, Gloucester, MA


September 6, 2013

A trip to Brussels, flowers and cognac

It is 6:30 a.m. as the flight attendant finishes up his hurried collection of breakfast trays, and the plane begins what the captain has predicted will be a very long descent into Amsterdam.

I raise my window shade to a surreal sky: dawn has not yet broken, and a brilliant line of orange light separates the still-black sky below the plane from a wide cushion of smoke-colored, puffy clouds above.

Suddenly the city appears as an endless, completely flat stretch of lights that, moments later, abruptly changes in the light of day, to a verdant landscape laced with canals. Windmills are everywhere.

Dazed and back on terra firma, we hurry to make our short connecting flight to Brussels, Belgium. The pilot speaks from the cockpit in Flemish, a language akin to nothing we have ever heard, and then again, in hesitant English. As the flight attendant quickly delivers little bags containing chilled orange juice and a scrambled egg sandwich, we hear her speak to other passengers in perfect English, French and German.

My husband, the travel sleuth, had suggested making Brussels our destination after reading that it has the most beautiful main square in all of Europe.

Months earlier in planning the trip, he had read aloud to me the past and present history of the “Grand-Place,” referencing the “Flower Carpet,” an event that had taken place biannually in the city’s square since 1971. A photo showed the square with 700,000 cut flowers arranged to form a 250-foot long Oriental rug . But we’d be visiting in an off-year. There was certainly much else to enjoy in the huge, architecturally elegant Grand-Place and its environs.

We pushed through crowds to get a glimpse of the “Manneken Pis,” the most-visited and photographed piece of art in the city. It’s a charming, 1619 bronze statue by Jerome Duquesnoy (a copy of its 1377 stone counterpart), depicting a plump little 2-year-old boy peeing into a fountain.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Your news, your way
Pictures of the Week
Comments Tracker
AP Entertainment Videos
Adam Levine Launches Clothing Line for Women Paul Wesley Sinks His Teeth Into Directing Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Josh Thompson Streams Album to Hook New Fans Franco Leads Star-studded Broadway Cast ShowBiz Minute: Singer, Young, Poehler Sparks Fly With Derulo and Jordin on New Album Nas Movie Opens Tribeca Film Festival Zooey Deschanel Adds Designing to Her Repertoire Miley Cyrus Still in Hospital, Cancels 2nd Show 'Half of a Yellow Sun' Hits the Big Screen Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Swift's Bus Drives Into Country Hall of Fame ShowBiz Minute: Cyrus, Walker, Combs Pedro Pascal Plays 'Game of Thrones'' Red Viper Deeley Shows Acting Chops in Hulu's 'Deadbeat' Ora Strips Efron at MTV Awards ShowBiz Minute: MTV Awards, Lopez, Royals Stars Hit Red Carpet for MTV Movie Awards Conan Backs Colbert, Hosts MTV Movie Awards