Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Brussels Diaries: Day 3 - Thursday 14th May 2015

After our day spent exploring the city centre yesterday, we're venturing a little further afield and going on a sightseeing bus tour.  It's a public holiday in Belgium today (Ascension Day) but you wouldn't really know it.  Although the big department stores are closed, it's business as usual for the smaller/souvenir shops whilst cafes, bars and restaurants remain open.  

Before we head off on our tour though, we have a stroll around the Bourse area, where there's some street entertainment going on - I wonder if that's a regular thing or just because it's a holiday today?  
Something else going on this week is the Pride festivities.  There's a big parade taking place on Saturday (the day we're going home) but in the meantime there are rainbow signs all over this part of town....

...and the Bourse itself has been rainbow-fied for the occasion too.

On today's to-do list: some frites.  Belgium is very well-known for its high quality chips!  All those years ago when I first visited Belgium, frites and curry ketchup were an essential part of those holidays, so we had to repeat that experience.  Unfortunately I have no photographic evidence to share with you.  I was too busy eating them :)

After lunch we're off on our bus tour.  As there are two routes on the Brussels sightseeing tour, we're splitting this over two days.  Today we're on our way to Brussels' other famous landmark - one which is considerably larger in size than the Manneken Pis!  

It's mid-afternoon by the time we arrive at the Atomium.  There's lots of people taking selfies and trying to fit the impressive space-age structure into their pictures.  As you can see, today is cloudier and cooler than yesterday, but the temperatures are still decent enough for us to leave our jackets behind at the hotel.  

We knew it was going to be busy, but we weren't prepared for the extremely lengthy queues to get to the top.  (This was very reminiscent of that time a few years ago during one of our Paris trips, when we decided to go to the Eiffel Tower around 9.00pm on a Sunday night, only to discover unimaginably long queues).  Bearing in mind the time of day, and the cut-off time for the sightseeing bus which stops running quite early at this time of year, we decided not to join the queue, or we might end up abandoned at the Atomium!

There's a lot going on in this part of town: to the left, there's an Eddy Merckx exhibition going on in the same hall, where if I believe rightly, the 1987 Eurovision Song Contest took place.  To the right, there's the Kineopolis and Mini-Europe; again we had to give Mini-Europe a miss due to lack of time. We've already decided that if/when we ever come back to Brussels, we're going to head on over here very early in the morning and get in that Atomium queue :)  There is also a nice little food village over there next to Mini-Europe so lunch would be taken care of next time!  

Rain has been forecast today, and it starts to fall just as we get back on the bus to make our way back to the city's teatime by now and there is one more thing on today's to-do list.  WAFFLES! With chocolate.  And cream.  And more chocolate :)) Feast. Your. Eyes. Words just can't describe the wonder of this.

Then it's back to the hotel to get ready for dinner tonight.  Tuesday night was Belgian-themed cuisine, Wednesday night was Persian, and on a rainy Thursday night we're dining at a Lebanese restaurant called the Al Barmaki.

Where, or course, among other tasty things there's hummus on the menu.

As I mentioned in the previous post there's a great variety of international dining options in this city and all tastes are cared for, so don't worry if the usual Belgian fare isn't to your taste.  This Lebanese restaurant hasn't disappointed and we have another delicious meal.

Of course there are challenges eating out in Brussels, particularly if you are either completely vegetarian, or a chicken-eating three-quarters veggie like myself, but most menus should have something: although it must be said that most of the fixed-price bargain menus around the Rue des Bouchers tourist trap don't always have a veggie/chicken option.

After dinner, it's time to explore another couple of bars in and around the town centre.  One of these is Au Bon Vieux Temps, further down Rue Marche aux Herbes.  This little bar is hidden down a close and when you enter the bar you go back 300 years - yes that's how long Au Bon Vieux Temps has been there.  The interior is pretty stunning too - check out that stained glass window.

Tomorrow: we're back on the bus...

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