I thought today would be a food tour of Brussels but it instead turned into a church tour of Brussels (oops).
I’m usually someone who walks everywhere when I’m in a new city, but I try to cap the amount of walking I do to places less than 40 minutes away. Once it hits around 40 minutes, I have to start to consider alternative forms of transportation like taking the tram or metro. This meant I had to cut a few things out of my journey today since I don’t have enough cash on hand for traveling on public transportation both today and tomorrow.
I started the day by trying to walk to the Librarium which is at the Brussels Royal Library. There was supposed to be an exhibit on Russian books and literature, but unfortunately when I got there I realized all of the exhibit was in French and Dutch. Which meant I was stuck just trying to piece together what different things were. The exhibit itself was really cool though even if I couldn’t understand most of it. My favorite part was this weird area where they were showing a video of a woman eating at a table by herself and had these boxes that seemed to be talking about eating while traveling.
On the way to the Librarium, I stopped multiple times because I kept getting distracted by other landmarks in the area. I passed quite a few churches on my way to the Librarium, so I stopped at most of them. The first one I saw was the Church of St. Catherine. It was a very beautiful church, especially since I haven’t seen one in a while. Someone tried to give me a flower and I had to refuse since I didn’t know what it was for. This was while I was walking to check out what seemed to be a photography exhibit at the Brussels Stock Exchange. It cost money so I ended up not going in. Around the stock exchange, there’s another church called the Church of St. Nicholas. It’s also quite nice, especially since it seems a bit out of place in regards to the other buildings around it.
After the Librarium, I walked to the Notre Dame du Sablon church which was nearby. I passed a lot of the major museums in the city as well as a really cute sculpture garden with some weird sculptures. They were weird mostly because a lot of them were contorted in odd ways. There was one museum with a very large line, but I had no idea why it was so long. I wanted to go in, but I was afraid I would wait in line and then it would cost money… I was trying to be really money conscious today.
Notre Dame du Sablon was really nice as well. A bit more fancy, especially because the outside was very detailed, so I enjoyed seeing it a lot. It was difficult to really get a good picture to represent the church because a lot of times there are particular aspects I want to get, but lighting makes it difficult. This is especially true with stained glass windows. Right outside this church, there were lots of little stalls for some sort of market that was happening. Most of it was antiques, although it seemed like bulk antiques instead of actual antiques if that makes sense.
While trying to walk to my next desitnation, I got sidetracked again by yet another church. This one was was the Notre Dame de la Chapelle church which was nice and had a very big plaza area beside it. There was a really neat sculpture there that had a man painting with what looked like string. This one seemed less frequented since the inside was pretty empty. It was also a bit different from some of the others because it had a brick area near the top and then a beautiful ceiling behind that kinda reminded me of Russia with the dark navy blue and stars pattern.
There are a ton of churchs in Brussels which is really nice. You can walk only a few minutes in any direction and see something interesting within Brussels which has made the city really grow on me. In addition to churches, there are also other things of interest to see. Brussels is famous, in particular, for the presence of peeing statues The most famous one is Manneken Pis which is a little boy peeing. It’s part of a fountain near the center of Brussels. It’s worth noting that its also surrounded by 1 euro waffle shops where you can try one of the things Belgium is known for: waffles.
What people don’t know is in addition to Manneken Pis, there are two other peeing themed statues in Brussels. The first is Jeanneke Pis which is a little girl peeing. I think it’s meant as a compliment to the Manneken Pis statue. There’s a little info plaque beside the statue that states wishing on Jeanneke Pis and tossing a coin into its fountain will give you good luck, but I’m pretty sure that’s a gimick. The second one is Zinneke Pis which is a dog peeing. It’s not at a fountain like the other two statues which was surprising. Actually, the real name of this statue is supposed to be Het Zinneke, but it matches the theme so people just call it Zinneke Pis instead (even Google).
In between visiting Manneken Pis and Jeanneke Pis, I stopped to get some bubble tea at 8tea5. It was better than I thought it would be. I really enjoyed that you could get bubbles that aren’t just tapioca. If you’ve ever had frozen yogurt with the little balls that are full of some sort of fruit juice, that’s what they actually replace their bubbles with. They do offer the traditional tapioca bubbles, but I’m not a fan of those. I got the “summer special” which was a tropical fruit mix tea with lychee bubbles. They also offer free wifi which was good for me planning out my next steps.
After Zinneke Pis, I decided to get lunch at a place called PhoPho. It’s one of the places I found when searching up “cheap places to eat in Brussels”. Unfortunately, this place was not as good as I thought it would be. I got the combo meal which comes with a medium soup, a side dish, and a free drink. The soup broth was good, but some of the meat in it was not that great which is something that makes the pho for me. It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely not the best I’ve had. I ended up getting the beef broth one, but there’s a vegetable option as well. The side dish I got, rice paper rolls, were not as good as the ones I got at Knees to Chin, mostly because the rice paper was very dry from not being prepared right then and there. If I have time tomorrow, I might be able to pick up a rolls to go from Knees to Chin since I’m craving them right now. I would not recommend PhoPho to be honest, but it’s a good cheap eat if you want something filling and okay tasting.
There was yet another church on the way back to the center of downtown. It was the Church of Notre Dame du Finistere. I think you probably already know my opinion on this church since actually most of the churches look similar in structure to each other in Brussels. There were only a few people there when I went which was a bit shocking since it’s in the center of town, but I guess people aren’t really interested in things like this.
The last thing I did today was try to pick up some beer since Belgium is also known for its beer. I’m not a fan of beer, but I thought I would give it a try. I ended up getting quite a bit from both Beer Planet and De Biertempel. Don’t ask me for recommendations, but there are a lot of lists out there with “beers you must try in Belgium” you can use if you want. It was actually fairly cheap for alcohol. I spent maybe 12-13 euro total for my alcohol which was 5 bottles of beer. I drank one today just to try, but my opinion on beer has still not changed. This beer was a lot better than the ones I had all summer since it was a little less hoppy than others I’ve tried. I’m looking forward to one of the ones I bought which was described as “not seeming like a beer at all”. Maybe I’ll try it tomorrow.
Today was a really full day. Brussels has really grown on me to be honest which is surprising. I’ve been pretty tired from all my travel recently, so I’m actually pretty excited for getting to Oxford and just chilling for a while. Tomorrow, I will be taking a bus to Paris for a few days, then it’s off to London. I’m a bit worried about Paris because of all the stuff I’ve been seeing recently on the news with the violence and such. I’ll be attending a conference there, but I’m getting a little worried. At least I won’t be at an airport, but I’m not sure that’s that much safer. Here’s to hoping nothing (bad) happens.