Saturday, November 10, 2007

Da Vinci and Brussels

Today, Andrea and I took an MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) trip to Brussels for Expo Leonardo Da Vinci: The European Genius at the Basilica Koekelberg, which is supposedly the 5th largest church in the world (none of the research I've done supports this claim). However, the Basilica's website says this, so who am I to argue?

Anyway, if you have the chance, I would highly recommend a visit to this exhibition, which ends in March. It doesn't just explore Da Vinci as an artist, but it also goes in depth regarding other facets of Da Vinci's genius, which include his manuscripts and inventions. Despite the poor layout of the exhibit (the rooms were narrow and small, and it was difficult to get through the crowds), it was well worth the time we spent there. As much as I love Da Vinci's art, his manuscripts blew me away. He had such tidy handwriting. ;) Oh, and the sketches were cool too.

By the way, if you go, pay the 2,50 euros for an audio guide. The descriptions in the exhibit are only in French and Flemish, and you'll appreciate it more if you have the audio guide.

We had about 3.5 hours to get through the exhibit, but it didn't take that long. Everyone on the MWR trip was all done and back on the bus by 12:45, about 45 minutes earlier than our scheduled return time. The plan was to go into the center of Brussels to spend the day shopping and sightseeing, so we got almost an extra hour to do that.

Andrea and I have already been to Brussels, so neither of us wanted to do any touristy things (although now that I think about it, the current Rubens exhibit would've been nice to see). Mostly we just wanted to wander around and poke into shops. First, we stopped for lunch. Andrea remembered this restaurant on the Grand Place where she had eaten once before. Generally, the restaurants on the Grand Place are more expensive, but I trusted her judgment, and I'm glad I did. I didn't write down the name of this place, unfortunately…I thought I would be able to Google it, but I haven't turned up anything.

ETA: The name of the restaurant is L'Estaminet du Kelderke. Thanks, Andrea!

Anyway, I ordered stoemp, which is a traditional Belgian dish...potatoes and other root vegetables mashed together, which you could order with various toppings. I ordered fried eggs on mine. So I got a great pile of mashed potatoes mixed with spinach and other things (and I believe there was some bacon or sausage in there as well) and 3 fried eggs on top…it was altogether lovely and hearty, perfect for the November chill, and it kept me full all day. Andrea had a scrumptious looking french onion soup.

After that, we wandered around, looked in some shops, stopped by Manneken Pis to see if he was dressed in one of his many costumes (he wasn't, as usual). On the way back, we stopped for a protest that came down the street. I think it had something to do with all the recent discussions of dividing Brussels. At some point, I had a fresh, hot Belgian waffle with chocolate sauce, and we stopped at a café for tea.

And that was pretty much our day. Most of the pictures are of random things we saw walking around, and not the typical touristy stuff you see in Brussels, since I've already posted such photos twice before. There are very few pictures from the Da Vinci Expo, because pictures are not allowed in the exhibition itself…you can take photos inside other areas of the basilica, though.

Andrea promised me some of her photos, and there's a particularly cute one of the two of us that she took that I want to post on here and get a copy to frame.

This is it for my travels in Europe, folks!

Click for pics!

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