02.05.2008 - 05.05.2008 22 °C
We had been to Brussels on our first European travels 2 years ago now, and had always had a feeling of missing out on a few things (basically we didn't get enough of the beer and food)
So we booked flights for a long weekend, much to the disgust of most people I work with, Brussels is the place of European Parliment and they basically see it as we see Canberra
With previous success in Madrid at arriving late, we booked Friday night flights and arrived in Brussels at about 9pm, we got to the hotel around 10pm. We hadn't eaten yet and tried our luck and went for a walk to find some dinner, we had read about a old fashioned bistro up the road, and it was exactly what we needed
Good old fashioned meatballs with a Leffe Brune
The next day we got up reasonably early, we had booked a reasonable hotel that would fall into a 3-4 star business style hotel, but after booking we read horror stories of people arriving with a booking and getting turned away due to the hotel being full, when we arrived we were given the ground floor room behind the lift. The room was actually great and was massive by European standards and I would class it as a suite, but in the night I could hear reception arguing on multiple occasions with people who there turned away (who had bookings!) so we counted ourselves lucky to get what appeared to be the last room
The first day we tried the hotel's free buffet breakfast, we didn't go back the next day. It was German & American families getting there monies worth and there was a bit to much shoving at the counter when new food came out.
We had a lazy morning checking out some markets and sampling some of the best chocolate stores
By 11am it was defiantly time for the first beers!
I started of low-key with a Leffe, It was great drinking a beer out in the sun after being in Ireland's winter for the last 2 months
Rishi was ready for one as well
With the sun in full force we headed down the road to a nice street side bistro
The food was great, and very French, I had one of the first of many indulgent meals for the weekend, Duck salad with foie gras!
This is Place Sablon were we had lunch, i would have to say its one of the nicest little squares in Brussels, all the shops around the square were really nice, with quite a few amazing chocolate stores, we found our way back to the store on the corner a few times
We continued our sightseeing and saw the impressive Galleries Saint Hubert
And moved on to tourist CENTRAL, Grand Place
Everyone has seen Maneken Pis (if you haven't Google it!) Last time we missed Jennake Pis, its basically someone trying to be funny with the peeing theme, and its a girl peeing! Its actually quite disturbing!
We didn't get a photo of Zenneke Pis, that's another one which is.... a dog peeing on a footpath bollard (the Belgians really are crazy)
After all the sight-seeing it was defiantly time for a beer, so we got a seat at a great bar right in front of Maneken Pis, the beer list was about 30 pages long and it took some serious perusing
I got a traditional Labic Gueze beer, its almost like a cross of a beer, cider & champagne, and it came in a hilarious basket, which is suposeably traditional
Rishi got the Lamic Framboise (Raspberry beer)
Both very tasty, the framboise was delicious but very sweet
The next day we decided to travel up to Antwerp which is only 40 minutes by train. We had plans of doing some shopping, as Antwerp was reputed as one of the best design cities outside of Paris, there were some great stores but nothing really got us spending our money, Antwerp was a nice change from Brusells though with a more laid back student atmosphere to Brussels
We did get to visit the reputed best fritterie in the world
The Belgians have a particular technique with frites, where the double deep fry the chips making them extra crispy
These were defiantly the best I have ever eaten, the mayo was great as well, even not being a huge fan of mayo it tasted great
After wasting quite a bit of time looking in shops, we did find some time to see some traditional sites, beer in front of the cathedral was a highlight of the day, and I got to try a local boutique beer
We decided to head back to Brussels for dinner, and found a great brassiere style place where I got a great steak in Béarnaise sauce, that was a fitting end to a great weekend away
We basically spent the rest of our time relaxing and taking it slow, that is the great thing about re-visiting a place you have already seen the main sights. You don't feel like you have to do anything in particular to get your value of the trip. Brussels is certainly not the best tourist city, but you wouldn't know that from the amount of people that go there, and there is a very French feel to it
But once you get out of the main tourist areas, there is a great atmosphere with a real local presence that's what we liked about Brussels, and the beer!