Christmas in the Grand Place

From Brussels to Cologne

January 4, 2016 0 Comments

The holidays are over, my first Christmas and New Year in Spain and thanks to my new and very international group of friends, I’ve had a wonderful holiday season.

It has taken me a bit of time, approximately a year and a half to settle-in to my home base in Spain but I’m on the road to fulfilling my dream to see as much of the world as I can. 2016 has just begun and I’m starting with a quick visit to Cologne, Germany.

It still amazes me how inexpensive travel can be, with a bit of planning, within Europe. To be honest, I’m not much of a planner. Often, when I take a trip, it has been decided and planned only days before departure. Here I am, 3 days later, I’ve been on a painless flight from Alicante, Spain to Brussels, Belgium, and now tapping away on my laptop on a fast-train from Brussels to Cologne. Lovely countryside vistas in the distance on a very smooth train ride, having a Cafe Latte and a croissant en route. Ahhh, joy!

Last night at Charleroi Airport my first words were (often I cannot distinguish my inner thoughts from what actually comes out of my loud mouth) “Where have I gone to!”. The shock of cold rain and wind hitting my face as I try not to fall while I descend into the dark stepping down from the aircraft.

A lovely and easy night in Brussels at the Grand Place. I’ve been here before in the light of day filled with tourists and activity but last night, it was empty, barren of tourists and perfectly lit with remnants of Christmas in the air. I had old town Brussels all to myself with the tower of the Hotel de Ville as a backdrop. I walked the shiny cobblestone streets wet with rain. My thoughts were, are the streets empty due to the latest madness in Paris? I’m here for too short of time to find out.

A word of caution, when in Brussels you must see the Grand Place. It is beautiful with great ornate buildings built from the 15th to the 18th century. See it in daylight and most definitely, see it at night but do not, even if you are starving, dine in the restaurants in the Grand Place. It’s like most tourist destinations. Pricey shops and restaurants that have a sense of “sureness”, arrogance if you will, little effort is given even though the Grand Place was empty on this rainy Sunday night.

I must share this one amusing experience as I climbed the stairs at a restaurant on the Grand Place to visit the ladies-room. A black and white plaid skirt-wearing woman mopping the floor in an already tidy room stops me. I can’t make out what she is saying so she points sternly to a little acrylic sign stating that it costs 30 cents to use the facilities. I didn’t think to bring my wallet to the ladies-room so I turn around and luckily, the need to use the facilities vanishes. I am not opposed to paying to use facilities in shopping centers, but in a restaurant?!

I’m excited to go to Germany, I’ve never been. Will stop writing so I can enjoy the train ride, maybe another Cafe Latte while I look at the view on an albeit dreary grey morning but no worries, it can’t always be sunny.

Fran

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