Here are my top seven favorite things about Belgium.
--1--Madonna and Child Statue by Michelangelo
I got to visit Bruges (Brugges) several times, and I loved to visit the church where this statue was housed. It is one of the few pieces by Michelangelo to leave Italy. One of the reasons I love it so much is because it reminds me of my favorite statue by Michelangelo, the Pieta, which is located in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.
I just mentioned that the Madonna and Child statue is in Bruges, but this list would not be authentic if I didn't also mention how much I love the city of Bruges. It's located in the Flemish region of Belgium, but many of the proprietors speak French. Many people also speak English, which made visiting much easier. What makes Bruges special is that it is a gorgeous city, with a small town feel. It is accessible by train, and you can walk quite quickly to the city center from the station. There are many delicious restaurants to try, as well as delectable chocolate shops and a wonderful cookie shop. The city is sometimes called the "Venice of the North" because of its romantic channels throughout. We enjoyed taking boat tours and strolling down the idyllic cobblestone streets. Beauty abounds in Bruges, and it is a photographer's dream. There are also a plethora of art galleries, many of which have no entrance fee. There's so much to explore in Bruges, one could easily spend a couple days there, although the highlights can be seen during a day trip.
We had some good eats while we lived in Belgium. My favorites were Waterzooi (chicken or fish dish with a deletable cream sauce), Carbonnade Flammande (a delicious beef stew), fresh gauffres (waffles)--the plain kind with pearl sugar, fresh chocolates, and fresh frites (fries). Interestingly, we lost weight while we lived in Belgium, even though we indulged in these treats quite often. Perhaps it was all of the walking we did, or maybe it had something to do with the fact that fast food was not as readily available. Eating at the Belgian restaurants was a fun experience, because you usually got something very tasty.
We decided to live in one of the smaller villages when we chose our rental home. I'm so glad we did. It allowed me to get a closer look at the quaintness of some of the smaller towns in Belgium. I enjoyed exploring our town and discovering the treasures contained in their local Catholic churches. They had some amazing art inside, and I wondered if they truly realized how blessed they were to own these items. I loved visiting the small shops and buying a poulet rotis (rotisserie chicken) or a fresh ham and cheese sandwich on a baguette and attempting to use my hard-earned French.
|Catholic Church in Lasne (Plancenoit), Belgium|
It's sort of a square in the center of Brussels, and it makes an impression. I loved standing in the middle and gazing out as I turned in a circle. I loved the people watching. The restaurants were great. It was a short distance from Mannequin Pis, waffle shops, chocolate shops, and more. It is a must-see, but more importantly, a must-experience.
Acres and acres of public land complete with exquisite gardens, wooded trails, and a chateau (Solvay Castle, apparently. Just learned this now!). It used to be owned by a family, but they gifted it to the public, and now you can explore the grounds for free (sans the chateau's interior). Not much is free in Belgium (*ahem* public restrooms), but this is, and it's a true treasure. I went there so many times, and if I go back to Belgium, I hope to visit it again.
We lived quite close to this architectural wonder, and it was always fun to drive by. It is at the site of the famed Battle of Waterloo, and although the indoor museum/panorama leave something to be desired, the Lion's Mound is a must-see. It is invigorating to climb the stairs to the top and peer out at the beauty of the Belgian countryside. You can also catch a nice aerial view of Waterloo.
~ ~ ~
Belgium will always hold a special place in my heart. There are so many quality sites to see and experiences to be had there, and if I can convince just one person to visit Belgium on their European tour, I will be satisfied.
Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum is the new host for Seven Quick Takes! Thank you, Kelly! For more Quick Takes, go to www.thisaintthelyceum.org !