My final day in Brussels started off rather slowly. Having led a pretty sedentary lifestyle for the past year or so, my body was rebelling from the walking shock and awe of the two days prior. The counter-offensive lure of sleeping in, room service on the terrace and German MTV almost had me in retreat, but the call of a buttery and flakey goodie from PAUL and the sunshine outside my windows won out in the end.
I was in the mood to see some art and headed to the Magritte Museum, which is located in the Central section of Brussels, within a cluster of major museums and attractions. Rene Magritte (1898-1967) was a Belgian surrealist, best known in America for his work on the movie, The Thomas Crown Affair, starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo. The rest of the world, of course, knows him for his provocative, often witty, and sometimes strange take on the world and objects around him.
The museum houses the most comprehensive collection of Magritte’s paintings, drawings, advertising, letters and films in the world. The works are displayed chronologically, showcasing Magritte’s evolution as an artist over his lifetime. The museum is beautifully laid out, and you can make your way through in about an hour and a half. If you are ever in Brussels, do not miss this.
After the museum I started to make my way back toward the Sablon area. I had read great reviews about a french restaurant called Lola and was on a mission to snag one of their few coveted open tables. Apparently Lola is a “see and be seen” kind of place and resis are a must on the weekends.
At the entrance of Rue des Sablons, the main boulevard for the Sablon area and the site of the famed Brussel’s outdoor antiques market, stands the Eglise Notre Dame du Sablon, a striking example of 16th century gothic architecture. Definitely worth a visit.
My stance on churches is as follows. I like to admire them for their stunning architecture, intricate stone and glass work and the cool, familiar stillness of their interiors. While I do not like to stay inside too long (my brain starts to wonder about the people who suffered in the name of these institutions when they were being built), I go in to light a candle. I ask for the same thing every time. That for the rest of her life, and whatever may or may not come after, my mother live in peace and with joy. While I do not show it, and she likely doesn’t know, I love her with an intensity that makes it difficult to breathe should I think about it too long. Her life has not been an easy one. And mine would have been so much harder were it not for all that she has sacrificed on my behalf. So I light a candle, and pray to the God she believes in.
But those are stories for other days, and there is still much to cover.
Across from the church is the Place du Petite Sablon, a magical little garden and my favorite spot in Brussels.
The garden is surrounded by a wrought-iron gate, with columns that hold 48 bronze statuettes representing each of the trade guilds. It’s sweet and cozy, and full of roses, shaded moss-covered benches and pebbled paths. If I lived here, I would live in one of the apartments bordering this garden so that my balcony could be shaded by the same hundred-year-old trees, and where the sound of the 19th century fountain drifting through my windows would forever remind me that there are other worlds than these.
But enough daydreaming. Time for lunch at Lola! Nom, nom, nom.
Lola was, in a word, fabulous (making me instantly regret my choice of wardrobe for the day). The interior was chic and elegant, the food delish, and the waiters just the right mix of snotiness and European hotness that made you simultaneously want to hate and bed them. I ordered a sparkly glass of champagne and settled in to watch the who’s who of Brussels greet each other with double kisses that, unlike in the U.S., were a gesture of genuine friendship versus something The Real Housewives of New York City do while clinging desperately to their fifteen minutes. (Please note that while I mock TRHNY, I am obsessed with that show. Ramona has totally jumped the shark this season and I AM LOVING IT!)
After lunch, I strolled among the booths of the antiques market until I found that, after doing a bit of currency conversion in my head, bargaining in euros was lame and depressing. Nothing like the euro to make you feel less than. And don’t even get me started on the pound sterling.
I was pretty beat by that point and decided to spend the rest of the day chilling/writing in the lounge at the hotel, the Loui Lounge & Bar. The bar is huge, with massive couches, lots of rich woods and leather and a tasty snack menu. Having had such a decadent lunch, I ordered a small plate of fruit and cheese for dinner. And I might or might not have chased it down with this…
So that was Brussels. I am definitely glad I went, but if I were to design my own T-shirt to sum it all up, it would say…“Brussels. It ain’t Paris.”
Just want to share one more thing with you guys before we leave Brussels behind and set off for Amsterdam. Since I was forever looking up to read the street signs, lookie what I found.
You guys didn’t think I’d let you leave Brussels without seeing another picture of genitalia, did you? C’mon now.