December 11 - Don’t Chase The Night

Crystal woke up around 08:00, and Justin around 08:30, so we were making progress on time adjustment, finally.  We went to Lidl to get some tea and some bread products; it was slightly less crazy than the other day.  Even better, there was evidence of sunlight and blue sky today.  We ate a small breakfast and had some caffeine.  We headed out around 11:00.  We went to the metro station and bought day passes again.

The first stop today was at the Atomium.  Since the sun was out and the sky was blue, the metal balls were very shiny.  We didn’t have much interest in going inside, but rather viewing it from outside.  So we walked around Mini Europe, which is next door.  Mini Europe consists of a ton of scaled replicas of famous buildings and monuments from all over the EU, about 1:25 scale.  Everything had an extremely high attention to detail, and every country in the EU was represented.  Because Mini Europe was put together a while ago, there is a UK area, but they made a couple very prominent “edits” to indicate the UK left the EU - it was pretty humorous.

In addition to things like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, and other really famous buildings, there were several “off the beaten path” items such as the Porta Nigra from Trier and a Blue Church in Bratislava, which we didn’t even know existed.  There was also a scaled airport, with a Santa on the front of an A380.  We were near the real airport, and we saw some giant airplanes in the sky, including a chunky military plane.  We were at Mini Europe for probably 90 minutes, way longer than we would’ve guessed prior to arriving.

We took the Metro back the way we came, but got off one exit earlier than where we’d started, at Louise.  When we came above ground, we were right next to the Palace of Justice, Belgium’s Supreme Court.  The building was covered with scaffolding except for the very top of its central dome.  From the Palace of Justice, we walked down the street past the Church of Our Lady of Victories at the Sablon.  We could tell we were near the pedestrian-only streets area near the Grand Place, but didn’t think we’d been exactly here before.  After a couple more blocks we ended up at the Royal Palace, which we must’ve been extremely close to a couple times prior, yet missed it.  There was a big park across the street, not dissimilar from Schonbrunn or Belvedere Palace in Vienna.  We took note of some grape vines or some other intertwined trees that must have been going for decades if not hundreds of years.

We walked down to Grand Place again, to get snacks and drinks.  We ended up in the same Christmas market we visited the first night in town.  Justin and Beverly each got a dish with potatoes, cheese, and pancetta, and Crystal got a raclette sandwich; Beverly got genever [which she had come to enjoy very, very much], and Justin & Crystal got gleuhwein.  From there we took the Metro to the Merode station, coming out right by Triumphal Arch.  It looked kind of similar to Heroes Square in Budapest.  It was a short walk to the nearby Art & History Museum.  Justin had suggested we check this out because, among other things, it had a Moai from Rapa Nui.  When we entered, we asked about the Moai, and were told it was not on exhibition, so we just checked out the gift store, used the restroom, and left.

We meandered around the big park (Parc du Cinquantenaire), watching all the dogs playing, including one playing fetch with seemingly infinite energy.  Then we meandered through Leopold Park, coming out by the EU buildings from yesterday (but with way better weather today).  We were kind of surprised at the lack of a security presence, but maybe it was all covert instead of conspicuous.  From there, it was only 10 minutes or so back to the house, and we arrived right at 17:00.  We chilled out for a bit, had a little bit of wine, and checked out some photos.  We left for dinner around 17:50, as it was a very short walk to get there.

The place (Vinomania) was empty when we arrived, so the host (also the owner) gave us our choice of tables upstairs.  He remembered us from the night before.  He spoke Spanish, and the other waiter spoke Spanish, so Justin decided to speak Spanish since Crystal had been speaking German in Germany and would be speaking Hungarian in Hungary.  We got a bottle of vino tinto de la casa, and - after much deliberation - ended up ordering a plato mixto (assorted meats and cheeses; chorizo, two types of ham, salami, manchego, other “medium” cheeses), pimientos padron, patatas bravas, an anchovy marriage, secreto iberico, and pan de tomate.  The pan de tomate, while good, was on brown bread, and not as good as we were used to.  Everything else was truly phenomenal.  We got another bottle of wine, whilst Beverly got a couple gin and tonics (with rose petals and juniper berries, no less).  We got back home around 20:30 or 21:00, completely full.

Crystal and Beverly hung at the house for a lazy evening, and Justin went out.  His excursion ended up being an epic fail.  He went to the light show we’d passed by (but didn’t stop to watch) on our first night, at the Fine Arts Museum.  But his camera battery died right when the show started, and the other batteries were in Crystal’s purse.  So he used his iPhone to take some photos and videos.  Then, at Grand Place, it was exactly the same lights and music as the first night - what are the odds? 

From there, he went to the nearby Christmas markets, but they had just closed for the night.  So he took the metro a couple stops, then walked back towards home from a closer station.  It was now almost 23:00, and so everything else was now closed or about to close for curfew.  All he could think of is the famous quote from Worldwide Wes: “Don’t chase the night.”

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