2004 - Belgium
Early morning flight by BMI British Midland to Brussels and then a taxi for the 8 miles to the Radisson hotel in the city.
Later that morning we walked into the Grand Place which was reconstructed (following French cannon attack in 1695) in the style of the medieval buildings of the guilds. Very attractive Town Hall and ornate buildings. Found a very ordinary bar with snack food for our lunch and then visited a small museum of chocolate production that Zoe had told us about. We found a rather pleasant old building that did good waffles with strawberries and then made our way back to the hotel where Adrian read for a couple of hours while Jill caught up with the sleep missed by a 5.00 a.m. start.
We had not booked for our evening meal but our plans to eat in the hotel were shattered when we found that at 7.30 p.m. we could not get a table at any time. It was a mixture of it being a Saturday evening and Valentine's Day. Taking the first real restaurant we came across, we had a very good Chinese meal but, as the evening wore on, the service got slower so that there was an hour between courses.
In the end we left without the last course of our set meal or even seeing the bill, just handing over what must be the approximate cost plus a 10-15% margin.
On the Sunday we had a very leisurely start and left the hotel only a little before 11.30. After a short walk including passing the Cathedral of Sts Michel & Gudule we arrived at the Parc du Bruxelles where we purchased day passes for the transport system and took a tram to Place du Grand Sablon where in the lea of the church was an antiques market. This had quite a lot of smaller items of interest but we resisted the temptation! We did the same in the surrounding shops and Antique Centre.
We found a delightful tea house for a light lunch with a special green tea (Gen Mai Cha) for Adrian. Larger quantities of this and the chocolate that Jill had formed the subject of a separate special purchase as we left. The shop sold and served scores of different teas that we had never come across.
Refreshed, we headed for the Art Gallery but were distracted by a Mercedes Museum which showed one or 2 old cars but mainly the new Maybach and the current Mercedes models. Then a quick survey of the works particularly of Breugel and Rubens before another cafe stop - this time a delightful cherry pastry and some hot chocolate and coffee.
Following further reading time we found ourselves one of only 3 or 4 groups of people in the hotel restaurant - what a contrast to the previous night, on the basis of which we had hastened to make a reservation for this occasion.
On Monday, after breakfast, we returned to the Grand Place and wandered the narrow side streets that surround it.
We then went back to our hotel and had lunch before being picked up by our coach tour. We spent two and three quarter hours visiting the major sites of Brussels and taking a number of photographs.
Then we spent about an hour reading back at the hotel before being collected by taxi at 6.30 p.m. for the airport.
Our flight left early at nearly 9.00 p.m. and we were back home at 10.00 p.m. UK time.