Since all of the museums and palaces are closed on Mondays in Brussels, the kids and I didn't do anything special during the day on the 23rd besides taking the scooters out for another spin at the skate park after loading up on groceries in the morning. We try to take different routes each time out to explore new parts of the city and that day it paid off in the form of a fine pair of boobs on this swimmer statute.

When Betsy returned, a postprandial stroll to Grand Place for some ice cream for the kids and a waffle for dad sounded like a great idea. 

Throughout the city are comic murals and I had heard that this one of Tintin and Haddock descending a fire escape in The Calculus Affair was right across from Mannekin Pis. We missed it on our last visit but were pleased to find it this time.

Tuesday marked the first day of the summer that the Royal Palace opened its doors to the public and we were among the first to gain entry. The price was right...admission was free and an English tour brochure was available for just one Euro.  

While the current King and Queen, Albert II and his wife, Paola, live in a chateau on the outskirts of the city near the Atomium, the Palais Royal de Bruxelles is the official palace of the King of the Belgians and is still used by the royal family for audiences, affairs of the state and receptions. The building also houses offices and apartments for visiting Heads of State.  

The site dates from medieval times (the palace was built over previous structures when the area was leveled out - see Belvue Museum, Day 4) but construction on this building began in 1783. Various renovations and innovations, including the addition of the current facade around 1900 have transformed it to the wonder it is today. The interior, as one would expect, is ostentatious to the extreme. 

Each generation of the royal family has put its own artistic stamp on various rooms; a series of tapestries in the Goya Room based on the artists' work, a series of murals over the Venice Staircase depicting the City of Water, bas-reliefs by Rodin in the throne room (below) and more. 

A look overhead in the long Grand Gallery reveals three ceiling murals; The Morning (below), The Day and The Evening

The Hall of Mirrors features Heaven of Delight, the most recent artistic addition to the palace; a shimmering emerald-green ceiling and chandelier covered with 1.6 million Thai green-jewel beetle wing casings. The fried beetles are consumed in Thailand and the wing casings, called elytra, are usually simply discarded. Their use here was stunning. The dancing patterns juxtaposed with the ornate white ceiling and majestic fireplace made this room the highlight of the visit.

Well, it was the highlight of my visit. The kids were quite literally exposed to a whole new level of artistic excitement when they discovered that sculptures here feature not only boobs, but the occasional wiener as well. The statue on the left of Bacchus and a fawn is in the main entryway while the African phone booth of love (click on that one for a closer look) was part of a special exhibit in the throne room. Game on, Belgium!