Belgium is obviously an important stop on our EU Tour because as we all know there are actually only three things to do there; eat waffles, eat chocolate and drink beer. Well, maybe it’s a bit important for the EU as well. As we got off the train from Amsterdam, Mrs P. let me know in no uncertain terms that she had the first two things on the list covered without my assistance and so that evening I was at liberty to go and explore the third = Best. Wife. Ever.
Unlike some of our previous destinations such as Croatia or Slovenia, Brussels and Belgium has the added excitement of playing host to one half of the European Parliament while the other being Strasbourg in France (we’ve not managed to fit Strasbourg in to our itinerary and perhaps it’s best to bypass the discussion regarding the actual need for two buildings of such scale on this occasion!). However, truth be told, we couldn’t legitimately visit Brussels on a Brexit tour without stopping by and so we took The Child around the visitor’s centre and regardless of your political leanings, it really is a fascinating insight into what the EU was created to achieve.
So what is there in Brussels that isn’t waffle/chocolate/beer/EU Parliament related? I’m glad you asked because the Family P spent some time during the day investigating and are proud to present to you: Little Europe.
OK, so we’re clear that this city is pretty Europe friendly but is there anything in this city not relating to Europe? Surprisingly yes, next to Little Europe is Oceana (a big but incredibly expensive splash park which of course The Child loved) and the Atomium which is pretty impressive up close. If you fancy it, you can nip in and get the lift up to the top sphere for a drink looking out over the rest of the city. In the 1950’s (the Atomium was built for the 1958 World’s Fair) Brussels decided to embrace the un-restrainable joy clearly visible in all the worlds scientists and express it in the form of nine iron atoms in the shape of the body-centred cubic unit cell of an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times.
As you do.
Is it worth a trip though? Let’s be honest, while they are a bit fun*, Oceana, Little Europe and the Atomium probably shouldn’t be your sole reason for coming to Brussels but considering the volume of visitors that were there with us they are clearly a major draw for the city. But don’t worry, there are other things to do as well such as…
The Basilica of The Sacred Heart stands at 89 metres tall and is (according to Wikipedia) the largest Art Deco style building in the world. It certainly is pretty big and when it comes to landmarks, I have to say it beats Little Europe into a distant second. We didn’t manage to get in during our visit but the view from the steps is pretty amazing in itself and I understand that you can visit the tower too, so it’s well worth the visit.
But what about the beer though? While Mrs P and The Child lay the smack down on some fearsome waffle action:
I set about learning the history, culture and detail of social beverage production in a refined, sophisticated and totally grown up way. I most certainly DID NOT go out and get pissed up on my own in an underground bar with a beer menu the length of a NHS waiting list. I was with friends. If you would like to do the same and I fully recomend that you do, then just pop over to here and here but make sure you ask for Fraser; he’s a Scotsman in the beer capital of the world. In other words, he’s the best tour guide on the best tour you can possibly imagine.
So as you’ve seen, Brussels is a city split into two. Firstly, there is the old city, full of small cobbled streets and magnificent squares and monuments. Then you have the steel, glass and concrete world of the EU. I know I’ve mentioned before that it’s pretty hard to find a local in a capital city but if that city is Brussels which is effectively the proxy capital of 27 different countries, the difficulty increases exponentially! I thought I had tracked down a volunteer thanks to my man Fraser the tour guide but unfortunately Ben seemed to get cold feet and has decided not to be a part of our tour. Well boo to you Ben, so the shout goes out – are you a Belgian? Do you know any Belgians? Do you like waffles? If so, get in touch to talk all things Brexit!
Visit Brussels very kindly sponsored us with two Brussel Cards along with some other goodies and as such I can testify that the metro really is an excellent way to navigate the city. Just make sure you get a map before you arrive because as much as I asserted that walking through the centre of the city dragging our luggage for the best part of an hour was a ‘character building experience’, Mrs P decided that I was just lost and wouldn’t admit it. Damn her piercingly beautiful eyes that see right into my soul.
*For an understood and limited value of ‘bit’