I went to Brussels for two days in January and liked it so much I went back for more last weekend. The reason for going in January was not tourism-related, it was for a job interview. An international agency linked with the European Commission had an opening. I applied, they sent me train tickets, I went for an interview. I then stayed on for two days. In the end I didn’t get the job, but a few weeks later I secured myself a pretty good job in Paris, so all’s well that ends well.
But I felt that I could easily live in Brussels. As I walked the streets, the words that popped into my head to describe the city’s vibe were “relaxed and loose” as opposed to “tense and high strung” that is Paris. There’s an appealing quirkiness to the place, it’s cheaper than France, and Belgian beer is awesome (I like brown, malty ales.)
I returned to the same B&B that I had stayed in in January because I love the 19th-century building, the location, the soundproofed rooms with incredibly high ceilings, and Sofie and her husband who are such gracious hosts. I’m also crazy about their Jura espresso/latte/cappuccino machine that sits gleaming on the counter in the breakfast room. It’s Swiss-made and expensive. During this trip I chatted with four lovely Australians over breakfast. Australians are extremely laid-back and easygoing people which might explain why so few of them live in France.
To learn more about this charming B&B, see the links below. Here’s my room, the bathroom and the building’s exterior:
I wandered over to the nearby Marolles district to check out the flea market and the vintage furniture shops on the rue Blaes:
The weather forecast predicted rain all weekend. It was the exact opposite.
The best Belgian fries!
Belgian fries are awesome. Crisp, non-greasy and piping hot for 2 euros. I bought these from a food truck, called a fritkot, located on the Place de la Chapelle at the foot of a white cathedral. Belgians eat their fries with mayonnaise which doesn’t appeal to me. I asked for vinegar (it’s a British/Canadian thing, malt vinegar is best) but they didn’t have any, so I ate them as is sprinkled with salt. Wash ’em down with a bottle of Belgian beer for 2 euros and life is good!
From the Place de la Chapelle I walked straight down the boulevard de l’Empereur to the Place Albertine where I went in January. There’s a small, beautiful park that I wanted to see again. Look at the contrast between the photos I took in the dead of winter and in late spring:
As the day drew to a close, I headed back to the B&B. A few doors up is an authentic Moroccan pastry shop that makes superb pastilla – a small phyllo-pastry pie generously filled with shredded chicken, ground almonds, cinnamon and sugar – as well as Moroccan breads and pastries. I bought some tiny, fragrant cakes (flavored with sesame, anise and orange flower water) before retiring to my beautiful quiet room to sip herbal tea and watch a DVD.
Here are the January links introducing my first visit to Brussels and to this hotel. It should be known that the neighborhood, right near the train station, is a bit gritty. But the advantage is that it’s within walking distance to everywhere.