Dave and I spent one day in Brussels, Belgium as a layover with Paul and Angela en route home from Sierra Leone.

We arrived from Africa, incredibly bleary-eyed at 5am and had to wait a little for the sun to rise and the city to come alive.

This was a pretty huge contrast to Sierra Leone: everyone dressed in black, icy-cold weather, and incredible bread and chocolate (Sierra Leone definitely did NOT have that!).

To be honest, the top touring advice for Brussels is actually “take a train to Bruges.” And we were tempted since Claire had been there on her junior-year-internship and It sure looked enchantingly beautiful. But Brussels was pretty intriguing too and we wanted to hang with Paul and Angela. So we stayed put and tried to get to all it had to offer. It was pretty beautiful.

Manneken Pis

We headed first to the “Grand Place,” the main square and main attraction of Brussels, but had to stop en route at Manneken Pis.

This is something right below Bruges at the top of every guide to Brussels and it is, yes, a tiny statue of a little boy urinating into the fountain below.

Let’s get a better look at that with a little explanation from Wikipedia:

It’s a pretty lighthearted and unlikely symbol of that beautiful city!

There are several legends around why this is so famous you can read about over in that trusty Wikipedia, and lots of history including several attempted thefts. The original is now in a museum and this one out on the street is dressed up in funny/whimsical outfits throughout the year. It just so happened it didn’t have a costume while we were visiting.

The Grand Place

The Grand Place was truly a “grand” one, a gorgeous little main square filled with the most gorgeous and intricate architecture as well has history.

Cafe Terra

Ok, this isn’t an attraction you will find in the tour books, but the hot chocolate we found at this cafe in the Grand Place will go down in my history book as the best I’ve ever had. Was that because I was frozen to the bone by then? I don’t even think so, it was SO GOOD.

And those Belgian waffles smothered in chocolate and bananas? Yow.

Can you tell we liked it?

This was our view while eating.

I had to take some pictures so I’ll remember Cafe Terra next time I go to Brussels!

We walked and walked and hit all the “Brussels highlights” before Paul and Angela took off on an earlier flight and Dave and I took a little break to warm up at the hotel. Here are some of my favorites from our visit:

We walked these gorgeous streets:

Ate some yummy food:

The Cathedral

This place was so beautiful.

I loved examining all the details, and loved the light filtering in.

Loved this pulpit carved in 1699:

More information if you want to learn more about it like I did:

I loved the old and new architecture intermixed.

This was our view from our late lunch at Cafe du Sablon:

Mont des Arts

After walking the downtown area, we walked “uptown” to the area called Mont des Arts. It was beautiful to look back and get a cool view of the city.

Isn’t this architecture amazing? I loved this building that I think is now an instrument museum:

After Paul and Angela took off and Dave and I thawed out a little at our hotel, we hit the road again to explore in the evening.

We took this ferris wheel to see the views:

You can’t tell in those pictures, but we were a little huffy with each other on that ferris wheel with all those city lights twinkling below us. I cannot remember what we were even mad about, but sometimes it’s fun to know there are fights going along with the smiles. Ha!

Our disagreement turned into a good discussion, and I love discussions that delve deeper and help us learn and grow. And this was a good one.

Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

We walked through the Royal galleries as we looked for a good spot for dinner. It’s one of the oldest covered galleries in Europe and includes lots of high-end shops and chocolatiers enclosed in beautiful architecture. That’s on the left below:

The other picture on the right is just a variety of waffles you can get…they are so good.

Note the Mannekin Pis in chocolate on one of the front ones.

We bought some incredible chocolate at Neuhaus in the Grand Place (one of the best chocolatiers there), shared another delicious waffle, and headed back to the hotel to sleep deep before our next flight in the morning.

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