I couldn't possibly end this Brussels chapter without going to the heart of the city: the Grand-Place. It is funny how your life as a kid during the summer holidays is paced by certain things that you later discard as naff. For me, as a child growing up in Belgium, summer was marked by two major events: the huge fireworks display for the 21st of July (Belgium's independance day) and the flower carpet at the Grand Place in mid-August.
I hadn't witnessed the carpet for nearly 2 decades and it's lucky I was around this time of the year to rekindle an old tradition of mine. Even today, I find it impressive and seeing the huge crowds this event attracts, I am not the only one.
Nearly a million petals of begonias are used to cover the whole floor of the square. And this according to a very precise design. The theme was Africa this year.
It is a sight to behold and I couldn't recommend enough that you visit Brussels when the flower carpet is laid (every two years).
A few steps from the Grand-Place stand Les Galeries de la Reine, it is basically a shopping arcade. One of the oldest of its kind. Its architecture inspired many galleries all over Europe. It's a place I actually fell in love with quite late in my life. When at university we were asked to read Le Paysan de Paris (by Louis Aragon), I started seeing the galleries as a magical place. Aragon had a fascination for the arcades located in Paris (the 'passages') and he made them the scenes of his weird hallucinations.
They are a beautiful monument, and a foundation stone in Belgian history. A moving picture by the Lumière brothers was shown to the Belgian audience for the 1st time in the cinema inside and brands that put Belgium on a map started right there, like the chocolatier Neuhaus and the bag maker Delvaux.