Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Brussels Diaries: Day 2 - Wednesday 13th May 2015

Although we are perfectly situated near the Grand Place, Brussels is a much bigger city than it looks. In the next two instalments we're taking a sightseeing tour beyond the city centre, but today is all about exploring the city centre and checking out the shopping as well.

Today turned out to be a very warm day indeed, and I hadn't predicted that sunburn would figure in my spring break agenda, but oh yes it did - before any of you get alarmed, I did put my factor 50+ sun protection on, but missed a bit :(

I mentioned beer last night, so here we go again.  Although there's very little in the way of supermarkets in central Brussels, there are several corner shops/off-licences and there are also quite a few specialist beer shops in the city centre, selling numerous different brands and flavours of beer, with matching glasses.  Here's one of those shops, just off the Grand Place.

We're not too far away from that very famous Brussels tourist attraction, yes the one which you see and then go...."is that it?"  I'm referring to the one and only Manneken Pis.  In case you are living on Mars and haven't heard of Manneken Pis, it's a famous statue of a little boy peeing.  And there are always tons of bemused tourists heading down to that street corner, expecting MP to be, well, bigger, instead of this tiny little statue which requires a zoom lens if you're going to take his picture :)

This morning I took a photo of a little row of Greek restaurants in a street just off Grand Place.

We return to one of these restaurants for an alfresco lunch.  It's a very warm day, and by the time lunchtime comes around it's very hot indeed.  A very nice and filling lunch, but that's when I got my sunburn :(

After lunch, it was time to go shopping.  One of the big highlights from our holidays over the years has been a trip to a record shop (or two) to buy some CDs.  Sometimes these have been planned purchases, sometimes they have been accidental discoveries.  But it was always a highlight nevertheless.  In these days of Spotify and streaming, the record shop is an endangered species.  In Brussels, the Virgin Megastore and the Free Record Shop are no longer around, so we had to walk to the end of Rue Neuve to the City 2 mall to find FNAC.  We've been regular FNAC-goers on previous holidays so it's good to see this store is still around.  The Brussels branch has a decent enough selection of CDs, although these will never match up to the selection available online. But purchases are made (reviews to follow in due course) and on the way back up Rue Neuve we are greeted by this sight.

Yes folks, this is Primark.  And that line of people at the door are queuing to get in. Now this is a sight you'd probably associate with some big sale going on, but no, this is Primark and that is all.  For like many other cities in Europe, Brussels is full of rather overpriced clothes shops, interrupted by the odd discount chain, so the Primark experience is something else.  Looking at the stampede, I wondered if the shop had just opened today.  (When I got home, I did some research and discovered that the store had been open since December 2014 - and they were queuing then as well!)

After an enjoyable, but tiring day, it was time to go back to the hotel to get some rest before tonight's dinner.  There's a massive selection of international cuisine to choose from in Brussels, and tonight's choice was a terrific restaurant called the Caspian.

The Caspian is a small and very welcoming restaurant serving delicious Iranian cuisine.  Including one very, very delicious chicken kebab....

After a delicious meal we didn't have too far to go for our next hangout, which was just next door!

The Goupil le Fol is a very dark, freaky, eccentric and mysterious French-chanson-themed bar. I don't have any pictures as it was probably too dark in there.  My request for a kriek was declined as they don't seem to serve fruit beers, but they did serve their very own fruit wine, so I had a raspberry wine which was very nice.  We stayed on the ground floor but if you go upstairs the very quirky theme continues - it's unlike any other bar I've seen in a long time.

Finally we head onwards to an outdoor bar where I finally get my fruity beer.  This glass which the beer was served in looks very familiar indeed, as I bought it a few years ago on a previous trip to Belgium!

Tomorrow: we're off to the Atomium!

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