutely amazing, but my personal favorite was the Jai Alai. I’ve been scoping out that one for a few years now since I heard about it on one of the podcasts I listen to. It’s brewed by Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Florida, USA.
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I headed back towards my hotel and stopped for a Crepe and then relaxed in my hotel room for a bit and had my beers. After having my beers I went to take photos of the Eiffel Tower at night, and I must say it was definitely worth it!

I got back to my hotel quite late, around midnight. Tomorrow I’m off to see Mont Saint-Michel!!!

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