Brussels notes, April 24 – 28, 2006

April 29, 2006

Brussels is no longer primarily a French speaking city, although it may be in some neighborhoods.  One hears more English, usually not by native speakers, and Flemish in central Brussels.  A corollary of this is that the food is generally poor everywhere, even the fries, except in selected places; I think this is quite a change from what it used to be.  But they do live up to their reputation for drinking a lot of beer: many types, big glasses, any where and with any type of food.  It is useless for a foreigner even to try to understand the various types.   le_meridien_brussels.jpgThe Meridien Hotel was fine and very well located next to the central train station, a short walk to the museums on one side and the greater Grand-Place on the other. The Windsor Hotel nearby looked good. The many restaurants on the Rue du Boucher and its tributaries are even worse than one would think, although they do present quite a spectacle all lit up and busy at night. We did not go to Aux Armes de Bruxelles, which may be an exception, but we did go to Vincent, which is rated just below it, and were disappointed.  The permanent collection of the Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts is underwhelming, but worth a visit. The complex is enormous and under renovation and enlargement.  The Museum of Musical Instruments is very interesting. On good earphones you hear period music played by the instruments like those you see displayed. Many cultures, many periods.  la-monnaie-bruxelles-a.jpgLa Monnaie is a very old opera house and worth seeing. It was easy to get tickets on the internet and we la-monnaie-bruxelles-b.jpgenjoyed the production of Boris Godunov, which was joint with the opera houses of Cologne and Madrid. La Monnaie is a short walk from the Grand-Place, but its own square has lost its charm.    Les Sablons is a short walk beyond the museums and is an interesting old neighbourhood of art galleries, restaurants etc. We probably should have spent more time meandering there.   I took the subway up to the Avenue Louise, which is supposed to be chic. I was quickly unimpressed and took the tram back to Les Sablons.

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