After four months spent passportless, Chris and I were desperate to stretch our legs outside of the UK. We’d been to Brussels before, back when we were on a school trip, but didn’t remember much of it as apparently a lot can be forgotten in a decade. A few short flights later, we arrived excited and keen, ready stretch our bilingual muscles. For once we didn’t have too much on the agenda, so the four days ended up full of exploring and relaxing, allowing our feet, and in some cases the snowy weather, to push us to wherever it saw fit.
We stayed in a great hotel, made even better by the trainee who checked us in, misunderstood that we were on our one year anniversary, and sweetly sent up a bottle of wine, a bottle of beer and, I kid you not, a card of congratulations signed by half a dozen people. Belgians are apparently as sweet as their namesake waffles.
We spent most of our time hopping from café to café, occasionally stopping to peek into some local shops, inevitably focused on design and stuffed to the brim with eye candy for Chris. Our entire long weekend was a wonderful mix of wandering and eating, which really is the dream. Before we travel anywhere I look up the local food and develop a pretty serious “to eat list”. The food in Brussels was even better than I expected, so much so that we didn’t even get to the mussels and frites (so long my proposed blog title of Muscles in Brussels). But really, anywhere that has a cappuccino with chantillly cream as an option is a big win in my books. I’m completely ashamed to admit that we only managed one waffle the entire time we were there. We were just too consistently full of delicious food! Still no excuses, we were weak. Personally, I blame the chocolate. Belgium has mastered the chocolate trade and every single chocolate shop we went into had some samples immediately offered upon entering.
Brussels is a wonderful blend of the beautiful old and the well-designed new, and somehow the opulence of the Grand Place blends well into the impressive headquarters of the EU, surrounded by chocolate shops on either end. Both were beautiful to visit and wander around, and the EU buildings inevitably made us both feel like James Bond, or perhaps a figure from a less topically positioned country….
We couldn’t go somewhere without at least one gallery and the Magritte museum was a definite highlight. We spent a couple of hours lost in his surrealist world, attempting to make sense of something that really doesn’t make any sense. We also visited the National Library which had an exhibit on the history of books and the written word that was very interesting and completely empty so we had the whole place to ourselves.
We sat in an old Belgian bar and watched the world go by, and at this point the snow come down, with us happily nestled inside with alcohol and animated sounds emanating from those around us.
Our Belgian jaunt was short but sweet, due mainly to the vast amounts of chocolate consumed. We came back to Edinburgh wholly satisfied, slightly frozen, and ready for wherever our next adventure may be.