I feel as though I fell down the rabbit hole and came out in a true wonderland, not least because I never knew this thread existed!
Brussels owes you more than a bit of a debt for this report. I'd been looking at tourism sites on the internet and they all made Brussels seem big, gray, and boring except for a couple of pieces of fancy old architecture. What an eye-opening your eye-pleasing report is! What a great treat to give yourself, as well.
Have you been back since 2013? You say 22 hours wasn't enough. What would be a nice amount of time to spend there?
I took very few photos in Brussels this time. I was just there for the night and didn't feel like exploring much even though I was in a different part of town than usual.
I have a closeup of this wall art, but I am pretty sure that Photobucket would censor it, so I'll try the farther shot.
I took the metro a few times and thought about last year's events. There have been bombs in the Paris metro, too, but for some reason I don't think of them.
This is the area where I stayed last time, near Place Rogier.
The huge Sheraton Brussels, where I stayed once on a business trip, is now empty. It went bankrupt in December and had to evict customers from 250 of the 500 rooms.
This spaceship on Place Rogier is apparently going to be a Starbucks.
I actually got very close to the Grand' Place without going there. I had a very Belgian afternoon, because 7 different people asked me for directions. I was able to answer 2 of the questions.
I was interested in seeing the (relatively) new pietonnier, which is what the greatly enlarged pedestrian zone is called. There is still a bit of controversy about it.
A Korean woman asked me what this building was. One of the questions that I could answer!
As night fell, I just looked out of the window of my very nice hotel on Chaussée de Charleroi. And then I channel surfed, remembering that French channels 1-2-3 are 4-5-6 on Brussels cable...
Driving back into France the next morning, I saw that the "state of emergency" just means slowing down to 30km/h on the autoroute.
Frankly, now I already want to return to Brussels but at a more leisurely pace -- at least 2 or 3 days. It has a very pleasant atmosphere quite different from Paris (which has a very pleasant atmosphere, too, in my opinion). I did notice that the central zone also has far more homeless (?) beggars than Paris. I don't know how this averages out, because in Paris I have the impression that we have the same proportion of homeless beggars in every part of the city -- tourist areas, business areas and residential areas. But I don't know enough about the various areas of Brussels to compare.
It's good to see Brussels getting some attention from you again, kerouac. I never understand why people on travel websites put it down. The Grand Place is spectacular, the beer, moules, and frites are excellent, there is good and affordable chocolate (I'm talking Cote d'Or in the supermarkets), there are good museums, and when we were there we loved the Cinematheque which hopefully is still a going concern. The art nouveau Victor Horta house opened after we were there and that's a place I'd love to visit.
I really enjoyed my limited stay in Brussels, staying in Forest/Vorst. It is a very heterogenous neighbourhood, with some elegant housing up the hill, and some very depressing streets around the old industrial zone. Where I was staying was in-between in every sense. Strangely, the only supermarket nearby was an Aldi (or a Lidl, don't remember). Cheap and some very good items - and some horrors, but some obvious grocery items were missing. I had never been to an Aldi/Lidl before, so I found that strange. I managed to find some nice food items and a bottle of cheap but decent wine...
Brussels certainly lacks the harmony of Paris or Amsterdam (in that sense it is similar to Montréal) but I found it generally laid-back and pleasant, despite the chilly rain.
You are right. Also looking at the pictures of small crowds, there is something "Belgian" about the way a lot of people dress and hold themselves, not all, obviously. Just a wee bit different from either the French or the Dutch.
Now you made me curious, lagatta. How do Belgian people dress compared to the French or the Dutch?
Nice photos, kerouac2. The wall art - this specific painting and a few more of the same style - has been quite an issue in the Belgian media. Should or should it not be removed? Apparently it's still there.
That grafting of one period of architecture onto a much earlier one in reply #33 is impressive in its own way.
Brussels does seem to be quite charming, although I was shocked that a Sheraton would go out of business in a major city. Was it because of lack of trade or because of poor management? In either case, I'm sure that the demographics for that Starbucks with its generous outdoor roofing must indicate that it's a financially good idea.
The comic book art and the interest in creating so much pedestrian area suggests a sense of fun in the populace. Love the "water man" (?) statue!
But theer is indeed a difference. I'm in Paris everyday and people are more 'uptight' and will use scarves (not as much as the Experts on forums say, but still, higher heels, things like that.
Oh yes, I can tell the difference between Parisiennes or Italian women and women from northern Europe but I didn't realize our Belgian clothing was much different from Dutch or German. That's why I asked. Belgian women aren't particularly elegant IMO, but neither are Dutch or German women.
I think much is a matter of colour. The Dutch and Germans will wear more colourful clothes than the French. But in the pictures posted above, the people on the street could easily be on the street in France.