Friday we took a pleasant train ride to Brussels and a short ride to Hotel Alma Grand Place. The location was wonderful as it was one street away from Grand Place, the focal point of Brussels. After checking in we learned that our flight on Monday morning to Amsterdam was canceled. There was a train scheduled to get us there and so we booked it. Then we walked down the cobble stone street to Grand Place. This large square has been for centuries the economic and cultural center. It was surrounded by the gilded buildings of the town hall (Hôtel de Ville) and former guild houses of boatmen, butchers, haberdasheries, and brewers. Not only were the buildings gilded but there were also statues of gold of special significance to the guild. Le Cornet was the guild house of the boatmen where the top story resembles the stern of a ship. Maison des Brasseurs was the guild house of brewers and Le Cygne (the Swan) was the guild house of Butchers which later became a café where Karl Marx held meetings of the German Workers Party. Le Renard (the Fox) was the Guild of haberdashers, displaying the fox above the door. The golden statue of Saint Michael killing the devil is at the top of the Hôtel de Ville steeple. Today within these buildings are housed many restaurants. We stopped in at Chaloupe d’Or, a historic brasserie for a quiet meal. On our way back to our hotel we stopped at an outside café for a Kwak beer at Golden Bar.
Saturday morning we were emailed that our airline has found us a different flight, so we canceled our train. Today we wandered the streets exploring the area surrounding the Grand Place. We noticed so many restaurants serving food from different countries. We also stopped by a store of old stringed instruments. There are many museums in Brussels including museums of music, artwork by great names in history, architecture, and comics. There was just not enough time to visit these museums. That evening we had a wonderful pizza at Ristorante Giannino on the outside, followed by a short walk to Cave du Roy in the Grand Place for a glass of wine.
Sunday, we decided to relax in the Grand Place and people watch. This plaza was once used for fairs, jousting, even executions, but today it was used for a reenactment of an historical event. There was music and dancing with the players in costume. It was starting to rain so off we went to find a restaurant for lunch. We thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance, the service and the seafood at Au Coin Gourmand one block away. Later when the weather got a little chilly we stepped into a chocolate store/bar and ordered a hot chocolate. That evening we went back to Ristorante Giannino for a lovely Italian dinner inside while sitting by the window. Our time in Belgium was now complete having bought some handmade lace, tried some great Belgium beers and tasted the yummy chocolate. We thought we were ready to leave the next day late in the morning but received another email saying our flight is now changed to 6:00 a.m. After finishing packing and hiring a taxi for 4:00 a.m. and setting our alarm for 3:00 a.m. we went to bed early. During the night while we were sleeping we received another notice that our flight was canceled. So, now at 3:00 a.m. we had to find a train and we did find one leaving at 5:45 a.m.. There was an airline strike. We did get to Amsterdam by train in time to get through checking our bags and going through security, which took four hours, to reach our gate. We made our flight out of Amsterdam to Boston!!