THE LITTLE SCOOP: [THE BULLET POINTS]
EAT & DRINK:
We had all the mussels and fries one could eat at Le Marmiton in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert and Chez Leon on the bustling Rue des Bouchers, enjoyed incredible chocolate at a variety of local shops, and naturally, brought it all home at Delirium on Friday night (more than 3000 beers) and at a plethora of bars on our tour [keep reading for specific chocolatiers and bars ⤵)
With a coffee, do try a “speculoos” – a Belgian spiced gingerbread cookie. If you have ever eaten Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter 🙋🏻♀️🤦🏻♀️ or eaten a Biscoff cookie often passed out on Delta, you will recognize the taste!
We broke up our trip with a night in Bruges and as a result stayed in two different Marriotts – the very well appointed Hotel Grand Place (which put Biscoff cookies on our pillows!) and the modern and friendly Courtyard near the European Union. While changing hotels can be inconvenient, it was fun to see the different personalities of Brussels – the refined, diplomatic section surrounded by embassies, and the bar scene – all in the same weekend!
Copenhagen might be the most playful so far, but Brussels knows how to party, and not just at Delirium . We loved the Beer & Chocolate Tour that we did through “The Brussels Journey ” – our charming guide Batiste took our tour group through four chocolate shops and four bars where we tried the gauntlet of Belgian style beers. Specific bar recommendations are below.
THE BIG SCOOP: [THE WHOLE STORY]
I am sort of prone to flight delays and cancellations, so when possible, I always try to fly direct. However – our trip to Brussels last Friday was my third time in it’s airport – having connected on my way home from our trip to Budapest, and Copenhagen.
So, last Friday afternoon when we boarded for the hour EasyJet flight to Brussels, I was very excited to get out of the airport and soak up the city! My husband, like most yuppie millennial white guys, is really passionate about beer, so he was over the moon about a weekend inhaling his favorite sour ales and moules and frites (mussels and fries – you cannot call them “French fries” to a Belgian – they claim to have invented them) with lots of mayo and ketchup. It’s so important to be a supportive spouse 😉, so he was not alone in this epic quest!
After getting off the airport train to Central Station, we walked through La Grand Place (another UNESCO Heritage Site) to check in and “ooh” and “ahh” in the square for a bit – and to get our first “walking frites.”
La Grand-Place is a combination of the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), and 40+ old guild buildings (much like in my Zürich post!), and the Maison du Roi (the Brussels Museum – didn’t make it there!) – its variety of architecture also speaks to the fact that Brussels boasts its diversity, claiming to have the most expats in all of Europe. Due to the European Union naturally!
Off a recommendation from my husband’s colleague, we went for moules and frites and Flemish beef stew at Le Marmiton . It was located in the beautiful Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert– really just a mall, but a gorgeous one!
Following dinner, we walked down the Rue des Bouchers and came down the “Delirium Alley” of all Delirium hot spots. We had a blast watching the Spain vs. Portugal World Cup match (a 3-3 tie) with folks from all over the world.
The next morning, we had a quick waffle…. (promise I will share more about waffles in our next post – this one is already so jam packed!)
and took the train to Bruges (post on its way) but we returned on Sunday afternoon! After checking into the EU, we visited Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula – the patron saints of the city of Brussels. The Gothic exterior reminds me of Notre Dame in Paris and the interior is composed of many Baroque pieces, woodworking, stain glass and marble. It’s roots go back to the 9th century and it is the site of the country’s royal weddings and funerals.
After visiting, we joined our tour guide Batiste for our Beer & Chocolate Tour.
One of my favorite ways to get to know a city is to do a food tour. As late and truly great Anthony Bourdain evangelized throughout his too short life- a culture’s food is the most accessible entree into conversation, and breeds mutual understanding. Local food inherently shares how an area spends their time, how their history shapes their “today,” and what matters to them and their families.
Lest I mislead anyone into thinking it is solely a noble enterprise, I also just really love to eat and get restaurant and bar recommendations from native guides. And it’s a great way to meet fellow travelers and swap tips!
The tour, at 80 Euro a person felt initially too expensive, but with thousands of positive reviews all over the Internet, felt like a worthwhile gamble – and it really paid off. Batiste, a native Belgian, toured us on a four hour walk around town with stops at four favorite chocolatiers first, followed by four cozy Brussels pubs.
Before we “cheat” on Swiss chocolate – it is still our favorite milk chocolate! Because of the high quality dairy in Switzerland, I have heard it said that the focus . Our first top, Chocopolis, made me nervous because we were on a very crowded street full of souvenir vendors. Over the years and after some subpar meals at “tourist traps” – my snobby meter tends to go off that there must be a better spot around the corner. However, we found in Brussels, that “travel indicator” of “get off the beaten path” doesn’t always hold water.
A Sweet Start
An Evening of Beer – for obvious reasons…less photos!
- The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
- The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life.
- The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.
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THANKS AS ALWAYS FOR READING – AND LET ME KNOW WHERE WE SHOULD VISIT NEXT!