Montmartre is a beautifully historic neighbourhood in Paris where you can wander the cobble stone streets, and unlike many other neighbourhoods in Paris, you can’t get lost here. Whenever feeling a little doubtful about the direction you are going, as long as you are heading uphill you are going the correct way. At the top of the hill is the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur that pokes through all the buildings and is even visible from the apartment we are staying at.
Walking tours are great in this area. We started our tour at Moulin Rouge where friends reserved tickets for a show the following night. From there we started to walk uphill and along Rue des Abbesses. Rue Tholoze intersects with this street and from here you can see the top of a windmill and Studio 28, the first proper art-house cinema in Paris. The windmill is actually a restaurant and names Le Moulin de la Galette after a dance hall that was once there. Many artists will swarm you as you get closer to the top, and although they are talented, be sure to keep walking unless you really want a self-portrait done.
At the top was Sacre-Coeur, the area’s most recognizable landmark. From here you get a fabulous view of the city and realize just how high up you really are. The tip of the church is at a higher point than the top of the Eiffel Tower. The stone is frost-resistant and actually bleaches with age to white. It definitely stands out among other older buildings in Paris.
We had a day in Brussels and to be honest you really need more then this if you want to check out the many exhibits at the museums as well as the comic strip (Tin Tin and Smurfs to name a few). I highly recommend going on a walking tour of the city to learn some fun facts about Belgian culture and the historical significance of the buildings throughout the city.
We started in the main square, also known as The Grand’Place or Grote Markt. Here you will find the Guild houses, town hall and the King’s house. Since we were there over the Christmas holiday season, we had the privilege to see the famous Modern Art Installation of a Christmas Tree in place of a real tree. This display sparked a European renowned protest in the city. Many people took offense to the installation saying it is another form of removing Christian symbols and the celebration of Christmas from the city of Brussels, where the prominent religion in the city is Muslim. Others say it was just another light themed display for the city as it was one of the five they have had throughout the area this year. I’m not a fan of the modern Christmas tree however this has nothing to do with religion as there is still a large nativity in the center of the square which I believe is a strong representation of Christianity and Christmas in the first place.
From there we walked to see Manneken-Pis. He wasn’t dressed up at the time however we did learn that he has over 800 outfits and you can even contribute to his wardrobe if you like! To do so is very official as there must be an official demand sent to the College of Mayor and Aldermen where it is then analyzed by a committee with representatives of the city. From there an official ceremony of delivery is organized and sometimes ‘Manneken-Pis’ will thank the people of Brussels by serving beer and other beverages.The new outfit will then be added to his wardrobe that is kept in the Museum of the City of Brussels.
After this, we decided to check out the Musical Instruments Museum. This museum has about 1200 of its most interesting instruments displayed in 4 different galleries. However, it has a collection of over 7000 instruments. We were given an audio device and as we approached different instruments, the audio track would automatically change. There are over 189 musical fragments spread out throughout the galleries, amounting to 4 hours of music. It was very interesting to hear a wide variety of music from a number of different cultures.