So now I really see the appeal in microblogging in real time while traveling—especially when you travel from city to city. I was in Brussels about ten days ago (although it feels like three months ago) and traveled to two other cities in Belgium and each city I traveled to was more beautiful than the last. Which makes things a little unfair to the previous cities because now my viewpoint is a little tainted. But I would say that I’d love to visit Belgium again to see even more and would re-visit all three cities again.
So Brussels. I almost didn’t even make it there because my mom, aka Sylvia Browne, had a bad feeling about me going there because of the recent terrorist attack. Now let me tell you that as a child, growing into my teens, and entering adulthood, there wasn’t one time when my mom told me something wasn’t a good idea and I did it anyway that turned out well. There was the time when I was about 17 and she told me she didn’t want me driving in the rain. I told her I could handle it. And I did. Until the car hydroplaned and only stopped when I hit the car in front of me causing the front of my car to fold up like an accordion and resulted in extensive damage to the radiator. Or the time she warned me about black ice (that’s when there’s ice on the streets and sidewalk but it looks black like the asphalt so it’s not very detectable) and I shooed her off and walked outside and wound up sliding halfway underneath a parked car. I mean, I could go on because there’s a list of stories like this but we want to get into talking about Brussels.
So after a while one starts to use their mom’s warnings as an omen and you heed to her fears. But like psychic Sylvia Browne (may she RIP) was often epically correct, she was also wrong at times and thank goodness my mom was wrong about her bad feelings about me being in Brussels. I was on edge though the first night I got in—it was National Day and there were a lot of people in the streets and fireworks going off—so much on edge that I couldn’t enjoy myself. I had to remind myself that attacks can happen anywhere. My mom was so nervous about Brussels, but we had one of the biggest terrorist attacks right here in NYC. You can’t let fear keep you from living life. I won’t even go into the many ways one can also die that don’t involve terrorist attacks AND are more likely, but I’m trying to keep this post upbeat.
It did help that there were several armed soldiers present at many of the places we visited. We stayed in a business district area (kinda like being in the Financial District here in NYC) so after National Day there weren’t many crowds. Which was great because while I don’t mind doing some tourist-y things, I’m not the biggest fan of crowds (they make me think the worst—like what if the zombie apocalypse hits and then I get eaten because everyone starts to turn so quickly) and when you travel it’s an amazing experience to get a glimpse of what life is like for locals. And locals everywhere tend to avoid their version of NYC’s Times Square like the plague, too.
We met up with our guide, the lovely Paquita who was originally from Spain but had lived in Brussels for quite some time. She was such a delight to be around and I kinda wish I could still be in Brussels now talking with her and learning more about the city. Since it was just me and Tracy, our mini tour was tailored to our interests: food, fashion, and local culture. One cannot go to Brussels without heading to Maison Dandoy to have a Brussels waffle (and the many other delicious treats). Yes, there are differences in the waffles—I’ll tell you about the Liege waffle in my Liege post. The Brussels waffle is often light in texture, rectangular in shape, and many are simply garnished with powdered sugar on top. You might also see many of these sold for 1€ that are loaded with various fruits and sauces (our guide said those aren’t the “real” Brussels waffles and have all those toppings to mask the bland taste—and I had someone comment on my Instagram post that she loves the ones with all the toppings). All I know is that Maison Dandoy Brussels waffle was GOOOOOOD.
To continue on the food theme, we couldn’t pass through without having some Belgian chocolates. We were off to the flagship store of Pierre Marcolini (Rue des Minimes 1 1000 Bruxelles) who is kinda like the Karl Lagerfeld of chocolates. The store was decadently dressed up in flowers and a fun marquee and then you go inside and it’s like a haute couture runway show except it’s a chocolatier…lol. (but I mean, he DOES do collabs with fashion designers) Honestly, I could STILL be there sampling chocolates if I didn’t have schedules to follow. I had a teeny piece of Earl Grey-infused ganache heaven and sampled a Belle Toujours which was essentially iced tea made of the remnants of the cocoa bean they don’t use when making chocolate—a very refreshing chocolate iced tea, if you will. Later on when Tracy and I were exploring on our own, I saw another Pierre Marcolini store and had to stop and get a esquimaux. You pick your ice cream flavor (I picked vanilla) and then your chocolate coating (I picked a hazelnut and milk chocolate coating) and while you go pay it quickly hardens and is ready to enjoy by the time you get back. It was SO good that I wanted to pop into another Pierre Marcolini shop I spotted while we were later in Paris but I hadn’t had lunch yet so I figured I’d wait. I should have just gotten it—we didn’t even walk back that way after lunch :/
Belgium is of course home to many chocolate shops—Godiva, Mary, and of course the inventor of the praline, Neuhaus. If it were up to me, I’d still be there sampling everything but of course I can get many of these here in NYC so I had to fight the urge…lol.
After sampling chocolates and popping into fun Belgian designer shops like Jean Paul Knott and luxury Belgian shops like Delvaux (Rihanna was spotted rocking one of their bags), it was time for lunch.
Grand Place–too bad I didn’t get to see this place at night. SO BEAUTIFUL
Inside Belgian home store Flamant Home Interiors
Pistolet Original—I didn’t have time to eat there but they’re known for Belgian breads and other amazing delicacies
One of the things I most wanted to eat while in Belgium was mussels and fries. I wanted them individually and then had the genius idea that perhaps I could get them together—I thought it was very “Queens”of me but I asked Paquita and it’s actually THEE WAY to have it: mussels and fries together. Like, that’s exactly how they serve it—it’s the Belgian way! She recommended a place but Tracy mentioned that we were meeting some folks for dinner to have mussels and fries so I figured why have it twice. I should have tried the mussels and fries there anyway because I wasn’t very impressed with the ones we had later at Le Chou De Bruxelles :/
Walking was the name of the game for us because 1. it’s a great way to somewhat help counter some of that food and 2. it’s FREE99. We walked through the St. Catherine area to get to the MIMA (the Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art). It was interesting—I don’t think I have the right attention span for some kinds of museums though.
After that we headed to visit some friends of Tracy’s and then had dinner at Le Chou De Bruxelles (the place was packed so maybe it was just me who didn’t love the mussels and fries I got). We were both pretty exhausted and had to pack up our things and head to Liege the next morning so we turned in early. The morning before we had to leave we walked around the area near our hotel (Hotel Motel One) and took a few pictures, somehow got lost, and then found our way and schlepped our luggage to the Central train station to head to Liege.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Brussels though it was pretty short. One of the things I’ll always remember is the beautiful architecture. Everything in Brussels looked so classic yet modern. There were buildings there from the 15th century!
Some other cool things about Brussels:
1. The international presence in Brussels is only 2nd to NYC. There was SO much diversity everywhere you turned. There’s a huge African population there from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. I saw so many beautiful Black people in Brussels and Liege—I was smiling and doing the head nod quite often.
2. Belgium is the second country in the world to legalize gay marriage. Woo hoo, Belgium!
3. There are a lot of things you might think are French, but are arguably Belgian. That could be a whole post itself!
I’d LOVE to come back and explore more. Give the moules-frites (mussels and fries) a go at that first restaurant, blow half my budget at Pierre Marcolini, and people-watch all the way through.
Stay tuned—I also filmed while in Brussels so I’ll hopefully have video to share in the coming weeks! In the meantime, subscribe to my Youtube channel.