Late-night television talk show host David Letterman once famously described “carpet” as the word that lies like a rug, because it is neither a car nor a pet.

I can’t remember what I had for lunch today, but I can remember that joke from years ago and I think of it often whenever I hear the word carpet, which brings me to the subject of this post.

Every two years, the Grand Place in Brussels is covered in a flower carpet made of about a million (literally) begonias for a long weekend.

We made a point of going to see it this year because as of right now we will be moving back to the United States no later than January 2016, before the next flower carpet in August 2016.

The event has occurred every two years since 1986. There were three events before that – in 1976, 1979 and 1980 – but since 1986 it has taken place every two years.

Every year there is a different theme for the carpet, and this year’s the carpet was made to look like an actual carpet.

A Persian carpet, that is, to commemorate 50 years of Turkish immigration to Belgium.

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We paid 5 Euro each for tickets to be able to view the carpet from a balcony and it was definitely worth the price of admission.

Seeing the carpet from ground level is free.

Here are a few more shots from different angles, including a panoramic view, a close-up view and a nighttime view.

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By the way, the Grand Place is the main square in Brussels and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The buildings surrounding the square are stunning. The Grand Place was voted the most beautiful square in Europe in 2010 and it definitely ranks among my favorites.

Notice anything about this sign for the Grand Place?

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It shows the name of the square in two different languages. Brussels is officially a bilingual city and all street signs are in both French and Dutch.

Brussels is also both the capital of Belgium and of the European Union.

But let’s get back to our visit.

My cousin and her husband took their motorbike over from England to meet us for the weekend. In addition, the son of my next-door neighbor from “home” in Washington state now lives in Brussels with his wife, so we were able to meet up with them as well. (They will hereafter be referred to as A and M.) Sean and I do most of our traveling on our own and every now and then it’s nice to be able to do it with other people.

We had been to Brussels before, in March of 2012, so we didn’t need to do a lot of running around to sightsee on this trip. It was a nice change from our usual pace.

This was the view from our hotel room.

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In case you didn’t know, the Smurfs originated in Belgium.

I don’t know why the statue is white though. Everyone knows that Smurfs are blue.

As a side note, Tintin – the comic strip about an adventurous reporter – also originated in Belgium. This is not to be confused with the 1950s American TV show about the dog Rin Tin Tin.

A big draw for tourists is the Mannekin Pis, a statue depicting a nude little boy in the act of urinating.

The statue is near the Grand Place and you’ll know you’re getting close to it when you see the huge crowds.

They are all there to see this.

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Yup, that tiny little sculpture is what everyone is clamoring to see. It’s only about 2 feet tall.

The original Mannekin Pis was erected around 1618. It has been restored and is now kept in a building on the Grand Place. There have been numerous replacements, mostly due to theft of the statues. The statue now in place was erected in 1965.

Prior to going to Brussels the first time, we knew that the statue was small. When we saw it in person we were still for some reason surprised by just how minute it is. So, if you haven’t seen it yet and are planning to go to Brussels, take my word for it – it’s really tiny up close.

One of the reasons people go to see the statue is that he’s dressed up in costume several times a week. The City Museum in Brussels even has a permanent exhibit showing past costumes.

In the photo above, his costume goes hand-in-hand with the flower carpet – he’s commemorating 50 years of Turkish immigration to Belgium.

Lesser known than the Mannekin Pis is his female counterpart, Jeanneke Pis.

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As you can see, she has a locked gate around her to protect her from vandalism. To me the gate just makes her look like a caged, wild animal.

She is much younger than her counterpart, having been created in 1987.

There are probably very few cities in the world where escargot is considered a street food.

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Brussels is one of those cities. Sean couldn’t resist.

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After getting our fill of the flower carpet for the day, we met up with A and M and they took us on a bit of a pub crawl.

A is a beer enthusiast and he taught us a bit about Belgian beers, which involved sampling numerous types.

We may or may not have stayed out until about 3:00 a.m. tasting different beers.

All in the name of education, of course.

The next morning – wait, ha ha, I crack myself up! I of course meant the next afternoon, Sean and I met up with my cousin and her husband and we headed over to the nearby Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert.

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It’s a beautiful, glass-covered arcade that was built between 1846 and 1847.  (I took that photo early Sunday morning when nobody was there and nothing was open; it’s normally quite crowded.)

The lower level is filled with shops and cafés and the upper level contains apartments.

The shops are wonderful. For example, there is one that sells fancy gloves and another that sells fancy hats. Not what you see in your average mall.

We had lunch at a café in the Galeries and then met up again with A and M.

TIPPLE OF THE DAY INFO:

A was kind enough to take us to the Cantillon brewery, where he volunteers and gives tours in both English and German.

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Cantillon is a traditional brewer of lambic beer. During the tour, we learned how this type of beer is brewed, fermented, stored, bottled and served.

Lambic is matured for up to 3 years in casks.

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After bottling, it’s stored in cellars for several additional months.

At the end of the tour we did a tasting.

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I have to say that I’ve tasted lambic before and didn’t really care for it.

However, A had mentioned that you could think of it as tasting like a wine or a cider, and once I thought of it that way it was actually pretty good.  You can see that even the glass it was served in looks more like a wine glass than a beer glass.

After the tour, we walked through the longest street fair I’ve ever seen. It was just block after block after block of rides and games and food and drink vendors.

We didn’t linger at the fair but instead headed over to the Café Leffe restaurant for dinner. Leffe is a Belgian beer brand.

Having stayed out just a wee bit too late the previous evening, after dinner we all limited ourselves to one drink near the hotel and then parted ways with A and M.

The next morning, we had one very important thing to do before heading home.

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Yes, we had to have waffles for breakfast. As you can see I had mine with whipped cream and warm chocolate sauce. Yum.

We had luckily gotten a brief lesson on waffles from A the previous day.

What you see in that photo is a Brussels waffle, which is rectangular.

The other type of waffle that you typically see in Brussels is the Liège waffle, which has a caramelized exterior and an irregular round shape.

There are other differences between the two, but you now know just enough to be dangerous if you want to order waffles in Brussels.

After breakfast we started our 4-hour drive home.

Our wish list of places to visit in Europe is very, very long.

Because of that and our limited free time, with few exceptions we don’t often visit the same city more than once.  I have to say, though, that I thoroughly enjoyed our second visit to Brussels.

It was nice both to be already familiar with the place and to be able to explore it at a more relaxed place. Being shown around by people who live there was also a huge plus and we loved the company.

Which cities do you find yourself making repeat visits to?

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About the author: Trish

 

Website: http://travelsandtipples.com