Category: Europe



This is one of my favorites among the market towns and villages we visited in the Cotswolds. Many promotion materials such as brochures feature these cottages. Easily, one of Cotswolds’ most photographed sites. In fact, UK passports carry that image on its inside covers. There isn’t much to do though so visitors tend to congregate around the narrow street past the footbridge for a good photo op with the row of old stone cottages in the background. Poor residents! I can imagine how young families putting babies to sleep cope with all the noise of tourists. And we saw many coaches offloading tourists!

Arlington Row, Bibury

The Footbridge

The row of cottages have been there since the 14th century. Built initially as monastic wool stores and barns, they were converted to weavers’ cottages in the 17th century. The weavers then supplied cloth for fulling to the nearby Arlington Mill, now a museum. Fulling is a process in woollen cloth making where the cloth is cleansed of all oils and impurities to make it thicker. Within the same area is Saint Mary’s Church. The dry stone walls are everywhere and it must be a chore trying to maintain them — what with almost every tourist touching and feeling them. Remember, these walls have no cement 😱

A young family’s cottage?

The Road To Bibury

At the time we visited, we found a group of Japanese tourists in the Arlington Row. No chance I can snap a photo without the crowd going up and down the row of weavers’ cottages, UNLESS you climb a steep incline for a solo shot 😜 The place is particularly popular with the Japanese because of its association with Emperor Hirohito. The story goes that the Emperor stayed in this village while still a Prince on a European holiday. He has been a big fan of Bibury since then. Why am I not surprised? The village looks like it was peeled off some historical novel. I am no Prince or Princess, but I’m a big fan too. Kudos to the National Trust for preserving this heritage site.

Arlington Row, Bibury

Arlington Row, Bibury

Getting here is fairly easy. But parking is a major concern. Think of those humongous vans and coaches ferrying selfie stick-wielding tourists. And if you’re driving, pray you don’t get stuck behind a tractor transporting some fresh manure to nearby farms. Yes, Victoria, ain’t easy to overtake around the bends and on the wrong side of the road at that! But hey, this quaint village with a cluster of honey-coloured stone cottages is so postcard-pretty that you won’t feel sorry visiting it. The stream that runs through it attracts many wildlife and while busy with tourists, the swans and ducks seem oblivious to hooo-mans. They go about their business and certainly act like it’s their territory and we are intruders. Well, we are. πŸ™„

Arlington Row, Bibury

Arlington Row, Bibury

After this visit, I now feel like watching “Stardust” and “Bridget Jones Diary” again. Both movies used Bibury as location setting. And maybe next visit, I’d stay in the biggest stone building in the area. The ivy-clad Swan Hotel only has 4 stars but I’d give it a 5 star for its location alone — right along the banks of the River Coln in Bibury. Price-wise, it’s a steal. Last I checked, it is even cheaper than the overrated London hotels we stayed in. Yes, the best lesson I picked up from this trip is to stay in London only if I have to, like if I’m watching a West End play or musical. Otherwise, off to the countryside like this market town. πŸŒΏπŸƒπŸŒ±πŸ‚πŸ’πŸŒΊπŸ₯€


Considered a “big village” among the tiny market towns in the Cotswolds, Bourton-on-the-Water lies in a valley populated by no more than 4,000. You’d find crowds here though, as busloads of tourists visit this charming village that’s also fondly called “Venice of Cotswolds”. The 5 low bridges, all constructed with local stones, spanning over the River Windrush is a charmer. All have very descriptive names: the Mill Bridge (built 1654), the High Bridge (1756), Payne’s Bridge (1776), New Bridge (1911) and the Coronation Bridge to replace a wooden footbridge built in 1750. The river cutting through town used to be wider until it was rechanneled to power the 3 mills.

Unlike the more bucolic Castle Combe and Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water is more modern and vibrant with its antique and souvenir shops, tearooms and restaurants lining the riverbank. The whole place is actually “prettied-up” for the tourists and it’s no brainer to think the tourism industry is making good money here. If you like shopping, you’d get busy here. And most restaurants offer good views of the river flowing through the entire town, complete with swans, ducks, even pigeons. There is a Museum of Vintage Cars as well as a “model village” showing a miniature Bourton-on-the-Water complete with bridges and stone houses. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit any. Just as well as I don’t fancy a car museum nor a village scale model. But I found a bench by the riverbank. And the time to sit still even for just a moment. It was a pleasant day. Not sunny, but at least it didn’t rain. Not too cold too.

The name Bourton-on-the-Water derives from a Saxon phrase meaning village or settlement by the fort or camp. Except that that settlement has been fully commercialised. Funny but every time I see shops selling gemstones like one would find in cruise liners, it hits a panic button. Instant alert that it is a tourist trap. Definitely not your idea of “countryside” but the stone houses, some ivy covered, still hits a spot. And yes, the low bridges over the River Windrush add charm. Like Venice? No gondolas for sure as they can’t pass under those low footbridges. But still a charmer. No wonder it’s one of the more popular towns in the Cotswolds area.


Not too many have been to the Cotswolds. And when visiting Cotswolds, Corsham isn’t exactly top of mind. But we’re happy to have decided to stay here since it’s very near to the 3 wedding events we were attending one weekend. Euridge Manor in Wiltshire and Castle Combe aren’t too far away, just 15-20 minutes drive. And Lacock is just some 10-15 minutes drive away. Besides, Corsham has its own charm too, without being soooo isolated. The latter is important since we didn’t want to drive and therefore considered the hotel’s proximity to shops, number of dining outlets, attractions and facility in hailing cabs. Alright, staying above a pub is a plus too.

But really, how often do you walk the town’s streets along with peacocks and peahens? They’re officially Corsham residents and have grown used to people. We stayed in one of those pubs in the area. Yeah, like getting your room and a beer too. And I bet these peacocks watch out for those who’ve had one too many beers. Methuen Arms can be noisy at night especially on weekends. But their restaurant serves very good food and has a good wine selection. Breakfasts here were just heavenly. One breakfast, I had a squirrel staring me down from a window. Must be jealous of the toasted bagel and smoked trout with mashed avocado I had for brekkie.

Full English Brekkie? Bagel with Salmon or Trout? Toasties?

The 17th century schoolroom and almshouses, Town Hall, Post Office, Elephant Bums, Corsham Court, Flemish Cottages, are all walking distance from the hotel. And they stand right next to more pubs, tiny offices, craft shops, convenience stores, coffee joints and restaurants. We even spotted an Indian and a Chinese restaurant which seem to be popular among the locals. (You guessed right, one of us ordered some noodles and another dish to takeaway — for midnight snacks!)

Only a parking lot and a backyard separates Methuen Arms from the Corsham Court and Saint Bart’s Church. There are paved and cobblestoned paths, but it was an easy, short walk across Corsham Park. Saint Bart is short for St Bartholomew, a church which dates back to Saxon times. A marker on its wall honours the Corsham men who perished during the First World War. The graveyard is right next to the Church, looking real pretty for an old cemetery. On the other hand, Corsham Court used to house a Saxon royal manor and belongs to the Methuen family since 1745. It was perfect as location setting for the movie “Remains of the Day” starring two of my favourites: Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.

Corsham Court

They do look like Elephant Bums, right?

The Saint Bart and the adjacent cemetery may look too pretty. In my book, I like the experience of seeing peacocks roam High Street where one finds 17th century Flemish cottages then built for the Flemish weavers who revived the wooden industry in this town. The days we spent in this area, we were extremely busy for the wedding events. But it only took a few hours of leisurely walking to reach these tourist spots. We found Corsham very orderly and clean — despite the pub noise! And amidst that pub noise, I overheard 2 authors discussing a book they are writing together. Either that or one is an editor. With that lovely erudite-ish British accent, i was drawn to their exchange, eavesdropping and finding delight in it. My bad!

Saint Bart’s

The Graveyard beside St. Bart’s

Next time I visit the Cotswolds, I’d likely go back to this former coaching inn with Georgian-style architecture – Methuen Arms – but time the visit in spring. Either to stay or enjoy a good meal and a beer. Or both. Still won’t drive, but biking can be an option. Also learned there’s a hiking trail in the Cotswolds. Now, that even makes it more interesting. Why not?

Trivia: Camilla And Andrew Parker-Bowles lived here in Corsham until they divorced in 1995. Their house was then sold to former Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason who still lives in the Corsham estate with his wife.

Also, the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip, married to Queen Elizabeth) spent time in Corsham teaching cadets in the HMS Royal Arthur at the time he was engaged to marry the then future Queen.


It is the oldest borough in England. I didn’t know that. And I’m sure addicted to anything old. πŸ™„ So I promptly bought a brochure at the Abbey to brush up on Malmesbury. If it’s old, it’s bound to be so rich in history and I’m a sucker for good old tales. Apart from being old, it is also pretty. We meandered in a winding footpath leading up to the Old Bell Hotel — reputed to be the oldest hotel in England, built to accommodate scholars then studying at the Abbey. The hotel is right beside the Abbey of Malmesbury, both structures standing on foundations dating back to the 12th century. The Abbey holds the tomb of King Athelstan, reputedly the first “King of All England”. There is an Athelstan Museum inside the Town Hall telling the history of the town built on the site of a 4,500 year old hill fort. Outside and surrounding the Abbey are tombstones including that of 33 year old Hannah Twynnoy who was killed by a tiger that escaped from a traveling circus. And there’s the story of a “flying monk” who crafted wings and jumped out of a window to land in broken legs. But he survived the crash πŸ™„ Such impressive architecture, fascinating history and interesting stories and tales!

Malmesbury

Malmesbury

Malmesbury

The old lady manning the desk inside the Abbey was so charming with her soft voice explaining some features of the Abbey in a most unhurried style. She explained how the centuries- old Abbey is now missing its tower. She further explained she doesn’t know why it’s missing. She was so cute in all her honesty, and actually sounded sorrowful she doesn’t have all the answers. You can tell they’re all volunteers. Even the one serving coffee and pastries INSIDE (yes, inside) the Abbey, complete with tables just behind the pews. If you have the time, take your coffee cuppa outside to linger in the Abbey House Gardens where King Athelstan was actually buried with “2 saints thrown down the well”. The garden can be very soothing to your nerves — a tranquil haven.

Malmesbury

Malmesbury

We found our way strolling the cobblestone paths past the 15th century Market Cross which used to be an 11th century graveyard. The path leads to the main square and Town Hall where a kindly lady handed me a Malmesbury map. I wanted to tell her I really don’t need a map just walking around the square and the Abbey grounds. But she was all smiles and so friendly. On the way back to our van, we passed the same Old Bell Hotel and the grassy path along a brook with mini-falls that hosts a few swans and ducks. Lovely!

Malmesbury

Malmesbury


Rolling hills and quaint, lovely, charming villages. The Cotswolds is England’s largest “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” and it’s best to visit in the early morning before the tourist crowd. It’s understandable that the area packs a crowd but there are pockets of quintessential towns that offer peace, quiet and tranquility. On this morning, we chose to join a private tour — just 13 of us in a van including 2 who decided to be dropped off to stay longer in Cotswolds.

Cotswolds

Cotswolds

Castle Combe literally means “castle in the valley”. There was a real castle before it fell in ruins and the area redeveloped to house The Manor House, a posh hotel that guarantees quiet elegance and beauty. One enters the village through that section called “By the Brook”, which it is, until you reach an intersection where the Market Cross is. At the time we visited, we hardly saw any of the 500 residents. They must still be either asleep or lingering over their breakfasts inside the honey coloured stone houses typical in Cotswolds.

Cotswolds

Cotswolds

If you’re visiting Bath and has limited time to visit Cotswolds, try nearby Castle Combe. It only took like 20 minutes to get here and the honey-hued weavers’ cottages with split stone tile roofing are truly picturesque. I won’t recommend driving a car because parking here can be a problem especially during the tourist season, unless of course you really love driving. But it won’t cost much to hail a cab to bring you here then back, especially if there’s 4-5 of you to split the cab fare. You only need an hour, maybe even less to walk “by the brook”, check out St. Andrew’s Church and nearby cemetery and you can head back soon after. That’s if you have very limited time. Of course, you can always book a room at the ivy-covered The Manor House for at least a night 😊 And while there, how about splurging on dinner in their Michelin-starred restaurant?

Cotswolds

Cotswolds

No new houses have been built here since the 1600’s. And I doubt the residents here have opted to move elsewhere. The village is so postcard-pretty I can only imagine how fairytale-ish it must look covered in snow at winter. The tiny chapel across the Market Cross Monument has a confessional with ancient-looking embroidered knee pillows. We are told that some movies were shot here. Like “Warhorses”. But I’m more interested in Dr. Doolittle’s cottage near the church. One of these days, I’d be back here to try their walking trails into the woodlands. Cotswolds has a popular trail for hikers though I didn’t see anyone prepped for a hike. Rather, only tourists like me who were suddenly afflicted with camera-snapping fingers at every turn.

Cotswolds

Cotswolds

Cotswolds

Cotswolds

Oh, Castle Combe. You’re breathtakingly beautiful it aches to leave you! And no, we won’t forget that crackling and Yorkshire pudding we had for lunch at The Manor House. So British. Soooo good.

The Manor House

The Manor House

Crackling & Yorkshire pudding


No matter how many times you visit Bath, you will always be delighted to see Pulteney Bridge, the Roman Baths and the Bath Abbey. This heritage city lives up to its name, and best of all, it is so compact yet offers many activities. I skipped the Roman Baths this time, having visited it before and quite frankly, discouraged by the long line and crowd. But if you’re visiting for the first time, do make sure you book before arriving. My friends visited the baths and I joined them after to visit the Abbey to linger around. This 15th century Abbey used to be a Benedictine Monastery and forms the center of this town. It took 120 years to build this gothic masterpiece and has since been the place where some kings and queens of England were crowned. The facade is adorned with ladders where angels seem to be either going up or down, the stained glass windows beautifully streaming light onto the Abbey floors, and the ceiling such a fine example of fan vaulting.

We’re lucky to have joined a free walking tour of Bath organised by the Mayor’s Office. The very knowledgeable volunteer guides toured us for all of 2 hrs giving us valuable history lessons, and obviously made known how much they love their town. After all, Bath is one of only 2 European cities ever inscribed as a World Heritage Site in its entirety. (The other is Venice in Italy). The tour was free and no tips solicited. It’s 100% gratis for a very good tour! We walked from the Bath Abbey and Roman Baths area, around the Pump Rooms and Cross Baths towards the Theater, the Queen Square, the Royal Crescent and the Circus. It was a very pleasant walk despite some rain showers and the guide made sure we were all brought back to where we started, now equipped with more history lessons and a few legends.

The honey coloured stone buildings, the cobblestones, the lovely Pultney Bridge are enough to make it a worthwhile trip. We did the boat tour too but honestly speaking, I think one can skip that and instead spend that hour enjoying some of Sally Lunn’s buns. This is the oldest house in this heritage city made famous by its “Bath buns” spread with cinnamon butter. It may seem like a touristy thing to do but I dare say Sally Lunn’s breads are truly delicious. We had them with homemade vegetable soup and steak with mushrooms. We bought more buns to take back to our hotel too!

After a few visits, I am still fascinated and charmed by how the city has preserved its low-rise centuries-old structures. Some buildings have been repurposed like the former residence of local celebrity Beau Nash which is now a Theater, and the house of his mistress Popjoy right next to the Theater which is now an Italian restaurant. Right across it is a magnificent building which has been converted into an Asian bistro called “Giggling Squid”. Sans reservation, we luckily dined here and enjoyed one of our best meals (with rice!) in Bath. We were not as lucky in The Scallop Shell who flatly rejected us πŸ™„ yet accepted another group who similarly had no reservation. What gives?

On our last night in Bath, I toyed with the idea of joining the 8pm “Bizarre Tour” which claims to be a fun, comedy walk. A pity we ran out of energy and decided to stay in. For all of you visiting Bath, do tell me about this irreverent, hilarious walking tour. I missed it and would love to hear from you!

The Gems of Antwerp


Over 80% of the world’s rough diamonds pass through Antwerp. Belgium’s 2nd biggest city has everything to do with the ladies’ best friends — from cutting to polishing to trading right within the city’s “Diamond Quarter” spanning one square mile. But we didn’t come here for the precious gems. We came here to check out the gothic Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp — a house of worship as well as a museum housing Rubens’ artworks.

Antwerp

Antwerp

Judging by the many falafel food stalls we found here, there seems to be a big community of Jewish residents likely working in the diamond industry. It’s a big city and there were throngs of tourists offloaded from tourist coaches at the time we visited. Our tour guide Jasmine gave us some fascinating stories about Antwerp, including the residents’ aversion to the French language. Her advice? Speak Dutch if you can, English if you can’t. Never French. Don’t ask me why.

Antwerp

But if you’re going to Antwerp and have very limited time, you can skip the port area and just devote an hour or so in the Cathedral to admire the Rubens masterpieces hanging inside along with those of other Flemish painters. And if you still have some spare time and still hungry for more, try the Rubenshuis. This is the former Flemish townhouse, studio and workshop of Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp. The artist was laid to rest in another church in Antwerp though , the Saint James Church. His “Our Lady Surrounded by the Saints” adorn the altar in this church.

Not just a triptych but all of 5 panels. Rubens have 3 major works here: “The Elevation of the Cross”, “Descent from the Cross” and “Assumption of Virgin Mary”. In his lifetime, Rubens reputedly kept going back to these subjects for his artwork. Smaller versions are to be found in the Louvre and in the Art Gallery of Ontario. No wonder Napoleon brought these art pieces back to France, only to return the loot in 1815. They have since remained here in the Church of Our Lady of Antwerp, where they belong. The REAL GEMS OF ANTWERP. Who needs diamonds?


In the northwest of Belgium lies Bruges, the capital and biggest city of West Flanders. You would not want to miss this fairy-tale medieval town with its charming market squares, cobble-stoned walkways, a skyline of soaring spires, the clatter of horse-drawn carriages, swans gliding across the waters, the whitewashed almshouses and dreamy canals. Belgium is most certainly more than just fries, chocolates, mussels, waffles and beer. One would think it’s such a small country and visiting the capital Brussels is enough. Well, we spent a week in this European capital and made good time doing day trips from the capital. Got to say we were so happy to base ourselves in Brussels for a week to do as many day trips. One city or town each day. We wanted to do it more leisurely this time. If I were to change anything at all, I’d plan to stay a couple of nights here in Bruges!

Bruges

Bruges

The first 3 photos were our first impressions of Bruges. I wasn’t expecting to see horse-drawn carriages but they sure enhance the medieval splendour of this very Flemish city. Throw in those step-gabled building facades. The canals. And that iconic octagonal belfry called Belfort. If I didn’t see it for myself, I would have guessed this was some Hollywood Studio prepping for a period movie. I nearly imagined a lovely lady coming out of one of these buildings dressed in a lacy gown and a bonnet with ribbon ties around her long neck. Others may remember the movie “In Bruges” but our guide gently told us NOT to believe everything depicted there as something coming out of Bruges. I have not seen the movie, so I can’t confirm that.

Bruges

Bruges

The wealth and former glory of Bruges is not easy to ignore. Strategically located, Bruges was a trading hub and the merchants freely traded their products here and even innovated their trading practices which turned out to be the forerunner of a bourse or stock exchange. From the Merchants of Venice to the more creative banker-capitalists of Bruges who likely invented the core of the banking business like promissory notes, shares of stock, stock exchange and money market? Amazing to learn how many of the banking transactions still in use today may have started here.

Bruges

Bruges

With progress, the newfound wealth found its way in various art forms. Art found many patrons and many Flemish painters thrived. So did other European masters. The Madonna of Bruges by Michelangelo was his only artwork ever to leave Italy during his lifetime. Stolen, smuggled and then claimed back and restored, it is back and thankfully restored in its place in Church of Our Lady in Bruges. Jan Van Eyck, the father of oil painting, once lived in Bruges where he actually founded an art school for aspiring Flemish artists. Many artists must have drawn inspiration here. And that is not difficult to appreciate.

Bruges

Bruges

If you love art, you need more than a day trip. There are many art galleries in Bruges. Apart from the museums showcasing Flemish Primitive Painting, there is a vibrant contemporary art scene here. But even if you don’t hit the museums, you will enjoy just roaming around here. Like wandering aimlessly? Trust me, it’s good in cleansing the cobwebs off our minds and it feeds the soul. Besides, walking is good for your health!

Bruges

Bruges


“Ganda” in my native language means beauty. Here in Belgium, “Ganda” translates to “joining up” or “confluence”. As in the confluence of the 2 rivers: Lys and Scheldt. And GANDA is a very apt adjective to describe this once-powerful city state. Ghent’s medieval feel is palpable. So is her “university city” feel. Once so powerful, its prosperity and influence showed in the city’s belfry, the castle with a moat, the many guild halls, the cathedral and many historic and civil edifices. What a pleasant surprise! A pity it is often skipped as many others preferred to just pass it on the way to Bruges, another medieval village straight out of one’s dreams.

Ghent

Ghent

Ghent is actually older than Bruges. I hate to compare the 2, but let me just say that Ghent has its own charm. If you like old town feel, art and history, you won’t get disappointed. And that boat ride? I highly recommend it. Just 45 minutes of relaxation, cool breeze, old world charm and history lessons. The boat passes many centuries-old guild halls, cozy hidden by-the-canal bistros and bars, private residences and former merchants’ offices turned and repurposed into chic hotels, restaurants or corporate offices. There is no national or municipal funding to restore historic buildings but there is a law to preserve their facade. It is thus not surprising to see this old architecture housing modern interiors. From outside, one can appreciate those stepped gables and brick buildings, and then be transported back to present times as one enters such buildings. One example is the Marriott Hotel here. Formerly a whorehouse or brothel, it has since been restored and fitted with modern amenities following Marriott’s hotel brand.

Ghent

The Cathedral of Saint Bavon in Ghent is just a stone’s throw away from the Church dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of mariners and traders. Just like the other historic buildings, these worship places don’t get funding from any institution. We were surprised to learn the church can be used as an events place. No wonder we didn’t find any pews, only stacking chairs which can easily be removed at moment’s notice. Can you imagine holding a concert here? Or a wedding party? We visited on a Friday and the square behind the Church is being prepped as a weekend market complete with food trucks selling all kinds of Belgian junk food and different varieties of beer. I just love how the Belgians love to eat. And take pride in what many otherwise consider as junk food : fries, chocolates, waffles, candies, meatballs, poffertjes (mini, fluffy pancakes), etc. And you can tell the locals from most tourists by the sauce they eat their frites with. Definitely no ketchup for the Belgians!

Ghent

Ghent

Ghent

The Van Eyck brothers left a lasting legacy to Ghent. Not much is known about Hubert but the younger Jan Van Eyck is the first Flemish painter who signed his works. Both are credited as founders of a school of painting in Bruges and other art schools in Northern Europe. Hubert collaborated with Jan Van Eyck in the latter’s 1432 masterpiece, “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”, also known as the Ghent Altarpiece. For a small fee, one can view this masterpiece inside the Cathedral of Saint Bavon in Ghent. Jan Van Eyck’s other masterpiece – The Arnolfini Portrait — is housed in the National Art Gallery in London.

Adoration of The Mystic Lamb

Marriott Hotel in Ghent

The Food Truck Market in Ghent

Ghent is fascinating to visit. It isn’t just another university town though it deserves to be taken seriously as such, ranking #69th among the world’s best schools. Students here have the best of both worlds. A world-ranking university, history and beauty all around, and yummy street food perfect for students on a budget! And there’s always the beer for every whim to celebrate. And for every good beer, there’s likewise good-quality coffee. These Belgians sure know to get a high on food and drinks! 🍺

Old Market, now a Tapas Bar in Ghent

Who wants the β€œnoses” candies of Ghent?

Touchdown Brussels!


We left Amsterdam a day ahead of our schedule and totally wasted a paid hotel night to beat the transport strike on the very day we’re taking the train for Brussels. This also meant foregoing plans to visit Haarlem and Gouda as we decided to hop on the next train before many others. When we arrived in Brussels, an announcement was made that the train won’t stop at some stations because of some “accident”. Our hotel was a station away from Bruxelles Central Station, which was a good thing. As it turned out, there was a bomb scare in the bigger stations. No wonder we noticed armed guards and a military truck when we strolled around the area some days later.

Brussels

One of many beers in Brussels

All’s well then. We met a Filipino tourist in Amsterdam who said that he did not feel so safe in Brussels. We don’t know what prompted this but we’re having a wonderful time here. Much of the action centered around the Grand Place where the tourist crowd is thickest, naturally. In a city populated by as many as 184 nationalities though, the only way to separate the “locals” from the tourists is that ubiquitous CAMERA. During our walking tour, every corner, nook and cranny has at least 5 different nationalities. Consequently, one hears 5 different languages simultaneously at any given time. Can’t be more multi-ethnic and multi-cultural than that. As we meandered around the square and the narrow alleys, we made it a point to be a step ahead of the throngs of tourists unloaded from buses at various corners. You’d be amazed how many try to have selfie shots of that tiny boy with the tiny xxx in Manneken Pis. We passed the statue twice, if only to view it undressed at night and garbed in some costume during the day.

Manneken Pis

Royal Palace

Going to Atomium and Royal Palace took some effort. We hopped on a tram and walked a bit to reach these attractions. In my view, you can skip the Atomium. The Palace is worth seeing, and if you like, you only need to walk further to reach the EU Headquarters. We passed up on this though since many roads leading to it were blocked or had heavily-armed guards and military trucks. Instead, we spent more time at the Grand Place. Having learned of the recent bomb scare, we chose to be more cautious. Besides, there’s tons more to see around Brussels! And a few day trips to make outside of the capital — all just an hour or so away by train or bus.

Atomium

Grand Place

Our plan included a day trip each to Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp. With 5 whole days and 6 nights in Brussels, we easily filled out our travel itinerary. It would have been ideal to include a day trip to Luxembourg but most day tours are fully booked. It wasn’t in the stars. But who’s complaining? We made these very easy day trips, leisurely spent our holidays, ate our annual quota of fries, waffles and mussels, and drank only a few of the hundred beer varieties here. We love it here πŸ’•πŸΊπŸ’•πŸΊπŸ’•

Albertina Place

City Hall

Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gedula

Galleria St. Hubert . Older than Vittorio Emmanuel In Milan

Moules Frites @ Chez Leon