Belgium - The Potato Chick

Brussels & Bruges, Belgium

In a quote Kath & Kim, I simply “loved myself sick” here.

Food we loved...gratinated mussels – because we all know that adding grated cheese to something makes it taste even better.

I was always going to like a country where eating fries for lunch can be described as “sampling the local food”. Throw in a plentiful supply of mussels, chocolate, waffles and beer and you have a winning gastronomic combination (and, really, the key to my heart).

I suspect Nick may have had his doubts about the whole Belgium plan when I took him to Brussels’ number 1 “must see”, the Manneken Pis statue. It depicts a naked little boy urinating into a fountain’s basin. Not only is it slightly revolting but the statue is so small that we almost walked right past it. Not a good start. And don’t even get me started on Janeke Pis, the female equivalent.

Aside from the odd statues, Brussels is a fabulous city with a great cosmopolitan vibe. We really enjoyed just wandering around admiring the lovely buildings and parks and peaking in the windows of chocolate shops.

Belgium has more comic strip artists per square kilometre than any other country in the world. Many famous comics originated from here including Tintin and the Smurfs. In tribute to Belgium’s comic strip history, there are comic strip murals painted on the walls of buildings all over the city. We thoroughly enjoyed a little DIY walking tour to see some of these murals with a coffee in hand. They are a fabulous part of the city.

We strolled the halls of the Palace of Justice and even peaked in one of the doors to see a real life court proceeding. Funnily enough this did not make me miss work at all.

Nick sat in a Formula One car at Autoworld while I visited the art museum to see the surrealist works of Magritte.

We also had two trips to see the Atomium during the day and at night. The Atomium is a weird sort of space age style building originally constructed for Expo 58. It is made up of nine spheres, five of which contain exhibit halls and other public spaces and which are connected by tunnels. Apparently CNN has named it Europe’s most bizarre building. We liked it. Check out the pictures below and decide for yourself.

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We split up for an afternoon which Nick spent sampling beers and I spent sampling chocolates. As expected, the chocolates were divine. My favourite shop was Patrick Roger which seemed to specialise in slightly oddball combinations – lemon and basil, ginger and pepper, lime and dark chocolate. All of these were amazing. Nick enjoyed the beers just as much as I enjoyed the chocolates. Once I sampled some of the beers I had to agree with him – it seems that Belgian beer is more appealing to my female palate than the stuff we drink at home.

We day tripped to Bruges where we visited De Halve Maan brewery and wandered the streets and canals in complete awe of the cuteness of it all. It was so perfect it felt like we were in the midst of a movie set. We had heard rumours that the town is all fake (whatever that means). Well fake or not, I don’t care. I loved the day we spent there.

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We also spent a lot of time eating wonderful Belgian food (as listed above) with our stand out favourite being the gratinated mussels provencale we had at Chez Leon. Mussels covered in a rich tomato and garlic sauce with grilled cheese on top – this dish was absolutely to die for. Needless to say, we ate there twice.

We left Belgium with full stomachs and happy hearts, a wonderful last minute addition to our itinerary.

Next stop...Tallinn, Estonia.

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Posted 29 November 2014