Brussels – Day 5

Waffle Truck

We slept in till 9:30 this morning. Guess we needed the sleep. Got up, had breakfast and headed of just to walk the streets and take in the sights.

We made our way to Notre Dame de la Chapelle, the oldest church in Brussels, it dates back to the 13th century.

I asked Cynthia if we should go inside and she said “Well, yeah. It’s not like we have that many 13th century churches back in Houston.”

Notre Dame de la Chapelle

Notre Dame de la Chapelle

We walked down one scenic street and back up another as we just marvelled at this wonderful city.

Street Scene

After a few hours we headed back to the hotel and then found our way to an Italian restaurant we had eaten at the night before and had lunch. Oddly enough, the music playing inside was American country featuring Willie Nelson and Marty Robbins. Still, great food and good service.

More walking around took us past the Chocolate Museum

Chocolate Museum

Then we found our way to the Museum Of Musical Instruments

Old England Art Nouveau Building

It’s housed in a very cool art nouveau building and contains just about every musical instrument you can think of.

Music Museum

You get a pair of headphones and when you stand in front of any given display, you hear a sample of the music made by the instrument you are looking at.

We laughed and laughed after I named this thing the “Conflugalhorn”

Conflugal Horn

I guess we are getting pretty punch drunk from fatigue.

We saw old instruments of all kinds and joked about whether or not Al Cofrin of Istanpitta could play them or not. Lutes, udes, pipes of all shapes and sizes. I bet he and Abby Green would have been in early music heavan.

I did find one instrument I would love to have for use in my band

Fish-tar

We had a full day and came back to the hotel to rest before going out in the evening for some night photography. I’ll write about that in my next post.

Brussels – Day 4

We woke up early to get an uncrowded view of the Mannekin Pis.

Mannekin Pis

Brussels residents and tourists alike love this little pissing boy. His image is used in all manner of tourist trinkets as well as advertising for everything from Coke A Cola to hamburgers at McDonald’s.

Mannekin Pis Window Display

We also took advantage of the lack of tourists in the early hours of morning to rub the statue of the mayor of Brussels, Evrard ‘t Serclaes for luck.

Evrard 't Serclaes

In 1356 he was tortured and killed for refusing to hand over the city keys. Now, people rub the statue for good luck, which explains why it is so shiny.

From there we purchased tickets for the train to Bruges. And yes, I’ve seen the movie. But that’s not why we went.

Jay

We decided to go to Bruges to revisit our favorite chocolatier, Dumon, which we discovered during our previous visit several years ago.

We were also interested in seeing the Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival.

When we got off the train I was wondering how hard it would be to find the location of the festival. Then we saw the sign which cleared it all up.

Sneeuw

What we did not expect, but soon found out was that the festival was held inside a refrigerated tent complex that was cooled down to a cozy -5 degrees Celsius. That’s 23 degrees Fahrenheit for us stubborn non-metric system adopting infidels.

As it was, the outside temperature was only 27 degrees Fahrenheit as we stood in for about 1/2 hour to get into the exhibit.

It was very crowded and the line moved very slowly and toward the end we were quite cold, especially in the footal areas. But what a site to see!

Ice Sculpture - 4

Giant ice doors opened up to a small dark tunnel that lead you into room after room of sculpted ice.

Ice Sculpture - 3

Ice Sculpture - 2

Ice Sculpture - 5

Ice Sculpture - 1

It was spectacular to see, and oh so very very cold.

We got out and caught the bus to Bruges.

Bruges was way more crowded than when we last visited and the market was pretty cheesy. We walked about and even got a little lost.

Dumon Chocolate

We did find the Dumon Chocolate Shop and I resisted the urge to defenestrate myself from the bell tower, a la “In Bruges

Bruges Bell Tower

When we boarded the train to go back to Brussels someone came on the intercom and said something in French and Dutch that we did not understand. The people in the seat next to us were from Barcelona and explained to Cynthia in Spanish that the train was delayed due to technical problems.

After awhile there was another announcement and everyone started getting off the train. We didn’t need an translator to explain this part.

We followed the crowd to another platform and caught a later, much more crowded train back to Brussels.

Brussels – Day 3

Woke up and had breakfast. Bundled up and headed to the Museum of Ancient Art and the Museum of Modern Art which are basically in the same place. The much anticipated René Mageritte won’t be open until June of 2009, curse the luck!

Museum

The Museum of Ancient Art had quite the collection of Peter Paul Rubens paintings. We’ve seen his work in previous travels, but it still quickens the heart to stand in front of one in person.

Rubens

Many other great masters represented. Enjoyed it immensely as well as the Modern Art Museum.

Modern Art Museum - Brussels

After that we headed back to the hotel to recombobulate and then headed to the other side of town to visit the Comic Strip Museum which is housed in a very cool art nouveau building designed by Victor Horta.

comic Strip Museum

Apparently, Brussels is not only the birthplace of TinTin, but also The Smurfs. Although in Belgium they are more commonly known as Les Schtroumpfs.

This gave Cynthia a chance to exact her revenge on David Shephard for defaming her beloved William.

Take that, TinTin

After that we headed off in search of the infamous Delirium Cafe, a bar that holds the Guinness World Record certificate for having 2,004 different beers available at all times.

DeliriumCcafe

We had a few lambics which were quite tasty and then headed off to dinner and then back to the hotel for some rest.

Cynthia @ Delirium Cafe

Tomorrow, Bruges!

This is an awesome trip!

Jay @ Delirium Cafe

Brussels – Day 2

Mini Europe

Woke up early (surprisingly), got breakfast and ventured onto the Brussels Metro to make our way out to the outskirts of town and visit The Atomium and Mini-Europe.

We thought we’d only be about an hour but we ended up staying most of the day. There will be many pictures to see after I get back home and process them.

Atomium

The Atomium is really cool to see. It looks like one of the aliens from War Of The Worlds or something. Quite a site.

After returning back to the hotel we re-combobulated and headed back out for more festive festival action.

Street 2

One of the cooler things they have here are these VERY elaborate carrousels. Looks very Jules Vern

Carrousel

Carrousel 2

We hiked down to the skating rink which is festival central with the crystal Christmas tree and a heated restaurant tent.

Winter Wonders Skating

On our way back to the hotel for the night we stopped for warm wine and waffles

Waffles

Hot Wine

Tomorrow we are planning to visit a few museums and stay a little warmer. For now, bedtime as we are exhaustulated.

Brussels – Day 1

We’ve arrived in Brussels without incident. The plane ride went smooth and we easily sorted getting the train from the airport to Central Station for a mere €2.80 a piece and and before you know it, we were checking into our hotel which is literally across the street from Central Station.

I was amused to see a coke machine in the train station featuring Manekkin Pis.

Manneken Pis Coke Machine

It’s cold here. VERY cold. High today was right around freezing. But the sun is out! I’ll take it!

Grand Place

One of our first stops was Leonidas to get some chocolate.

Leonidas Chocolate

We did a little walking around but were were pretty exhausted so went back to the hotel to take a nap.

After sleeping for a few hours we headed back out. The sun was down and we wanted to see the light show in the Grand Place. It was really something to see. Moving lights set to music.

Light show in Grand Place

I’ll post a video later.

I’ll say this, swapping lenses and shooting with a tripod in this cold is not the most fun. But I am determined.

Now it’s off to bed to sleep in earnest. More tomorrow.

Final Preparations

Passport

Close
Passport

Man, I am going to miss this passport when it’s time to renew it in a few years. It has all my stamps in it!

Time is growing short and we’re making the final preparations to leave the country.

  • Dooley has been dropped off at Adventures In Birds. They’ll board him till we get back and we know they’ll take good care of him. Still, it breaks my heart to have to do this to poor Dooley. He’s like me, a creature of habit and prone to homesickness.
  • Called the bank to let them know I would be using my debit card overseas. In these days of aggressive fraud protection, you don’t want your money stream frozen because the bank thinks there’s something amiss.
  • Made Xerox copies of important documents. Hopefully, they’re not needed. But it’s good to have a record of your account and passport information just in case.
  • Cleared the fridge of spoilables. Don’t want to come home to post-hurricane like horror.
  • Packed and re-packed. Everything except the camera in a single backpack. Camera is in a small camera bag with a few lenses. The backpack is loaded with sundry electronic doo-hickies including chargers, socket converters, CPAP, netbook and tripod with a little room left over for a change of clothes or two.
  • In an unexpected turn of good fortune, I found my Flip Mino. It had been lost for several months. I thought it must have fallen out of my pocket while out and about and lost forever. As it happened, I was looking for something else the other day and my search lead me to look under the couch, and there was the Mino. A good omen!

    We’ll be doing a final check of all system before departure and then I am off to do my final Technology Bytes show of the year tonight. Geekradio on Xmas eve promises to be a lot of fun so tune in if you are near a radio or stream it live from kpft.org.

    I’ll be updating here during the trip as often as I can with photos, videos and commentary. If you are on twitter go ahead and follow @baldheretic as I hope to “tweet” with some frequency.

    Wish us luck!