En route to Brussels (stop in Köln).
At the hotel in Brussel, considering options.
Our adorable hotel room.
Bela (an old friend of Martin's) lives in Brussels now with her 18-year old son Vincent (the last time I saw him he was about 1 year old!).
Drinks and snacks in the late afternoon sun.
The Grand Place.
Le Pain Quotidien. Our first visit there (but it was not our last).
There is a whole series of "Comic Book Walls" throughout the city. We tried to find as many as we could as we walked around, but we were especially keyed in to find the Tin Tin (Hergé walls. So many of the comic strips have that similar style, and Martin was familiar with many of the artists (he has a pretty big comic book collection at home), but Tin Tin is the one our kids are most familiar with, so we were on the lookout for art by Hergé. Look! Here's one!
Not Hergé, but does feature both kids.
Otto did a whole series of photos with a character he made while we were still in Germany. He called him Mr. Sugar. He took photos of various sites that are mostly blurred out behind this little sugar cube. I came to prefer the shots of Mr. Sugar with a blurry mural behind him to any of the actual mural shots I took.
Best fritjes we had in Brussels were from this small stand. We were the only customers, and our cook carefully fried them to perfection, salted them with little restraint, and served them up perfectly golden and delicious.
Inside the Atomium.
The escalators and staircases were so beautiful, and each extension was different. Martin called this one the entrance to Dr. No's secret lair.
There was an exhibit featuring so many things in the orange and yellow plastics of the 70s.
Back in the city.
The next morning, we took a (very!) long walk to Bela's studio. We made the mistake of walking a different way (wanting some variety) than we had previously, and not eating breakfast before we left for the morning, so everyone was a bit cranky and hungry upon arrival (we didn't find a suitable breakfast stop along our hour+ walk), so Bela sent us right out to one of her favorite spots around the corner. Then we came back for a little tour of her studio.
The weekly flea market is not far from her studio and is a lively way to spend a sunny morning.
Mr. Sugar met up with a distant relative.
Tour of chocolate (how did we not start this from day one?). We realized that although we didn't ant to buy an entire box of this very fancy and expensive chocolate, there was no reason we couldn't go into each amazing shop after amazing shop and each pick out a single piece to savor and rate.
Here's the selection from one store (sorry for the poor lighting). The one in my hand (with the red on top) was truly the best piece of chocolate and/or candy I have ever eaten in my entire life.
We felt we had to check out a Brussels skate shop to see what it was like.
We met for an afternoon drink with Benoit and Bela at the bar around the corner from their apartment (and where they are regulars). It was fun to see everyone greet them, and to notice how many other friends of theirs walked through the square as we sat there talking and drinking.
Quick stop at their apartment (fun to see how they are living there, especially since they are both artists and have such a great aesthetic).
They took us out for delicious pizza at another of their favorite spots.
The next morning was our last in Brussels. We finally made it to the Musical Instrument Museum, the one museum we had on our "definite to do" list. It was so wonderful, and we felt we rushed through it, even though we had given it far more than the suggested time. We are always slow through these things, but in a musical instruments museum, we should have known to give ourselves double time. It was so cool: you could get an app that had an audio tour through the entire museum. You could listen to a sample of each instrument (and there were hundreds of them). There were some really unusual instruments, and some really unusual tracks to accompany them.
A couple of last images of Tin Tin as we wrapped up our visit.
Taking a little bit of Brussels with us on our way to England.