Brussels Update #2 in August 2007

We have come to the conclusion that we thoroughly enjoy coming to a another new place to live. We find it exhilarating to be in a new city and a new neighborhood and enjoy the challenge of discovering how to live day-to-day. In each place things are done in a different way that it's fun to learn about and adapt to.

Compared with our experiences traveling around the US over the last few years, we have found that Spain and Belgium are a bit more different than a typical US city. Everyday products like food, toothpaste and moisturizer are different than the brands we are used to and the labels are in Spanish or French or Flemish, but that's OK. For most things we've managed to find suitable replacements or something totally different that's just as good, if not better (like the multi-color bell peppers (right). We've also found alot of new things we've never had before and will miss when we leave.

Here in Brussels, we're getting a little better with the language. French is the primary language here and we are getting better at saying bonjour when meeting someone or responding merci or s'it vous plait as appropriate. Most people speak enough English to get us through any transaction, and seem happy to be able to talk to us, but that's about as far as the conversations go.

One small downside is the that the weather continues to be rainy and cool so that on some of the days we are limited to the places that we can reach by bus or tram. We are still hoping for a longer stretch of summer to start.

We are finding the transit system to be excellent. We have a Metro (subway) line, 5 tram lines and about 10 bus routes within a few blocks of our place that take us almost anywhere in the city. We even bought a monthly transit pass so we can ride around at will and not need to worry how to come up with 1.50 euros per person for each trip.

Brussels is an intriguing city to explore and we're enjoying our explorations here.

Belgium's National Day, the anniversary of the date back in 1831 when they were recognized as a separate country, was July 21st. To celebrate, there were events all over the city.

  • We visited the Palace of the Nation, the home of the Belgium Parliament (below left), and were pleased to see the throngs of people there to learn about their government (below right).


  • Continuing on, we spent the afternoon at the big street fair along the Rue Royale (pictures below).


We have also enjoyed visiting a range of museums and events.

  • The Fine Arts Museum, where they focus on Flemish artists (of course) like Peter Paul Rubens and Antoon van Dyck. It's a wonderful place.


  • The Tram Museum, a former maintenance barn now the home of a volunteer group that takes care of old tram equipment and runs special excursions in vintage trams on weekends, using the city's tram tracks (a great partnership).

  • Mid-day concerts at the Conservatory of Music (left below) performed by several pianists, a bandoneon (an Argentine instrument similar to an accordian), and other groups of various instruments (below right). One Sunday we also enjoyed an organ and trumpet concert in the Eglise Notre-Dame de Laeken, near the King's Residence northwest of the central city (picture further below).


  • Royal Palace, once the home of the Belgian monarchs, now used for state events.

We have also tried to visit as many of the wellknown sites and interesting places as we can.

  • The Grand Place, site of the spectaclar Gothic Town Hall dominating one side of the square (below left) and wonderful guild houses on the other three sides (below right).


  • Nearby is the (in)famous Mannekin Pis, which you often can barely see through the throng of tourists.

  • The European Quarter, the area of the city where the buildings that house the institutions of the European Union are located. An aerial view of the whole area is below left. The Berlaymont Building, home of the EU Commission is below right and upper left in the aerial view.


    In addition to a number of visits to explore the area, we took a tour of the EU Parliament building (below left and in the lower right corner of the aerial view). The tour included the Parliament chambers (below right).
    (more on our impressions soon)


  • Cathedral of Saints Michel et Gudule (left below) and the Eglise Notre-Dame de Laeken (below right)


  • 'Foret de Soignes' one of the large parks southeast of the central city. This is a huge forested area where we could get away from other people and the sounds of the city. We walked several kilometers through great groves of giant trees.


We have also made an big effort to walk in many of the neighborhoods to admire the architecture and get a brief view of the urban life of Brussels. (more on this in a future story)

Belgium is a small country, so we took the opportunity to visit other cities on day trips.

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