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Published: July 18th 2018
I. LOVE. BRUSSELS.
It’s pretty much just Paris but specifically for young people. The copious amounts of Belgian beer and chocolate is balanced by the numerous organic restaurants and the people are so friendly!!
We left our horrendous Airbnb in Montmartre (not sure if I mentioned all the issues with it, it’s too late now but it was not a great stay) at 6:50am, and walked all the way to Gare du Nord. Once there we had an hour before the train arrived (we left early to avoid problems that we seem to keep having with trains!), so we decided to actually have breakfast. We got pain au chocolats (our last one for a long time) and I also grabbed a peach smoothie. The train was only an hour and a half long, and after attempting to stay awake and stare at the scenery but eventually falling asleep we were there before we knew it.
Instead of getting a taxi we decided to save money and get some exercise and do the half hour walk to the hotel. Big mistake. Huge.
Brussels is absolutely MADE of cobblestones. Cobblestones so thick that even my beautiful amazing pink suitcase was no match for them (the fact that it’s pink has nothing to do with it’s fighting abilities, I just wanted everyone to know it’s pink. Carrying on). When we left the station it was cold, but after five minutes we were drenched in sweat. Trudi has a suitcase, a handbag, and a duffle bag, and since her suitcase is a pull-along only (aka it has two wheels), I placed it on top of my suitcase as mine has four wheels, meaning I can push it along. And push it along I DID. The entire walk was uphill, so I near-squatted behind my suitcase pushing it upwards, crying out whenever it hit a cobblestone and I went flying over the top of it. It was hell.
Anyway, we got to the hotel finally, after only a small amount of swearing and a lot amount of sweating. By this time it was 10am, and check in at the hotel was 1pm. We asked reception if we could just dump our bags there and then check in at 1, but they said they had an extra room available for us to check into right away! Thank the lord. We settled in, and then at 11am headed out into town for the day.
We were starving by this point, so we headed to a quirky little shopping mall near Grand Place where we found a nice organic restaurant. I had a pot-au-feu with fresh vegetables and Belgian chicken, with some nice brown bread on the side. We also had some masala chai tea which was nice. After lunch we walked around whiling away the time until our chocolate tour at 2pm. We headed to Grand Place, and walked around a bunch of cute little streets, entering a bunch of stores and having a look around.
The chocolate tour was awesome! We’d started to doubt it, as we realised we could probably just go into chocolate shops and ask for tasters ourselves. But we’re really really glad we did it, as we tasted some incredible, expensive chocolates and learnt some cool history as well. Turns out the shopping mall we’d been in was the first shopping mall ever, made in the 1800s- there had been shopping streets before, of course, but this was the first one with a roof. It was actually in this shopping mall that we went to the first three chocolate shops- the three least expensive ones. One was Neuhaus, the birthplace of the Praline. Jean Neuhaus was a pharmacist who put his medicines inside chocolates to make them easier to eat, and eventually realised he was making more money from his chocolates than from his medicines. So he transformed the pharmacy into a chocolate shop and filled the chocolates with praline cream instead of medicine! We also went into Mary’s. Mary was the first female chocolate entrepreneur, and her chocolates were so good that once she got the King to taste them he made her the Royal Chocolate Supplier. Suffice to say, these chocolates were amazing.
We then headed up to another area to visit three more chocolate shops that were a bit more sophisticated and expensive. At one of them, Frederic Blondeel, we tasted two chocolates, one was blackcurrant and cardamom, and the other was orange and sea salt. The guide had asked us to guess what the flavours were, and Trudi and I, trying to look sophisticated, dictated that we thought the second chocolate was apricot with hints of some sort of spice. The guide actually laughed a little bit.
“Uh, no it’s just orange and sea salt, but I love the enthusiasm!”. Another embarrassing moment.
At another store, we tasted two dark chocolates, both with 72% cacao, yet one was from Venezuela and the other from Madagascar. The guide pointed out that the two chocolates were exactly the same make, but because they’re from different countries the difference was really clear. Always check where your chocolate is from, folks (and, if it’s from the Ivory Coast, don’t buy it).
The last place we visited also had a waffle shop just a few stores down, which our guide told us had the best waffles in Brussels. So, after the tour, even though we felt absolutely sick to our stomachs, we knew we had to get the best waffle in Brussels before it disappeared from us forever. So we shared one. It was nice, but the best in Brussels? Probably not.
Afterwards we picked our heavy selves up (“I feel large”- Trudi, 2018), and headed back down to the city centre. After the walk we were hungry again (which sounds surprising but we hadn’t eaten anything but tiny, sugar packed chocolates for five hours. Plus the waffle, but it was quite small and we shared). So, we tried to find another organic place for dinner and we succeeded! We ended up having Avocado Buddha Bowls for dinner, with buckwheat, apple, pomegranates, rocket, tahini sauce, beans, and of course avocado. We then headed back to the chocolate shops to get some souvenirs. Then, we headed to Delirium!
Delirium is a bar that was recommended to me by a friend before I came overseas, and I completely forgot about it until I received a message from him this morning reminding me of it. It is a beer bar that has over 2000 different types of beer. Now, I’m not normally a beer fan but this seemed pretty cool! Trudi can’t even get through a small glass of beer though so she wasn’t too keen on the idea, until the chocolate tour guide told us we could get fruity beers like peach, raspberry, and banana!
Delirium was super, super cool. At first I got a Pink Killer (which turns out was pink grapefruit flavoured!) and Trudi got strawberry. We then read a drink coaster that said the Delirium Tremens was the best beer in the world, so we tried that too. It wasn’t great, but it’s the best beer I’ve ever had! It’s such a cool bar. We left after the two drinks, and made it all the way back to the hotel without using a GPS, which we were very proud of.
Unfortunately we’re only in Brussels for one night (it was actually just a stopover on the way to Amsterdam so we could do a chocolate tour). So, off to Amsterdam tomorrow! Our last city, I’m very excited.
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