Brussels Parcours BD (Comics Tour) consists in 30 wall paintings conceived or inspired by the leading Belgian comics authors, and some foreign ones too. On the walls can be seen characters created by Herge, Edgar P. Jacobs, Philippe Geluck, Franquin or Yves Chaland. But Asterix the Gaul can also be spotted on Rue de la Buanderie, not far from cowboy Lucky Luke. The project was launched in 1991 by the Brussels municipality and the Belgan Comics Centre. At first the idea was simply to decorate and ornate a few old city walls or houses but it soon become a way to remind visitors that many famous comics writers were born or worked in Brussels. The idea bloomed and some 30 paintings can now be admired in the town centre. The tour can also be made on a bike thanks to cycling association Pro Velo, who hold group tours starting from Maison des Cyclistes. They last two hours.
Brussels is the foreign town the Tour visited most often as it hosted the race 11 times in the past. While the peloton will celebrate Eddy Merckx’s 65th birthday, another anniversary will go a little unnoticed - that of the first Tour treble, achieved in 1920 by another Brussels rider, Philippe Thys. The Anderlecht-born Thys won in 1913, 1914 and 1920 and Henri Desgrange was convinced he would have won many more without WW1. It took 35 years for Louison Bobet to repeat the feat. A quiet, diminutive tactician who would sleep with his bike for fear of sabotage, Thys is also the subject of historical controversy. While it is accepted that Eugene Christophe wore the first yellow jersey in 1919, the Belgian claimed he had done the same before the war on a suggestion by his team manager, who said the Tour leader should be distinguished by a special jersey. Does the first yellow jersey belong to Brussels? In any case, the Belgian capital can boast the most yellow jerseys won by its inhabitants, Merckx and Thys totalling eight victories between them. Plano, Texas, is next on seven.
|580||A chapel is built on a hill overlooking the river Senne|
|979||Saint Gudula relics are transferred in the chapel. The town is founded.|
|1000||The counts of Leuven seize power in town. Two centuries later, they become Dukes of Brabant.|
|1430||Brussels becomes the capital of Burgundian Netherlands.|
|1516||Charles V is crowned King of Spain in Saint Gudula cathedral. Four years later, he becomes emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.|
|1695||Brussels is bombed by the French troops of Louis XIV, who inflict on the town the most serious damages in its history.|
|1830||The Belgian Revolution leads Leopold 1 to the Belgian throne in 1831.|
|1935 et 1958||World fairs. The Atomium is built in 1958.|
|1958||Brussels hosts the European parliament.|
|1989||Creation of the Brussels capital region.|
It was actually stolen more than once! The first thing you need to know – if you happen to pay a visit to Brussels most famous monument and arguably one of the world’s most famous fountains -, is that the small boy before your eyes is not the original statue ordered by Brussels leaders to sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy in 1619. It was replaced by a copy in 1965, the original being kept in the Broodhuis museum to avoid any damage. Little Julien (it is the young pisser’s other name) has known good and bad days since he was first placed near the Grand Place. It was maimed, kidnapped, replaced. As early as 1628, it was demolished by a drunkard. In 1745, it was nicked by British troops. Two years later, the French detained it too. Its longest absence was in 1817 when it was held by a former French convict named Anotine Lycas and found three months later. Lycas was sentenced to the chain gang for life. You don’t fool around with the Manneken-Pis! Nearer to us, Little Julien was stolen by students in 1963, 1968 and 1978, maimed in 1955, 1957 and 1965 when the vandals only left the legs. But he always returned to urinate for all to see and symbolise Brussels rebel attitude. It is said that he might wear a yellow jersey during the Tour’s stay in town.
Renowned for its ornamental beauty, it is lined by the corporation houses, the Town Hall and the Maison du Roi or Broodhuis (King’s House). Its widely considered – by Victor Hugo among others -, as one of the most beautiful squares in the world.
It became a symbol of Brussels since its construction for the 1958 World Fair. Designed by André Waterkeyn, it is 102-metres (335 ft) tall, with nine steel spheres connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.
Vlaams Brabant was created in 1995 from the split of the Brabant province between its Flemish and Walloon entities while Brussels lies in the very middle of the Vlaams Brabant. A major part of the province is a residential zone strongly linked to Brussels, while the Eastern part revolves around the provincial capital of Leuven. Language is a crucial issue in the province, known for its breweries.
Eddy Merckx will greet his many friends on the Tour de France to celebrate his 65th birthday – how time flies! – a few days after his actual birth date as the greatest cyclist in history was born on June 17, 1945, just at the end of WWII. What can we add to the legend except perhaps that 65 is a figure that befits the Cannibal? It is in 1965, precisely, that the Belgian started the most successful professional career of all time, under Rik Van Looy’s helm. By being just a little bit greedier, Eddy might even have won 65 stages in the three big Tours, but he stopped at 64! If he is surpassed by his friend Lance Armstrong in terms of Tour victories (seven to five…) Baron Edouard Louis Joseph Merckx still holds the record of stage wins (34) and the longest time in the yellow jersey (111 days). Eddy was born in the small Brabant village of Meensel-Kiezegem but it is in the Brussels suburbs, in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre and Tervueren that he spent his childhood. He never won a stage in Brussels but took the yellow jersey at home after a 1969 team time-trial and also won Paris-Brussels in 1973. In his honour, the first stage will go through Meise, where he lives, before making it to Brussels. “I never lived in the centre of Brussels but I feel Bruxellois,” he said.
With a population of 500,000 spread over 38 towns, the Namur Province is one of the least populated in Belgium with only 4.3 pc of the total population. The economy is mainly produced by small businesses specialised in building or services. The Namur province was created in 1795 when part of Belgium rallied the French Revolution. The French department of Sambre-et-Meuse was then created on the remnants of the Namur county and the Liege principality.
Located between the Germanic Northern Europe and the Latin Southern Europe, the region was throughout history coveted by many and rocked by wars and battles. The Liege principality, which covered the major part of the present Walloon region, was extremely wealthy and countless monuments from the past recall past riches. Landscapes are contrasted and varied. In the North, the Herve region looks like a miniature Normandy. In the East, the High Fagnes are wrapped in a atmosphere of mystery. In the South, the rugged valleys of Ourthe and Ambleve are one of the most beautiful sights in the Belgian Ardennes. The Liege region is among the most fascinating in Belgium for tourism.
In Saint Christopher church, which is flanked by a limestone square tower, stands a gigantic statue (3.40 metres high) of its patron saint. Sculpted in the 14th century, it is made of oak.
Fallais Castle is a historical highlight of the region. It belonged to Charles the Bold and later hosted a prestigious guest in French King Louis XIV, who stayed there briefly during the Namur siege.
The Jehay Castle, a rare example of Renaissance art in the Maas region, contains collections of furniture, tapestry, silverware, crystals and jewellery. The castle’s dependencies host an exhibition of drawings by surrealist painter Paul Delvaux (see Wanze). Every summer modern sculptures are on exhibition in the park and gardens
A few miles from Huy, on top of a rock, stands the castle of the Counts of Marchin, parts of which date back to the 13th century. Some twenty richly furnished rooms and halls are worth visiting. In the castle was built by Rennequin Sualem in 1667 a hydraulic wheel which lifted the waters of the river Hoyoux to a height of 57 metres.
The Tower of Justice: the tower as we see it today was built in 1593. Two wings were added in 1732. The tower was the administrative centre of the town and was the seat of the Liege High Court of Justice.
In December, tourists flock from all over Belgium to admire the 250 cribs built in various materials and spread across the villages of Ouffet, Warzee and Ellemelle.
The Hamoir area is home to several picturesque monuments such as the medieval tower (11th century), which gave its name to the village of Comblain-la-Tour, the roman church in Xhignesse, the Hamoir-Lassus Castel, the Vieux-Fourneau Castle or the 18th century Picker’s House now hosting the Tourist Office.
Hamoir is also the birthplace of sculptor Jean del Cour and his painter brother Jean-Gilles. Jean Del Cour, one of the great baroque sculptors of the 17th century, is known for numerous statues, notably the Virgin with infant now visible in Liege Vinave d’Ile commercial sector
Puzzle Planet is a gigantesque 3-kms-long labyrinth, built in wood on several levels. In Wanne can also be found the longest alpine skiing piste in the Belgian Ardennes.
Stavelot is renowned for its carnival, the Carnaval de la Laetare des Blancs-Moussis. It also boasts a 16th and 17th century abbey with three museums: the historical museum of the Stavelot-Malmedy Principality , the Spa-Francorchamps track museum and the Apollinaire museum, tracing the life and works of one of the most important poets of the 20th century.
Spa –like Sandwich or Rugby – is one of those rare places that gave their name to a speciality which later enjoyed worldwide fame. Thanks to its waters, the Belgian town is now associated, the world over, to establishments restoring health and form. Spa (Aquae Spadanae in Latin) took its name from a wallon word meaning fountain. It became world famous thanks to a Briton who spread the word. In 1571, after a visit to Spa, William Slingsby decided to create an hydrotherapy centre in Harrogate, Yorkshire, which he called the English Spa. The world spa became synonymous with water town and as a result of the recent trend for health spas throughout Europe, the word is now also used in other languages. It is sometimes suggested that spa was an acronym for the Latin phrase Salus per aquam (health through water) but the word has been in use long before the trend for acronyms. With its architecture typical of water towns, Spa is bidding to become a World Heritage site.
Spa is better known for motor-racing than for cycling yet bicycles have often been spotted near the Francorchamps track, on the Tour or in classics. The Tour finished several times on the circuit proper. In 1980, one of the biggest engines in the history of the Tour, Bernard Hinault, won a 34-kms individual TT, his ninth Tour stage victory. The flying Badger had started the race ideally by winning the prologue and looked set for a treble. Unfortunately, Hinault unexpectedly ran out of gas because of knee injury and made a pit-stop in Pau, another motor-racing stronghold. Joop Zoetemelk did not miss the chance to win his only Tour. Francorchamps was again used in 1989 for a stage won by Mexican Raul Alcala. Liege-Bastogne-Liege usually goes close to the track and Spa was even the start and finish of the 1894 edition of the oldest classic. The Fleche Wallonne also started from Spa between 1986 and 1997.
|XIVth century||Spa develops from a former steel works community.|
|1565||The Belgian nobility meets in Spa to unite against Philip II of Spain. The meeting is know as the Compromise of Nobles.|
|1717||Tsar Peter 1 stays in Spa and starts the trend of hydrotherapy in the city.|
|1789||A quarrel between rival gambling establishments led Spa to join the Liege Revolution|
|1827||Creation of the first public baths.|
|1896||First motor racing meeting in Spa.|
|1918||The German army has its headquarters in Spa from where it launches the last offensive of WW1.|
|1921||Building of the Spa-Francorchamps track, renovated for the last time in 2007.|
|2006||Construction of a new spa on the Anette and Lubin hill.|
Spa’s most famous son turns 90 in 2010, an anniversary which is likely to go almost unnoticed. In 1920, Agatha Christie published the Mysterious Affair at Styles, which introduced a new character going by the name of Hercule Poirot. Over 55 years, 33 novels and 51 short stories, the Belgian sleuth became the world’s most famous detective, his books selling in millions while he inspired films and television series. But was Poirot really born in Spa? The fact is never really stated but a brief passage in the Big Four very strongly implies that it is the case. But Poirot was very discreet about his past and it is impossible to determine his birthplace let alone his age. Many fans have estimated that he must have been about 125 at the time of his official death in Curtain: Poirot’s last case. As for Agatha Christie, who died in 1976, she would have been 120 in 2010.
Golden Book of painter Fontaine
In 1892, Spa bought the Golden Book of painter Fontaine, a huge canvas painted over 12 years by Fontaine and featuring 96 celebrities who visited Spa throughout the years.
La Fraineuse Castle (1910)
The renovated site will welcome the Tour press centre. In 1921 the Peace Conference to decide on WW1 damages to be paid by Germany took place in the castle.