Sunday 23 February 2013
This morning we ventured out towards the north of the city to Heysel and the site of the 1958 Expo.
To the Atomium – an iconic statue, apparently in the shape of an Iron lattice. 9 large silver balls connected with long silver sticks, standing at 102m high. It was kind of cool, bit odd.
We didn’t go inside as it was rather expensive, instead just wandered around the outside. Back in the city and time for a tea break. Hot chocolate here, it turns out is much like my favourite Parisian cafe – Angelina. A thick, molten chocolate like texture and so tasty! With a slice of amazing peach tart!
Next stop – Galeries St Hubert, opened in 1847 by the King, is the oldest shopping arcade in the world. And very ornate – a long street of covered shops, with a large arched roof. The shops were cute – again mostly chocolate shops – but fun to look around!
Around the corner – the Cathedral of St Michal and Gudule. A double – tower front, built in 1226 and apparently not dissimilar to the Notre Dame in Paris. Inside, it was huge. A service was taking place (in French) so we stood near the back, watching for a while. The Grand Place is one of the world’s oldest squares. Construction began in 1444 with the Town Hall, at 96m high and covered in ornate sculptures of people. Several hundreds of years later, in 1697, construction of the guildhall a began – with each representing a group – one for the bakers, grease makers, cabinet makers, butchers, brewers and many more! The square is large and is pretty from every angle.
The streets surrounding the square are full of the usual – chocolates, waffles and magnets – much like in Bruge. Just a couple of blocks down – the Manneken Pis – a (very!) small bronze statue of a boy having a wee. I cannot believe this is almost a national symbol of Belgium…!
Another oddity of the city – on randomly placed facades of wall, some cartoons are painted. We stumbled across a few – Tintin on a ladder, near the Manneken Pis. A large fat character near the Galeries St Hubert and a further cartoon nearer the station. Don’t know a lot about cartoons, but they were a bit random! We wandered around a few more streets – up to the old stock exchange building of Bourse and the empty fountains at Marche aux Poissons.
Here was a very lively fish counter with locals covering the street corner drinking wine and ordering small plates of fish! Eventually we headed back to Gare du Midi – and decided to walk there. Not the nicest of areas around the station. The waiting lounge filled up quickly and again it was a busy train back to London. I had a great weekend – nice food, lots of chocolate and some nice sights. Over, until the next time, just 4 weeks to go until the next adventure…..!