Friday, July 15, 2011

Brugges and Brussels in Belgium

They have a thing for B’s in this country. We spent a couple of days in two of the big cities here. Brugges was definitely the more lovely city but Brussels was more interesting. People in Brussels don’t take life very seriously and it slips out in the oddest ways.

Brussels was the first Belgian city we visited so we immediately headed out for waffles. We have a waffle maker at home but it has been about a year since we last had a waffle and that is a very long time. The waffles were everything we could have hoped for. Some of us went pure and had it with only powdered sugar. Some of us added strawberries and some just went a little crazy and added whipped cream and chocolate to the mix. The Belgians prepare the latter for tourists only.

Across the street from the waffle shop was the French Fry shop. Fries are big business in Belgium. In fact, the Belgians claim they are the inventers, not the French and they don’t actually call fries here, “French”. Another difference here is they eat them with mayonnaise. I’m not sure how we managed to choke down fries with mayonnaise after a waffle but we did. Our cholesterol levels were not thanking us. The mayonnaise is definitely not too bad and could grow on you if you lived long enough to eat that regularly.

I think it goes a long way towards the attitude of Belgians and Brusselites in particular that their main tourist attraction is called “Manneken Pis”. I don’t presume to pronounce that for you but you should know that this is a statue of a naked little boy peeing. He’s much smaller than we imagined from the numerous copies in chocolate displayed in windows around the city. He also isn’t their only peeing statue. I guess he went over so well, they created a second one of a little girl peeing. This has spawned a third statue of a dog peeing. I’m not sure where you go from here.

The city is also in love with comic strip artists. They have a whole museum devoted to the topic and there are a LOT of Belgians involved in this activity! I recognized the name, Herge (pronounced Air-zhay). He wrote the Tintin series. We bought a couple of his books. The dog in the books is Snowy and he looks a lot like Sparky. Mind you, at this point anything small and white is reminding us of Sparky: seal pups, lambs, donuts. We miss our dog. At any rate, his name is a pseudonym and came from his initials: RJ. Comic art is everywhere. It is a Manga lover’s dream. I couldn’t help but think of Shirley’s daughter, Alex. She would love the city! There are huge comic murals adorning many of the buildings and it was fun spotting them.

Brugges was a more serious city, focused more on chocolate and lace. We toured a chocolate factory but it had nothing on the Swiss. They only offered a stingy one chocolate at the end! Hmph. We did find a bag of chocolate treats for the dog, however. We left the factory for a little local chocolate shop doing a booming business. I had to line up to get in! We bought some Belgian chocolate there so we could compare flavours when we get home.
We strolled the streets of Brugges, enjoying the very Dutch architecture and the windmills along the canals. Brugges was a cosmopolitan city back in the 1400’s or so. They were huge cloth manufacturers and a gateway into Europe. When their port silted up so did their business and they missed the Renaissance completely, only getting back on the tourist map in the late 1800’s. It felt kind of like a French Amsterdam. The Belgians seem to have two main languages: French and Dutch. Depending on which side of the country you are on, the signs may be in Dutch or French. Everyone speaks English as well, though. We noticed in Amsterdam that their English sounded quite North American. Interesting.


Anonymous said...

Now if you could get a pic of a real dog peeing on the bronze dog peeing, that would be special!

Bruce said...

Fun having new blogs to read having been away for 4 days! Great to talk today...Love the picture of Rhys and Julia...And Rhys and Tom...Love Mom