Ten previous stages
Capital of Belgium
Population: 180,000 for Brussels City, 1.2 million for the 19 communes of the Brussels-Capital region.
Celebrities: René Magritte (painter), Hergé, André Franquin, Philippe Geluck, Peyo (comics), Jacques Brel, Annie Cordy, Plastic Bertrand, Maurane, Lara Fabian, Stromae (chanson), Audrey Hepburn, Jean-Claude Van Damme (cinema), Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Amélie Nothomb (writers), Claude Levi-Strauss (ethnologist), Haroun Tazieff (volcanologist), Eddy Merckx (cycling), Jacky Ickx (motor-racing pilot), Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard (football)
Specialties: fries, mussels, chicons (endives), caricoles (clams), waffles, chocolate, cuberdons, speculoos (biscuits), beer (gueuze in particular)
Sport: more than 100 disciplines and among the main clubs Royal Sporting Club Anderlecht (football), Basic-Fit Brussels (basket-ball), le Royal Racing Club of Brussels (hockey). Equipment: Roi Baudouin Stadium, Palais 12, Némo 33 (one of the deepest swimming pools in Europe). Events: 20 km of Brusels, Brussels Marathon, Memorial Ivo Van Damme, Ecotrail Brussels, BXL Tour…
On a bike: more than 70 km of cycling tracks, more than 60 km of green way, 19 regional routes linked to the green way. Villo! is a bike for hire application (350 stations and 5,000 bicycles). More than 1,000 underground parking spaces for bikes in the town centre.
Economy: small firms, European and royal administrations, car and aeronautical industries, port activities, tourism, universities and schools (90,000 students).
Particularities: dubbed the Capital of Europe, Brussels is the second most cosmopolitan city in the world with 179 different nationalities and more than 100 languages spoken. The only bilingual region in Belgium.
Women's names for the streets of Brussels
The City of Brussels has chosen to opt for a greater feminisation of the public space. Last March, on the Women's Rights Day, the city asked its inhabitants to suggest the names of Brussels-born women or of women having a link with Brussels to name new streets or squares.
In Belgium, streets can only be named after dead people. The City of Brussels also has to take advice from the Royal Commission on Toponymy and Dialectology before changing a street name.
In the same time, TV presenter Sofie Lemaire created the hash-tag #MeerVrouwOpStraat (More Women on the Streets) on Twitter to collect names suggestions for the streets of Brussels and other Belgian cities.
In 2016, the city of Brussels already suggested a list of 26 names to feminise its street names: among them was Jo Cox, the British MP murdered during the Brexit campaign, politicians Marie Parent, Leonie La Fontaine, Huda Sharawi, Anna Zingha, and Gabrielle Petit, artists Anna Boch, Marie Howet, Berthe Art, Alice Piette-Van Buuren, Yolande Uyttenhove, Suzy Falk and Chantal Akerman but also sportswomen (swimmer Claire Guttenstein, fencer Jenny Addams), scientists (Marguerite Massart, Claire Préaux, Lise Meitner, Hélène Antonopoulos), writers (Marie-Thérèse Bodart, Madeleine Bourdouxhe, Marguerite Coppin and Gabrielle Vincent), or the academic Isala Van Diest, as well as the lawyer and resistant Regine Karlin.
And of course a cyclist, Hélène Dutrieu, nicknamed "the Human Arrow", speed world champion in the late 19th century and a pioneer of aviation.
Brussels is the non-French city the most often visited by the Tour de France peloton, who crossed the border to reach the Belgium capital twelve times in the past. It is logical when one thinks of the importance of Belgian cycling in the history of the race and especially of Brussels itself. This year will obviously be celebrated the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx’s first victory in the Tour. To sum up the career of the unique Eddy would be an attempt to summarise the history of cycling. The Ogre of Tervuren won nearly everything, to the exception of the Olympics, which were not open to the pros at the time. As an amateur, he had to be content with finishing 12th in the road race at the 1964 Games in Tokyo. His family restored the Merckx pride –– his son Axel won a bronze medal on the road at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and his grandson Lucas Masso became hockey Olympic champion in 2016 in Rio.
While he was born in the small town of Meensel-Kiezegem, in Brabant, Merckx grew up in the suburbs of Brussels, in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre then in Tervuren.
Oddly, he never won a Tour de France stage in Brussels but he took the yellow jersey after the team time trial of 1969 (before taking his revenge in the 1973 Paris-Brussels).
While the Cannibal’s personality overshadows this Grand Depart, another Brussels-born rider should not be forgotten even if he belongs to a distant past. Philippe Thys, who hailed from Anderlecht, became the first man to win three Tours in 1913, 104 and 1920 and Henri Desgrange was convinced that without WWI, in which he served as a pilot in the French Air Force, Thys would have won more Tours.
Philippe Thys is also the subject of an historical controversy. While everybody admits that Frenchman Eugene Christophe was the first yellow jersey holder in the Tour history, the Belgian claimed that he had sported a yellow jersey before the war to be spotted as the Tour leader, an idea of his team manager. Is the yellow jersey a Brussels invention? Whatever the answer, with eight Tour victories between Philippe Thys and Eddy Merckx, Brussels can claim to be the town whose children won the most Tours!
Renowned for its ornamental wealth, it is lined by the guild houses, the Town Hall and the King's House (Broodhuis in Dutch). It is considered, especially by Victor Hugo, as one of the most beautiful squares in the world. In August 1695, most of the houses were destroyed during the bombing of the city by the French troops of Marshal Villeroy. Only the facade and the tower of the Town Hall, which served as a target for gunners, and some stonewalls resisted. The houses surrounding the square were rebuilt by the different corporations. Frequent festive or cultural events are held here, including in mid-August every even year, the installation in the middle of the Grand-Place of a huge carpet of flowers composed of more than 500,000 begonia seedlings.
Be aware, if you go and see the most popular monument in Brussels and probably one of most famous fountains in the world, that the little ketje (kid) who urinates in front of you is not the original statue ordered in 1619 by the Brussels authorities to sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy. It was actually replaced in 1965 by a copy, the original being in the museum of the House of the King to save it from being damaged. Little Julien (this is the other name of our pissing young man) has been through a lot since his installation in this spot. Mutilated, removed, replaced ... In1628, it was destroyed overnight by a drunkard. In 1745, it was stolen by English troops. Two years later by French grenadiers... Its longest absence took place in 1817, when it was kidnapped by a former French convict named Antoine Lycas and only found three months later. Lycas was arrested and sentenced to hard labour for life. You should not mess with the Manneken-Pis. More recently, little Julien was kidnapped by students in 1963, 1968 and 1978, mutilated in 1955, 1957 and 1965, when vandals only left the legs ... But he always came back to urinate in front of tourists and symbolise the rebellious spirit of Brussels.
One of the symbols of Brussels since its construction for the 1958 World Fair, the Atomium is a representation of a unit cell of the iron crystal enlarged 65 billion times. Contrary to popular belief, the nine balls of the building do not represent the nine provinces of Belgium. Designed by engineer André Waterkeyn, it rises to 102 meters and its metal structure weighs 2,400 tons. Destined to be demolished after the exhibition, this monument to the glory of science became so popular that it was finally preserved.
Brussels Parcours BD (Comics Trail)
The idea of Parcours BD dates from the 1990s when the city of Brussels launched a strong battle against huge advertising posters in the city centre. Once the posters had been removed, the spots where they were installed showed rundown facades that badly needed to be restored. One of those empty spaces was replaced by a fresco of Broussaille, a comics character painted by author Frank Pé in the Plattesteen district. Since then, Brussels and Belgian authors have seen their characters painted on the walls and have later been joined by international authors paying homage to the vast heritage of Franco-Belgian comics.
Famous characters like Tintin, Spirou, Corto Maltese, Lucky Luke, Yoko Tsuno, Natasha, Asterix can now be spotted among the 60 frescos displayed in the streets of the city and a tour has been organised to see them all in the charming little streets of Brussels.
Ingredients (for 6 people)
Wheat flour: 350 g. Brown sugar: 250 g. Sweet butter: 250 g. Cinnamon powder: 3 g. An egg. Mix of 4 spices: 3 g. Chemical yeast: 5 g. Fine salt: 5 g
Pour the brown sugar, cinnamon and spice mixture into a large bowl.
Add the soft butter and the egg. Blend until smooth.
Add the flour little by little. Mix well with a spatula while adding the flour. Add the salt. Add the baking powder and mix well.
Allow the speculoos paste to rest for 2 hours in the fridge.
Cutting and cooking.
Preheat the oven to 180 ° C.
Separate the dough into three balls. Spread a ball between two baking sheets and roll it out with a rolling pin until you obtain a sheet of 3 to 4 mm thick. Cut the speculoos paste into rectangular pieces 3 to 4 cm long. All shapes are possible, with or without moulds. Arrange the pieces on a baking sheet, buttered or covered with a baking sheet.