Palace Gardens
Following a recommendation from one of our roommates in Paris we decided to head into Brussels to enjoy a city at a more relaxing pace and see a few of the sights of this interesting city famous for Belgium beer and Belgium Chocolate.  After arriving we spent a very lazy afternoon (or what remained) unwinding in our hotel before heading out to get some Belgium Cuisine and Belgium Beer.   The food was interesting, especially the duck pie that we tried served cold, particularly tasty.  It is clear why Belgium is famous for their beer which there is considerable variety and varying taste, most of it good.
Palace of Justice
The next morning we got up early to do a walking tour but realised that it was in the afternoon, so we spent some time walking around the city, exploring the old palace and the former palace gardens before wandering into the main square and discovering the Belgian Chocolatiers.  We went into one shop, Nehaus where we were given a brief history of the that particular Chocolatier including their pioneering of filled chocolates.
View of Belgium
We were then offered a taster which was amazing, literally just melts in your mouth and tastes like real chocolate having had the sugar reduced so it doesn’t affect the taste (although im not sure if this changes the affect on the waistline).  We also visited a few other chocolatiers on the street to compare but we started to get an understanding of why Nehaus can charge $80 per kilo for their chocolate.
The Main Belgian Square
After getting a healthy lunch (to offset the chocolate) we headed for the walking tour.  We started in the main square and walked to the old Palace.  As we made our way past many ‘newer’ buildings we noticed that they had all taken on a very dull grey looking facade.  Our guide explained this to us a the Brusselisation effect.  Essentially during the war, public construction was put on hold so when the war ended Brussels was left without many buildings and roads that were needed to help their economy advance.  As a result of this the buildings were built quite quickly and with little regard for their architecture or facade and this is why a lot of the buildings look quite dull, especially compared to some of the other European cities.
Tintin and Snowy in Space
The old palace was an interesting building, which was for a long time home to the rulers of Belgium or their representatives.  Their current Kings, however choose to live a little further outside of the city.  Close to the Old Palace however is the Parliament of the European Union.  Brussels is the unofficial capital of the EU and location of the headquarters for NATO.  There are some countries that may have up to three embassies in the country to be able to liaise with Belgium, NATO and the EU.
Inside the Entrance Hall
Palace of Justice
Belgium originally was made up of three key areas within the country, the Dutch speaking Flanders, the French speaking Walonia and the city of Brussels that is bi-lingual.   We got a brief explanation of how the constitutional monarchy has worked and the history of the Belgian ruling royals.  Belgium has had an interesting history having been ruled by the Spanish Royals, the Austrian Habsburg, and the French briefly as well.  Currently Albert II is the sixth King of Belgium.
As we walked towards the other large palace in Brussels – the palace of justice we stoped in the Sablon and we saw the gardens commemorating the Spanish Inquisition.  At the head of the gardens represented several of the free thinkers who were persecuted during this time.  Also in position around the gardens are 40 statues that represent the workers that were ruled by the nobles during the middle ages, cobblers, stone masons, hat makers etc.
View of Belgium City
Brussels was divided into two key parts early on, the part above the hill where all of the Nobles, who spoke French lived, and the part below the hill where the workers would live.  In order to keep the workers in line the nobles built the Palace of Justice, a massive building that is bigger than Peters Cathedral in the Vatican. As you can see from the photos the interior is very grand and the side facing the valley had a grand entrance with over 100 steps, designed to intimidate anyone who had to enter.
The Tintin Shop!
Next stop on the tour was the famous statue the Manneken Pis, which is an interesting statue to have as such a prominent national icon and tourist attraction, but nonetheless.  It is said that the son of a French Noble had gone missing somewhere in the city, and the Noble searched couldn’t find his son, so he prayed that if his son was found he would build a statue where that was.  The statue represents where and how the young boy was found.
Chocolatier #1
As we made our way back into the main square we were shown the grand buildings that make up the square.  The town centre building as well as all of the different guilds for the various merchants that traded within the once bustling square.  One of the more prominent buildings is the brewers guild, which was particularly successful hundreds of years ago.  The reason for this stems from the problems that were had with the drinking water hundreds of years ago so in order to help make the water drinkable the water would have hops added to it so bacteria wouldn’t grow.  After this Barley was added for flavouring and beer became a more popular drink because there weren’t the concerns about drinking the water.
Chocolatier #2
The next day we spent another lazy morning booking our accommodation for the next stop on our trip, Nice before planning out our day.  We ventured out after lunch to visit the Comic Strip museum, dedicated to comic art.  Among the more popular inclusions were the famous Tintin and the Smurfs.  We read about some of the history behind the comic strips, and how papers included them to keep readers interested and entertained as well as offer them some variety from the regular news.
Waffles Belgium Style!
We saw several drawings and sketches as well as explanations behind the characters in some of the comics.  For example Tintin lacks considerable emotion or expressions on his face, allowing the readers to connect and engage with him in their own way.
Later in the afternoon we headed to the local cinema to see the new James Bond movie Skyfall.   This movie certainly lived up to the hype and without giving away the story is certainly well worth checking out, not  just for Bond fans but for movie goers in general.  After enjoying the movie we headed to get some dinner and some of the well known Belgian waffles.  Served with ice cream and chocolate sauce they taste amazing.
Belgium’s first shopping mall
To say farewell to this quaint little city we decided to set out for a beer cafe that has over 250 different types of beer available.  This place was great, and is certainly something I would like to return to as well as a must go attraction for beer lovers visiting Belgium.  Among the different beers that I saw being poured were, green beer, red beer, the usual darks, ambers, and paler ales, as well as beer served in champagne glasses and even in a soup bowl.  We tried a few different beers some of them with wonderful taste, some that tasted slightly different however all in all it was an enjoyable evening.
A few beers on tap
The Highlights:
Although not a ‘sight’ the newest James Bond Movie was really good certainly worthwhile for Bond lovers and movie goers.
Tasting the different types of Belgian Chocolate.  There is a reason that this chocolate is respected around the world, it tastes incredible.
The Bowl is full of Beer!
The Funnier things we saw:
The Maneken Pis statue is a peculiar statue to have as such a prominent national icon.  You can also buy replicas of this statue everywhere in the city.
The Final Word:
Brussels is nice, a great place to spend a couple of days especially if you just want to relax a little and that was certainly something that we wanted to do after seeing so much in Paris.


Old Palace
The Collapse of the Belgium Clock
Manneken Pis


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