Lately my travels have come on a back-to-back basis. The day after I returned from California, I left for Australia. The day after I got back from Australia, I went to Belgium. It was exhausting, but given that it was still below freezing in London, I was excited to escape for a weekend in Brussels.
Despite having lived in London for over five years, I haven’t spent more than a few hours in Brussels since I moved here. But I lived and worked in the city for a summer after college, and I couldn’t wait to get back and rediscover some of my favorite places.
I took the Eurostar to Brussels to be interviewed on Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio. The short journey through the Channel Tunnel and into Europe was a good one, what with getting to share my thoughts about London and Brussels on the air and getting to know the other guests on the show.
When we arrived at the Gare du Midi, I waved good-bye to the others and hopped on a connecting train to the central station. Just across the way was my hotel for the night, Le Meridien Brussels.
They had offered me a stay in one of their newly renovated Delxue rooms, a large space with contemporary design and Le Meridien’s signature emphasis on art.
I settled into my room, then explored the bright lounge and bar area before heading out to do some sightseeing in Brussels. The famous Grand Place was just a few steps away from the hotel, and soon I found myself steeped in history and medieval charm.
From the Grand Place, I walked through the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a beautiful covered shopping arcade lined with more Belgian chocolate shops than I’ve ever seen.
Outside was the bustling Rue des Bouchers, a narrow pedestrian street perennially crowded with the tables of so many cafes. Jutting off from there was an alley where the famous Delirium Cafe was located. It was known for serving the widest range of beers of any bar in the world.
Opposite Delirium was a hidden gem of a sightseeing highlight in Brussels, the Jeanneke Pis. The small fountain of a girl peeing was created as a counterpoint to its famous sibling, the Manneken Pis.
Further down towards the Bourse, I passed by Falstaff, a famous Art Nouveau cafe and bar, and crossed the busy Boulevard Anspach to explore the funky shops, boutiques, and restaurants on the other side.
Later, I crossed back through the Grand Place and up to the Grand Sablon, a chi chi square lined with some of the best Belgian chocolate shops in Brussels.
Tempted as I was to indulge, I had a dinner reservation to attend to. Peter Greenberg and his producers invited me to join them for a meal at La Quincaillerie, a funky restaurant in Ixelles set in an old hardware store. The meal featured everything from oysters to Poulet de Bresse, and we got a tour of the kitchen to see the action.
The next morning I had a big buffet breakfast at Le Meridien, then met up with the group from the night before at a nearby chocolate shop called Laurent Gerbaud. Laurent himself took us into his workshop, where he taught Peter how to make mendiants, chocolate discs with dried fruits and nuts on top.
Afterwards Peter interviewed Laurent for his TV show while the rest of us sipped heavenly hot chocolate. Given that the shop offers chocolate making classes, I vowed to return for another weekend in Brussels to try my hand at my own confections.
After cocoa, it was time for lunch. The venue was Bocconi restaurant, which was located right behind the Grand Place. The food was Italian, and we feasted on everything from fried calamari to fresh pasta.
Soon it was time to travel back to London. My trip to Belgium had been way too short, what with the lack of time to visit the city’s excellent museums and taste more of the famous food—Belgian waffles, fries, mussels, and beer to name a few.
But the city is so close to London that I should be able to find an excuse to return for another weekend in Brussels soon. If my travel schedule ever lets up, anyway.