Alesha here! After Brandon hibernated until noon, we decided to go and check out the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but we learned that the MIM has the third largest collection of musical instruments from around the world (after the collections in London and Paris). We arrived at about 1:30pm and the woman who sold us our tickets informed us that their guided audio tour system was being refurbished, but that there would be a tour guide to take us around the museum if we wanted to come back at 2pm. After getting the lay of the land, we decided to join in on the tour. The guide surveyed the crowd gathered for the tour to find out what languages he needed to speak, and then settled on giving the tour dually in French and English. As a side note, there was a mother in the group talking to her probably 7ish year old child in English, asking the child if she would be able to follow along in English or French, or if she should ask the guide to also speak in Dutch. With my basic grasp of Spanish and fluency in English, I was feeling pretty inferior.
The MIM has a wide range of instruments dating back hundreds of years from all parts of the world. There were some uniquely Belgian instruments, a section on ancient Chinese instruments, and then a gamut of classical instruments as well. Our guide took the group through some of the highlights and special pieces in their collection and explained the context and uses for these instruments, as well as playing a sample piece from a speaker that displayed their sound. A couple of the cool ones:
- Glass harmonica: You might know the sound of this instrument from the beginning of the first Harry Potter movie. (Click here to check out the YouTube clip – it’s the instrument that plays from the beginning of the song until the orchestra joins in). It’s a pretty unique instrument, and you can click here to hear a little more about it if you’re interested.
- Tromba marina: This crazy instrument is played with a bow, and kind of looks like a jacked up cello, but actually sounds like a trumpet. Our guide told us about how in the days of yore trumpets were considered to be instruments of men, and so nuns utilized these instruments in their religious services to mimic the sound of the trumpet without actually playing one. I tried to find a good video of its sound, but can’t remember the one he showed us. Needless to say, it was cool.
My most favorite part of his tour, though, was that he kept saying the word “componers” instead of “composers.” It was adorable, especially because he kept bopping back and forth between French and English like it was nothing.
Once we’d finished our tour and seen what we wanted to see of the museum, we decided to head up and check out the café that was on the top floor of the museum, which was supposed to have amazing views of Belgium. After waiting awhile for the elevator, we decided to just take the stairs. After climbing 10 flights up, we rounded the corner to walk into the café and came across a woman who had had some sort of medical incident and vomited all over herself and the doorway, as well as part of the stairs, and was blocking the entrance. She had people with her, so we opted to stay out of the way. We took the stairs down one floor, and caught the elevator the rest of the way up. The view was pretty amazing, but I was so distracted by the woman lying in a puddle of her own puke that I forgot to take pictures. An ambulance eventually came to get her…we hope she is okay!
We ended our day by stopping by the pizza place that was literally next door to our flat. The metal gate was partially down, but the lights were on so we tried the door and it was unlocked. We walked in to find three guys furiously making pizzas and were greeted by three simultaneous deer-in-the-headlight looks. Apparently they’d gotten a HUGE order, but said they would squeeze in a couple of pizzas for us if we could come back in a half hour. Super nice! On a side note, Brandon and I discovered we don’t like anchovies on pizza.
We took this day to rest. With Belgium turning out to be the midpoint of our trip, we thought it would be a good idea to give ourselves a day to just hang out in our cool loft, watch some Netflix, and have food delivered. It was a really nice break.
We also finished booking the rest of our trip!! Here’s the plan after Cinque Terre:
Oct. 14-19 — Florence, Italy
Oct 19-21 — Venice, Italy
Oct 21-25 — Valencia, Spain
Oct 25-30 — Porto, Portugal
Oct 30-Nov 1 — Madrid
Nov 1 — Back to the PNW!
We had another low key day this day, but did venture out for some key staples. We realized we hadn’t yet had a Belgian waffle (how we managed this, I’m still not sure), so we headed toward Grand Place in search of waffles. Brandon found a stand that served sugar glazed waffles for only a Euro, so we went for it. And guys, let me tell you, it was DELICIOUS. Like taking a waffle to the next level in the most unhealthy and delicious way. I’ll never look at American waffles the same way again. We also wandered over to a famous statue called “Mannekin Pis,” which is literally a fountain in which there is a statue of a little boy peeing. You can’t make this stuff up folks!
Across from the statue we found a busy, very crowded beer bar where we had a pint before Brandon got tired of not being able to move his elbows and we peaced out.
On our last day in Belgium we decided we would head out and find ourselves some Belgian chocolate (again, how we neglected this until the end of the trip I’m not sure…) and Belgian frites. Frites are sold at little stands and they’re basically just cones full of delicious french fries with your choice of like eight different sauces.
After eating our fill, we wandered around a little bit and came across St. Michael’s Cathedral. To end our day, we drank our very last treasured Cantillon sour (and cried a little inside), and geared up to head on our next journey.
We knew ahead of time that we would have to get up early, but by the time we did the math we realized that we would have to be up at 3:00am. This became problematic because the Seahawks didn’t start playing until 10:00pm Belgium time. So, we did what any die-hard (and probably crazy) fans would do….we decided to watch the game and pull an all-nighter in order to catch our shuttle on time. But more on that later….
To see all of the photos from Brussels, click here.