|During our stroll we realized that
we were in the right area. Saw lots of official-looking buildings like the
parliament building. We strolled through a huge park lined on the perimeter with
trees that had no branches but were 'trained' into a lattice-work from tree to tree.
Very interesting and would be even more so when the leaves were filled out in the
lattice. After the walk in the park we made our way down a hill towards some more
interesting looking architecture. On the way we ran across a large clock built into
part of a building. Surrounding the face of the clock were little alcoves containing
life-size characters, one for each hour. We saw 3pm come and go and all the 3
o'clock guy did was come out of his hole and look around. No ringing of bells or
dancing. We didn't wait around to see any of the other hours.
On down the hill we
ran across a big center of activity. There was a small open-air artist's market in
the middle surrounded by shops and hotels. After eating some real live Belgian
waffles from one of the shops, we decided this was the place to stay the night and
checked into the Novotel.
The price for a double room was about 6000 francs. That's a shocker unless you
know the exchange rate. This past weekend the Belgian Franc (BEF) to US dollar
exchange rate was around 40 to 1. So the hotel room was $150. Every country in
Europe has its own currency with a different rate of exchange with the dollar.
Thanks to the miracle of cash machines, it's pretty easy to get some of the local currency
wherever you travel in Europe. They are making the gradual transition to one common
currency - the Euro - which I think will finally replace all of the local currencies in
2002. They will begin to phase it into circulation in 2001. Already every
financial transaction shows the value in both the local currency and the Euro.
We picked a good place to stay. Later that night we had a difficult time choosing
where to eat because there were several nearby streets that were nothing but restaurants.
Belgium is both Dutch and French. We saw more of the French influence in
Brussels - thus a lot of French restaurants. Also lots of nightlife.
The next morning we ate in the hotel because it was the easiest thing to do.
Afterwards we walked over to a huge square called the Grand Place. On all sides of
the square were beautiful buildings (you have to see the pictures). The most
impressive were the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) and Maison de Roi (House of the King).
They had a bird market there. All kinds of birds; not just parrots and
parakeets. I even saw male and female cardinals for sale! The state bird of
Have you ever seen the statue of the little boy peeing?? Well, we found the
original in Brussels. It's called 'Manneken Pis' - no kidding. Here's
what the book says: 'Events have made of Manneken-Pis a legendary figure and hero
which glory has widely spread abroad. A legend says, that a rich bourgeois had lost
his only son in the crowd during popular festivities. After five days, he found him
at the corners of Etuve Street, doing what the little man is still doing.' I bet
drinking was involved.
Speaking of drinking, we visited the Belgian Beer Museum. We weren't too
impressed. They could have done a better job. Being in an old building just
didn't cut it. It is impressive that Belgium produces over 400 varieties of beer and
that they have 110 breweries, but the beer they had to drink at the museum was not all
that great. They had 2 varieties and I tried both.
By that time it was getting to where we needed to get out of town so we could turn the
rental cars back in. Napoleon's Waterloo is not too far from Brussels, so we
thought our last stop would be there before heading home. We made it to the town of
Waterloo but never found the historic place itself. The closest we came was looking
at the pictures of Waterloo in a fast food place in town! Also, we saw several Food
Lion stores there. Actually they were Delhaze stores, but with the same logo -
Delhaze is the parent company of Food Lion.
The journey back was pleasant because I didn't have to drive. Greg drove back.
Once we got back into Germany the countryside was really nice to look at because it
was nice weather and we were near the Rhine valley. Of course it went by fast - Greg
had our VW Golf going as fast as it could the whole way.
Another short weekend European adventure that just whetted our appetites for more.