Our last stop before flying home to the states was Brussels, chosen primarily because that’s where I could get a good point redemption on a nonstop flight to Newark.
Brussels would not have been on my list of cities to visit, but I’m glad we went (and so is Julie). Our hotel room overlooked the Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries, one of the many covered shopping areas built in the late 19th century. It really is a beautiful location, and the destination for several chocolate acquisition adventures for family and friend gifts.
We hit one Brussels museum, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, full of Dutch masters and quality late renaissance works. Still, we tire of the repeated religious themes and it was refreshing to see some different styles. There was a contemporary art exhibition nestled within the old white guy stuff, but the true highlight was the Magritte self-contained museum. Seeing his works in one place showed how much technical mastery he held (he could paint in any style it appears) and we were both unaware of his impressionist period. Imagine a surreal overlay on a Renoir, or a pointillist version of a Dali painting.
The boy is all dressed up
I’ve had more than my share of Belgian beers (didn’t get tired of them), and it one of our walkabouts hitting a beer lover’s tap bar recommended by our Bruges guide we stumbled into the Mannequin Pis statue. I wasn’t interested in a special trip to find it, though with Julie’s encouragement I would have rallied. Nice to find it accidentally.
View to the south of the Waterloo battlefield
With an open final day, we decided to walk to the Brussels south train station and catch a bus out to Waterloo, location of Napoleon’s final defeat. It takes about an hour each way, but it was nice to wander through the suburbs and get out to the rural area. I have mixed feelings about the memorial and museum there: it was good, but it could be so much better with some thoughtful design. They try hard to provide multi-lingual access, but immediately the patron gets lost in a confusing narrative. We weren’t always sure where to go next, and the narrative seemed to jump from “what was Napoleon doing before this” to the Waterloo conflict and then back again. We hung out for the “4D movie” only to realize once it started that the English translation (just a web page you access on your phone and headphones) wasn’t working for the movie. So the French folks were talking in French, the English in English, but we couldn’t follow it.
Outdoors things were better. We enjoyed the bivouac demonstrations and climbed to the top of the great Lion hill memorial to survey the battlefield. Similar to a visit to Gettysburg, the higher you get the more you can see but the harder it is to understand the topographical minutiae that made the defender position so important. It was easier to notice when we were back at ground level.
We made it safely back to the states; I’m in western NY at Keuka Lake now, and Julie has started her long drive in our car from Florida and will arrive tomorrow late afternoon.