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Monday, June 15, 2009

Belgium - Day 1

Leaving Portland at 7:30 a.m. put me in Brussels at 7:00 the next morning, with a layover in DC and maybe 2 hours of sleep. I was to meet Kami and Tyson that afternoon so we could spend the first couple of days together, chilling out and doing some relaxing site seeing. With time to kill waiting, I stored my luggage at the airport, hopped a train to "Brussels Centrale" to get a glimpse of the city.

Early morning found the city to be fairly mellow. Being in a typical European city built from the center and radiating out in a circular fashion, and being a bit loopy from sleep deprivation, I was particularly mindful of being able to find my way back. My first quest (a frequent habit of mine) was to find a little something to eat. At the suggestion of my friend Sunny, I headed towards "Grande Place", not really knowing what I would find. I stopped at a small town square that had several eateries, and chose the one where everyone else seemed happy, and bought a chocolate almond croissant, plopped onto a park bench and munched.

My Breakfast Companion

The architecture on the way was already causing me to stand with my mouth hanging open (I forget my manners when loopy), but the buildings that made up Grand Place were, well, Grand!

I continued wandering the narrow cobblestone streets, and upon seeing this in a souvenir storefront window:

was reminded of the story of "Manneken Pis", and although I didn't actually look for the real thing, it does appear to be a popular site.

I hadn't killed too much time, so I decided to take a city bus tour. This turned out to be a great way to see the city, learn a little history, and take more pictures, until my battery died.

This fountain had a big basin beneath, and there were a few others like it nearby, attached to the side of a building.

Outside the Museum of Art

There was a lot of information that went in my groggy head, and didn't stay with me. I did learn that there is a king of Belgium, and we went by the palace. There were a number of beautiful parks with sandy paths good for running.

After the tour, I made my way to the train station, bought a lovely chicken Panini, hopped on the train without a ticket, for which I was busted by the conductor ("It ees much cheeeper if you buy zee ticket before you get on"). Three euros is still not bad.

Back at the airport, I found more food, then found a chair and passed out for about an hour and half. Kami and Tyson arrived, we picked up a rental car, and made our way north to a "sporting hotel" that Kami had found on the internet. It has been delightful - the owner/operator, Juergen, is very friendly, and caters to athletes. At present there is a cycling team from Italy staying here - more about all of this later today.

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