Thursday, May 07, 2015

Sumer is icumen in: Spring in Brussels

Last weekend, the 25th of April, we went to visit a forest just outside Brussels which is either very famous or completely obscure, depending on who you ask. It's called the Hallerbos/Bois de Halle, and is particularly known for the beautiful bluebells that bloom for a few weeks in spring. The flowering season is probably almost over - if you're interested in visiting this year or next, you can visit the forest's very informative website, which gives daily updates on whether the bluebells are (still) blooming. It explains that they will only bloom as long as sunlight can still reach them through the forest canopy, so once the beach trees have all their leaves, they will die off. I'm not sure why so many grow in this particular forest, I suppose it's just one of the lovely things nature does.

We spent about an hour walking around in the forest, and it felt like about half that amount of time. It really was enchanting, and I'm not sure the photos do it justice. I hadn't been expecting, in particular, the dense drifts of red leaves that were also covering the forest floor - they made for a lovely contrast with the rivers and pools of bluebells lying under the trees. We went there on a drizzly Saturday, which turned out to be a good choice, as the forest protected us from the rain but there weren't very many other people there. There's a carpark right there and it's all easily walkable for the average person.












We're having a nature overdose this spring, as this weekend we decided to visit the Royal Greenhouses at Laeken, on the 1st of May. The greenhouses are only open for a few weeks a year, as they are actually "royal" in the sense of being in the grounds of the royal palace. Cue much dark muttering from me as we went round about the unearned wealth and privilege of this family who live off taxpayers' money and ill-gotten Congo gains and then expect us all to doff our caps at them when they have the grace to let the great unwashed into their private domain once a year. My parents will be laughing at that, since I used to be quite the fan of the royals when I was a little girl, but as it says in the Bible, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child..."

Anyway, I had heard from colleagues and the internet that it can get horrifically crowded in there and to expect long lines, so we decided to go for the evening session, when hopefully it would be a bit quieter, and turned up half an hour before it opened - by which time a pretty long line had already formed. Luckily the evening wasn't too cold or rainy, and it actually turned out to be not as much of a nightmare as I had feared. It was good that we got there while it was still light, as it was worth it in order to see and photograph the grounds before going into the greenhouses. Once you're in, you do have to process around the exact same route (and at pretty much the same speed) as everyone else, so I can imagine it getting quite unpleasant on a hot and crowded day. Everyone seemed pretty content to take their time (and plenty of photos) though, so I never really felt like I was trapped behind a slow moving crowd, which is something I really hate.

Looking back at the rest of the queue after we got in

Jules joked that this boar was saying "paint me like one of your French girls"
In front of the palace (you're not allowed any closer)

An empty greenhouse

Selfie in front of the Japanese garden

This crown-topped greenhouse with its towers reminded me of a mosque or the Hagia Sophia








If you're ever in Brussels in spring, it's worth a look, not least for the fact that it's the only time of year you can visit - but be prepared to queue! The queue to get in evaporated fairly quickly I think, but as I said, it's worth making it in while it's still light, so weigh up whether you really want to go when it's quiet or whether you want to see it in daylight etc.

12 comments:

  1. I love the bluebell photos. If they don't do the forest justice, I'd love to see it in real life!

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  2. You make me want to move back to Europe... I've only been in Brussels twice and it was raining both times. :/

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    1. I don't find it rains as much as people say. But the Bois de Halle was a rain-friendly destination (it had been really nice for a couple of weeks before though, so maybe not if it's all muddy or pouring rain ).

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  3. If it's queuing for gardens you're after you should go to the real Kew!

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    1. The queue wasn't the attraction!

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  4. Wow, enchanting is the right word for that forest!

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  5. Wow - fantastic pics of the bluebell forest - I love the bright fresh green of the new leaves and the blue and red - just gorgeous. That is quite a queue for the greenhouses, but there seems to be a lot of uncrowded snaps once you were in, so not so bad. M xx

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    1. Ha ha, basically all the photos are of bits that were roped off, so that's why there's no people in them! I have plenty of pictures of the back of people's heads if you're interested :)

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  6. Coucou Gwan!!

    I love these photos. I'm sure the bluebells are even more exquisite in real life, but you managed to capture them beautifully, especially with the contrasting red leaves. This looks like a lovely hidden gem (or not, depending who you ask, as you said) that I would love to see the next time I make it over to Brussels. I'm thinking next spring when I'm not pregnant because going to Brussels and not having beer and moules sounds like pure torture. I'd love to see "Gwan's Brussels." : ) Hope you are well. xoxo.

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    1. I'm not big on either moules or beer (what am I doing here?!?) but a visit from Mademoisella sounds perfect :) Hope you're back on form xx

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