It was time to say goodbye to the Markink family and carry on in our journey. Jessica was kind enough to drive us to the nearest train station in Vise, Belgium. We rode the train to Liege, and then on to Brussels. All these cities had beautiful, traditional buildings, cobblestone streets, and very modern personalities. The things…behaviors…dress…we witnessed in our people watching were pretty…different.
Once we had arrived in Brussels and settled in to our hotel room, we went for a walk. Right around the corner from our place, the Hotel Agora, we walked into the Grand Place, a market place of truly grand proportions. It had been burned down by the French in the 1500s and was rebuilt in the 1600s What an exercise in politics! The prince at the time wanted the new plaza to highlight his power. The trade guilds wanted it to highlight their trades. The architect wanted it to show unity. The result was a marketplace that would draw people to it for centuries. On one end, several separate buildings were given one external facade to show a uniform front. One one side, the prince’s palace, dark and foreboding, shows his power and control. Opposite both, the trade guilds show the symbols that represent them: The fisherman’s trade guild resembles the stern of a boat. The butcher’s guild is represented by a swan. The building for each trade, from brewers to masons, each have their own symbolism.
After a very small dinner (we had to save room for dessert), we went back into this beautiful plaza, and even more people were gathered there than before. It seemed they were waiting for something, and we finally figured out what it was. The buildings were even more beautiful when they were bathed in lights after the sun went down. What a magical place.
And to top it all off, we enjoyed a dessert of Belgian waffles, which are much too decadent to be breakfast foods here, and chocolate. The waffle we selected to share was covered in Flemish cream, which tastes a lot like a combination of caramel and brown sugar, as well as whipped cream and brown sugar crumbles. I asked Bill what he thought Flemish cream was made of. He paused a minute or two and then replied, “phlegm?” We laughed, but we also lost our appetite and couldn’t finish the delicious truffles we had bought from one of the many chocolatiers in town. Bill had had purchased some rusty tools from one of the chocolatiers too. Yep, they’re all made of delicious milk chocolate. Maybe we’ll eat them…tomorrow?
Bill’s Lodging Review:
In Brussels, we stayed at Hotel Agora. It was a very short walk from the train station, a few blocks from the main square and right in the middle of the tourist attractions. The room was up three flights of stairs, two of which were spiral staircases. We were thankful we had only brought backpacks. We had a room that was in the back of the hotel, and it was quiet at night, even though we were so close to all the action. The staff was very nice and even let us check in early. We would definitely stay at this hotel again, until we get too old to negotiate the stairs!