Waterloo and The Atomium

Somehow Jack and Aniko had ended up in the regular (as opposed to budget) Ibis hotel on the other side of the parking lot. Since we had no desire to experience the breakfast buffet at our hotel again, we joined them at their hotel for the far superior spread that was offered there. In addition to an assortment of breads, there were luncheon meats, boil-it-yourself eggs, and even some delicious little chocolate filled croissants. I wasn't about to try to cook my own eggs or to even toast bread after the raisin bread fiasco, so I made a ham sandwich and enjoyed the yogurt and coffee and croissants.

By the time we finished breakfast, rain was beginning to fall and it didn't look like it was going to stop. There would be no blue skies that day.

Our destination was the battlefield of Waterloo about 17 km south of the city - Napoleon's last stand. And if you can think the word "Waterloo" without getting that silly Abba song stuck in your head, you're a much luckier person than me.

A large mound called Butte du Lion overlooks the battlefield. It was built in 1824 to commemorate the soldiers who were killed and injured in the battle, and it also marks the spot where the Prince of Orange was wounded. You can climb 226 steps to the summit where a huge cast iron lion stands on a stone pedestal. The lion's paw rests on a sphere as he symbolically protects Europe.

As We climbed the steps and looked out over the battlefield, we were grateful for the new Columbia rain jackets we had purchased for the trip.

It felt good to descend the steps and enter the warm theatres where 2 movies about the battle are shown.

There is also a panoramic painting that has been stretched around a circular wall surrounding a viewing area. The muffled sounds of cannon fire and thundering hooves attempt to induce the feeling that the battle is raging all around you.

After awhile, we headed back to Brussels to visit the strange structure we had frequently glimpsed in the distance as we rambled about the city. The Atomium was built for the 1958 World Fair. The design is that of an iron atom magnified 165 billion times. Inside there are 9 spheres and 20 tubes filled with exhibitions, a restaurant, and a place to look out over the city.

Unfortunately, it seemed that half the population had decided that a visit to the Atomium would be a good way to spend a rainy day. The lines to enter were long so we decided not to wait.

Instead, we decided to spend the afternoon eating another delicious meal and drinking some more of that wonderful Belgian beer. Unlike the United States, the wait staff in European restaurants is well paid so they do not have to rely on tips. This makes dining a much more relaxing experience although it also takes away some of the incentive to provide good service. On the plus side, you can sit for hours lingering over your meal, and no one tries to rush you out. A tip of 8% to 10% is considered generous, but often a service fee is included in the bill so even that is unnecessary. Most customers just round up their bill a couple of euros.

This is a picture of some of the excellent chocolate we bought in Belgium. Speculoos are small spicy cookies that are often served alongside a cup of coffee. As I mentioned before, a drink is always served with a little snack in Belgium.

It's easy to fall in love with Brussels. It's such a cosmopolitan city.