March 11, 2016

Before this weekend, Brussels wouldn't have been within my top 10 places to visit in Europe but since experiencing the city (and its many, many amazing cuisines) it's definitely in my top 5 favourite cities i've visited and I would recommend anyone to book their flights there asap.

Our weekend to Brussels started off early, like most of our trips, with a flight from Lyon - Brussels. In standard airport routine, we located the Starbucks and had a large caramel latte - amaze. Our flight was delayed by about 30 minutes, but there was hardly anyone on the flight so I wasn't complaining at having 2 seats to myself. It also allowed me to read more of my book, which is always a plus. (I'm currently reading "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown, by the way. I would highly recommend it!)

Once we arrived in Brussels, we followed signs to the train station located below the airport. We spotted ticket machines and headed over to buy our tickets. An English couple approached us and asked us for help since the system was in French, and we duly obliged. They then told us that these tickets were for the bus to the city, rather than the train, because the train was quite expensive. We all bought our tickets and headed outside to the bus station to find our bus. The only bus sitting waiting for passengers said its destination was "Luxembourg". Confused, but with no other possible bus to take, we boarded the bus and hoped that we wouldn't end up in the small, European, landlocked country of Luxembourg. Unlike buses back home, the bus sped past the stops without telling you their names and would only stop if you pressed the button. Scared that we would end up in a different country if we didn't say something, we asked a woman next to us and activated our 3G to use Google Maps to its full potential. After frantically searching the internet for bus routes in Brussels, I found out that Luxembourg was in fact the name of the bus stop in Brussels, and not the country. lolololol. I felt ridiculous but whatevs.

Once we reached Luxembourg (the bus stop in Brussels, not the country), we realised that it was where most of the EU buildings were - the flags, big bronze plaques and military men stationed outside them gave it away. Too hungry to stop, we decided to head into the city centre and located the nearest metro station (not before posing in front of a statue we found in a park though - see below).

A photo posted by AIDAN (@aidandick) on

In the city centre, we got off the metro at Gare du Midi which Google Maps had told us was the closest to our Hostel. While walking from the station to our Hostel, we noticed it was in a less-than-desirable area (similar to Guillotiere in Lyon, or the centre of Marseille, if you understand those references). We eventually found our hostel down a little side street and were welcomed by the unenthused, bored receptionist inside. The hostel we were staying at was the BRXXL 5 Hostel, which we had found on Hostelworld. It was modern inside and had an age restriction of 40 years old, so it was mainly young people. Once we got to our room, we were pleased to see it was a 4-bed dorm and that we'd only have to share with 2 other people, it also had a stunning bathroom with a shower head that was fixed to the wall (hallelujah). We claimed our beds, dropped off our stuff and quickly headed out to find some food.

We decided to try and find the Grand Place, which seemed to be the central area of the city. On the walk there, we came across so many cute cafés and Pinterest-y bars and noted them down to visit them the next day. As we rounded the corner into Grand Place, we were awestruck. I can't quite explain the vast beauty of the huge square and the ornate buildings that stood before me. Every building that ran along the sides of the square were intricately detailed with gold. Every building. There was one building with a huge spire-like tower at the top that set off the whole image of the place. Even the Starbucks was in a gorgeous building!

A photo posted by Carly Duckett (@carlyduckett) on

After being the most touristy tourists, taking every possible photo of the place, we went on the hunt for some food. By this point it was around 3.30pm and in France, restaurants only open from midday-2pm for lunch so we were hoping that annoying custom hadn't reached Belgium. Luckily it hadn't and we stumbled across a busy, cute looking friterie/restaurant called Café Georgette. We were quickly seated and by that point, after not eating anything all day, I would have taken anything and everything off the menu. I opted for one of their burgers with their famous Belgian frites, and Carly got Fish and Chips. It. Was. Amazing. I'm unsure whether that was because I was starving, or whether it was actually good (I think a combination of the two), but in typical British fashion we inhaled our food without any conversation, apart from the occasional sip of our mojitos (which made Carly drunk from one sip, lol).

After finishing our meals and très alcoholic mojitos, we headed off on the search for a famous Belgian Waffle. In another stroke of luck, we stumbled (quite literally) across what seemed like the busiest waffle house in Belgium, Maison Dandoy. With a queue out the door and round the corner, we knew they must be good so we joined the queue. We both opted for the Belgian Waffle with chocolate sauce and once again, IT. WAS. AMAZING. With my perfect square of waffley goodness and the belgian chocolately magic sauce on top, I was in heaven.

A photo posted by Carly Duckett (@carlyduckett) on

With our food babies, we headed back to the Grand Place to get a glimpse of the buildings as the sky got darker and their lights came on. It was stunning. We were hoping to get a photo together so we were trying to scout out someone that looked nice and good at photography to take it, then two American girls approached us and asked us to take their photo. We of course said yes, in return for them taking ours. After dealing two extremely drunk English guys who wanted to take a selfie with us all, we took their photo and they took ours and then we got chatting. They were students, 1 was on exchange in Brussels and her friend was on exchange in Italy but was visiting for the weekend. In the freezing cold, we stood in the Grand Place for around 2 hours chatting about everything from Donald Trump to the EU to good bars to go to. Everything. Unfortunately, the girl from Italy had an early flight the next morning and so they couldn't come out to a bar with us, but hopefully we'll see them again in the future. (Shoutout to Katie and Alyssa if you're reading!)

With hypothermia and low battery on our phones, we decided to head back to the Hostel and charge our phones, recuperate and then head out later on to some bars. After a few hours back at the Hostel catching up on social media and cowering round a radiator, we headed back out to find some cool bars in Brussels. All-in-all we ended up going to about 3 cocktails bars, one of which was this really nice understated but cool cocktail bar that was super busy, but their margaritas were da bomb. After consuming our bodyweight in sugary cocktails, we went on a search for the perfect drunk food - more Belgian frites. We decided to go to Café Georgette again. Next to their restaurant they have a take-out window that sells burgers and frites and stuff like that. We both opted for a large cone of frites with some of their mayo (FYI: Belgian mayonnaise is the best, no doubt about it. If you ever go to Brussels, get the most frites you can and slather on far too much mayo. You won't regret it.) With our 3rd food baby of the day, we headed back to the Hostel to get a good night's rest.

After an interrupted sleep due to our noisy roommates, we were feeling pretty shattered but had to pack up our stuff before our 10am check-out time. After leaving our bags in the luggage room at the hostel, we headed out for a morning coffee and brunch. We found the CUTEST café called Café Capitale. With low hanging bulbs, lovely armchairs and cute quotes on the wall, it was a tumblr/pinterest user's dream. I chose my standard drink which is a Soya Latté and I kid you not, it was the best coffee i've ever had. It came in a small glass tumbler (again, cute) and it was the frothiest thing i've ever drank. I was in heaven. If you're in Brussels, 100% you have to go to this place. 

A photo posted by The Places I Eat (@theplacesieat) on

We then walked into the Grand Place again and found a La Durée (for those who don't know, La Durée is a famous café/shop in Paris on the Champs Elysée, I think they invented the French Macaron or something but anyway, it has the cutest shops and the nicest macarons). We both bought 6 macarons that came in such a nice decorated box. Again, if you ever see a La Durée rush to it immediately and buy as many macarons as you can afford. You won't regret it.

A photo posted by Carly Duckett (@carlyduckett) on

We then spent most of the day wandering about the shopping district of Brussels. I spent far too much money on clothes (standard). We also visited the Museum of Chocolate and, I don't know how we did it, but we managed to get in for free and attend a chocolate masterclass/tasting ...for free. Other than that, there wasn't much to see in the place. Unfortunately it was raining most of the day so we headed back to the hostel early to get some heat and shelter, before we headed back to the airport for our flight. This time, however, we opted for the train which was much easier.

In comparison to our other trips, we didn't do much sightseeing or monument visiting but that didn't matter. Brussels is just such a lovely city to walk around in and admire. The buildings are beautiful, the people are lovely, the food is unreal. I mean, who doesn't love chocolate and frites?! If you ever want a quick city getaway, I would highly recommend going to Brussels. If you do go and you end up visiting any of the places I mentioned, let me know! I'm still thinking about that coffee and those macarons...

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