Brussels’ Grand Place on a summery Friday evening

I truly believe that Brussels’ downtown is one of the most beautiful in Europe. I never get enough of hanging out there, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

So, here’s a usual summer Friday evening in the Grand Place

The quality is not ideal, I only had my phone, but you get the idea ūüôā

The Magic Versailles Palace (Paris, France)

I have to say that this experience is in my top 10 best ever. I have been before to the Versailles Palace, but I guess I must have missed some important parts.

This used to be the home of Louis XIV, XV and XVI, up until the French Revolution. This sumptuous construction brings an estimate of 5 million visitors every year.

This time we had a guided tour, with live music, dance and people dressed up like in the XV century. It has been truly amazing to discover rooms of the Palace that I didn’t know about. Topped with an evening visit of the palace’s gardens.

Another item that has impressed me a lot is the multitude of people that were that at all hours. I felt like it was a big migration and we were all heading towards the same place. That also enhanced the experience.

“La Serenade Royale” ¬†(The Royal Serenade)

  • Live music inside the most majestic room

  • Accompanied by dancing

The gardens

The loads of people, summer temperature, lights, lasers and fire made this quite an amazing experience. Here are the videos

  • Playing with fire
  • Water and lights

I also took a few photos of our stroll throughout the beautifully lighted gardens

 

To see all the videos I’ve made at the Versailles Palace, go here

Website: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/homepage

 

Travelling to Belgium? Here are top cities to visit

Coming to Belgium? You only have a couple of days and not sure what to see? Well, here is my short list, with top cities to check and top sights not to miss. Some might be subjective, but then again, what blog post isn’t ūüôā

1. Brussels. I guess there’s no discussion about this one. Don’t miss:

  • The Grand Place: main square, the Bourse (Stock Exchange), Manneken Pis, St Michel Cathedral
  • The Royal Palace & Park
  • The Justice Palace and amazing view of the city from there
  • The Museum of Musical Instruments (beautiful Art Nouveau¬†work of art)
  • The EU institutions and the Cinquantenaire park
  • The Atomium
  • If you have a extra time and love art and architecture, take the¬†Art Nouveau tour
  • Make sure you don’t miss all the comic strips painted on different buildings around the city

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2. Bruges ¬†(100 km from Brussels, about 1 hour by car or train – Flemish side) ¬†It’s not my favorite, but highly recommended by most travelling books. It’s pretty and a lot to see. Even if you don’t have a plan when you arrive, just head towards the center, follow the rest of the tourists and you’re guaranteed to see the essentials.¬†They have a very nice and clear¬†website¬†for more info.

  • The historic center: Belfry (great city view from the top), the city hall, the Burg
  • Beguinage (Begijnhof)
  • Churches: Church of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk),¬†Holy Savior Cathedral (Sint-Salvatorskathedraal), St. Walburga’s Church (Sint-Walburgakerk)
  • Historium
  • Take a boat ride on the canal

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3. Gent (60 km, about 50 minutes by car or train – Flemish side)¬†I prefer it to Bruges, because it’s more down to earth, looks more like a city where people live, not artificial and it’s also very beautiful.¬†Check out¬†here their website.

  • The Belfry
  • St. Michael’s Bridge
  • Graslei and Korenlei (walk along the canal)¬†If you get there in the late after-noon to get to see it by night it’s even better. It’s absolutely¬†spectacular by night.
  • St Bavo’s Cathedral
  • Castle of the Counts

Gent

4. Antwerp (50 km from Brussels, about 40 minutes by car or train – Flemish side)¬†It’s the city of diamonds and Belgium’s most important port (2nd in Europe). It’s also known for being the fashion capital of the country and it shows. People here do dress much better than the rest of a country, there’s a clear interest in fashion and good taste.¬†Check out the city’s¬†website.

  • The historic center: main square with the city hall and city’s representative statue, Cathedral of Our Lady (costs 2 EUR to enter; pay it, it’s really worth it);¬†Het Steen,¬†beautiful fortress long the river
  • The Central Station (declared one of the most beautiful train stations in Europe) &¬†Diamond’s district
  • The Meir (Antwerp’s famous shopping street, but also beautiful architecture)
  • Rubens House¬†(Rubens is a famous Flemish painter)
  • Take a walk along the Schelde, the city’s river

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5. Leuvean (30 km from Brussels, about 20 minutes by car or train – Flemish side)¬†This is a little student town, but very delightful. It’s worth spending a few hours walking around.

  • The¬†Town¬†Hall. if you don’t see anything else in the city, but see this, it’s enough
  • The University library & Bell tower. Just in front of it, there is a modern sculpture: a big fly ona stick ūüôā
  • The Old Market Square. It’s great for a walk or just to have a bite. it’s also the place for student parties ūüôā
  • Beguinage¬†(Groot Begijnhof)

6. Liege (100 km from Brussels, about 1h10min by car or train РWallon side) Very charming and welcoming.

  • St. Paul‚Äôs¬†Cathedral
  • Citadel, ¬†The War Memorial &¬†The Montagne de Bueren
  • The Li√®ge-Guillemins station¬†said to be¬†one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. (this is
  • Prince-Bishops’ Palace¬†
  • Place Saint-Lambert
  • The¬†City Hall

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7. Dinanat (100 km from Brussels, about 1h30min by car or train – Wallon side) is in the south side of the country and quite different from the ones I mentioned above. Besides Durbuy (allegedly smallest town in the world), I find Dinant to be the most beautiful city from the French side of the country.

  • The Citadel
  • Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame
  • Rocher Bayard
  • Adolf Saxophone invented the saxophone and he is from Dinant, so go check out his house
  • The town hall

The next two are not really on my top favorites, but I present it for its historical value. So, you can take the decision whether you are inclined to see them or not ūüôā

8. Namur (70 km from Brussels, about 1h15min by train or car – Wallon side) because this is one of the most impressive fortified towns in Europe.

Belgium has a lot to offer, but I think my favorite parts are the architecture, beer, chocolate and delicious fries! Make this trip your own, but make sure you try some of this goodness!

You can read more about Belgium in my previous posts.

Architectural bites from Antwerp

We are so blessed to have an amazing summer in Belgium. This makes for some great evening walks, getting lost on the streets from our place to the center of Antwerp.

I love architecture and Belgium is definitely a great place for that. I always bump into people, because I’m too busy looking up to the buildings.

Last evening we took a longer way to the center and back and we were not disappointed, although ended up going though one of the doggy sides of the city.

I noticed quite a few houses had animal statues on top of their roofs. Not sure if it’s suppose to tell a story about the house or the builders just fancied them.

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Next, we passed by The Central Bank, an abandoned gate (I suppose) and caught sight of the moon and the walls of Antwerp’s central train station.

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I still hope for some nice weather before the autumn rains set in. But for that we will have to wait and see.

The town of Spa, Stavelot Abbey and Cartier-Bresson expo in one

Did you know that the word spa comes from the town Spa in Belgium? There is a little town in the S-E of Belgium that has thermal waters and is famous for its, what else, but spa ūüôā

Spa is situated in Wallonia,¬†the South part of Belguim where they speak French.¬†The area is very green, peaceful and quite pretty. It’s also the hilly side of Belgium, the Ardennes,¬†ideal for hikes, bike trails and relaxing week-ends.

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Source: google maps

We went to Spa for 2 days and got to explore a bit the surroundings. As¬†I’m not such a big fan of going to the spa, unless it involves a lot of massages, we spent our time going around, rather than in the sauna.¬†

So, we took a stroll in the town and was impressed about its architecture, considering its size and its bourgeois feel. It is very neat and clean and has a very resorty feel. The people are very friendly and can get easily into a conversation, which is not as easy in Flanders. Maybe it’s because my French is better than my Flemish.

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The town of Spa

Next day, we went around a lac just 5 minutes from the town, Lac de Warfaaz.¬†It’s very popular with fishers and families.¬†

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Lac du Wafaaz.

 

We spent some time there going for a pleasant walk around it.

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Lac du Warfaaz

As we were close by, we visited the Stavelot Abbey (built in 650, it now serves aa a museum)¬†for a¬†Henri Cartier-Bresson expo. As a photography lover, I was very excited to get to enjoy his pictures in a place I wouldn’t expect. The location was beautiful and the curation, can’t complain either.¬†

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Stavelot Abbey

The expo was called “Des Europ√©ens” and it comprised the photos that Bresson took all over Europe, encompassing most important historic events happening throughout the 20th C. ¬†¬†

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Des Europeens expo, Henri Cartier-Bresson

Bresson is considered to be THE photographer of the 20th century and I think this title gives him justice. His eye for perfect composition and light impressed me from the first time I saw his pictures. He is also the founder of Magnum Photos, worldwide known photographic cooperative.

All in all, I was quite happy to enjoy such a relaxing week-end, discover part of Wallonia and feel quite silly for not doing it earlier. But, there’s always a first for everything.

P.S. Thank you Fernando for the great week-end!