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

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Sun, friends, drinks and sightseeing – part three

After spending two hours on the terrace of La Chaloupe d’Or it was time to show B. and P. some of the sights around the Grand’Place. When P. asked me to tell them about the beautiful houses which line the square, I was slightly lost for words. In fact, I think I’m more knowledgeable when it comes to facts and figures about the Loire Valley castles. Shame on me! The next time I volunteer to show foreign visitors around Brussels, I will have to do some preliminary research.

Just a small section of the Grand'Place.
The flag on the right is the official flag of the city of Brussels.

However, I was able to tell them the story of Serclaes, one of Brussels’ heroes, whose statue is located on one of the square’s corners. P. seemed slightly upset when I told them how the poor man had been murdered and mutilated by his enemies. This didn’t stop my new friends from caressing the statue’s arm though; a tradition which according to the legend is believed to bring good luck. We had to get in line to do so, while a group of Japanese tourists took turns posing in front of the statue. I don’t like it when someone runs into my pictures, so it’s only natural and polite to wait when other people are shooting photos.

 Japanese tourists taking turns posing
in front of the statue of Serclaes.

Then we moved on to the Galérie de la Reine, a 19th century masterpiece which was commissioned by Leopold II, the second king of Belgium. B. and P. were very impressed by this serene and elegant 19th century shopping mall! Another thing they were impressed with were the prices of the exclusive shoes and the famous Delvaux handbags that were for sale in the gallery’s luxury shops.

Galérie de la Reine.

Next on the list was a mandatory walk down the rue des Bouchers. A narrow pedestrian street with restaurants on both sides; restaurants that sell mediocre food at rip-off prices to gullible tourists who are charmed by the set up and the thought of a nice meal al fresco. I showed my guests three restaurants where I know you can get excellent food for good value. I don’t know whether they have taken my advice and had a meal in one of them or not.

Finally we walked up to the Saint Michael and Saint Gudula cathedral. On the way we came across the statue of the legendary Don Quichote and the composer Béla Bartok. P. asked me whether Bartok was Belgian. I admit that I didn’t know the answer, but was nevertheless quite certain that he wasn’t. I even suggested that I thought he was Hungarian. As soon as I got home I googled the composer’s name and was happy to read that he was Hungarian indeed.

Saint Michael and Saint Gudula cathedral.

We shot some photos of the cathedral, which is sitting on a hill, overlooking the Grand’ Place and the city centre. While we were walking up the steps to visit the interior in order to admire the spectacular glass-stained windows, one of the cathedral’s bells rang, marking the time: 6.30 p.m. Just when we arrived on top of the stairs, the big wooden door on the right, the only one that had been open, was shut in front of our noses. Too late!

Disappointed, we walked back in the direction of the Grand’ Place, where we said goodbye, with B. and P. returning to their hotel and me taking a cab to drive me home. The next day my new friends intended to visit the Atomium and maybe Manneke Pis’ wardrobe. And maybe they would return to the cathedral during opening hours to visit the interior.

The taxi ride home was pleasant, quick and refreshing as the driver had turned on the air conditioning. When I got home I kicked off my shoes and took a closer look at the beautiful photo book with kind inscription my friends had given me and the card that came with the pecan nuts

My friends from Georgia.

B. and P., if you are reading this, thank you very much for your company and the presents. I've spent a memorable afternoon in your company. Enjoy the rest of your French tour and have a safe flight back to Atlanta! If you have changed your mind about having your photo on my blog, please let me know and I'll remove it right away.


Mark said...

Congratulations on a successful visit. Your friends look lovely. And I agree with you, Belgium should hire you for guided tours.
Your Friend, m.

Niall & Antoinette said...

I have really good memories of visiting Brussels, sitting at a cafe on the Grand'Place for ages just people watching. So many lovely things to see, great food and of course Leonidas chocolates.

GaynorB said...

I've never visited Brussels Martine, but it looks to be well worth a visit.

I'm glad that the day you spent with your blogging friends turned out so well. I'm sure they enjoyed meeting with you too - they certainly look content.

Craig said...

It sounds like a grand time Martine and you were a perfect host. The Galérie de la Reine looks beautiful. I don't know Brussels very well but Clive worked there for a few weeks some years ago and loved every second, especially the food.

ladybird said...

Mark, I don't think I would be any good at it, because I can't stand it when someone in the back of the group starts talking while I'm 'delivering' my speech. I think I would hit them!

N&A, Leonidas may be the best known brand but not the best. Trust me! Corné is ... but not available abroad. Next is Neuhaus.

Gaynor, If ever you decide to visit Belgium, just drop me line and I'll be happy to show you around.

Craig, The Galérie is quite unique and so are the shops there! As for the food ... that's what we are famous for!

Niall & Antoinette said...

If Leonidas aren't the best--and I already find them lovely--lord help me if I get my hands on Corné or Neuhaus!! :-)