Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Weekend in Brussels

The Grand Place

I've been working long hours and extra days a lot lately, so when the 3-day weekend for Pentecost came around the wife and I headed to Brussels for a few days of not-working and much needed recuperating.

Brussels is about 400 miles north of Lyon, and just over an hour flight time. It is the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium, and the de facto capital of the European Union. Technically situated in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium it is a mostly French speaking city, but it seemed everyone we ran into spoke 3 or 4 different languages! It's a fairly big city with about 2 million people in the metro area, and given the abundance of international and European organizations located there, it is a very multi-cultural city too. Famous for beer, waffles, chocolate, the Smurfs, comic books, and the birth place of french fries--it seems to have just about all of life's necessities.

Creepy Tall People

We arrived in Brussels just in time for one of the coolest parades I have ever seen--the Zinneke Parade. I have no idea what the origins of this parade are, but every 2 years the people of Brussels come together and put on one of the coolest, weirdest, sometimes creepy, and most creative parades I have ever seen. There were no motor vehicles or giant balloons in this parade, just small hand pushed or bicycle pushed carts, and lots of cool costumes. Some bands and signing groups participated too, and there were even a few fire breathers and other carny folk.

Not sure what these are

The tall people 2 pictures above kept leaning over and whispering qu'est-ce qui se passe (what is happening?) while being chased by the whatever these things are clinging to the wall here, while the women below where chanting some children of the corn type music. It was really impressive and well rehearsed for a one time event in a biennial parade.

Imagine creepy choir music

The parade wasn't all creepy. The theme this year was à la table (at the table), so the displays were supposed to be somewhat food or dining related. This wasn't always apparent, like in the pics above, but there were some funny on-theme characters too.

Officer Green

Some acrobats

Looks like fun

and whatever this is

looks like something out of the Dark Crystal

Brussels is pretty cool when not putting on Tim Burton-esque parades too. The city is littered with statues, awesome parks, cool plazas, and to George's great delight a gourmet chocolate shop on every corner.

Crusher of sea monsters

Brussels, well Belgium in general, is also pretty famous for comic books and cartoons. The most famous of course being The Smurfs (Les Schtroumpfs in French), and less famous in the US, Tintin. I think the image below comes from Tintin, and there were many comic style artworks around the city like this one.

And Beer! France is well known for high quality wine, but is not known--for good reason--for high quality beer. I don't drink much, but when I do go out, or when I buy beer at the store, I almost always buy Belgian beer. Even the king of beers, Budweiser, is now owned by a Belgian company, and one of my favorite brewers in the USA is called the New Belgian Brewing Company (even though they are located in Colorado). So when I think of good beer, Belgium usually comes to mind.

George is not much of a beer drinker though. In fact, before this trip to Brussels I do not think she has even drank one entire beer in her life. Well she found a couple beers she could enjoy, and by the last day she was having her first beer before 10am just like a real pro.

You know you have a problem when your first beer comes before noon

Brussels also has a lot of great (and varied) restaurants. I had vegetarian chili for lunch one day! I don't think you can get any kind of chili in Lyon, and you can hardly get anything vegetarian either. Good Thai food, which is also pretty much non-existent in Lyon, was also pretty common, and I even ate at a Chi-Chi's restaurant. While I doubt the Michelin guys will be handing out any stars to the afore mentioned restaurants, it was a pleasant surprise and it's nice to have the options.

So we had a great time in Brussels. I think it was an awesome city, and I could definitely see myself going back a few times.

You will find more pics of Brussels here and more pics of the Zinneke parade here


Unknown said...

Same author (Hergé), but not Tintin. The image is from a 1930 comic strip about 2 mischievous kids called Quick and Flupke: "Quick et Flupke" -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quick_%26_Flupke

michael said...

Thanks for the info, nicomo. I will check my local library and bookstore to see if I can find some Quick et Flupke.