Off to Brussels

My first train ride of this trip, from Paris to Brussels, was oh much nicer than I envisioned. The first class compartments were quite comfortable and I had 2 large, plush seats with a table all to myself. Being served a 3 course lunch with wine and coffee was a delightful surprise. C’est bon! The high speed train flew through the countryside and even though it was a gray day, looking out the window was mesmerizing and I wasn’t tempted even once to open my Kindle. It was such a pleasant, peaceful, and relaxing experience where you only heard the soft hum of the train. Other passengers’ conversations were so soft you didn’t hear them and everyone followed the posted directions to only use cell phones outside the car on the platform connecting the next car. I didn’t know the route would all be rural scenery between Paris and Brussels and so much reminded me of the rolling hills of Bavaria, even though the roofs of the houses in the villages were not red tiles. It was so similar to some of the scenery driving on the autobahn from Augsburg to Stuttgart. I enjoyed seeing it all and it made me nostalgic for those first days I lived in Germany in the late 70’s. The train trip was just under 2 hours and Margy Roehl was right there to meet me at Sam’s Café in the train station. We took the Metro and then 2 streetcars to arrive at her lovely apartment. She and Frank have a large Art Deco apartment on the 8th floor (actually 2 apartments that have been made into one) with balconies on 2 sides and great views. We took Guinness, her dog on a walk and passed a huge park and the embassies of Egypt, Iran, Brazil and other countries. We hopped back on a streetcar (conveniently just across the street from her apartment building), visited one of her favorite antique stores and then traveled on to Grote Markt (Grand Place). It is the central square of Brussels and the most important landmark of Belgium. Click on smaller pictures to enlarge them.

It has many magnificent, old, tall buildings to include the town hall, the Maison du Roi building (now a museum) and over 30 beautiful guild houses. So many of the facades in the square have gold embellishments and it is easy to see why it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We stopped at Le Cirio for their popular drink, half en half, and I am glad we did. I agree with Trip Advisor “A beautiful classic place to enjoy a drink. It’s one of those places where you have to go when you visit a city. Enjoy a half en half (half champagne, half white wine) the signature drink of Le Cirio” This taverne opened in the 1880’s, has an impressive wood paneling decor and the waiters are classic French with white shirts, black bow ties and long white aprons over black pants. After our drink, we wandered a few lanes, looked in many of the chocolate shops and I bought some delicious chocolate creations for us to enjoy for dessert. It was so easy to get home on the tram and it was so nice not to have to worry about driving through the streets in rush hour. I love the European transportation system!

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