Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Brussels Flower Carpet

Day 5 of my friends' visit here was spent in Valkenburg and Maastricht. It was cold and dreary the last time I was in Valkenburg. The August sunshine during this visit was a nice change. Valkenburg is a tiny village but it's a mecca for tourists during the summer months. Lots of other American tourists joined us as we toured Valkenburg Castle and the Velvet Caves.

From Valkenburg we made our way to Maastricht. I love this city so much. I'd never heard of Maastricht before we moved here and I'm fairly confident that I never would have known about it otherwise. Maastricht University fills the city with people from all over the world but despite its international population, Maastricht emanates all of the charm one can expect from a cozy European town. The Vrijthof (main square) is still stunning to me, nearly ten months after my first glimpse. There are so many beautiful parks and countless cafes and the scenery is made even more picturesque by its location on the Meuse River. I feel very lucky to live so close to such an amazing city.

The only downside to the visit is that it was a Tuesday and most shops close at 6pm. After spending much of the morning and afternoon in Valkenburg, it was sad for us to bid adieu to Maastricht so soon.

Day 6 was the Brussels Flower Carpet! The Flower Carpet happens every other year on the Grand-Place. It lasts just 5 days and my friends were very fortunate to have visited during this year's display.

This was my second time in Brussels. You may recall that we spent New Year's there. While we were waiting for the fireworks, I stumbled over a low post in the Grand-Place and fell. My husband was holding my hand and, because of the dense crowd, he didn't realize I'd fallen so he continued walking. Since I was still gripping his hand tightly, I was dragged along the cobblestones for a few seconds. The moment was brief but my left knee still bares the scar from that evening in Brussels. Anyway, the second time around was without injury.

The flower carpet was amazing. I can't imagine all of the work that goes into the planning, design, and execution of such an overwhelming display. We went to the top of Town Hall to see the carpet from above. It cost five Euros but it was money well-spent.

Palais Royal de Bruxelles
After the carpet and some lunch we decided to go to the Palais Royal de Bruxelles. The palace is only open to visitors two months out of the year. Admission was free and lots of people were taking advantage of the open house. I was disappointed to learn that the royal family do not actually live in this palace. Their official residence is in Laeken, outside Brussels.

I think it's quite obvious that people don't actually live in the palace. The interior is extremely formal and almost sterile. The rooms we were allowed to pass by looked as if they had been undisturbed for years. The chandeliers were beautiful and the final room, the Mirror Room, was very interesting. The ceiling is decorated with over a million jewel beetle carapaces. The room is a huge contrast to the rest of the palace; it almost seemed like it would fit right in as a setting for The Addams Family.

Brussels was bustling and breathtaking. I'm so glad my friends were able to see the flower carpet. The Grand-Place is one of the most beautiful squares I've ever seen and I can't wait to return with my brother when he visits in a few weeks!

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