After our busy day in Bruges and a lovely evening chez Lisette in Brussels, we awoke to a sunny morning and decided to go to Leuven, a place to which neither of us had been before. It was only a 30 minute train ride, so it seemed like a good destination. Plus, our friend, Anne L., who had spent some time there at the university, recommended it highly.
We started our day in our overnight accommodations: Emilie V.’s childhood room! In order not to embarrass Emilie, we won’t include many photos. 🙂 But we loved the “National Library” sign in the doorway of her sleeping nook. So cute! (Obviously, Emilie is quite well-read)
This is the view out the windows: a very old church (one of hundreds in Brussels, I imagine). A quiet street.
Lisette very kindly left out bread, jam, honey, nutella, etc, for our breakfast. Merci, Lisette!
Before we left, we took a few minutes to admire Emilie’s father’s artwork. Absolutely incredible.
Then, after a slight snafu with the house key (luckily, all parties were available by phone, so we got it sorted out!), we headed out, bought some train tickets, and hopped on a train bound for Leuven.
We considered spending the day in Antwerp….but there are so many memories there…it’s difficult to think of just spending a day.
The Leuven station is currently under construction, but the section over the platforms looks brand new and very modern. It was light-filled, and easy to navigate.
There were lots of bicycles (and school children) in the huge square out front.
And a war memorial
We found a lovely cafe just next to the station that offered free wifi, and a damned fine cup of coffee! (With a speculoos cookie, of course!)
We got our bearings and headed to the main square in the city centre.
There is definitely a unique aesthetic here in Leuven, and some very interesting things displayed out front of the shops.
We walked down the Bondgenotenlaan toward the Grote Markt. It was a grand avenue with lovely artwork and decoration along the way.
As we approached the main square, there were police barricades in place. Took us a while to figure it out, but there was a huge bicycle race about to start. The starting line was apparently right downtown.
And men were shoveling.
We eventually made it through the maze of police barriers to the main square where we saw the magnificent town hall and the cathedral. We went in to explore (See upcoming post for photos of the interior) and then spent some time wandering around the streets in the town centre. We were looking for food, beer, and gifts for the kids.
Clearly, it was going to be no problem finding beer.
We browsed some shops and found cute finger puppets in a toy shop for the kids.
The Oude Markt
We kept seeing these awesome Dr. Seussian street cleaners. I don’t know why, but they struck me as being so Belgian!
We found a great little hole-in-the-wall cafe serving all kinds of pancakes. This is where we had lunch. and beer. (See upcoming food post for details…)
We thought we’d do a little more strolling after lunch, and amazingly, all traces of the bike race were gone by the time we got back to the main square!
We found a supermarket and loaded up on bread, cheese, and charcuterie (see food post) And THEN…
It started to rain.
This time, more than just drizzle. At one point, it was even hailing on us! So we trudged our way back toward the station. We stopped for another coffee at the cafe just next door.
Then, back to Brussels to catch our fancy Eurostar ride back to England.
The Belgian trains are quite nice, and spacious. We noticed that many are double-deckers. Doesn’t that make a lot of sense?! Brad ponders it…
Back to Brussels.
At Bruxelles Midi (Brussel Zuid!?), we checked in for our Eurostar journey, spent some more Euros on chocolate, and boarded our lovely train. In roughly 2 hours, we were back at the Westgate Towers in good ol’ Canterbury, and we definitely felt like we were home.