Today wasn’t as eventful as yesterday – anticipated because of the amount of driving from Amsterdam to Paris – but we were still able to squeeze in a few stops in between.
After departing our hotel in the morning, we began our drive towards Belgium. We made our first stop at the Atomium, a monument in Brussels originally built for the Expo ’58 and the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.
“Tubes connect the spheres along the 12 edges of the cube and all eight vertices to the centre. They enclose escalators connecting the spheres containing exhibit halls and other public spaces. The top sphere provides a panoramic view of Brussels. Each sphere is 18 metres in diameter.” (via Wikipedia)
The structure looks bigger in person than it does in the photos below. I remember watching the Amazing Race last year and the Atomium was a “pitstop” at a portion of the race. I thought it was very neat that I was able to see it up close and in person!
I must say, after doing our own mini version of the Amazing Race over nine days, I’ve certainly built a new appreciation for what the contestants do on the show. I know the show is heavily edited down, but I can certainly imagine how they would have struggles with language barriers, cultural differences, and finding their way around a foreign country.
As my loyal readers/viewers would know, I do speak French, and French being one of their main languages, I was able to put that to use there. I should add that I can definitely tell the difference between the European French and the Québecois French.
After leaving the Atomium, we stopped in the heart of Belgium, where we spent a few hours browsing some of the many local shops in the area. There were many neat boutiques with hand-made clothing, etc., as well as countless Belgian chocolate and waffle stands.
As for restaurants, one would stroll down the street and find a string of restaurants selling the same lunch menu specials – all for 10-12 € – so essentially the restaurants would have the managers standing out in the alley, bombarding you with reasons why you should eat at their restaurant versus the rest, and persuading you to sit down inside. That made me quite comfortable as I feel I’m fairly capable at making my own judgements. Most restaurants did that, so I’m sure the locals are used to it and it’s just a cultural difference from North America.
The food itself was great; one would order a lunch special for 10 €, which would include a salad; a main dish (I ordered their “steak frites”); and a pint of beer or a glass of wine.
We, obviously, couldn’t leave Brussels without visiting the Manneken-Pis – the statue of the boy “peeing” into the fountain. I think that the Manneken-Pis could be considered one of the most photographed genitalia in the world; but again that’s a totally different post!
The rest of our day was spent on the road en-route to our hotel in Paris where we will be spending the next few days before heading off to Luxembourg. I continue to be impressed with what Europe has to offer, and I’m sure Paris will have more surprises in the coming days. Stay tuned, folks!