25th March 2023: Brussels, Antwerp, and Starset {Belgium, March 2023}

As my companion D****e was caught in the French air controllers’ strike, she did not make it to our hotel until the wee hours of the morning. I let her sleep, and headed out to explore another area of Brussels. My first stop was again Mont des Arts, because it was on the way to Anneessenstoren, remains of the old city walls – which were being renovated, so I could not see a thing.

I had decided not to take the umbrella because the wind made it useless anyway, so I had to take cover a couple of times. I continued off to the Romanesque-evolved-into-Gothic Church of Our Lady of the Chapel Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Chapelle | Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-ter-Kapellekerk. It was closed, but I hung out around the area for a bit. There is a skate park, a Memorial to Pieter Bruegel the Elder (who is buried in the church) and an obelisk Obelisk Kapellekerk sculpture.

I decided to come back when the church was open, and continued walking towards another church in the area, the Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon Église Notre-Dame du Sablon | Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ter Zavelkerk. It was built in the 15th century, in late Brabantine Gothic. It does not have towers, but a deep portal in the main façade. It is richly decorated inside and out, in light coloured stone from the nearby Gobertange quarry. In the beginning, the church was a parish for the noble and wealthy citizens of the city, but it slowly lost lustre over the centuries. In the late 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, it was “restored” according to the principle of unity of style. The whole building is laden with ogival windows, and the light inside is very beautiful. When I was there, the choir was rehearsing, and there was a “do not visit beyond this point” notice which I abided by.

Gothic church: exterior + nave, flanked with long windows

I went out again, and crossed the street to the garden Square du Petit Sablon | Kleine Zavelsquare , which features statues depicting some of the great humanists of the Belgian 16th centuries, and a fountain in the honour of two noblemen who were executed by the Spanish regime in the same century. The fences are decorated with sculptures that depict the different guilds of the city. It was designed by romantic architect Henri Beyaert in the Flemish no-renaissance style in the 19th century as a flower garden.

I saw the Palace of Justice of Brussels Palais de Justice de Bruxelles, a massive building built between 1866 and 1883 in an eclectic Greco-Roman-inspired style, designed by architect Joseph Poelaert. When it was erected, it was the largest building in the world, and it is currently… being renovated, as part of the ceiling collapsed in 2018.

I had to take cover again as another shower hit, but it went away eventually. I walked further until I reached a former medieval city gate Porte de Hal | Hallepoort, which looks like a tiny French château – it was transformed into a a Neogothic castle in the 19th century, by Henri Beyaert. Today it is a museum, but I decided not to go in and head back towards the city centre.

Decorated medieval-like tower

I backtracked towards the Church of Our Lady of the Chapel Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Chapelle | Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-ter-Kapellekerk which had been closed in the morning, and it had fortunately opened. I walked in. The church has an early 13th century Romanesque base, and the building was erected or reconstructed later in Brabantine gothic in the late 13th century. The nave was reconstructed in the 16th century and is Flamboyant Gothic. It leads to a dark-wood painted altar which contrasts with the wide, light nave. All in all, I guess I can say I was a fan of the gothic style in Brussels.

A gothic church with a dark wood altar and altarpiece, with coloured windows behind

When I was in the church, I received a text from D****e, who had finally woken up. I walked back to meet her and we decided to take the train to Antwerp [Anvers | Antwerpen], where we had plans for the evening. We got off at the central station Antwerpen-Centraal railway station Gare d’Anvers-Central | Station Antwerpen-Centraal. Designed by architect Louis Delacenserie, it was built in eclectic style at the turn of the 20th century. It has two underground levels in modern tunnels, and the original station stands at level +1 (a total of four levels), with an extended train hall in iron and glass designed by the engineer Clément Van Bogaert. The station is sometimes called a “railroad cathedral” with domes, glass windows, an ornate clock, and marble floors.

Antwerp Centraal Station - a red iron tunnel-like structure with a decorated front with a clock at the end

The idea was to look for a place to have lunch near the main square, but the weather did not agree. We ate at a noodle chain restaurant instead to wait out the storm, then headed to see the Bourse of Antwerp Handelsbeurs. It was the first building ever erected with the idea of being a commodity exchange place, but burnt down and was reconstructed in the 19th century by architect Joseph Schadde, who mixed Neogothic and iron architecture elements. The building was abandoned in 1997, but it was later recovered as a cultural and event centre. I absolutely loved it.

The Handelsbeurs inside - lots of gothic details supported by decorated iron beams

We had a look at the Cathedral of Our Lady Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, but we were pressed for time and did not want to pay to have to rush through the building (a future visit, maybe), so we just peered inside. The cathedral is included in the Unesco World Heritage Site of “Belfries of Belgium and France”.

The cathedral of Antwerp

Outside the there’s a sculpture of a boy and his dog, from a sad novella about an orphan boy who wants to be a painter, and although written by an English author (Marie Louise de la Ramée) it sounds like the Belgian version of “The Little Match-Seller” tale. It’s called the Nello & Patrasche Statue Nello & Patrasche beeld and it was created by Batist Vermeulen.

A sculpture of a boy sleeping on his dog. The bricks on the road seem to tuck them.

Eyeing the weather, we decided to head out to our destination for the evening, the Trix concert hall – though this meant sacrificing seeing the main square, we were happy that we were under cover when it started hailing at around 16:15. On the way, we saw a mouse happily hopping the main streets, some sculptures, including the Monument to Rubens and the entrance to Chinatown. We had purchased VIP tickets to see the American band Starset, who toured with Japanese singer Hyde in 2018.

Starset is an American alternative rock band formed in 2013 by vocalist Dustin Bates. Aside from Bates (lead vocals, keyboards, soundboard, guitar), the core of the band is formed by Ron DeChant (bass, keyboards, backing vocals), Brock Richards (guitars, backing vocals) and Adam Gilbert (drums, percussion). Touring members currently are Siobhán Richards (violin, keyboards), Zuzana Engererova (cello) and Cory Juba (guitar, synth), and I guess they’ve got an honorary member in Ernie (Dustin’s French bulldog, who apparently attends pizza parties with VIPs when the band tours the US). One could say that Starset is a “concept band” revolving around sci-fi – the band’s fictional backstory refers to The Starset Society, who aims to alert the public about a “Message” they obtained from an outer-space signal. The fact that Bates holds a Master’s in electrical engineering and worked for the US Air Force and the International Space University might have something to do with the theme.

Starset released their fourth album, Horizons, in 2021. After Covid, cancellations and rescheduling, the Horizons Tour finally took place. Since we had a VIP ticket, we had early access and we had to be at the venue at 17:00. We got there a bit after 16:00 – and it was a good place with a hall, so we were under cover when it started hailing. In the end, we were not admitted till 17:20-ish, when a nice lady came and took our names to let us in. The first part of the experience was a short acoustic concert with some games and Q&A. For the games, you were given a raffle number, and if it was picked, you got to spin a wheel and maybe get a price – or a hug.

During the acoustic, we stood next to violinist Siobhán, who is not only beautiful, she is also super elegant. Dustin looked a bit like a hobo, to be honest, and he’s taller than I remembered him. We noticed that Ron’s arm was on a sling – apparently he had hurt himself and was unable to play during the tour, but he still tagged along. Afterwards, we had the chance to take a picture with the band, pick up the free goods that we had a right to – a CD and a signed poster. As we did, we moved into the actual concert hall, where we got the last available spot on the first row barrier.

Starset during the accoustic

The supporting artist was Smash into Pieces, a Swedish rock band composed by Chris Adam Hedman Sörbye (vocals), Benjmain Jennebo (guitar), The Apocalypse DJ (drums) and Per Bergquist (guitar). They were very good, and they fit really well with Starset, I thought. They started playing when the hall was full – it has a capacity of about 1100 people, and maybe they started around 19:30.


  1. Wake Up
  2. Glow in the Dark
  3. Big Bang
  4. Let Me Be Your Superhero
  5. Sleepwalking
  6. Running Away from Home
  7. Vanguard
  8. Boomerang

Smash into Pices front men.

This made the event run faster than expected. Starset were scheduled for 21:00 but came out at around 20:20, and the whole thing started with a bang – almost literally. A big curtain was pulled up and then let down when the band was on stage.


  1. Unveiling The Architecture (recording)
  2. Carnivore
  3. Manifest
  4. Echo
  5. Trials
  6. Icarus
  7. Unbecoming
  8. Monster
  9. It Has Begun
  10. Interlude. BMI ad (video recording)
  11. Satellite
  12. Ricochet
  13. Infected
  14. The Breach
  15. Die For You
  16. Devolution
  17. For Whom The Bell Tolls (Metallica Cover)
  18. Earthrise
  19. My Demons
  20. Boomerang

Dustin (vocals) and Brock (guitar; dressed as an astronaut) from Starset in the middle of the concert

My mind was blown because somewhat this setlist comprises all my favourite songs from the band: Carnivore, Monster, Ricochet and My Demons. The concert was full of little visuals and cool ambience tricks – I mean, Brock actually plays in astronaut suit. There was a lot of smoke and the lights were not good, but the concert itself was amazing. I was very grateful for the barrier, I would not have made it standing for the whole event – probably not even half of it. All in all, I had a lot of fun. I love that Dustin sings with his geek glasses, too.

After the concert, we managed to take the 23:09 train back to Brussels and even get a snack on the way – the one previous to the train I had wanted. That was lucky, because the last train was delayed over an hour and a half, and was a slow one.