On the bus
This morning I decided to venture into Brussels by public transport. It wasn't worth trying to drive in and get a parking spot so I figured out the bus and train. Starting with a 2km walk downhill into the village - on cobblestones! The worst part is I'll have to tackle the uphill route at the end of the day.
Once I had figured out the numbers and the route, public transport was not a big deal at all. Almost everyone in Belgium speaks English and I no longer have to play charades. I got off at Central station 45 minutes later and jumped straight on the City Sightseeing bus. These buses are great if you only have a limited time in a city. They show you the highlights and then you can decide what to go back and see later. I knew I wanted to see the Atomium and I knew it was a fair way out of the city so the hop-on, hop-off bus was the perfect solution.
The Atomium was build for the 1958 World Expo and like the Eiffel Tower, was supposed to be dismantled. In 1973, Mum brought us three kids for a year long trip to Europe in a Kombi and the Atomium was on the list - especially for my two geeky brothers. Unfortunately I had had an accident a few weeks earlier and couldn't walk. Mum had to carry me everywhere so when she learned that there were hundreds of steps inside the Atomium, she quite wisely declined.
The Atomium was renovated in 2005 and now looks sparkly new and very impressive. I spent a good two hours wandering around and inside it. It's not quite tourist season yet so the crowds weren't too bad at all. I hopped back on the bus and did the second half of the tour. I hopped on and off a few more times and explored different parts of the city.
Brussels is a lot like London was 20 years ago before the Congestion Charge was brought in. The residents might hate the CC but as a tourist it has made the world of difference to London. Brussels is over-crowded with cars, especially down the narrow cobbled lanes, and I reckon it could benefit greatly if they encouraged more bikes and public transport.
I will confess right now that the photos aren't labelled properly because after a while, every building started to look like the previous one. [Readers can feel free to email me the correct names].
Towards the end of the afternoon my camera (which we had bought in Hong Kong on the 2006 trip) decided to pack it in altogether. It had been playing up for a while and I thought it likely that I would need to buy a new one on this trip. I had half an hour before the final bus of the day so I ducked into an electronics store and bought the first camera that caught my eye. That evening after I got home and was downloading the morning's photos, the old camera decided to work perfectly once again. Fickle technology!