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On my last day in Brussels (Friday), I had to check out of my hostel at 10 AM. Being a consummate overachiever, I decided to do better than that. I was putting my luggage into a storage locker and heading out the door at 8:45. And then I started walking. I was on a mission. Project Palais de Justice.

I walked all the way from my hostel at Botanique to the Rue des Minimes (Minimenstraat? The Something Strasse, as Elizabeth Bellamy would say), most of which did seem to be uphill. But it was pleasant–the air was cool and autumnal. It was very, very quiet. I live in Paris–it’s never that quiet in Paris. There are always people milling about. But here, I felt like kind of a nuisance, edging my way past people doing construction in the Grand Place, workers trying to back out enormous trucks, people washing the streets. I finally did make it to the Palais de Justice, though, without getting lost. I’m finding that I’m pretty good at retracing my steps (granted, I also walked that route three times on Thursday night, so it was quite familiar by Friday morning).

From the ascent:

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The Palais de Justice is unfortunately under construction, so I didn’t really bother taking pictures of the building itself. But the view is really pretty from up there.

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(Coo, what a sight!)

And then I started the descent, which was delightful and delicious (as, by the way, am I) after the earlier uphill trek.

I had realized that morning, when I handed over 6 euro as a deposit for my storage locker at the hostel, that I was out of cash. So I said to myself, “Self, as long as you’re not trying to conserve the rest of your coins for useful food, why not treat yourself?” (I am delusional, clearly.) I initially thought of stopping in at Godiva or one of the other 84,000 chocolateries in Brussels (seriously, every other storefront. I found it slightly overwhelming, and in the end didn’t buy any chocolate–but made up for it with hot chocolate and ice cream, of course), but on the way down from the Rue des Minimes, there’s a really fancy chocolaterie that advertises 25 different flavors of macarons. Game over.

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It didn’t occur to me to take a picture of the coffee one until it was half gone. Coffee macarons are a miracle.

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I had slightly more restraint on the passion fruit chocolate macaron, but when I bit into it, I actually uttered an “Oh my GOD.” How do they DO that? I mean, I know the basic mechanics of macaron baking, but what I don’t understand is how they pack such concentrated and such TRUE flavor into a cookie like that. Incredible.

Anyway, then it was 10:30 and I had just had a snack and it was definitely too early for lunch, so I took myself to the Costume and Lace museum. Which was boring, and as with the Comic Strip Center, I’m pretty sure I was missing something. But I do like clothes, and I’ve watched enough costume dramas and period films to have reference points for virtually every outfit that was there. Observe:

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Elizabeth Bennet!

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Blurry, but Anna Leonowens!

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Lady Marjorie Bellamy!

See what I mean? Something kind of freakish about me, I know.

After that museum I grabbed some lunch, and I started contemplating trying to get on an earlier train out of Brussels. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed Brussels, but after a while, there’s only so much time I want to spend wandering a foreign city by myself without the option of going back to my room for a nap. So I decided to make my way to the European Parliament, take some pictures, then go to Bruxelles Midi with my luggage and exchange my ticket.

What’s hilarious is that I totally thought the Belgian Parliament was the European Parliament for a while. It’s also pretty funny that I was taking all of these pictures of the Belgian Parliament and then I realized that I had been wandering around that area all day on Thursday, because it’s where the museums and the Parc de Bruxelles are. Oy vey. But it’s still gorgeous.

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I got out my handy map of Brussels, pointed myself in the direction of the European Parliament, and walked. And walked, and walked. Apparently the European Parliament is slightly outside the scope of the Brussels metro. How is that even possible? Whatever. By the time I got there I was exhausted and so ready to go home, but I couldn’t leave without pictures, of course. If you didn’t take a picture, it didn’t happen!

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The rainbow is made out of flowers!

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There is actually no way to take a single picture of the building–I’m afraid that’s a pretty poor representation. Here’s what a quick Google search yielded (it also told me that the main seat of the EU is actually in Strasbourg, where I am planning to go over Christmas for their Christkindlmarkt. More pictures then!).

I was completely uninterested in taking a tour of the building or even bothering to go inside, so I got on a bus which took me to the metro which took me back to my hostel. I grabbed my bag and went on my merry way. At the train station, I explained my predicament (“Um, do I really have to stay in Brussels until 8 PM?!” Only nicer.), and for 8 additional euro, they not only got me on a train leaving at 3:15, but they also upgraded me to first class, which I found only slightly more comfortable than second class, and only because of the free snacks and drinks they provide in first class.

Also, in a bizarre twist of fate, I sat next to an American on the train ride back to Paris. He was reading Notre Dame de Paris in French, and I couldn’t tell if he was francophone with a penchant for the classics or anglophone with a penchant for pain and suffering. But it turned out that he was studying international relations outside Brussels on a grant from the University of Cincinnati, and we chatted for awhile until I had to apologize and go to sleep. He didn’t know where he was staying in Paris yet, but he wanted to see Notre Dame, so I helped him to the RER B and told him to get off at St. Michel-Notre Dame, because there’s an Office of Tourism across the street from the cathedral. We didn’t exchange numbers or anything, so who knows if he ever made it to a hostel? I’ll assume that he did, since he had been studying in various locales all over Europe since June and he seemed like a resourceful fellow. Also he was wearing a Newsies cap.

So that was my trip to Brussels! Now I can go back to blogging about the minutia of my daily life–at least, until I go to Italy in a few weeks to visit my friend Serena. Blog fodder!

Bisous,
Anne

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