View from our hike near Beauregard-Baret, France.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Saint-Côme-et-Maruéjols, France.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Towards Andorra.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

It was a great day in Brussels, up until...

At this time of year, Brussels has an average daytime high of 10C (50F). So we were very lucky that the day we chose to go in and explore the big city, the forecast high was 18C, and it actually ended up hitting a balmy 20C (68F). 

Ruth packed us a lunch, and we rode our bikes the 7 kms (4 miles) or so into the city center.

First stop along the way was the Royal Palace. 

Regular readers will remember that my father did a couple of long term trips to Europe back in the 1950s and that Ruth has scanned his old slides. We like to try to match up some of those photos today and stand in the same spot my dad might have stood to get those photos. He was in Brussels in September 1954.

The Royal Palace, 1954.

The Royal Palace 2022.

King Leopold II.

We locked up our bikes, and only realized afterwards the we had parked them right outside the Canadian embassy.

We stopped in at Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon.
Built between 1400 and 1500.

It's a big cavernous church.

Lots of beautiful stained glass windows.



This intricate crypt was dated 1556.

We rode our bikes from there to the main tourist zone. What a zoo! 

Tons of people.

People line up for what looks like hours to buy overpriced Belgian Waffles. There were also lineups to buy french fries. Is there something special about Belgian french fries? We were not about to stand in a long line to find out!

They are also crowded around to see this little statue of a boy peeing.

Manneken Pis is the name of the statue. And in fact, the one on display is a reproduction. The original is now in Brussels City Museum. It has become quite popular because the little statue is regularly dressed up and has over 1,000 different costumes.

Yesterday though, he was au naturale.

We left our bikes locked up, and made our way by foot to the main central square. 

Overpriced Belgian waffles.

The architecture is stunning.

Ruth, touching for good luck.
It is said among locals that the statue of Everard t'Serclaes brings luck and grants the wishes of all who touch it. 

Kings House 1954.

Kings House (now Brussels City Museum) 2022.


Brussels Town Hall.


Lots of people out enjoying the day.

We walked back to the bikes and rode them another 4kms or so to the other side of the central area to the Brussels Basilica of the Sacred Heart. This was another one of my dad's photo stops.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart 1954.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart 2022.

The whole area has totally changed though. And of course when my dad was here, the church was not yet completed. Construction began in 1905, and it was completed in 1970.

We locked up the bikes and walked up to the church.

It's huge. Apparently it's the 5th largest Roman Catholic church in the world.



Side view.

We hopped on the bikes and road back downtown. We parked them at a very busy area with lots of people around, and locked them to a bike stand, and walked into the central area again just to see what there was to see.

More modern part of Brussels.


Maintaining the original façade while rebuilding the interior.

Walked by a cafe and this book was on one of the tables.

Scenery along the way.

Town Hall in the distance.

More interesting architecture.


You would think this is a drug store, but no.... it's a restaurant.

It was starting to get on, and we didn't want to be biking after dark, so we stopped in at a grocery store and bought a few supplies. And then headed over to unlock the bikes.

We got to the stand where we had left left them.

But they were not there. Gone.

Yes, our bikes had been stolen!

Right out there in the open, right in front of hundreds of people coming and going. I had even chosen this spot because of that. And I had used a thick cable lock, about the thickness of my finger. But yes, I do realize that a pair of bolt cutters can make pretty quick work of that. But holy cow, he (they) would have had to done it right in front of people. 

But, nothing that can be done. Even reporting it to the police is totally pointless. I did give it a half hearted try though as we saw a cop parked about a hundred meters away. I asked him (in French) if he spoke English, and he gave me a quick no along with no indication he was willing to try to hear what I had to say anyhow. Again, it would have been a waste of time.

So now, we had a 7 km (4 mile) walk back to Max.

In discussing it along the way, we look at the bright side. Because that is all you can do!

Both bikes were in need of a tune up. Ruth mentioned the other day that her front hydraulic brake was no longer working, so maybe the thief will get hit by a bus on the way home. We had bought them used, four years ago and we did get a fair bit of use out of them over that time. Mine was actually in pretty rough shape, but it had been the cheaper of the two. I'm actually surprised that a thief was even interested in them, with all the much fancier bikes that are out there now.

And, we would not likely have had much use out of them this winter, especially in Morocco. And now, without the bikes on the back the various ferries that we plan to take over the next five or six months will be cheaper because we won't have to pay for the extra length.

An interesting building on the way back to Max.

So, we brought those bikes all over Mexico, all over the Balkans, all through Turkiye to the Syria border. And where do they get stolen? Brussels. Go figure.

It turns out that Brussels has a huge bike theft problem. So much so that people do not ride bikes as much as in other areas. The police don't treat it seriously, and neither does the court system.

This morning, we head out of town early on a Sunday morning when there is no traffic. Heading towards Luxembourg, but we will probably stop at a small paid campground to empty tanks and do some laundry.

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And in Canada...

8 comments:

  1. It is said that the Belgians invented fries, not the French, and they are, IMHO, better than in France. Often they are served with mayo. French friends agree that there's are not as good. On the coast road towards France it is funny to see a long row of restaurants on both sides of the border. On a weekend the Belgian ones are full of cars with French tags, The French restaurants are sparsely attended. Belgian waffles in Brussels are very different than what we see here. They use a pearl sugar that partially melt in the iron yet leave a little crunch. They are worth every Euro. The crowded street is what many call restaurant street since there a restaurants on both sides the length of the street. I think Drug Opera is where I met my late Belgian wife. We owned a Belgian restaurant in the DC suburbs for many years. The pictures bring back many great memories.

    Glad you had good weather. Belgians joke that there is no word for "Sun" in Flemish or Belgian French since they never see it. BTW the policeman might have been rude because you asked in French instead of Flemish. Brussels is homogeneous on language but elsewhere it is actually start out in English since they are not kind to each other. Even though my wife was fluent in English, French, Flemish, German and Dutch she would always speak in English until she determined what part we were in. Kind of like the Quebec thing.

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    1. Then that would explain why people were lined up for the fries, although we wouldn't stand in line that long just to buy fries, it doesn't matter how good they are. Same goes for the waffles, but then the way they were done up was not something that we would want anyhow, plus the waffles contain gluten so that would have made the choice easy anyways.

      It was wonderful to have such good weather for our visit. So far the weather has been so much better than the weather that we had last year at this time. As for the policeman, I guess it wouldn't have made a difference had we asked in French or English because he couldn't speak English anyways and he probably figured that whatever we were going to ask wasn't life threatening because we weren't all panicked looking.

      We are so glad that the pictures brought back lots of wonderful memories for you.

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  2. Very sorry to hear about your bikes! While reading your post, I was thinking to myself, I wonder what kind of bike lock they use and how comfotable they feel leaving the bikes alone! Well, I have my answer! Good for you for looking on the bright side. Safe travels!

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    1. Obviously the bike locks that we were using weren't good enough! I think that out of all our travels it has be very rare that we were anywhere where we didn't feel comfortable leaving our bikes unattended and that includes places in Mexico, the Balkans and Turkije, where you would more than likely think that they maybe stolen. We thought that by locking them up in a fairly busy area with people walking by constantly that it wouldn't be the most likely place to have it stolen but I guess it just doesn't make a difference. We would have rode our bikes around the downtown area but that area had cobblestone and was packed with people, just walking by the people was a task at times. We really hate having to be paranoid about our bikes like that so we just try to do our best with securing them and go have a fun time. The bikes can be replaced and for now we will just do without any and as Kevin said it will help keep the ferry costs down looking ahead!

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  3. I am so sorry about your bikes! Like Janis said, as I read your post and saw that you repeatedly mentioned locking the bikes and leaving them, I had a feeling that foreshadowing was happening. We are super paranoid about leaving our bikes, since we tend to have fancier bikes, and normally will not leave them, even locked without one of us on guard as well. It makes for less fun at times; for instance, only one of us will go into a store we ride to, or we'll only eat outside where we can keep an eye on them, but so far neither of us have ever had a bike stolen; and we've had a LOT of bikes over the years. It's a shame to have to be paranoid and untrusting, but I've just read too many bike theft stories over the years. Glad they weren't high-end bikes, and I suspect you did get your money's worth. As always, love the photo comparisons between yours and Kevin's dad's photos!

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    1. Thanks Emily! I figured a few people might catch on to what Kevin was going to get at with his "until...", lol. It is a little frustrating to have them stolen and they were decent enough bikes, well at least mine was more than Kevin's and having them stolen has crossed our minds at times but we just didn't want to be paranoid about the loss of them. We just can't believe that out of all of our years of travel with the motorhome, through, Canada, the US, Mexico and then into places like Turkije and the Balkans, that our bikes were never stolen. I think that we had talked about the what ifs and said that if it happens it happens and well I guess it finally happened. We will buy good quality used bikes again but we will wait until we return from Morocco and when we do, we will buy better quality locks and maybe even something like an AirTag that we can hide somewhere on the bikes so that we can hopefully track them down should they get stolen.

      We are glad that you enjoyed the "then and now" pictures, it is always fun to do the comparisons between them.

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  4. I like waffles but haven't had them in years. I can't justify buying a waffle iron for a once in a couple of months event. Tioga and George used to love to make them. The few times a year we have fries I always here the story about the best fries in Europe and eating them with mayo. :) Sorry to hear about the bikes. That stinks. I hope the thief has a flat tire.

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    1. I am not sure but I don't think we have had waffles since I went gluten free back in 2010. If we want something like that, I normally make pancakes which really aren't that much different. Boy, there sure were lots of people devouring them along that street though, and I just kept thinking about all the calories, fat and carbohydrates that were in that one serving, lol!

      Thanks, Chris! Maybe the thief did us a favour and saved me from getting hit by a bus or a car on the way home, we'll never know!

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