Day Three… Brussels. We finally get to take the day off from driving, which really means that we’ll be walking everywhere. Brussels is a huge city so we’ll only get to see a very small portion of it…and most of that will be the tourist stuff.
So after breakfast, we head north towards the Grand Place. No real route in mind, just a destination. As we have in other cities, we are just heading in a general direction to see what interesting things we will find along the way.
Today it included the Notre Dame de Sablon, built in the 14th century, which just happened to have a chocolate store across the street.
My wife is a fantastic snuggle-muggle. She puts up with a great deal when it comes to the obsession we call geocaching. It is only fair that I reciprocate when possible. One of the things she wanted to do in Brussels was buy some chocolate, a fairly benign request. So, we stopped and she spent some time tasting and getting just the right chocolate.
Chocolate in hand, we continue our adventure, walking in a northerly direction. Eventually the geocaching app comes out and we head towards a well-known landmark and muggle haunt, the Manneken Pis. This is a fountain where the statue of a little boy appears to be urinating. Here we see an intersection between my love of history and geocaching as this fountain has been around for centuries. The statue (a replica) has been stolen, broken, and made royalty by French monarchs. It also has a wardrobe of over 130 outfits. Today he’s in the Belgium soccer uniform since the country is playing a match in the World Cup.
Not only is this location a favorite spot for tourists, but it is also a newly released virtual cache, GC7B9YJ. When we arrived though, I’m pretty sure I was the only geocacher…there were muggles everywhere.
We quickly took the required photo then made our way to our next stop…the Grand Place.
The Grand Place is only a few blocks from the Manneken and it’s another tourist hot spot. It was voted the most beautiful square in Europe in 2010 and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the last 20 years. After taking in the beauty of it all, I quickly headed towards an EarthCache located right outside of the Town Hall.
One of the logging requirements was to find a fossil in one of the paving stones outside the Hall and then measure it. I guess not every tourist carries a measuring tape in their backpack because my wife said I was getting some very interesting looks huddled over a paving stone taking measurements.
After working the EarthCache, my wife wanted to visit a nearby chocolate museum. That didn’t take too long and we were soon back in the square, but now looking for a traditional hidden near a café.
It was quickly located and the log signed, but the fun part was trying to put it back inconspicuously since there were muggles everywhere. Honestly, it wasn’t that hard since most people were paying attention to the buildings with their stunning architecture. In fact, two young ladies approached my wife, standing mere feet away and asked if she would take a photo of them.
From the Grand Place, we decided just to do a bit more wandering around the immediate area. Eventually we stopped to eat in a local Irish Pub and then “somehow” found ourselves near another traditional cache at another historic market place.
Moving on from there, again we “somehow” found ourselves near another traditional cache located in the vicinity of a fountain. This one was a travel bug hotel that I really wanted to visit, but there was a couple at a café right in front of it. They didn’t seem to be going anywhere soon, so I had to let that one go. Well…you cant find all of them.
A short walk away there appeared to be another traditional cache, this one right outside the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, so we headed in that direction. While I’m not an architecture geek, I love looking at old cathedrals. Turns out that this cathedral was built in the 11th century with marvelous Gothic architecture. My wife took a number of pictures while I looked for the cache.
While the architecture might be amazing, ground zero was a bit of a mess. There was trash everywhere and the area reeked of urine. After a long hunt, I decided enough was enough and had to let that one go as well.
Dinner and a Game
After taking a quick tour of the inside of the church, we decided to head back to the hotel. We were pretty beat after walking all day. It was near dinner time, and we figured we would just walk in the direction of the hotel until we came across a restaurant.
We eventually found one…after rejecting several others. The World Cup match was on the television and we picked the right location so that we could both watch the game and the patrons cheering on their home team. It’s always fun to people watch in situations like this.
A great meal and a great game later, which Belgium won, we made our way back to the hotel, ready to rest and prepare for tomorrow.