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Almost Interesting, Nearly Exciting, Ambivalent Brussels

Almost Interesting, Nearly Exciting, Ambivalent Brussels

Apr 30th, 2014, 02:17 PM
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Almost Interesting, Nearly Exciting, Ambivalent Brussels

My first disappointment was that TSA did not ask me to take off my shoes. I wore my lucky poker socks which have hearts and obvious expressions of love. I thought they would liven the security line but the opportunity did not arise.

The well traveled are on opposite sides regarding Brussels, the skip it group, and the "'Oh, no, you must go.'' The latter decided smaller. But you must land somewhere and Brussels seemed as good as place any where CNN would not follow and two days seems like a unfair amount of time to make a determination one way or the other but we do not care.

We are staying at the Bloom Hotel which seems like a hipster hangout despite the rather small underwater mining convention going on. Everyone behind the counter is either handsome or beautiful and there are hints that they know something about fashion or graphic design. Each room has its on individual mural painted on the wall of varying styles. Ours has a suggestion of a Japanese influence with lilac flowers and black highlights.

Bleary-eyed from the flight we walk to the Grand Place on Rue So So and the Boulevard Medioc finally turning down a pedestrian only street lined with American mall stores. The Grand Place is magnificent with it's 17th century gilded gold guild halls and older governmental buildings. Tourist restaurants and shops abound. We walked into one restaurant but left immediately before we could be fleeced. The restaurant where we ate, Fallstaff was not much better. I had duck with apples which was as tough as Donald, and Andrea had sausage and stompe, which was a shade better.
We bought some chocolate at Elisabeth's, which included something that looked like a Mallomar and the cracker was the best part.

Tomorrow Magritte and frites.
IMDonehere is offline  
Apr 30th, 2014, 02:20 PM
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There is a good chance that the Belgium Tourist Board will steal your report and use it in their literature. I would copyright it.
colduphere is offline  
Apr 30th, 2014, 02:23 PM
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Hello, IMDonehere,

we did a very short city break to Brussels once, [one night] and apart from the food and the Tintin museum, [oh yes, and the beer!] we weren't over impressed.

joining in to find out what we missed!
annhig is offline  
Apr 30th, 2014, 02:35 PM
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Brussels - the ugliest capital city in western Europe, bar none - that does not say it cannot be a great visit - but for looks in its centrum anyone not much to write home about.
PalenQ is offline  
Apr 30th, 2014, 02:45 PM
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IMDonehere used to date girls with that same description. He should love Brussels.
colduphere is offline  
Apr 30th, 2014, 02:48 PM
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I did date girls who had magnificent centrums.
IMDonehere is offline  
Apr 30th, 2014, 02:50 PM
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If you want to do the Magritte, you can get the combo ticket for also Old Masters, Modern and Art Noveau museums for only a small surcharge.. 8 vs 13 euros, I think.

While eating on or around Grand Place is mostly a visual pleasure (if you get a table with a view), there are quite nice pockets of less/non touristy restaurants, cafes, bars not far from "downtown", e.g. on Pl Boniface (like the quirky Ultime Atome) or Pl Flagey (Cafe Belga). And also much less pricey..

But Brussels is a bit of a love at tenth or eleventh sight...
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Apr 30th, 2014, 03:01 PM
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I think a lot of travelers get the impression that if they fly into/out of Brussels Airport, it would make logical sense to stay in the city of Brussels itself at the start or end of a trip. But Brussels Airport has direct train service to a number of other nearby cities including Antwerp and Leuven that are not far from the airport; Belgium is not a huge country. So it's completely unnecessary even to set foot in Brussels itself (the core of the city anyway) if you fly in/out. You aren't much closer to the airport just by staying in Brussels. If the airport was called something else, I'll bet many tourists would avoid Brussels entirely.

I loved the Grand Place in Brussels, especially at night; otherwise, as a town I much preferred Leuven when I visited. I made Antwerp my night-before-the-flight-home option but would have chosen Leuven instead (24 minute train ride from the airport) instead.
Andrew is offline  
Apr 30th, 2014, 03:07 PM
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And another nice pocket would be the Grand Sablon - just a few stops with the tram that runs in front of the Bloom hotel.
The restaurant in the "Royal museums complex" (where also the Magritte museum is located) is also quite nice. But I have eaten there only once so it is more anecdotal "evidence".
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Apr 30th, 2014, 03:14 PM
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The intriguing thing about Brussels is that it is really expensive, despite being boring. This created intense frustration, best relieved by the excellent beer.
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
Apr 30th, 2014, 06:05 PM
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Cold I have contacted the Brussels C of C and they want me to translate this into Urdu, Tafuna, and Canadian.

We just wanted to see a city while we are there, Until now the most boring larger European cities we have visited were Zurich and Geneva. From Brussels we go Ypres, Brugge, Gent, Antwerp and then Amsterdam.

It is only two days of our lives.
IMDonehere is offline  
Apr 30th, 2014, 08:01 PM
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Some people can be bored anywhere, some people can have a good time anywhere. I am grateful I fall into the later group.

We spent a wonderful week in Brussels a decade ago. If you go to the Grand Place and try to eat/shop there, you deserve to be fleeced.

We set ourselves a mission of finding the best chocolate in Brussels and had a fine time doing it. We ate wonderful food, visited interesting museums and historic sites.
Kathie is offline  
Apr 30th, 2014, 11:19 PM
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Brussels, like Frankfurt and Zurich, is all what one makes of it. DH and I spent 48 hours in Zurich and Frankfurt each for our daughter's orchestra performances, and just took advantage of whatever we could see in the time allotted. To us, Zurich was a little dull, and a lot expensive; Frankfurt was less expensive, moderately interesting, but with an amazing Italian restaurant. Will I return to either of these cities absent a compelling reason? Not likely.

On the other hand, I spent 52 hours in Brussels earlier this spring, sneaking a peek at the city in between cheering on our son's varsity basketball team in their tournament at the International School. My flight and hotel were covered with miles and points, so perhaps that influenced the good feeling I had about Brussels. I enjoyed a delicious lunch on the Grand Place (no mussels, though!) including a glass of wine, a bottle of water and all the sunshine and people watching I could absorb and didn't seem fleeced at all. Will I return to Brussels absent a compelling reason? Probably, but only as a stopover with the family if a future road trip takes us there.
fourfortravel is offline  
Apr 30th, 2014, 11:27 PM
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I am a glass half-full person, and I like Brussels a lot. I think it has the best food in Europe. I intensely dislike Zürich, and I find Frankfurt a dullard's journey. That said, there are many pockets of interest in Belgium outside of Brussels. It's a small and quirky, interesting country.
StCirq is offline  
May 1st, 2014, 12:10 AM
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We are just a few blocks from Mary's chocolates which seems to be among the best and Falstaff was are recommendation from someone on these boards. I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic, I try to react what actual happens.
IMDonehere is offline  
May 1st, 2014, 01:44 AM
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Try to see the Michael Borremans exhibition at Bozar. It's truly excellent.
Tulips is offline  
May 1st, 2014, 08:14 AM
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We made a mistake and did not realize Wednesday was a bank holiday and the museums were closed, thus we walked for many hours. Details to follow.
IMDonehere is offline  
May 2nd, 2014, 01:51 AM
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bilboburgler is online now  
May 2nd, 2014, 03:48 AM
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Great title! It does describe how we felt about the city when we used it as a base from which to tour the surrounding area via train.

We really "worked" at the art and somehow never fell in love with any one museum in Brussels. That surprised us because throughout that specific trip, we averaged two or three art museums a day and often had to tear ourselves away to make a return train.

But it was a fabulous base from which to explore so many other towns via train, and like others on this board, we loved Antwerp.

Grand Place, no matter how touristy as far as bars and restaurants go, gave us a thrill each time we returned at the end of a long touring day. It was impossible to pass up having a beer just to listen to the sheer din of conversation in the square.

And away from Grand Place area, we found our dining experiences to be among the best in Europe. Excellent, excellent food.
AlessandraZoe is online now  
May 5th, 2014, 09:20 AM
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We just got back from a long week-end in Brussels and had a great time. We stayed at The Hotel, formerly the Hilton and now under new ownership, which gave the place a complete transformation. Excellent. We also got very pleasantly buzzed on fab cocktails at Loui's bar at the Steigenberger, which was previously The Conrad. Like The Hotel, the Steigenberger has completely discarded the look and feel of the former hotel. Trip report to follow, but after a brief visit to the GP, we stuck to the much more attractive neighborhoods around the Vleurgat-Chatelain-Abbaye area of Ixelles and Woluwe St. Pierre.
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