Brussels October 2013

I first travelled on the Eurostar in April 1995.  At that time it was a new service and left from Waterloo Station and then trundled slowly across Kent, before dipping under the Channel to emerge at Calais at which point the train dramatically accelerated. That first trip was to Brussels, and one of my recollections was of the train decelerating again (to Kent speeds) after Lille as it crossed into Belgium - the Belgians were as slow as the Brits in getting high speed lines in place.

London - St Pancras
In September 2013, I had my second experience of the Eurostar.  In the intervening years I'd done about 400,000 air miles, but hadn't left the UK by train again. In my absence, the train companies had built what is now called HS1 and  transferred the Eurostar service to a nicely rebuilt St Pancras station.  That trip took me to Paris and on, via the TGV network, to Switzerland.  I wondered at the time when I'd next get to use Eurostar, and vowed that I wouldn't let another 18 years go past.

The appearance of a useful looking meeting in Brussels on development in the Arctic was the ideal excuse to head back to St Pancras and to Belgium.  The journey this time was significantly faster than the 1995 version, and I certainly wasn't aware of any dramatic changes in speed as we went from country to country.

My Brussels trip in 1995 was just a day-trip for a meeting in an hotel just beside the Atomium on the outskirts of the city.   On this trip I managed to spend a couple of nights in the city, in a city centre hotel close to Brussels South station (also called Brussels-Midi), where the Eurostars arrive.  This meant I had time to sample a least some of the delights of Brussels.  A country that appears to run on beer, chips and chocolate must have something going for it.

Manneken Pis - still attracting the photographers
I had visited Brussels once before, in summer 1977, and from the few pictures I've got from that trip I didn't appear to be very impressed with the Manneken Pis.  Having visiting it again this time, I think my scepticism was justified. There are lots of stories about the statue, and why it's there but I really don't understand why it has become such a famous landmark. I found it very easy to resist the encouragements to buy a replica for the mantlepiece.

Grand Place by night
The Grand Place is a different matter altogether. This really is a magnificent square, and is well worth visiting both for the architecture and the people watching.  The lighting is very dramatic, so an evening visit is well worth fitting into your timetable.

The meeting I was attending was in the EU Quarter of Brussels, which in addition to lots of dramatic new EU-centric buildings also has a number of equally dramatic (albeit shorter) old buildings.  The location meant I had an excuse for an early morning wander round the Parc du Cinquantenaire - built in 1880 to mark 50 years of Belgian independence.

Parc du Cinquantenaire
There is a small selection of pictures on Flickr from the limited time I had to be a tourist in Brussels.

As with so many city visits, I wish I'd added in an extra day for wandering so I could take more pictures and try a few more of the local beers.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My first trip to Brussels was in 1962 in a Ford Escort of that vintage. Intro to waffles & continental icecreams. Atomium nearly new. Then in 1972 with a Uni party including a spy & a current Westminster MP. Saw Nureyev at the TRM. Ferry Trip. Introduced my wife to its delights in 1977 & a day trip to Knokke. Hovercraft from Ramsgate. Showed my daughter the city in 2005. (Via Eurostar, they evacuated the station when we arrived. Bomb scare!) She liked beer & choc mousse at Le Falstaff on Henri Maus & later found us the Zuider Terrass in Antwerp - go there for the views of the river as well as the food. Later the OU paid for a conference, where I munched my way thru' a (whole) filet of hare on the Ste Catherine.
Don't wait 18 yrs.
Roger M.