After a 5 hour train journey across France, Luxembourg and Belgian we finally arrived late into Brussels, home of Waffles, Chocolate, Beer, Tin Tin (Nick was slightly obsessed!) and of course my favourite artist Rene Magritte.
We arrived at 20:00 to an area which looked kinda dodge and trendy at the same time, in sweltering heat, not helped by the backpacks. The instructions for the hostels were great until you arrived at the final tube stop when it simply said it was in 500 metres. Well in which direction? Away form the river or towards it, left or right? We remembered it was next to the river so went that way and then we guessed over the river and left. 10 mins later and no sign of the hostel, our map which we had ready (as learnt from Lesson Number 5) was no use as the names weren’t matching up. It was time to ask for help, some nice people google mapped it for us and sent us back in the opposite “right” direction. By this point I was; sweaty, hungry, hurting from my bag digging in and I was getting snappy! (Nick was keeping his cool) However on arriving at the Meininger hostel http://www.meininger-hotels.com/en/hotels/brussels/my sprits were soon lifted as this was a brand new hotel/hostel with a funky art feel, as it used to be a comic book production warehouse, welcoming bar and chill out area. The room was like a Holiday Inn, simple paint work, good sized toilet, shower and sink (all separate and in the room). It had 4 bunk beds and twin beds behind a small wall, our roommate Jordan very kindly moved so Nick and I could be in the twin as otherwise one of us would have had to sleep next to him.
By this point we needed to do a massive wash load and quick, as we had both run out of clean pants, fortunately this hostel had free use of a washer and drier, unfortunately because of this everyone was using it. So we made dinner and waited to use it, doing research and catching up with email as we kept and eye out for it to be free. By 23:00 we gave up as we needed sleep and only had one full day in Brussels. We decided that we would get up early and do the washing then. At 07:30 I was up to put in a load in but someone had beaten me to it, I waited 40 mins and popped ours in it was going to take 1.5 hours so I decided to go back to bed for little bit. An hour later we were up and dressed and getting breakfast - great all we needed to do was use the drier and we could go and explore...
... however. We had changed our plans slightly for Brussels as we originally planed to have two nights in Strasbourg but realised that we would end up with Monday as our main day in Brussels, the art lovers among you will know that this is not good day for museums or galleries as the majority are closed on Mondays in Europe. As some of you will also know I have also had a spat of missing art museums I’ve really wanted to go to due to; closures, refurbs and arriving on Monday’s. There was no way I was going to miss seeing my favourite artists collection in his home town, hence we moved dates so we would have Sunday as our main day.
It was then very frustrating that the drier didn’t seem to be working it kept going on then turning off and everything staying damp, by now it was gone 10:00 and I was getting worked up, as I may miss the museum if we wait all day for clothes to dry. So we gave up put the wet clothes in a bag hung up what we could and went to explore heading straight for the Musee Magritte after a quick visit to the TI of course.
The museum was fantastic everything I expected. I got the chance to see quiet a few paintings I have only seen in books and more I didn’t even know he had painted. Plus there was a short film about his life and work with English subtitles which was brilliant, I was now a happy bunny. (I think Nick enjoyed it as well this being the first one I have dragged him round so far)
After the museum Nick wanted to go in search of Tin Tin. Brussels had devoted free walls across city centre on the end of buildings to murals of comic strips scenes, we knew one of these was from Tin Tin so followed the trail on the map till we discovered one making Nick very happy. Nick had also read about a statue of Tin Tin - this time we needed a little help so popped to the TI to Google where it was and a short walk later Nick was very happy to discover the life sized bronze statue of Tin Tin and Snowy and had another photo with his childhood hero.
It was now time to see the sights of Brussels: the Impressive Grand Place, the not so impressive Manneken Pis (a very small statue of a young boy pisssing) the rather more fun Jeanneke Pis (a young girl crouching for a wee with a cheeky smile on her face), a few more murals and lots of churches. From here we took a tube out of the town to the Atomium the now infamous symbol of Brussels, stopped for lunch in the park (where there were lots of baby rabbits enjoying the sun with us) before heading back to the hostel for dinner and another attempt at drying our clothes.
The next day we had the morning free before getting a train to Brugge. In our reception we saw the option to join a free 3 hour walking tour. We figured as it was free we’ll join in and can alway leave it it was rubbish. It was not! The tour guide Robbert was brilliant, a Dutch guy living in Brussels with fantastic English and a great sense of humor. We managed to see lots more sights and to find out details of the ones we had already seen. He gave us tips on where to eat and drink and was happy to answer lots of our questions. At the end you could pay what you thought the tour was worth, but weren’t pressured to pay anything if you didn’t want to or couldn’t. We are going to look out for Sandemans New Europe Tours http://www.neweuropetours.eu in other cities now and would recommend doing something like this on your first day as it helped to orientate you, find food and drink spots and gives you a great insight into the city.
It was now time to grab our bags and head back to the station to our next stop, Brugge.