|Saturday, August 24
Pam and I rose before the others, so we crossed the street to Exki, a restaurant that serves “healthy” food and uses eco-friendly wooden utensils rather than plastic. We enjoyed our meal at an outside table, then returned to the hotel, only to find that both our roommates were still asleep. When everyone was ready, we set out for the city’s botanical garden, the Botanique/Kruidtuin, which took us down streets that were more “modern city” than the old town. The botanical garden had trails that wended past water features, statuary and, of course, greenery, but there weren’t many flowers on show, perhaps because the best season for floral displays was over. In places, tall skyscrapers loomed over the trees, reminding us we were still in the city. We ended at La Botanique, which in the 19th century was an orangerie (glass house for plants) but has since been expanded to be a cultural centre. Unfortunately, La Botanique is undergoing renovations, so it wasn’t open.
Disappointed but not discouraged, we carried on to the Marche Aux Poissons/Vismarkt. We chose a route taking us down a long pedestrian mall that was lined with stores, many of which were major brands we recognized. A turn to the right brought us into a less modern section dominated by Ste. Catherine’s, a large stone church that badly needed to be cleansed of centuries of grime by a good power wash. Leading from the church were two roads named the Quai Au Bois A Bruler and the Quai Aux Briques. Between the two roads were two rectangular “ponds”. The central area that harbours the ponds was once a canal that connected docks or quais to ocean ports and the names of the quais referred to the products that were sold and warehoused in the area i.e timber and coal. This was the former site of the city fish market, but now it is lined with seafood restaurants. We looked at the menus posted outside the restaurants and settled on one that had seating along the central area running between the roads. The menu was set, with a choice of starters, main course and dessert for about eighteen euros. Beside us were two Japanese women who spoke good English and told us they were stewardesses who were enjoying their one day in Brussels before leaving on their next flight. We lingered over this lunch until about 3:00, then headed out. Maureen and Pam decided to go to the Chocolate Museum, because, as Pam put it, if she went to the hotel first, she’d never get moving again in time to visit the museum. Marilynn and I were ready for some air-conditioned downtime in the hotel. We split up.
Maureen and Pam, hot and tired, returned to the hotel about 4:15. Their hopes that the chocolate museum would be an air-conditioned haven, because after all chocolate melts, were dashed. It was warm and they were thirsty, so the interesting information on display about the history of chocolate and chocolate-making could not hold their attention. Not even the free chocolate samples made up for the discomfort. Maureen consoled herself by buying some chocolate to make the trip worthwhile.
Even after everyone had slept or at least rested in the coolness of the hotel room for a couple of hours, no one felt like embarking on another lengthy walk, so we nixed the idea of going to the Theatres Nomades, the celebration in the park that we saw being set up yesterday. Instead we braved the long journey across the street to a sidewalk cafe where we ate a little something, but not a lot because the very large and very delicious lunch was only five hours in the past. We listened to a lively trumpet and sax duo busking as we watched the world go by. Again, everyone eventually made their way up to their rooms, hopefully to sleep solidly through the night.