Friday, December 19, 2008

Bienvenue a Brussels

The train from Paris arrived at the Brussels Midi station right on time at 3:47pm. From there I had to take the Brussel’s metro to get to the stop closest to the Warwick Royal Windsor hotel. The metro took about 20 minutes and the hotel is a 5 minute walk from the station. I only stayed at the hotel long enough to drop my bag and freshen up – then I was off to the Grand Place!

I have to say it again - I LOVE THIS HOTEL! I’ve stayed here every time I’ve been in Brussels and it is so wonderful. The location is phenomenal (right around the corner from the Grand Place) and the rooms are beautiful – dark wood, gorgeous bedding, marble bathrooms… ahhh! I was in heaven :-) This hotel is definitely on my "Favorite 5" hotels in the world list.

So Paris has its crepe stands on every corner and Brussels has its waffles and frites stands! Of course, I went for the frites (french fries) for dinner! Served up in cones with all different sauces, the most common of which is mayonnaise – which is quite yummy! (Remember the frite stands Sherri?) So I walked around eating my frites as I checked out the Christmas market ;-) Did you know... 'french' fries aren't french? They were created in Belgium!

Even though I don’t like them, I have to admit that the waffles were a thing of art. Every sugary, sweet topping you can image. Almost too pretty to eat! (Sabrina, you would have liked the ones with TONS of whipped cream on top!)

I’ve been to Brussels several times before. Why do I keep coming back? For one thing, it’s so easy to get here from Paris – just 1 hour 20 minutes by high speed train. Also, Brussels is the seat of the EU – so I love that about the city. It's so international! Most of the signs are in French and German (though Flemish is also spoken here). And the architecture of the buildings in the Grand Place is spectacular – especially when they are all decked out for the holidays.

Le Grand Place
So as I rounded the corner and caught my first glimpse of the Grand Place, it was already dark and it literally took my breath away. Brussels really out did itself this year! The orchestrated light and music show was so stunning it actually – and this is going to sound dorky, but it’s true - brought tears to my eyes. The beauty of it against the buildings surrounding the Grand Place was like nothing I had ever seen before.

I took video – lots of video. Five clips will play when you click below! Hopefully it will give you a glimpse of what I saw and experienced. (You can also go right to YouTube by clicking here, and then clicking on the link underneath the video window that says 'watch in high quality' to see a higher res version.)

In addition to the video I took a ton of photos, so check them out as well!

Meeting Mr. Mama Kotroo from Kashmir
There was a booth in the Christmas market that was selling hand-painted ornaments and hand-woven pashminas from India. They were very beautiful and I stopped to look. The gentleman selling the items was Indian and spoke English so we started chatting and ended up talking for about an hour! He spends his summers in India where he owns a few houseboats in the region of Kashmir. And when he’s in India he takes groups of travelers on treks through the Himalayas – he has a whole crew that goes on the journey. How cool is that? I got his business card ;-) And he spends his winters in Brussels. I asked him how that ended up happening and he told me that he had met a Belgian woman – ended up marrying her – so they live here part of the year and India part of the year. He was so nice and so interesting to talk to.

Of course we talked about politics. And I don’t have to tell you what he thinks about Bush… He said he knows a lot of people who think Americans are bad. And he always corrects them and says Americans are wonderful, generous people - it’s just Bush that is bad. It was a little troubling to know that many people around the world don’t distinguish between Bush and the America people, but it goes to show you how invaluable traveling is as an avenue towards greater global understanding and world peace. Had Mr. Kotroo not met and befriended Americans, he may not have made the distinction himself. And now that he has, he tries to educate others who have not had the experience of meeting and getting to know Americans themselves. The example holds as true for us. Until you travel outside the United States and see different parts of the world and experience and learn about other cultures, it’s difficult not to let the bias of government and media impact the way you see the world and America’s place in it.

Ok, I’ll stop philosophizing now ;-)

But the moral of the story is: "Spread World Peace.... TRAVEL!

Click here to view all of today's photos (12/19/08)


Anonymous said...

The Grand Place is beautiful. What a light show.

Garcia said...

That light show reminds me a little of CLOSE ENTOUNTERS of the THIRD KIND! :)

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