© M. Vanhulst
• 11 times a stage town
• Population: 154,000
• Région Bruxelles-Capitale: 1,000,000
• Capital of Belgium
• Capital of the European Union
In 1958 André Darrigade added another stage win to his collection, 22 in total, and seized the Yellow Jersey. The stage start from Brussels in 1947 was also the first stage run entirely outside French borders, as the finish line was in Luxembourg. It was won by Italian rider Aldo Ronconi, who finished 4th in that year’s race. Among riders from Brussels, Philippe Thys marked the history of the Tour. The race will moreover celebrate the 90th anniversary of his triple win of 1920, the first in cycling history.
In June 2009, the René Magritte museum opened in the heart of Brussels’ cultural district, the Mont des Arts. “Surrealism is a state of mind. You’ve either got it or you’ll never have it”, said Georgette, the wife of the great surrealist painter. This attitude of contrast and paradox is reflected in Brussels’ popular imagery. Which other city in the world would have the “Manneken-Pis”, a little naked man urinating in the corner of a street, as its symbol? You need a touch of eccentricity to appreciate Brussels and its unexpected and quirky nature. As well as its flamboyant Grand-Place, the historic centre of the Belgian capital is filled with picturesque alleyways, atmospheric galleries, fashionable boutiques and welcoming pavement cafes. With a stop for some “frites” (chips/fries) here, followed by chocolates, speculoos or hot waffles, or an impulse purchase of fashion, antiques or cartoons, this cosmopolitan and gourmet city lives life at its own pace and in its own individual style: from rebellious and mischievous to calm and collected, but always very appealing.
© B. Lorquet
• Once a stage town
• Population: 10,600
• Town in the Province of Liège (Belgium)
A Mecca in the world of thermal spas – the word “spa” is named after the town itself - Spa is on excellent terms with the Tour. In 1962, Rudi Altig triumphed in his first stage victory here and became the first post-War German rider to wear the Yellow Jersey. In 1980, it was on the circuit of Francorchamps that Bernard Hinault won in an individual time-trial after triumphing in the prologue. The Badger, as Hinault was called, seemed poised for a great race, after winning again the following day in Lille, but a knee injury forced him to abandon in the Pyrenees.
Spa’s appeal as a tourist destination is based on its wide range of cultural, sporting and leisure attractions, as well as its privileged setting, with woods, windswept fenland, pure air and many mineral and iron springs. Known since Roman times, these springs were responsible for Spa’s growth in the 16th century, and its rich thermal past is reflected in the town’s impressive architecture: from the casino, built in 1763 and the oldest in the world, to its gardens, the Pouhon Pierre-le-Grand, the Leopold II gallery, the Parc de Sept Heures and many museums located in traditional districts. Spa is also the ideal destination for sports enthusiasts and nature lovers. It offers a wide selection of walks, mountain bike trails and pony trekking, as well as a magnificent golf course in a natural setting, an airfield and many more attractions including the new thermal centre and a funicular link to the town centre.
What is Spa? A promise of optimism for the future!