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Brussels Weekend Break

Last summer, I travelled to Brussels in Belgium for a short break. We (me, the missus and the teenager) arrived in the middle of a heatwave, with temperatures in the mid to high thirties, so it actually felt more like Sicily or Greece than Northwest Europe. We had rented an apartment in Schaerbeek, a suburb with a large immigrant population, and the mix of Arabic and Portuguese on the streets added to the exotic atmosphere. As many a European traveller knows, immigrant areas offer the best of deals in accommodation, as well as an exciting array of food!

#1 First sunset

The evening we arrived, there was the most amazing sunset! The image above has not been edited in any way. I just pulled in tight on the zoom. It was taken from our fifth-floor apartment, at the top of an old building with narrow stairs and no lift ? Here is the wider view from our dormer window, across the city rooftops:

#2 The skyline at Schaerbeek, Brussels

Next day we headed into town, enjoying the cobbled streets and distinctive architecture. We took a rest in the charming little Jardin du Petit Sablon, where we came across these two old burghers:

#3 Two old burghers

Here’s an 18-second clip, courtesy of my wife, that will give you a clearer idea of the charm of this little park:

From there we made our way to La grand-place (‘The Big Square’) with its opulent guildhalls, the Town Hall, and the Breadhouse. As well as admiring the magnificent architecture, we passed an enjoyable half-hour people watching. The place was awash with tourists, including of course ourselves ?

#4 La grand-place, Brussels

You might recognise this square from @leigh_kemp ‘s superb rendering of the place here:

Next day we took the tram to the outskirts of the city, to visit the Botanic Garden at Meise. Belgium is divided into two main language zones: in Brussels and the south they speak French, but here in the capital’s hinterland everyone speaks Dutch. Luckily I have both languages, having worked for years in The Hague, but it soon became apparent that the Dutch (or properly, Flemish) spoken in Flanders is considerably different from the Dutch of the Netherlands, despite the fact that they are essentially identical when written. But I muddled through!

#5 Victoria cruziana

The Botanic Garden at Meise is superb! Above you can see those amazingly circular flat discs, up to two metres wide—the leaves of the Santa Cruz water lily (Victoria cruziana)

#6 Nelumbo nucifera

Above and below, the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)

#7 Nelumbo nucifera

After all that gallivanting, I was happy to sit down in the little Moroccan greasy-spoon near the apartment and tuck into a plate of merguez (spicy north-African minced-lamb sausages), chips and salad. A good end to a great day. Next morning, flight home and back to the humdrum ?

#8 Merguez et frites

Lastly, if you're interested, here's a nine-minute video tour of those wonderful botanic gardens, again courtesy of my wife:

What do you think?

18 points


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  1. Wow, I am speechless. So glad to see you post a story again, I have always loved your photography, and I have missed you wifes smiles. The video was so amazing, what a garden. I found myself trying to ID the plants before she showed the plagues. lol I have a few of these fuzzy plants with the red rims in my yard. I had NO idea they got that big, I am going to have to transplant them. Im kind of glad quizzes are down, ha ha. Thanks for the great tour (s)

    • LOL, Kim, your encouragement is very welcome, but I pretty much stopped taking photos back in August! I hope it’ll come back to me, as I got a lot of enjoyment out of it. This was a fun trip, packed tight with visiting, eating and drinking. The Botanic Garden really was a high point, which I’m glad we saved for the last day. Rachel will be very happy to hear your remarks about her video 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed this! Plus in my book, I am calling this one a perfect norman. I did not miss a single question!!!!!!

    In all seriousness, great post your pictures were and are amazing. I really enjoyed the second sunset post and the botanical garden pictures!

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