As a special treat (Birthday) Nick booked a couple of nights in Brussels so I could spend a day at the Museum of Costume and Lace.
Unfortunately a few days before there were bombs at the airport and underground and 28 people perished. Many flights were cancelled and travellers were advised to give it a miss. But I generally take the view that
- the residents of Brussels can’t ship out
- they would probably appreciate tourists
- it was important to experience the reality (although we have had enough bombs in London too)
- the risk to personal safety is probably overstated
- we were on Eurostar rather than a plane
- I really wanted to see the Crinolines exhibition
- this was my birthday treat
- we were not sure we would get our money back
So off we went. And I am so glad we did. We had a great time in a beautiful city. With only 1.2m people living there it is a small city, with everything within walking distance. The old buildings are mainly as they were before and after the First World War and there are lots of nice things to see, do and eat. For a short stay it is a perfect place.
We stood for a while at the Place de la Bourse, with all the flags, chalked messages, votive candles, fresh flowers and hopeful messages, surrounded by people from all over the world appalled by the selfish, meaningless actions of a few ignorant youth. There were large numbers of police officers, army guys and journalists. And while we were there, (not witnessed) there were arrests, shootings, rightwing reactions and water cannon.
In normal times you have to see the Manneken Pis. He is very small. In stature (61 cms). He is dressed up in various made to measure outfits throughout the year (details posted by my left elbow), but was naked when we passed by.
We didn’t eat the waffles or drink the beer although there is infinite variety of both on offer. Nor, this time, did we eat Moules Frites, despite an encouraging email from Nat Made In Home. We tried a traditional Belgian restaurant, and a modern patron-run bistro – both disappointing and not worth mentioning. Our best food was Vietnamese or Thai, just like at home. I always love the plastic replicas in the window, don’t you?
We stayed in an amazing hotel – The Hotel Mozart – run by an eccentric, somewhat camp, Moroccan. He said most of his guests had cancelled over the next two weeks. Admittedly noisy, but central, inexpensive, with a good breakfast and nice staff, I would recommend it.
We enjoyed an Ethiopian coffee shop, Aksum. We sat inside when it was cold, and outside when it was sunny. Great coffee and very friendly staff and free wifi. We tried the Harar coffee. And the tea was good too.
Apart from our trip to the Museum of Costume (which deserves its own post) we did go to a fabric shop, which is vast and interesting, Les Tissus du Chien Vert. The shop flies fabric flags, and inside it is vast. The selections are very good – both of dressmaking and furnishing fabrics – but the prices are standard for a similar shop in the UK. Most of the cloth comes from France or Italy. They had a good range of jersey, linen, crafting type cottons, and African wax fabrics. I was interested in the nylon fabrics – in wonderful colours – there were two or three times the variety shown in the second picture. This nylon is what I think we call Ripstop (?) and is used for wind proof tops and other sorts of outdoors wear. I did buy some fabric even though I have no where to store it at home. It is a nice wool/acrylic blend with tufts of red, white and blue.
At Stephanie’s suggestion we went to look at the outdoor market held near the Eurostar station). Cheap fabric was available but nothing special. What was shocking was that towards the end of the day many people were scavenging the almost rotten remains – scoring free food due to abject poverty. We also went to the flea market that was full of rubbish really.
Here are Steph’s other recommendations, via the delightful Gianni. Sadly we just didn’t have time to try most of them. Thank you S, G and G’s sister!
http://maisonlanssens.be/ (This is actually a butcher where you can buy great sausages, he says, although he thinks it might be close.)
http://www.chezleon.be/ (Mussels and fries)
http://www.ultimeatome.be/ (not sure)
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/belgium/brussels/entertainment-nightlife/other/le-cirio (For great aperitivi half-half)
Pizza by the slice: https://www.mammaroma.com/fr
Things to see:
La grande places and around the Place de la bourse
Place du sablon, Place jeu de balle (for markets/flea markets)
http://www.grsh.be/en/ A really nice gallery with restaurants and shops.
https://www.tripadvisor.it/Restaurant_Review-g188644-d1019348-Reviews-A_La_Mort_Subite-Brussels.html Some kind of a restaurant that is historical
For fabrics she knows only one that sells cotton in the rue des Renards but doesn’t remember the name.
Gianni said he found this list online though I haven’t inspected: