Sunday, 5 August 2012

Eric's Uninformed Travel Tips: Brussels Edition

It's another rainy day in Paris...I know, I am a bit let down too...Seriously, where is all this "Wonderful European Summer" that I always heard about...?  So, I have decided to prove to the world that Eric Wayne Alowishus Atkinson is, "a man of commitment!"...Yeah, I actually laughed there too...OK, how about that I, "am a man who can commit to writing more than one blog post every 6 months!"...yeah, that works...So here goes.

Oh, before we get started, shameless plug time!  Go check out my photo blog for some pics from our trip to Brussels...(

Location(s) visited in February, 2012: Brussels, Belgium

If Juls had a beer, this pic would sum up all I knew about Brussels before February
Dates of Trip: February 25-26, 2012.
How did we get there: Train, about 1.25hrs from Paris tickets about 80 Euros each return.
Where did we stay: The Royal Windsor Hotel, Grande Place...Great hotel and great location, highly recommended...80 Euro/night.

So let's recount, shall we...

This trip happened to fall right around that joyous time of year known as bonus time in Total circles, so we (myself, Julia and 3 work friends), decided that we needed to celebrate in style...we didn't know what style...but a style anyway.

We only had a normal 2 day weekend, and decided to head to Brussels early morning Saturday and come back Sunday night.  The beauty of Paris, and Europe in general, is that a trip like this is a possibility...although in hindsight, I would have preferred to go up on Friday night instead of Saturday morning.  I always find on trips like this it's nice to get the travel out of the way on Friday so that you can really enjoy all day Saturday.  Not that smelly train stations and confusing cab rides aren't fun get the picture.

When we arrived we really didn't know anything about Brussels other than, "There's a big square that's nice"(Courtesy of Julia), "Awesome chocolate"(I believe this one was Andrea), and "Beer's good"(I'll take ownership of that one).  So the first thing we did was head to the aforementioned square to see what we could find.  I must say that the "grande place" is indeed very nice and probably one of the nicest squares I have been in in Europe.

Really, pretty cool...
It also has the added bonus of being right in the middle of everything...In fact, within a 3-5 block diameter around the grande place you can find:

1. The official Tintin store!  Awesome!  So Exciting! ...Sorry, I got a little carried away there...Yes, in case you didn't know, Tintin is Belgian, originally written and published right in Brussels.  They have a comic museum there as well, but we didn't go.  Also, here's an interesting French, his dog's name is Milou, not Snowy...the more you know ;)
2. Mannequin Pis: This is exactly what you think it may be...a mannequin (a statue of a boy actually), "pis"sing (see my photo blog for a pic apparently is the most visited thing in Brussels.  Why...I do not know.  To make it even funnier; the female version (Jannequin Pis, photo on bottom) is almost abandoned.  No tourists at all.  Again...why?...You've got me...
3.  The chocolate museum: 'Nuff said...Actually, I will say one other thing.  Try Java chocolate (Chocolate from Java, not java (slang for coffee) flavored chocolate), it was all of our favorite type by far...really good.
3.  Umpteen other chocolate stores, cafe's restaurants etc...Sooooo much chocolate.
4.  Many, many, awesome bars:  The selection of beer is huge, strong and very well developed.  They will ask you more than the typical Canadian bartender will.  They will often ask what you are eating (if you are), what you prefer (don't say beer), and how strong you want it to be (PS...strong is 18%'ll put you on your ass).  They also go very far to ensure that the glass the beer is served in is made to optimize the experience...I had a few there that were served in beaker style glasses complete with a wooden beaker holder...awesome!

Needless to say, we found it pretty easy to entertain ourselves within a pretty tight perimeter to this central location.  Oh, and I should also mention that there were plenty of shopping arcades and the like for all your shopping desires.

The one thing that did lure us outside of this central area during our short trip were the EU offices.  Like Luxembourg, Brussels is also a head of administration for the EU.  We made the walk to this side of town on Sunday to check out the offices and were actually quite impressed.  The Parlimentarium museum was particularly impressive, and to this day, remains one of my favorite museums in Europe.

So after all the beer, chocolate, fries, waffles, museums, peeing statues, and comic reporters, how does it rate?

Affordability: Winter 8/10 (Can't beat off-season prices, I can't comment on the cost in high season though...)
Entertainment: 7/10 for shopping, restaurants and bars but for typical European tourist sights...5/10...I recommend no more than a weekend.
Ease of travel: 9/10 short, direct train from Paris, Gare du nord

Overall: 7/10, For the beer, chocolate, fries and waffles...If those don't interest you...5/10.

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