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GES045 - Notre Dame de Laeken Church, Brussels

As part of our trip to the Low Countries in late 2010, GE031, GE032 and myself visited a handful of sites. The others were mainly focused on the Pre-Metro, but I was very keen to do this site. I'd previously enjoyed the joy of explore the St. S Church in Paris thanks to GE099. And after seeing Ds's write up here, I wanted to try to get similar shots, particularly of the spiral stairs. So, after racing from Leige, we parked up near the Church in Brussels under cover of night already. The area was somewhat sleepy, a few cafe's dotted about the area and a busy road passing through. We got our stuff together, and after a quick wander around, GE032 had the access point sorted, and we were in. There was some open ground between the access point and the scaff, so we had to wait for a quiet moment, and then I bolted over to some cover by a skip, I then beckoned the others over, while I shot up the scaff.

This is how the church looks in daylight, the following morning.

The top of the scaff brought us out on one corner of the church, initially there didn't seem to be a way to get to the rest of the church.

The other two began grabbing shots from the top, while I prodded and probed around the roof, looking for ways to get further into the church. A precarious roof climb over slate tiles offered one way, but it would have been just that, precarious. Having explored and ruled out most opportunities, i resigned myself to grabbing a few shots from the level we'd reached. Hell bent on thinking of another way to get my prize. Looking roughly SW across Brussels. I think the lit up building in the centre distance is another popular explore in the city, the Palais de Justice.

Content with my shots, I walked out to some more exposed scaff, which appeared to lead to a dead end, but on closer inspection revealed a somewhat hidden walkway. It led into the roof area. It was here I discovered how to get further into the church. I went back like a dizzy school boy to the others, and told them I'd worked it out and to come join me. The main thing was to get to the spiral staircase, which wasn't hard.

I then climbed up it. An ongoing theme with me, is that i'm not good with heights. It takes a fair amount of will power to do the crazy heights. As i got higher up the spiral stairs, I realised I was next to some huge open slots in the church, and could see straight down. My palms sweated as I ploughed on up the steps. Clear of the main open area and the spiral stairs, I got to the bells. I was now worried not just about the height, but also the bell's ringing. Would I be deafened and lose my balance?! Well, no. I kept on up the stairs you can see in the top right of the picture.

When I got as far as I could go up, I found myself on a metal mesh floor which I could easily see all the way through. My knees knocking I crept over to a door, which didn't open. Then wobbled over to another door, which did. I opened it to be met with a tiny balcony and netting to keep pigeons out. It was rather cramped for taking a photo, but this was the best of a couple!

On going back into the chruch, I was met by GE031 and GE032, surprisingly equally nervous about the height and lack of stone support. GE032 went off to the balcony, and I set about trying to balance the tripod on the mesh floor. GE031 joins me in the photo below.

I found coming down was harder than going up, particularly down the spiral staircase, as one is pitched slightly forward when going down, and you also have to look down when descending, so become even more wary of the height.You can just make out the two mini towers outside the open slots in the side of the church.

Glad to be back on solid stone flooring. We set about leaving. I had wanted to see the rest of the church, as I found it mystery doors and stairs fascinating, and seemed to get the impression we'd be coming back. But as i'd find out later, that wasn't to be the case. This is inside the main roof.

We dropped down, and went for what turned out to be a hugely long walk into the centre of Brussels and up to the base of the Palais de Justice. However there wasn't time to climb it. A taxi back, and we set up a little camp in a spinny behind the church. The gentle roar of cars a handful of metres away and GE032's breath passing through his magnificent facial hair shrubbery lulled me to sleep.