I Hate Brussels Sprouts – but not Brussels, Belgium!

While spending some time in England, with a friend in Germany, a decision was made to meet in the traditional location for the English and Germans to come together: Brussels. As the seat of the EU, Brussels is a place for international liaison. Perhaps Brussels was chosen for this because of its geographical location, or it’s grandeur. Either way, the single word I would use to describe Brussels is GRAND.

EUROPE

EUROPE

EU

EU

Brussels’ architecture is big, thick, imposing, regal, oppressive, impressive.

"Grand Place" or "Grote Markt"

“Grand Place” or “Grote Markt”

P1020962_2

P1030033_2

P1020966_2P1030055_2

My favourite building, however, is almost too big to be photographed. The Palais de justice (The Palace of Justice, the name of the Law Courts, which is pretty cool):

P1030175_2

P1030194_2

P1030207_2

Gargoyles!

Though they live amongst dark, heavy buildings, the Belgians in Brussels have a certain sense of whimsy that is undeniable and goofy. This is evidenced by their weird street art:

Trees…?

Trees…?

Rarely seen is the herd of wild wood buffalo and their young.

Rarely seen is the herd of wild wood buffalo and their young.

I…..

I….. I….

I don't even know. Like, not at all.

I don’t even know. Like, not at all.

Someone had to actually shape this magnificent bosom.

Someone had to actually shape this magnificent bosom.

Even the older sculptures are a bit tongue-in-cheek. The story behind this one goes something like this: a sculptor's son went missing. The sculptor vowed that if his son was found, he would sculpt him in whatever stance he was found in. The little boy was found taking a piss in a fountain. Hence "Le Mannequin pis".

Even the older sculptures are a bit tongue-in-cheek. The story behind this one goes something like this: a sculptor’s son went missing. The sculptor vowed that if his son was found, he would sculpt him in whatever stance he was found in. The little boy was found taking a piss in a fountain. Hence “Le Mannequin pis”.

Le Mannequin pis (loosely, the peeing young man) is often dressed up in seasonal outfits.

Le Mannequin pis (loosely, the peeing young man) is often dressed up in seasonal outfits.

Like many European metropolitan cities, Brussels is largely built of stone. Lots of grey and black… but my travel companion and I DID find some green!

P1030209_2

P1030260_2

P1030265_2

In a vast field, we could hear a highway, and it was the weirdest thing – the underground highway came up for air in the middle of it!

To be totally stereotypical, may I say: OH, THE WAFFLES. THE SWEET, SWEET WAFFLES!

P1030116_2

I’m so glad I was there before I found out about my gluten intolerance!

On this particular journey, I think I may have discovered the cause of WWII in the war museum:

SLYTHERINS!

SLYTHERINS!

That is all.

Getting Lost in Venice, Italy

P1040157_2

Having studied Greek and Roman Ancient History in University, you’d think that I would have made it a point to visit some of the places I’ve studied. As it’s happened, though, I have not yet had the opportunity to accomplish this. I HAVE, however, had the absolute pleasure of visiting one of Europe’s most unique cities: Venice. Rich in history in it’s own right, Venice is as untouched by modernity as is imaginable in today’s Europe.

P1040056_2

Venice has long dominated the top of my “Where To Go” list, and for me, it did not disappoint. I have heard accounts of other travellers’ disappointment with Venice: it’s too hot, it stinks, it floods, it’s too busy, too expensive.

P1030909_2

Through a wondrous coincidence of timing and good weather, however, I had none of these negative experiences. It was April – warm but not so hot that it was inescapable nor the cause of the famous canal stink. Also, it was late enough in the Spring, that any residual winter flooding had dried up.

P1040071_3

P1030965_2

P1030977_2

As for being too expensive, well that IS inescapable. My travel partner and I remedied that my buying cheese and crackers from a grocery store as often as we could stand, and we stayed away from the Grand Canal as much as possible (that’s the really touristy area – not that any part of Venice isn’t touristy!).

Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge

The best part about Venice was getting lost. On purpose.

Italian Job site??

Italian Job site??

Getting lost, you see the people who actually live there, and it’s an odd lifestyle that doesn’t fit into our westernized, modern idea of everyday life. Laundry lines stretch across canals three stories up, front doors with no doorstep – just boat access, and you can be in a completely deserted, silent alley and turn the corner only to be bowled over by a huge crowd. Surreal.

P1030933_2

P1040109_2

P1040144_2

P1030925_2

P1040261_2

The population of Venice is predominantly Roman Catholic, and as a result, my travel partner and I kept getting asked by locals we spoke with, “How long have you two been married?” Awkward “umm”s and “ahh”s followed each time.  Apparently a young man and woman travelling together MUST be married – or at least engaged. Super old school!

P1040201_2

An entire island graveyard - no photos allowed!

An entire island graveyard – no photos allowed!

Our only unpleasant experience was getting kicked out of a restaurant because we didn’t order drinks with our dinner… but I’m sure that was unique to that one restaurant!

I was truly entranced with the whole place and I would go back there in a heartbeat! Also, gelato!

P1030991_2