The thing about having friends all over is, well, that they're all over. They can feel an eternity away, despite all the available techie solutions. On the plus side, this gives me the excellent excuse to visit all sorts of places. Like Brussels.
Seen from the roof of the Museum of Musical instruments (formerly an Art Nouveau department store), Brussels on a clear day can utterly charm with its jumble of architectural styles winding outward from a medieval, cobblestoned heart.Grand-Place, a square surrounded by the astonishing fifteenth century city hall and the Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles (housed in the equally stunning, nineteenth century Maison du Roi). The Museum purportedly has a nice medieval art collection. I didn't go in; the day was just too fine.
Wittamer pastry shop and cafe.
And yes, they have absolutely gorgeous-looking chocolates, but chocolate snobs from the world over really line up for the most acclaimed chocolates in Belgium, made by Pierre Marcolini. Yes, I did taste some, but I found my own little nirvana, in the beautifully appointed chocolate palace of Patrick Roger. Crowned Meilleur Ouvrier de France (and yes, thus French), the man has a particular gift for associating unusual flavors and providing a complex, yet intriguingly balanced taste experience. I kid you not, it really is an experience. How could an astute blend of yuzu, lime and chocolate not be? And oh, the textures...the caliber of chocolate...
Beyond the chocolate, Brussels is made for wandering, even if you may be taken aback by the parlous state of some irreplaceable buildings. Brussels, as rich as it is in architectural treasures, is critically poor in tax revenue, and the facades and streets often show it. It is a city that has largely been transformed into a place where people come in to work, before retreating to the more tranquil bedroom communities ringing it.
Despite its challenges, you will certainly find your pleasure in Brussels, especially if your particular weakness happens to be for things of an edible nature...and that even if chocolate isn't your thing.
As for the Art Nouveau: after the industrial boom of the late 1800s, there was this brief, brilliant flowering in architecture. The commisioned house for those on the cutting edge became a work of organically-inspired art, a showcase for the pinnacles of craftsmanship in iron-working, stone-cutting and wood-working. The forms in art nouveau, whether in sculpture, architecture, jewelry or graphic design are sinuous, often elaborate and very pleasing to the eye. Certainly to mine anyway.
The leading figure in this movement, certainly in Belgium if not the whole of Europe was the Belgian Victor Horta. I paid a visit to his first private commission, the Maison Autrique, lovingly maintained with its original fittings and furnished with period-appropriate, often original furnishings.
All too soon, the clocks chimed and my time in Brussels drew to a close. It was time to say goodbye to good friends.