Ok, so I didn’t think anyone was actually reading these regularly, but when this one was late, everyone started complaining. So you’d all better be reading. I will start with our trip to Brussels on Saturday.
We were late getting on the road and for the second time in a row, headed to Belgium in a downpour. Shortly after we crossed the border (about as eventful as crossing a provincial border at home), the sun came out and stayed with us for the day. (Oddly enough on the drive home, shortly after we crossed back into the Netherlands we were hit by a freak hailstorm…)
Brussels is much more spread out than central Amsterdam. It is an interesting mix of architectural styles with a very French feel. There are a lot more modern buildings here and the Art Deco period really took hold.
We parked in the Old town not far from the Market Square, by far the most impressive square we’ve seen in Europe. As you enter the square, you are literally surrounded by some of the most stunning architecture imaginable. The crown jewel is the magnificent gothic town hall with its huge tower. Across from the town hall is the museum which is also spectacular and the rest of the square is filled with the union guild buildings, each trying to outdo one another with their splendor.
We were looking for a spot to have lunch but stumbled upon the chocolate museum and had to detour in. It was small but interesting and smelled delish. We got a free speculaas, hand dipped in hot liquid chocolate, YUM! After that we decided to head toward the Belgian Comic Strip Museum and grab some food on the way. Well, the food didn’t pan out and the museum was in a very odd, rather run-down, part of town. When we finally found it, it was a gorgeous Art Deco building and had a cafe. We ate a super meal there and then proceeded to the museum.
We expected the requisite tribute to Tintin (which of course there was) but we had no idea that the museum and Belgian comics in general were so extensive. We gave it a good effort, but after over an hour our non-French / definitely non-Flemish brains were starting to hurt, so we gave up. We did see sections on Tintin, the Smurfs and discovered a new French comic called Les Triples (the triplets) which we enjoyed and bought a book of in the comic book heaven gift shop.
By the time we emerged from the museum it was almost 4 and already the sun was setting. We decided the only way to find all of the major sites was to do a bus tour. The tour was the last of the day and did hit all of the sites we had wanted to see and some we didn’t know about. Unfortunately the windows were scratched to death and made photography next to impossible. We decided we definitely have to go back and spend more time there.
Supper was another good experience. We headed down a little side street that was nothing but restaurants. It reminded us of eating in Lyon in France. You walk down the street, looking at all of the fixed price menus, and are accosted by people trying to lure you in. This may sound pushy and off-putting but it’s part of the culture and you just go with the flow. We decided on one and had a cozy window seat (where we could watch the accosting process). We had a 3 course fixed-price menu for 12 euro each including a drink and it was quite tasty. We also could not go to Belgium without the requisite beer and chocolate stop so we have more flavored beers to experiment with (chocolate beer bad, lemon beer good).
The following day was my day … CAT DAY!!! Yup, I’m really missing my kids. So we dedicated a day to them. This story is better told by the pictures but our first stop was the Peozenboot (cat boat), a floating cat shelter. The website is interesting so I’ll let you learn about it there … http://www.poezenboot.nl/poezen_uk/welkom.htm The woman who founded it has passed on but there is a lovely old Asian gentleman who runs it now. We had a good chat with him and got to play with the kitties. They keep all of the cats until they are adopted and from the sounds of things they get lots of visitors and cats are adopted quite quickly.
After the poezenboot we went to the Katten Kabinet, an Art Gallery dedicated entirely to cats. The collection was quite impressive, as was the building it is housed in. The building is a tradition grand canal house and was lovely to explore. There were also many ‘curators’ on hand, willing to give tours or simply have their heads scritched.
After the gallery we headed to the bloemen markt to pick up some flowers. We had a pit stop at the Pancakehouse for some traditional Dutch pancakes. These are more like what we would consider giant crepes and are filled with fruit or cheese. … very yummy. Then we bought some more tulips and headed home.
Other events of note occurred on Wednesday when I decided it was high time we both got haircuts. We headed to the seven streets district, a collection of little shops and businesses. We prowled around for a bit and then settles on Sissorhands, a funky little spot with antique Barbour chairs. I was the guinepig and went first. The girl who did the cut was very sweet and did a great job. She didn’t quite believe me however when I explained that at home it was below -30 with the wind-chill. She thought that people couldn’t exist in such cold and we must live near Alaska.
After our cuts, Andrew wanted to find a vegetarian restaurant we had read about called Green Planet. We had to wait for it to open but it was well worth it. They use only organic products, including their beer and wine. The food was fantastic. Andrew had an amazing looking stir fry and I had Spatzle, a Nordic Gnocchi, covered in a 3 cheese sauce. We also had delish bread with pesto and hummus. So good we got some to take home.
That’s all I can think of at this point. We don’t have huge plans for the weekend but we do have some fun things upcoming. The 28th we are heading to Restaurant De Kas for my belated b-day. Andrew scored ticket to Cirque de Soleil’s Dralion in March, which I am extremely excited about. And there is a good possibility that we’re going to Barcelona for a few days at the end of March. Yay! Sun! Also starting March 21st the world-famous Keukenhoff gardens will be open and there is no way I’m leaving the country without seeing them. Tulips Galore! Stay Tuned … we miss you all!