2018 Belgium and France Day 1
Friday, August 16, 2018. Brussels, Belgium

We’re coming to Brussels to celebrate our friends’, Bao and My’s 40th wedding anniversary. We left the Dallas/Fort Worth yesterday, flew to Houston, got on a British Airways plane and flew to London, changed plane one more time, and we’re now arriving in Brussels around 4:00 PM. I wished I had slept a little on the planes but the new movies they showed on the transatlantic flight kept me awake the whole time.

At Brussels Zaventeem, a large crowd of non-European visitors line up to go through custom in a slow, slow way as there are only two custom officials working and planes after planes continue to dump travelers into this bottleneck area. We finally get through custom, pick up our luggage, and go outside of the terminal and meet our friends, Oanh and Nhan, who live in Brussels and have come to pick us. We are so glad to see them again as this is the third time we see them this year although we live on two different continents. We exchange warm hugs and kisses and follow them to their car which takes us on a 30-minute drive to our hotel, the Ibis Hotel off of Grand Place right in the center of Brussels, a city we love and had visited many times.

Traffic on this day near Grand Place is horrendous so Oanh parks her car a few blocks from our hotel and all of us walk to the hotel to check in. After a quick checking in and depositing our luggage in our room, the four of us walk to Grand Place to have a drink.

Grand Place in Brussels
Arrive in Brussels
Lee and Oanh at Golden Bar near Grand Place. We try various Belgian beer
Nhan and Bo. The big ocean can't keep us apart
Gorgeous buildings 
Grand Place is filled with people because of the Flower Carpet
Grand Place is filled with people as the weather is nice and warm, and the City has the Flower Carpet Festival going on which I will describe later.

There are many sidewalk bars and cafes near our hotel and we decide to take our seats on the outside of the Golden Bar, a small place at the corner of two small, intersecting, and crowded cobbled streets.

Over drinks and snacks, we catch up with one another. Oanh owns the Issan Restaurant not too far from here and Nhan is a semi-retired dentist. We talk about all the trips we had taken together, our plan for the next few days, and our future trips. We order an array of beer samples which are brought in small glasses and we take turn to try them all. We watch the crowd strolling by, listen to the street music, and converse for hours before they have to leave.
Enjoying the sight and the sound
Lee, Oanh, Nhan and Bo at the Golden Bar
Lee and I then wander around the streets near Grand Place, Brussels’ central square. Grand Place is perhaps one of the most beautiful and decorated public squares in the world. 17th-century buildings built around a large rectangular cobble-stone square represent the wealth of this civilized country. This is where Brussels residents gather to celebrate important events including the Flower Carpet, Tiptoe Brussels when precision band performs, Belgian Beer Weekend, and Winter Wonder.

By chance, the Flower Carpet event, held every two years, is going on this weekend. Hundreds of thousands of fresh flowers of all different color put together on the ground, flower by flower, by hundreds of volunteers to form a large, rectangular ‘carpet’ with spectacular and colorful design. We walk around the carpet to examine the flower species and are just stunned by the size and the creativity of this display.
They have a music and light show every hour
We have mussels, steaks and fries for dinner here
Another view of the Flower Carpet
Buildings on Grand Place are lit up beautifully
Our first day has been a success!
For dinner tonight, we elect to try a small restaurant on a narrow street near Grand Place called, La Petite Fontaine. Of course when you’re in Belgium you have to try its mussels and fries and that’s what we have along with steak and salads. After dinner, we are treated with a light and music display in the Grand Place that accentuates the Flower Carpet.

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