Trip Of A Lifetime

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Manneken Pis?

Adie and I spent a lovely couple of days in Brussels, the chocolate capital of the world, this past weekend. We went up straight after work on Friday on the Eurostar.

To be honest, it's not a bad way to travel. We were in the second class carriages. Second class. Hmmph! While I wouldn't try sleeping in these seats, they had much more leg room than airplanes and a sturdy tray table. The head rests were just too far back. Food was available at reasonable prices, but we didn't eat any so I can't comment on the quality.

When we arrived we had to catch a taxi. Mainly because we were tired and justwanted to find our hotel, but also because we were advised not to use the train system after 10pm. Our hotel was lovely and modern with really friendly staff. Our bathroom has a bath as well as shower and the bed was pure heaven! They had a special deal going for people who book online, so we also managed to get a really cheap buffet breakfast both mornings. So, if you're in Brussels check out the Hotel Silken Berlaymont Brussels. Try and get a deal though, the price for the hotel alone was too much for our budget, but through a deal including our train tickets it was really affordable.

Saturday was quite a busy day for us because we did almost everything on foot. Initially we took the metro into the centre of the city. The trains ran frequently and were clean. One train ride even featured a woman playing the accordion! On the Sunday we jumped on a tour bus to get out to the areas that we couldn't walk to and to get the commentary on the places we had already seen. It worked out quite well.

It should be noted that I was on a mission from the moment I reached Belgium borders. Find the chocolate! I'd done my research so that I wouldn't spend money on anything that wasn't worth it. (Not that that's really possible in Belgium. Even the dodgy, cheap chocolate is fantastic!) There were two shows that I had to visit: Neuhaus and Marcolini. We were very good too. We only bought home one box of chocolates from each shop. It did cost us 50euro, but OMG it's so worth it. Every night Adie and I sample a couple and I am seriously swooning at every nibble. Unfortunately we can't bring any home because the fresh ingredients will go stale. I promise to think of you all as I devour them though!

Apart from chocolate, we also got to see a lot of sights in Brussels:

  • A couple of amazing churches, with stained-glass windows, giant wooden carvings and stone statues.
  • Grand Place with it's guild halls and amazingly detailed and beautiful architecture.
  • A lot of parks! Brussels is filled with beautifully manicured parks filled with fountains and statues. It would be a real treat to see them in Spring or Summer.
  • The Chocolate Museum. 5euro and not worth it. It's two tiny little rooms that have posters up about how to make chocolate and a selection of moulds. At the back of the second room is a French chocolatier who constantly does the same 5 minute demonstration over and over again. Honestly, if you already know anything about chocolate (where it comes from and how to use it) don't bother. It you're a complete novice, you may enjoy it more.
  • A few huge palaces that are either lived in by the current King or Belgium or that have been lived in by people such as Napoleon when on his honeymoon. We weren't able to go into any of them, but apparently a few are open for a few months each year.
  • We went into one museum, it was in Grand Place and covered the history of Brussels. There were a lot of maps and models, as well as paintings and sculptures.
  • The Atomium, according to the website it's the most astonishing building in the world. It certainly is impressive. It's based on the structure of a molecule (I think) and has nine big silver balls, containing things like showrooms and restaurants, all linked by escalators and elevators. We didn't go into it because we only had so much time, but it was definitely something that I'll remember seeing.
  • Markets aplenty. The markets that they have in Brussels can be spotted a mile away because they all happen under the same red and green striped tents. There is a flea market near Grand Place that has some nice bits and pieces and an antiques market in Sablon.
  • And of course, Manneken Pis. This is a little statue in the middle of Brussels of a little boy taking a leak. The people of Brussels are totally in love with this statue and talk about how he's a symbol of freedom. They dress him up in one of his 700plus costumes for special occasions, they sing songs about him and they even drink from his... ahem... stream. The stories surrounding him are interesting and funny, so if you're into that kind of thing... look it up!

The last thing we did before heading to the train station was to sit down comfortably in Haagen-Dazs and indulge in their chocolate fondue. (We missed out on a cheese one at New Years so we had to make up for it!) This pot of warm chocolate sauce is served with 16 small balls of ice-cream (about 6 flavours), strawberries, apple, banana and chocolate brownie. You also get a side serving of caremelised nuts. Wow! This was such a fantastic way to end the weekend, and it kept me feeling full until we arrived back home in London!


  • That sounds wonderful! Very suitable alternative to a cheese fondue, I must say. (Was trying to comment earlier than today but Blogger wasn't playing ball.) I'm glad you enjoyed your trip and that you're savouring your take-aways. Delish.

    By Blogger Riss, at 9:30 pm  

  • Excuse me, I need to take a 'Manneken' ...

    By Blogger BEVIS, at 11:17 pm  

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