Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The finest city square of Europe

Last week the ‘Grand’ Place of Brussels’ was voted the ‘Finest City Square of Europe’ by the readers of the Dutch travel site The Red Square in Moscow came in second and the ‘Place Stanislas’ in the French Lorraine region was third. When I saw the list I realized that I had visited all three city squares.

A year ago I did several posts on the Brussels’ Grand Place district (posts from Oct. 8th till Oct. 14th, 2009, just in case you’re interesting in (re)reading them).

The 'Grand'Place' in October 2009.

Last year’s visit wasn’t my first, of course. Nor my last; I hope, although I rarely go into the city centre these days. Only recently, my friend sent me some spectacular 360° views of the Grand’Place by day and by night. Click here to admire the grandeur of the ‘Finest City Square of Europe’. The above photo doesn't do it justice!

In October this year I did a post on the number three on the list: the ‘Place Stanislas’ in Nancy.

My visit to Moscow and the Red Square goes way back to the seventies, July 1979 to be precise. Those were the pre-Perestroika and pre-Glasnost days and travelling to a communist country was quite unusual and even impossible for individuals then. Relations with the western world were still very tense. And hardly five months after our visit (not that it had anything to do with it, I hope), in December 1979, they deteriorated even more when Leonid Brezhnev, who was head of state then, gave the order to invade Afghanistan to protect the local pro-communist regime against the Mujahideen.

All this simply to explain that travelling to the USSR in the seventies was just as unusual and hazardous as it is nowadays to cross the Amazon forest, for instance. Apart from a few travel agencies that organized very exclusive and therefore extremely expensive package tours, Russia was off-limits for western tourists. My father knew a couple who had visited Moscow in 1978 with one of these agencies. They had returned delighted and excited about the welcome they had been given and were telling tales of luxurious hotels and dazzling gourmet dinners with Champagne and real Russian caviar. Tales that were in harsh contrast with the images we saw on TV.

So when I was given the opportunity to take a two weeks tour, visiting Moscow, Saint-Petersburg (at the time still called Leningrad), Kiev (in the Ukraine) and Smolensk, I was over the moon!

More to come …


Louise said...

Thanks for bringing back wonderful memories of my visit to Brussels in July. I enjoyed a glass or two sitting in the restaurants while watching the world go by.

chm said...

Award well deserved. The Grand-Place in Brussels is really grand!

Do you know the Place des Vosges in Paris? It is not the main town square of course, that being the Place de la Concorde, but it is small and lovely. Not far from the Bastille.

ladybird said...

Louise, The Grand'Place is an excellent spot to sit and watch the world go by. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Chm, I have vague recollections of the Place des Vosges in Paris from my schooltrip in the seventies. I remember it to be quite peaceful, with a lot of (maple?) trees. It seemed very quiet compared to the rest of Paris. It was one of the spots I liked best .