The next few posts will be about my short pre-Christmas trip to Brussels with then boyfriend, now fiancé (no, not on this trip!) It’s only a few months late, but y’know how it is.
We’d spent the Friday night at my grandparents’ in London so that we could get the first tube into Kings Cross to catch the first Eurostar to Brussels, armed with my Lonely Planet Pocket Guide to Bruges & Brussels. We got the 0657 train, but even at that time St. Pancras was buzzing. We arrived in Brussels late morning.
The first big question was what language do we speak – I knew that French was common but Dutch was also common. I didn’t want to put my foot in it as soon as we got there! The second big question was how to we get to our hotel to dump our bags before exploring. So, I combined the two – we popped into Tourist Information at the station where we got a map and also asked which language to speak. I started in French, before the lady replied to me in English – oops! Though my trusty Lonely Planet advised to take a bus, I looked at the map and decided we’d take a walk. It was pretty mild for December and we had wheelie bags so it can’t be too bad right?
It was about a half hour walk over the uneven paths/pavements with our wheelies but it was nice to see the city. I’d been warned that Brussels was a really ugly place and not to bother with it, rather head over to Bruges, but it wasn’t too bad. It’s wasn’t stunning, but it wasn’t ugly either – just want you’d expect from a city to be honest.
We stumbled upon the Grand Place on the way to the hotel, but knowing we were close headed straight to the hotel to dump our bags. I didn’t realise how close the hotel was that I’d booked until we got there – it was literally the road behind it, barely a minute walk (depending on pedestrian traffic!) I was very cynical of booking.com when it told me how close it was, I even checked Google Maps Street View, yet was still pleasantly surprised when we got there. I booked the Aris Grand Place Hotel, it was nice enough – clean, comfortable, perfect location and I even asked on my booking form if we could have a room near the top of the building with a view of the Grand Place (according to the reviews online, there were a lucky few who got them so I thought I would ask, just in case!)
Anyways, we dumped out bags and set off for food – a very important part of our holidays and Adam’s life. As we’d just got there, I hadn’t quite orientated myself or got a grasp on how big/small Brussels was. So we headed out to find somewhere to eat nearby. We headed up through the arcade next to us, ‘Galeries Royales St Hubert’, and off to the left into an outdoor street full of cafés and restaurants.
To be honest, they were all pretty touristy but at that point food was food and they looked decent enough! We ended up in a very authentically named ‘Pizza au feu de bois’ or ‘Pizzas from the wood’. Neither of us had pizza, but all the menus were pretty much the same walking up that street so it was all much of a munchness really. I had the good old Belgium favourite Moulle Frites, or Mussels and Fries, whilst Adam had a meat fondue. Both were alright, nothing to shout about but nothing wrong with them – a good starter meal and very filling! There were a lot of mussels and fries for me and there was loads of meat to be cooked for the fondue.
After our rather touristy lunch, we went for a walk around the local area, Molenbeek. As it was pre-Christmas the markets were out, though pretty quiet given the recent events in Paris. There was a huge church in one of the squares with the market which really set the mood. We had a little nosey in the market stalls and quickly made our way back to the Grand Place to really admire it. The buildings in that square really are stunning.
Then it was back to the hotel to settle into our room and put our feet up for a bit before heading out for the night. When we got into our room, we discovered that we did indeed get a room that was high up and if you sat on the alcove where the window was set and stuck your head out, you could see the spires of the Grand Place!