Greetings from Brussels! That’s actually a lie; I’m back in London, but the sentiment was nice, wasn’t it? This last weekend, I embarked on an arduous overnight bus plus ferry journey to Brussels, Belgium. Five hours into the journey, I realized that the overnight bus and ferry may have seemed like a brilliant idea, but it was actually a terrible idea.
I ended up with almost no sleep due to constant interruptions: attempt to sleep for an hour – get up for border control in Dover, France – attempt to sleep for an hour – get up to drag my weary body off the bus and onto the ferry – try to not lose my stomach for two hours on the ferry – get off the ferry and back onto the bus – still in a state of nauseousness, attempt to sleep for another three hours – finally arrive in Brussels – only to find pouring rain, blistering winds, and all the shops closed – wait for a coffee shop to open – caffeinate self to the utmost degree – eat a Belgian waffle and ah, all is well with the world.
To be frank, the first day was a little rough with the frigid weather and sleep deprivation, but the food redeemed Brussels. A warm, crispy Belgium waffle with strawberries and powdered sugar, generously drizzled with chocolate sauce can cure just about any malady. Now that I had experienced a classic Belgian delicacy, I set out to experience Belgian architecture. I began with The National Basilica of the Sacred Heart, an immense Roman Catholic Minor Basilica. At this point, the wind blew so violently that my umbrella cried out in fear before retreating and turning inside out. Ode to Joy. Let the soaking commence.
The mantra of the weekend quickly became, “I will rally!” And rally I did. Onto my next site, the Atomium. Belgium originally constructed the Atomium for Expo 58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Its nine 59 ft diameter stainless steel clad spheres are connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.
Now I shall return to the best part of Belgium: the food. For lunch, I patronized Georgette’s, a classic Belgian frites restaurant. I cannot describe how wonderful Belgian frites taste. I am ruined for life.
On my second day in Brussels, I visited the historic city center. The intricate architecture continued to impress.
At the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, I was elated to see The Death of Marat (La Mort de Marat or Marat Assassiné) by Jacques-Louis David. It depicts the murdered French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat and is one of the most famous images of the French Revolution.
The award for the most spectacular site in Brussels has to go to the Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the central square of Brussels. It is surrounded by opulent guildhalls and two larger edifices, the city’s Town Hall, and the Breadhouse.
For the grand finale of my trip to Belgium, I present to you… luxury Belgian chocolate! Brussels is not only the capital of Belgium and the center of the European Union, but also it is the chocolate capital of the world. Ever since the Belgian Jean Neuhaus created the first praline a hundred years ago, Belgium has honed the art of chocolate making. Over 300 chocolate producers reside in Brussels and their chocolate factories line the streets for glorious chocolatey miles. I lost track of how many free samples I consumed as I hopped from one chocolate store to the next 🙂
A+ for both taste and presentation. Yum.
As an aficionado of salted caramel dark chocolate, I sought to find the best that Belgium had to offer. Pierre Marcolini took the cake, or rather, the chocolate, with his dark chocolate salted caramel vanilla pieces of heaven.
I headed back to London thoroughly exhausted and thoroughly content with chocolate in my bag and memories of Brussels in my mind.