Friday, July 15, 2016

Off to Belgium - Delft and Brussels

After spending another night by the airport in Amsterdam, we left for Brussels.  But on the way there, we decided to see the city of Delft:
Delft is famous for the Blue Delft pottery and also for the one and only windmill remaining out of 15 in the Delft region.  Graham, on the other hand was really excited about the road sweeper!
But first, have to wait for the bridge to come down!
A quick look at the canal system in the city:
Here it is! I just found out it's called the de Roos windmill (The Rose) and was built in 1679.  The original was a wooden structure that is now replaced with this larger, stone mill.
Unfortunately, it was closed on the morning that we arrived.  Not open on a Wednesday!
Well, good thing we have the internet.  I'm learning a bit more about this mill.  In 2012, the mill was lifted 1 meter on supporting steel so tunneling could be done. So now it sits comfortably and fully supported on the roof of the new train tunnel! Amazing!

Ok, off to Brussels.  Sheeeep!!!
And we discovered these yogurt pouches with sunflower seeds from a gas station. It takes a little getting used to, but quite yummy I have to say:
Here we are in Brussels - at the Atomium. It is one of the only remaining symbols of the 1958 Brussels World Fair.  The Atomium represents an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times! Out of the 9 spheres that are interconnected with 20 tubes, 3 of the spheres contain either permanent or temporary exhibitions from around the world.
And here's the building on the opposite end.  I'm not exactly sure what is it. I didn't find anything on the internet when I asked "building across from the Atomium".  Ha!
Both Graham and Charlie are passed out from the drive:
I'm looking at the structure more carefully and I see people on one of the sphere! YIKES!!!
Managed to get Charlie up.  He doesn't seem too enthusiastic about anything:
Well, it's a good thing we are heading over to Mini Europe instead, which is right next door.  Boys are up and about now!
Graham isn't quite tall enough for these.  Bobby is actually hiding in the back holding him up!
Two thumbs up from Graham!
I wanted to put these buildings in Mini Europe and the Atomium into perspective. So here is how HUGE that Atomium really is!
Here's Parliament and Big Ben in London - definitely on our list of places to see:
They were both so excited with the trains:
Seems like such hard work to maintain this place!
The boys were able to drive little boats for 1:
Leaning tower of Pisa!  The boys still talk about it after seeing it last summer.  Having a bit of fun with it here :-)
Charlie loved both the trains and the little boats:
Here's Ariane 5 - a European heavy lift launch vehicle - able to send 12,000 kg of satellites! Unfortunately for us, this launch was rather underwhelming.  Perhaps the wait didn't help either:
Anyhow, time for lunch... or slushies!
Lunch is served! Caprese salad for Mommy, bubbly mac and cheese for the boys, and salami and cheese with olives (yuck!) for Daddy:
One more look at the Atomium.  Here is Graham "lifting" it :-)
Graham and Charlie really enjoyed Mini Europe. They are already talking about wanting to go back!

Okay, onward to see the Manneken Pis before heading off to Bruges.  We had to shorten our vacation by a day so we're trying to see everything before leaving Brussels. And unfortunately, we couldn't cancel our hotel in Bruges.

We were using the GPS to get to the Manneken Pis but parts of the road were blocked.  With traffic and lots of turns to make and avoiding barricades, we finally manage to find a park less than 1/4 mile away from the Manneken Pis.
A quick walk down the hill and here it is!  At about 2 feet tall, the little boy is peeing into the fountain basin.  I've come to find out now that several statues have been stolen so this current one dates from 1965.  The original was put in place back in 1619!
Here's a closer look. The last time I was at this spot (23 years ago!), the Manneken Pis was dressed in a motorcycle helmet and jacket!
After a quick visit into the chocolate store right next door, we take another quick walk to the Grand Place or main square of Brussels.  Weird but when I was 17 years old, this place looked a lot more grand.  Perhaps it's because of these big grandstands that were put up along 2 sides of the square (see the blue chairs to the left in the photo).
And I remembered buying a waffle from an old man with his little waffle cart, and he plopped a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on top of that warm waffle. What a mess that was but so yummy!  So needless to say, I was also quite disappointed with just my plain waffle.  Oh well, at least Graham and Charlie were excited about their VERY mini Atomium souvenir:
The chocolates, on the other hand, went fast!  We just got back into the car and already missing so many pieces!
Random wall in the city.  It obviously stands out among the modern buildings around it:
Oh no... more traffic getting out of the city!
Interesting cartoon - sort of looks like Tin Tin but I'm not exactly sure:
The GPS leads us into a tunnel.  Looks like everyone is using it this evening!
Bobby starts to play a game with the boys as to who can spot the "green door".  So anytime the boys saw it, they would say "Green door!"
Here it is... the Green Door!
I thought these signs were interesting and perhaps very helpful to let you know which way you really need to go when you need to exit the tunnel.
20-30 minutes later in the tunnel, we finally see daylight again and we are on our way to Bruges.  I wanted to stop in Ghent but with our limited time today, all I saw was a stadium when we passed the area on the highway.  Next time!
We finally roll into Bruges after 7pm.  Lovely quiet little city:
More interesting walls:
And finally, our hotel.  Great location and the rooms were large and perfect for the 4 of us.  I thought that was very unusual for Europe.  Most of the time we are trying to squeeze into two little twin size beds!
Just as we are checking in, the horse-drawn carriage trots by.  How quaint!
I'm liking this city already.  To be continued!

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