GrandíPlace A Place So Grand

By Rosalie E. and George Leposky

"The finest stage set in the world," said French dramatist Jean Cocteau about GrandíPlace, the broad plaza in the heart of Brussels. We agree. Like a good play, this harmonious civic space in Belgiumís cosmopolitan capital yields new surprises in every act.

We first saw GrandíPlace in sunshine, with the town hallís soaring Gothic spires and the ornate Baroque facades of adjoining guildhouses outlined like cardboard cutouts against a vivid blue sky. Throngs of camera-laden tourists roamed the plazaís cobblestone reaches, pausing for refreshment at sidewalk cafes, while flower vendors in its midst traded briskly in blooms and shrubbery.

After dark we returned for the sound-and-light show, more than 1,200 spotlights dancing a luminous ballet to Franz Schubertís music. This 10-minute computer-controlled confection of the senses happens each summer night at 9:30 and 10:30 pm.

The next night we dined in a cellar restaurant on GrandíPlace. Emerging too late for the show, we lingered beside a group of teenagers singing Rolling Stones songs to an acoustic guitar.

In the final act of our GrandíPlace drama, early on a cool Sunday morning, leaden skies made the plaza seem smaller, more intimate. We shared the space with a small but devoted assemblage of Bruxellois attracted by the flower merchants and by a bird market trading in canaries, parrots, pheasants, and other exotic species. The cobblestones glistened in a gentle rain. We were the only tourists there.

Rosalie E. Leposky is managing partner and George Leposky is editor of of Ampersand Communications, a news-features syndicate based in Miami, Florida.

© Ampersand Communications

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