Travel

Belgian Beer, Bars – and I Don’t Drink! – Or Didn’t!!

Saturday – dawned early – for some – but not for us.

It had been a late finish to the previous night, finally settling down at around 3am after having a cup of tea and some water and downing some tablets for the headache that was bound to happen. I was sharing a bed with Viv, this was not a problem, it was just one more thing that would cause laughter! It’s a good job we get on really well.

I had my usual restless night and we surfaced at around 10am(ish). David had been up and had gone to the gym and left a pot of brewed coffee, how lovely was that! It was most welcome. Viv and I chatted for a bit then Saz joined us and eventually went to get some fresh pastries for our breakfast. It was all so wonderfully relaxing.

We eventually got ready, we’d formulated a kind of plan for the day and the day was passing.

We came out of the apartment building and made our way to the tram stop – a tram! Saz and David keep travel cards called Mo Bib for when people visit, they just keep them topped up, a bit like an Oyster card in London, fab idea, so all we had to do when we got on the tram was tap it on a machine.

It wasn’t a long journey. It’s quite a small city as cities go. Our first stop was going to be a park near the Palace, Parc de Bruxelles. This was at my request as I’d asked to hug a tree, a Belgian tree. We got off the tram, into the middle of the road!! The cars actually stop, they can’t undertake, so they can let you get off.

We made our way into the park, I felt I could breathe. I feel comfortable amongst the trees rather than buildings, they are my solace. We walked through it, the first thing I saw was snowdrops! How lovely! There were parakeets squawking above us and it was difficult to spot them.

I soon picked a tree I wanted to hug, lovely. Don’t ask me what I get from it as I don’t know. I do however feel and know that we owe them so much and wouldn’t be here without them. I always look up into the canopy while I’m hugging and am always amazed at how majestic they are. If they could talk imagine what they could tell us they’d witnessed.

I’d seen another one as we’d gone past the entrance on the tram so we made our way there. It was a lovely big old tree, the roots were above ground but I managed to pick my way through them to give him a hug, I apologised if I stepped on a root – I know, crackpot!🙄🤪

We made our way out of the park down a hill, past the Music Museum, which was a fabulous building, past the Pharmacies Anglais (which I will come back to) and there before us was a view of some gardens and some more trees and part of the cities rooftops. We were at the top of some steps and this was apparently the place from which Saz and David had watched the New Years Eve fireworks, must have been amazing.

We carried on down the steps, through the garden and continued on, our target being the Grand Place, a square that was supposed to be stunning.

We came to a street corner, this is where it began to get busier, where there were cafes, restaurants and frites sellers. There was a lady there singing opera. We heard her first, I was drawn to her.

I love watching and listening to street performers. I love the passion they must have, I envy it, they have a purpose, a dream, me, I’m just bimbling through life making it up as I go along with not one clue what I’m doing or where I’m going. I have some dreams and wishes but I’ve learnt how quickly life can change so I try not to pin too much hope on my ideas. If it happens, it happens, I trust in fate (although I have been know to question it with a WTF!)

Her voice was beautiful. I videoed her, I don’t know what she was singing (I knew it was famous and I should probably know) but it moved me to tears, some days this doesn’t take a lot!

When she’d finished I gave her some change and a compliment and took a business card saying thank you.

I turned to walk away, the others had waited, patiently, for me, Saz gave me a hug. Friends. Priceless.

Anyhoo, we carried on walking, we were coming up to the Grand Place. I think Saz and David were excited to see our reactions as they believed it was the prettiest square in Europe. We passed some souvenir shops, chocolate shops, waffle shops – the smell of it all was Devine and I think that alone piled the calories on!!

All the time we are walking I am looking up and around. The buildings so far had had the odd impressive one, quite a few could do with a scrub but as I looked up now a building had some guilt on it and was immediately different. We turned a corner and there it was, the Grand Place. I may have sworn here. Wow. Just Wow.

It was indeed very pretty and the square was crowded with people taking pictures, looking around and taking it all in. The buildings were so beautiful and ornate, covered in carvings and statues, some in guilt some plain. Just stunning. There was one building in particular that stood out for me, it was a museum and it seemed ‘darker’ than the others, almost gothic and very captivating.

No matter how many photos you take you never seem to be able to capture it as you see it. It’s more for the memory bank.

We walked across the square and down one of the alleyways on our way to the Mannquin Pis, there was a statue laying there called Everard-t-serclaes it’s supposed to be lucky to rub so naturally we had a rub, judging by his shiny bits so had a fair few thousand others!

We continued on down the road, being overtaken by groups of tourists following the inevitable brolly or flag. We were all heading in the same direction, towards the ‘Pissing Boy’.

We passed copious amounts of chocolate, lace and waffle shops, managing to refrain from entering any.

Now we’d been warned not to get our hopes up in regards to the Pissing Boy, it was a major tourist attraction and to be honest when we saw it we couldn’t work out why! It’s a little statue set back on a corner of the street of a little boy pissing (apologies but that is what he’s called), he had a little costume on, apparently he has different ones for different occasions or times of the year. It was incredible to see everyone clamouring for a photo or a selfie. I took a photo, of people taking a photo! Everywhere you look in the souvenir shops you see the Pissing Boy and I mean Everywhere! Quite incredible!!

Anyway, we’d ticked it off our list, now we were getting hungry and the next thing was Frittes! We found a kiosk selling them and bought a cone of frittes each with mayonnaise, from a guy who looked like Super Mario! I managed a sneaky photo, don’t think he was too impressed but how could I not!!

We sat on a bench and ate them, delicious!! Now we needed a coffee and something sweet!! So we found a coffee shop and had a waffle too. I could have had a snooze quite easily at that point, all this fresh air, tree hugging and sightseeing was tiring. But there was no time to linger – although I did shut my eyes for about 5 mins, well, more like a reeeeaally long blink 😉

Back on our feet and the next destination was to be a bar, it was quite a walk but there’s so much to take in you don’t really notice the distance. The bar was called The Monk, quite a famous bar. Now, I’m not a drinker, I’d rather have a meal and socialise or do an activity and socialise (like bowling) I’m not normally into sitting drinking and chatting, but in these bars everyone does it so well. It’s not like they are there to get plastered, loud and lary, they are there to enjoy each other’s company over a social glass of beer, by the end of the night I totally got it and I really enjoyed the beer!!

While we were chatting in the Monk we’d done the inevitable and ‘checked in’ on Facebook. One of my friends commented and mentioned about a bar that would be right up my street, they served drinks out of skulls and the tables were coffins (I’m really not that odd – I just love stuff like that and I’m very much into Halloween) so naturally it was to be our next stop. I’d had a couple of beers by this point so walking back to the Grand Place where the bar Le Cercueil was located was a very merry time indeed! The Grand Place at night was stunning.

Well, when we got there and saw the outside I was so excited, it really did look to be right up my street. The passageway leading to the door itself was a bit daunting, not one you’d have naturally ventured down. Entering the bar through a door at the end of the passageway and then up a few steps we were greeted by a very dark bar, in more ways than one. There was indeed a coffin, without its lid (this was on the ceiling) and complete with white silk and a skeleton in it. In fact there was more than one. I was so excited!! I couldn’t stop taking photos of it all, there was so much to take in, the lighting, the decor, the drinks, it was all fantastic, I was like a child in a sweet shop!

We had one drink here and then decided to go and get some dinner, I know I needed food to soak up the alcohol I wasn’t used to consuming. We said we’d go back to this bar after dinner. We walked back over to a favourite restaurant of Saz and David’s called Chez Leon, we got a table straight away, it’s a lovely family run restaurant established in 1893 and is famed for its mussels. I chose the Beef Carbonade as did Viv and David and I had another beer, a fruity one, so really it was more fruit juice😉, to wash it down.

Oh boy was I hungry and the food was absolutely delicious, we even managed to force a dessert down too – it was tough!!

Feeling full and raring to go we decided not to go back the coffin bar but to try another one called Pharmacies Anglaise. It had looked a little odd on the website but we were willing to give it a go. It meant walking all the way back up the hill and steps where we’d started earlier. I was even happier at this point! We stopped a few times to take photos, I took one of my shadow, a colourful one I was quite pleased with, it was a bit different.

We found the bar and we had to ring the doorbell in order to get in before asking if they had room for four more. He went off to check and came back to lead us into the bar, towards the back and down some stairs to a bar with four empty bar stools – how perfect was that!! The decor was all pharmacy related, doctors instruments, bottles, jars, even a huge jar with a head in it – another bar made for me!! It had a Steampunk feel and the guy behind our bar who was mixing cocktails had a black shirt, black waistcoat, black bowler hat with huge old fashioned goggles on it. We ordered our drinks, I turned to a JD and coke substitute here which nearly blew my head off and the others had cocktails.

I was fascinated watching him mixing peoples drinks, it was an art form, I asked him if he minded me videoing, he didn’t, so I did. You can’t do a job like that and not like being watched, it’s quite a spectacle.

After finishing our drinks it was time to make a move again, to head back to the bar we’d gone to when we first arrived, for our last drink. We were going to get the tram but decided to walk back.

We were all absolutely shattered and just about managed to finish our last beer of the day.

I, we, had had a great day. I absolutely loved all of it. The walking, the sights, the people, the smell, the taste, everything, I had tried to take it all in, I love seeing new places, I feel so lucky and blessed to have the friends I have and to be able to share so much with them❤️

One more day to go! Would we make it?!

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