Arriving in Brussels was like coming home. I lived here for 18 months about 5 years ago and miss Belgium very much. It was incredibly emotional when I took mum to Grand Place to show her the grandeur of this city.
Day 1: it was not about food. It was all about champagne! I discovered a brilliant new spot around the corner from Grand Place called Champagnotheque. It is sort of like a bar but small and very nice. They sell goodness knows how many varieties of French champagne. Everything can be bought by the bottle, half bottle or glass. Everything. Even Krug (at 120 euro a glass). I opted for a label I did not know. It was a bio champagne (organic) and was quite dry. Perfect for what was a 31 degree day in Belgium. Pity we are only here for a couple of days as I would love to try some more.
Day 2: Well fed. One of the things I recall about Belgium is how well one can eat for a reasonable amount, and high quality as well. Both meals consumed on this day were exceptionally good. I refer to lunch below. Dinner was enjoyed at a restaurant behind La Monnaie called Hemispheres. It is a mixed selection of middle eastern, Asian, and African cuisine with a dash of European flavours thrown in for good measure. I had a lamb tagine and mum had saffron salmon. Both were delicious and large serves. We were stuffed to the gills by the end, especially as we had shared a Greek mezze plate with my friends to start with. Lesson: order from the entrees only!
Day 1: Grand Place. Is there anywhere more spectacular in Brussels than Grand Place? Mum was nearly as overwhelmed as I was, but for different reasons. I recall what it is like to see Grand Place for the first time. It is jaw droppingly beautiful. As I mentioned above, it is a coming home for me. I felt unbelievably happy being back in that extraordinary square again. It is UNESCO listed and deservedly so. For those who have never been to Belgium, I highly recommend going. The lack of expectation that most of my friends have had when they visited me when I lived here makes Brussels and Belgium an incredible surprise.
Day 2: Friends. After my run and taking mum for a tour of the area I used to live, we met up with some friends of mine for lunch: Hils, Amanda and Anay. We dined at a lovely cafe in Place Jourdan called cafe des epices. I enjoyed a delicious goats cheese salad and mum had a dish with scampi, mushrooms, peas and rice. Both were delicious. It was great to see some of my old soccer team again and to hear of their adventures and direction that that their lives had taken since I had seen them last.
We also caught up with a couple of other good friends for dinner, Tiffany and Tuni. I originally met Tiffany when I was looking for a room to rent just before leaving Brussels late in 2007. Tuni was a close work colleague. Like the soccer crew at lunchtime, it was wonderful to see them both again and catch up on what everyone was doing. The biggest news was Tiffany’s pet snake!
Run #1: It was a 16.25km recovery run following the London Marathon from the weekend. It was great to run around my old neighbourhood again. The streets and footpaths are not even or flat, so it is a little tricky to run in the city. It sort of slows you down a little, but that is ok – I am on holidays : )
My route took me up from Grand Place, through Place de l’Albertine, past the awesome museum of musical instruments (a stunning example of art nouveau architecture), the Royal Palace (saw the changing of the guards), up Rue Balliard and past my old street (Rue de Pascale), a quick lap of Parc Leopold, up to Parc Cinquanteniare where I ran a couple of laps before heading up past Merode for a couple of kms, back to the Parc for a couple of laps, back past the Palace again, down to Sablon and through a few back streets until I hit Grand Place, past Galeries St Huberts before arriving back at my hotel. Some images of the run are below.
Run #2: a short 6.91km before checking out. I started with a similar route to the previous day, but once passing the Royal Palace, I turned up Trone and along to Avenue Louise, which I ran up for a few kms Before turning back around and running through Sablon and Grand Place again. My post run breakfast was a liege waffle : )
Next stop: Paris!