Tag Archive: Brussels

Oh Yeah, Oye

Erlend Oye. La Comotiva Band. He’s now on my Spotify playlist. And errr, no I didn’t know him from Adam till my nieta introduced him to me. And treated me to his band concert here in Brussels! Turned out to be the highlight of our trip to Brussels. (Aside from the 2 food trips to Chez Leon)

The concert was staged in Brussels’ Botanique Garden — in one of the halls that’s standing room only and where the band went down the stage and got the entire crowd singing along! When it was near the concert’s end, the audience kept asking for an encore and refused to leave. So the band “escorted” everyone out like a pied piper, singing and playing along. Out the hall, along the passageway, through the stairs until everyone’s out the door.

I’ve attended concerts before. Have watched and enjoyed many bands too. But this is a first. Way beyond my expectations. I love their music now. It resonates across many generations. Nice beat, lively and socially relevant too. At performance night, they were dressed so casually, nothing fancy. So it felt like you’re just visiting a friend to jam with. Really. Check out his music on Spotify.

We covered a lot of museums in Amsterdam. Like 7! But only 1 museum in Brussels. Both cities proud of their Van Gogh and Magritte. One with a troubled Dutch mind who found expression in his art. Another who was quite happy with his life as artist, husband, leader and friend and expressed his joys in his art.

The Van Gogh collection is impressive. In his short life, Vincent was prolific, painting almost every single detail of his brief existence. With his numerous self-portraits, you can say he indulged in selfies. The dark rooms and galleries are intended to safeguard and protect his many artworks. The art world has Theo (Vincent’s brother) to thank for supporting Vincent throughout his turbulent moods and insecurities. This brother’s love is soooo moving, and one can understand how and why Theo passed nearly as soon as Vincent left. And just as touching was how Theo’s wife Jo made sure this Van Gogh collection found their way into our world today. Once more, the power of love made everything possible. How wonderful!

On the other hand, I find René Magritte’s collections so well-curated in the museum in Brussels. For less than half the admission price of major museums in Amsterdam, the Magritte Museum is truly value for money. The museum is massive and the collections hung so impressively. Like a lot of thought went into planning how the artworks should be displayed. It is easy to spend a whole afternoon here, and even to “space out” to enjoy this master’s works. The crowds are mostly locals, like Belgian schoolchildren and young adults likely studying art here.

I know. You love Van Gogh. Can’t miss it in Amsterdam. But do visit Magritte Museum in Brussels too. Twice as big if not more than Vincent’s museum in Dutchland, and equally impressive.

My last visit was in 2003 but that was on official business so it shouldn’t count. In 1986 and 2000, I was there. First as a student, the next as a tourist. Most things remained the same, but for the price of West End tickets. As a newbie watching musicals for the first time, I was very lucky to be there when Les Miserables first showed some 3 months before my arrival in 1986. With my student discount, it was a steal watching it and quite frankly, I was beyond awed. I’ve never seen the likes of it till then. I’ve watched it several times since, both in West End and Broadway, and even back in my home country. This Cameron Mackintosh was my new hero. Fast forward 2019. Ticket prices have spiralled. Lowest-priced musicals still hovered from £30 upwards. Some at £200 and up. And I mean really upwards. If you’re aiming to watch only one or 2, sure you can splurge. But not if you’re meaning to watch more. And so, rather than stay longer in London, we moved to stay nearly a week in Amsterdam and then another week in Brussels before heading back to London and onwards for 8 nights in Bath and The Cotswolds. We made many day trips from our chosen city base using trains, buses and vans. This is our Trip Summary from May 19 to June 12, 2019.




Day Trip from London: Stonehenge




DayTrips from Amsterdam


Zaanse Schans

Volendam & Marken

Delft & The Hague



Day Trips from Brussels




Back to UK


The Cotswolds

Day Trip to Cardiff, Wales

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.


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.


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 💕🍺💕🍺💕

Albertina Place

City Hall

Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gedula

Galleria St. Hubert . Older than Vittorio Emmanuel In Milan

Moules Frites @ Chez Leon