Belgium – it must be chocolate time, or waffle time, or even beer time – all of which were part of a walking tour we did on our last day in Brussels. Starting out at the Brussels City Tours Office
with our guide Jasmine (the same guide we had for our day trip to Bruges).
First stop was to walk along the Royale Galleries – a shopping area with three distinct areas.
This glass-roofed arcade is made up of three areas – The Queen’s Gallery, the King’s Gallery and also the Princes’ Gallery. We found it to be filled with high-end jewelers, luxury watches, fashion apparel, beauty products, decorative accessories, gift ideas, delicious pastries, delicate biscuits, but also the best chocolates in the country!
Our first stop was right inside the door at Godiva.
Started in 1926 this chocolate place is known around the world but we only stopped to watch strawberries dipped into chocolate before moving down the lane past several different chocolatier places to visit Neuhaus.
Neuhaus, started in 1857, opened the first store in the Royale Galleries and it has been operation ever since. One of its major claims to fame is that the founder’s grandson invented the chocolate praline – a decadent chocolate cream ganache center inside a chocolate shell.
Our visit included a tasting session of various chocolate (coco in the raw, white chocolate, dark chocolate and milk chocolate) pieces to taste the differences. It was a quick interlude and quite enjoyable.
Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to buy anything (just as well actually) but they did point out there was a store in Washington DC we could visit! (although he also said it would be cheaper to buy another suitcase and fill it in Belgium then to buy chocolates from the store in DC).
Next up was a stop for a traditional light and crisp waffle along with a taste of a local cherry beer. This is NOT the round, sugar loaded waffle our hotel served, and is also called Belgian. We popped into this shop, got seated and were served almost immediately. Along with our waffle and cherry beer were a couple of macaroons.
I didn’t even get a chance to take a picture of the store as a remembrance of where we were! The waffle was wonderful, sprinkled with powdered sugar along with the cherry beer was nice.
Along the way, our guide, Jasmine continued to give us insights into the various stores – pointing out all the expensive ones I might add – and telling us the history of the place. Very interesting.
One of the most well known locations in Brussels is the site of Manneken Pis a statue of a little boy peeing into the fountain. We had visited it previously so certainly knew all about it. However, we didn’t know there was another statue – Jeanneke Pis – where a little girl in short pigtails, squatting and urinating on a blue-grey limestone base.
This is on a narrow cul-de-sac and protected behind iron bars. This statue was created in 1987 three hundred years after Manneken Pis , as part of a medical foundation opening. She is smiling audaciously .
Next up was the Grand Place. We had wandered around the Grand Place previously (see 4-3-19 Brussels Walking around and learning the City) so we had some prior information.
However, Jasmine talked about the various guildhalls, what has happened over the years and how the area had changed.
Next stop biscuits. Invented by the monks in the middle ages we sampled what is called Pain à la Grèque – or ‘Greek Bread ‘( a sugar bread distributed to the poor) along with several ginger savory biscuits (cookies to you and me).
Along the walls were various molds that have been used by the shop for who knows how long.
Along the way to see Manneken Pis, it was clear the city had become much more crowded from our earlier visits. Today he was dressed differently and it was crowded so we didn’t stay long.
Next up, the lady with the hat counting her change
and other sites along the way ending up to sample some Brussels cheese
and finally some fresh fish (fried calamari) at the historic fish market.
This ended our delicious tour . Jasmine did a wonderful job of taking us around, sampling some of the treats of the City and giving us a better understanding of the City she has shared for three decades.