The Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company is holding auditions this weekend for their production of The Gondoliers and I’m trying not to think about it…except for going into their archives and trying to figure out what they’re going to do next year based on what they’ve done the past few years. Probably Princess Ida. Anyway, to take my mind off of how much I miss my G&S crowd, I thought I’d blog about day two in Brussels. (The title of the entry is one of my favorite lines from The Gondoliers, and the answer to the question over the last three days was a resounding yes, absolutely.)
So here we go. My day started awfully early on Thursday, what with not getting much sleep and wanting to take advantage of free breakfast at the hostel. So I was up and out by 8:45, making my way to the Place Royale. I had bought a Brussels card, which entitled me to unlimited public transportation for four days and free entry to quite a few museums. I’m not a museum person at all, so I picked out a few museums that interested me and spent Thursday checking them out.
I like just about any city best in the early morning (you might call it “my time of day,” if you were so inclined), and Brussels was really beautiful. I picked up an overpriced (but thoroughly delicious) hot chocolate and wandered around until the museums opened at 9:30. I decided to go back to the Grand Place and take some pictures, but before I got there, I hit this:
That’s where Wednesday night’s french fries came from. It looks slightly more shameful in the light of day, but I am unapologetic.
I parked myself on a bench for a while to finish my hot chocolate.
Angry Bird disapproved. He was probably right, but hey, I was on vacation.
Then I headed over to the Musical Instrument Museum. I actually hadn’t planned on going there, but when I arrived at the Place Royale, I found that it was across the street from the Musée Magritte, and it opened before 10. So that’s where I started. It was very cool. I found it easy to understand even when I didn’t feel like reading the explanations in French, because of my musicology and world music classes in college. They provided me with free headphones so that I could hear what the instruments sounded like. A few of my favorites:
(Player piano player…piano.)
When I had exhausted all of the exhibitions there, I went next door to a music store and happened upon a complete set of the major choral works of J.S. Bach. That was just too good, so I bought it.
Angry Bird was conflicted, because it was a little expensive, but at the same time, he looooooooves Bach. Just like me.
Then I went over to the Magritte Museum, which was really great fun. I love Magritte, and I’m not an art enthusiast by any means. But I can always count on Magritte paintings to make me think and even chuckle a little bit. I always find myself stopping in front of Magritte paintings for a few minutes, trying to make sense of the titles that go with each painting–usually unsuccessfully, as I’m sure he intended. Photography wasn’t allowed there, so I’ll give you this, one of my favorite paintings from the exhibit. It’s called “Le bain de cristal”–“The Cut-Glass Bath,” according to a postcard I bought.
Tee hee. Giraffes are funny.
I was pretty hungry on the way out of the museum and I decided to go get some lunch. But then I was waylaid by the siren song of the waffle truck.
And before I knew it–
Yum. As I said to one of my hallmates tonight, it might sound stereotypical, but the waffles really ARE that good in Brussels. And I don’t think they need any toppings or anything (most vendors sell them with whipped cream and fruit or nutella, but I think plain is the best way). Awesome.
After my waffle I went back to the hostel, took a nap and changed into my sneakers for a trip to the Belgian Comic Strip Center. Which was…not that exciting. I’m pretty sure I managed to miss the permanent collections, but I think it still wouldn’t have been that great. I didn’t grow up with the iconic Belgian comic strip characters–Astérix, Tintin, Gaston Lagaffe, Smurfs–nor do I read Flemish, nor do I really want to spend hours reading French comic strips. Mainly, I went because my roommate Greg back in Chicago went as Tintin for Halloween last year. He looks kind of like this:
On the way back to the Grand Place, I encountered this:
The sign said something like, please don’t feed the elephant. He bites, and he’s had enough chocolate already! Tee hee.
And then I went to find Manneken Pis again so I could get a picture of him. This is a really odd Belgian thing that makes me think of the bit in Blackadder II when Hugh Laurie, as the evil King Ludwig of Germany, says, “How fortunate you English are to find the toilet so funny!” Basically, Manneken Pis is a fountain-statue of a little boy peeing, of which they sell replicas in the Sky Mall catalogue (if it looks as familiar to everybody reading this as it did to me!).
Hilarious. And it’s not just hilarious because everybody crowds around to take pictures of a naked kid peeing. It’s a whole business. You can buy replicas of Manneken Pis in every material imaginable, including chocolate (I saw a box of Manneken Pis chocolate statues in milk and white chocolate; it made me think of Charlotte and Gertie’s chocolate babies in All of a Kind Family). I don’t really get the appeal, but I took pictures all the same.
After that I walked quite a bit, trying to kill enough time to make it to dinner. I spent a little while reading Muriel Spark in front of this statue of Egmont Somebody, who may or may not be the subject of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. (I have no idea, I haven’t even tried to find out, but his name was Egmont, and it’s not a very common name, is it?)
Suddenly, all I could think about was pizza. I had this one tried and true way to get to the Grand Place, and on the right side of the street there was a pizza place proclaiming “NEW YORK PIZZA.” I’m always skeptical of that, but the pies in the window looked so promising that I had to have a slice for dinner. And you know what? It was the most authentic slice of New York pizza that I’ve had since leaving the Tri-State area in 2002. Three cheers for Brussels! And then I had another ice cream cone, because why not?
After dinner, I walked some more (sensing a theme here?), all the way up to the Palais de Justice, which I had actually glimpsed earlier:
But I didn’t get any good pictures of either the building or the view until the next morning, so it’ll have to wait. I did, however, have a pretty amusing adventure on the tram. I was up at the Palais de Justice, and I thought to myself, hey, I have unlimited public transportation, why don’t I hop on the tram and go back to Botanique? (The tram is, as you might have guessed, an above-ground train that goes everywhere, but for which I had no map, so I was just winging it.) I got on the #94 tram…going away from my destination. Half an hour later I was deep into some Belgian suburb. When it finally occurred to me to get off and wait for the tram going back into the city, I was in the middle of nowhere. With a Shell station, which was quite comforting. It really wasn’t any big deal, and it killed enough time that I could go straight back to the hostel when I finally made it to Botanique. I read my book for an hour, then went to bed. Though not to sleep, alas.
And no sooner had I managed to drift off than my alarm rang and I went off to start my last day in Brussels…