Monday, December 5, 2016


And so begins the first day our our Romantic European Tour with Insight Vacations.  We slept in until 9.30am this morning... Our last sleep in until we probably get home. 

It was close to 10am by the time we went down for breakfast and my goodness what a breakfast.  Fully cooked or continental.  I had eggs, bacon, tomato and 2 small sausages.  Steve had an omelette made to his specifications plus bacon and tomatoes.  There were cheeses, meat, ham, salmon, croissants, danish pastry, different breads, Belgium waffles (we did indulge in them also), juices, tea, coffee and fresh fruit.  We took our time over breakfast, it was just nice to sit and chat to each other, we were in no rush and we probably sat there for a good hour.

After breakfast we head down the street to find a bank.. Steve wanted to have some Euro cash on us now that we are in Europe.  Just down the road from where the bank was we noticed this really old church and people were filing out of it.  Lots of people and lots of young people at that.  We decided to go and take a look inside.  It was really quite ornate, the cathedral and the beautiful wood work was really quite impressive.

I must admit, I spent some time in meditation thanking God that our worship of him is not dependent of worshiping him in such ornate buildings but we are able to appreciate the wonderful craftmanship of the artists during the construction of these buildings.

We found out that the Cathedral was called Saint Catherine's and Vincent Van Gogh had actually been a lay preacher here.

From here we walked back towards "The Grand Place" and checked out "St Nicholas Cathedral".  Wow it was really quite impressive also.  It was different, probably more elaborate but not the high ceilings the same.  I took lots of photos.  What a big job I am going to have when I get home.

After we checked out St. Nicholas we headed back to the "Grand Place".  I was pretty much in awe of this part of Brussels.  Today the Place was full of flowers that were for sale.  There was also some sport championships happening.  They were playing some sort of handball.  Steve was pretty fascinated by this and spent quite a bit of time trying to work out how they scored the game and what the aim of the game was.  It was obviously an important match, because there was a big gold trophy to be presented at the end by the town officials who were all dressed in their regal attire an hats.

 We spent a couple of hours just wandering around the square, admiring the buildings, watching the people and just taking it all in, soaking up the atmosphere.  There were lots of eateries and restaurants here and it was very very busy. 

Belgium is famous for its chocolate and we found lots of chocolate shops around this area, but they all were pretty expensive.  Belgium seems pretty expensive but maybe that is because we really are in the tourist section of the city.

We headed back to our hotel around 3pm to have a bit of a rest before we had to meet up with the rest of our tour just after 4.30pm in the lobby of our hotel.

Steve was a little nervous about spending three weeks with a bus full of strangers.  It turned out that when he went down to the main desk of the hotel to order some milk, he met a couple of Kiwis in the lift as he came back to our room.  It turned out that they were on our tour and we quite friendly and chatty so Steve came back feeling much more comfortable about the whole trip, and he also found out that our tour was fairly small with only 20 of us booked.  There were 9 couples and 2 single ladies on our tour and we were all either from Australia and New Zealand. 

At 4.30pm we met our tour guide Gary in the lobby and he introduced us to the rest of our tour members.  He also handed us our VOX (receivers) and ear pieces.  They were great and alloed us to hear all his commentary as we walked along.  He certainly knows his stuff.  We walked past some ruins on our walking tour that we had walked past by ourselves at least three times and had not noticed them.  He pointed out these ruins  which dated back from about the 11th Century. 
Our tour guide Gary pointed out underground ruins to us that dated back to the 11thC
The Stock Exchange  is the main building in front of our hotel.

 He took us for a walk to the Manneken Pis - a small statue of a boy pissing.  He is only 64cms tall.  Apparently this little manneken is often dressed in different outfits.  He has something like over 900 different outfits.  He wasn't dressed for us today.

From here we walked down a side street into the "Grand Place" - still very busy with the handball competition.  There were a lot more people out in the streets tonight and their was lots of music.  Most in our group were in awe of all they were seeing in the "Grand Place".  From the "Grand Place" we then headed down another side street towards the "Galleries Royals St Hubert" one of the first arcade malls in the world.  The ceiling was all made of plate glass panels.  At the end of the first section of the arcade we came along to the restaurant we were having dinner at.

Gary had taken us through the menu back at the hotel so he could order ahead of time and our meal would be ready for us.  Our dinner was at a little restaurant called "Le Marmiton".  We had a three course meal.  For entree we had "Cream of Broccoli Soup" and our main meal was a Belgium dish of Beef cooked in Belgium beer and cherries served with Fries.  I learnt today that Belgium is the home of chips.  I always thought that England was.    For desert we had ice-cream waffles, cream and Belgium chocolate sauce.  Dinner was finished by 8.30pm.

  The night was then ours to wander as we choose.  We walked around a couple of streets, listened to some street music for a while.  (Steve videoed it) and then we headed back to the Hotel.

 We met Trevor and Colleen (the NZers that Steve had met in the lift earlier in the afternoon) who had just bought a selfie stick.  We had only commented at lunch time today how handy one would be for taking shots of us in it, and also to get above the crowds when there are lots of people.  It was only 5 Euros.  Trevor offered to walk back with Steve and show him where he had gotten his from.  Colleen and I waited in the foyer of the hotel and got to know each other a little better. 

It was just after 10pm when we left to head back up to our room.  Time for bed....
We have a 6am wake up call in the morning.  The adventure has begun..


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