This weekend, one of our goals was to really figure out the downtown area in Brussels. It is difficult to navigate for three reasons. First of all, no one street runs parallel to any other street in the downtown area. Secondly, there are roundabouts every couple of blocks, and the names of the streets leaving the roundabouts are never the same as the names of the streets going in. Finally, guideposts and street signs are very rare (although we did realize this weekend that the street names are on plaques on the buildings, rather than on posts near the road like in the US). The good news is that armed with a little hand-drawn map and a plan, we made some real progress in getting our bearings downtown - and not a moment too soon!
The holidays are coming up, and all the little Belgian chocolate shops are proudly displaying their seasonal chocolates in the windows, which makes the downtown walks really enjoyable. In Belgium, the most important gift-giving celebration is on Saint Nicholas day, December 6th, and chocolate figures of the Saint in his bishop's outfit are ubiquitous. We're also starting to make lists of the places that we'll take people when we start to get visitors! So far, the bar "Le Roi d'Espagne" (the King of Spain), is a high priority. At this bar, you can enjoy a raspberry beer while overlooking the "Grand Place" - the main central square where the Town Hall, Guild Houses and "Breadhouse" are all located. It is really a wonderful sight, but it's hard to compare it to windows full of Belgian chocolate.