Thursday, March 19, 2015

Brussels; Musée de la bande dessinée and Waffles

Hey guys! While in Brussels I took the time to treat myself out by doing something I usually don't when I travel with other people : I went to museums. On the same day I went to the Atomium I also went to the Musée de la bande dessinée. While the weather was nice and it was sunny out in the morning, it suddenly became gloomy and cold in the afternoon. I actually regreted wearing shorts that day.

One of my host's roomates had told me the Musée de la bande dessinée is small but rather cool if you're into comic books. However you do not get a discount on your entrance fees by flashing your student ID unless you're registered to a very specific European program thingy for students.

The museum itself does not look nice from the outside. It's set in Victor Horta's art nouveau warehouse. The building itself is very rich with history and the inside is actually amazing. Here, instead, have a picture of the building across the street, la Presse socialiste coopérative.

When you get inside you can spot Spirou's hat on the third floor.

On the ground floor you will find a Smurf, Boule et Bill, and many other characters that should have been part of your childhood if you were raised in an European household.

The exhibition itself starts off by talking about the history of comic strips, animation, and comic books. There is a section that puts through the process of putting together a comic book : from the early stages of the idea to the actual sale. Another section presents every genre with examples, and just like fiction novels, you realize there are a lot of them.

On the highest floor accessible to the public, there is a permanent exposition on the history of the building itself, art nouveau, and Tintin. Basically, the choice of location was not done randomly when they needed a place to comemorate the history of comic books. It was only logical to dedicate a center to the 9th art in what used to be a store designed by one of the greatest influencers of art nouveau and one of Belgium's reknown architect and designer. Also, the building is basically falling apart and investing in it that way was one of the only ways to save it. There are also temporary exhibitions, one about a comic book that was released recently and another one on comic books from Eastern Europe during war times.

As the rain was pouring outside I stayed indoor and shopped at the boutique on the ground floor (to end up buying only a postcard for my boyfriend). When it started calming down I stepped outside and kept venturing around.

And so I walked anywhere my feet would take me. I stumbled upon the Colonne du Congres, which seemed to be located in a cluttered space from my first point of view but is actually at the end of the rue du Congres with Brussels as its background from the west point of view.

Heey is that actual fire? Yeah, it is.

As I was walking on rue Royale, I came across this murale. Not all Belgians read comics but you can't deny their role and impact on many aspects of Belgium's popular culture.

Here's a mandatory public transport picture. This is what they tram looks like.

I don't remember why but at some point I turned left on rue de la Loi (probably because of the humongous park) and stumbled upon yet another beautiful building, the Belgian Senate.

And then, because it was raining and I was hungry again, I started walking towards the Central station.

According to the map I had, nearby was a cafe located in some covered passageway where they served grandmothers' favorite Belgian waffles. So I started looking for the Galeries Royales St-Hubert.

Everything from ground to ceiling was thought in its finest details. Statues and torsos were installed in niches in the walls. On each side there were clothing stores, shoe stores, bookstores, tea stores, ranging from popular to high end brands.

One of the parts of the Galeries gives access to the rue des Dominicains, a pedestrian street full of little restaurants.

And then, there it is, the famous little coffee shop and bar that serves what's supposedly the best Belgian waffle in Brussels.

There was a lot of people inside and outside. It took a while for the waiter to spot me and another while for my waffle to come. I asked for the traditional one, with just a light dusting of powdered sugar. It was light and warm, crispy outside and soft inside but not mushy.

After taking way too long to eat just a waffle (but the best waffle) I got up and started walking towards one of my favorite buildings, the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, an opera, dance, and concert venue.

The Place de la Monnaie is connected to Rue Neuve and rue des Frippiers, two pedestrian streets with a very large offer of beauty and clothing stores.

If there is one thing I have learned during my stay in Brussels it's the difference between the two types of waffles : Liégeoise and de Bruxelles. Gaufre de Bruxelles is basically the one I had at the cafe in the Galeries Royales St-Hubert, while the gaufre de Liège has a more rustic look to it with rough edges, like the ones served in this stand.

In both cases, real Belgian waffles are supposed to be made on the spot. If they are already made and they just heat it up in front of you it's because of the high demand from tourists. And everyone knows the bigger the quantities the lesser the quality and standards. Also, Belgian waffles are supposed to be served with only a dusting of powdered sugar. Not with a drizzle of Nutella, a mountain of whipped cream, bananas and strawberry. No. Just no.

Anyways. Since I had been out and walking all day I decided it was time to go back to my host's place. This, is near the subway station De Brouckère.

I realized I wasn't going the right way so I turned around to start walking towards boulevard Maurice Lemonnier and also to go to the grocery store to buy some beer and some food.

On my way there I came across another beautiful passageway.

And so that's it for today guys! I have taken more pictures and have seen many (way too many) other beautiful places and things (like the place Sainte-Catherine, totally worth it). I have met amazing people and have had a great time. I have managed to spend next to nothing by booking for my trip early and by not splurging on useless things. Honestly I think my trip to Brussels was one of the most pleasurable I have had. It's a city I would love to visit again, this time maybe with someone even though traveling alone has a lot of advantages.

Until next time!

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