Come Away With Me: Brussels
Chocolate, beer, waffles, frites and comics. Brussels offers an unlikely combination but it leaves you with at least one thing sure to please everyone. We hopped a train to Brussels in mid-November. Faye let us know early she would come along but only begrudgingly. On the train she ate the magazine and threw a fit. This general demeanor stuck the entire day-and-a-half we were gone, and immediately lifted upon arriving home. This child has opinions and preferences and apparently she preferred London that weekend. But we still made the best of Brussels. There are some things in Brussels you just can't go wrong with. If you like beer that is probably one of them. I don't like beer. It's not something I am proud of but it's true. So my husband saved his belgian brew desires for another trip and we stuck to chocolate and waffles. I think he only felt mildly disappointed about the beer. Belgian waffles from a street vender are all kinds of cheap. I think it was a single euro for one waffle sans toppings - which is delicious - and two euros for one with chocolate and strawberries or nutella and bananas or whatever sweet goodness you choose. You can't leave Belgium without a waffle. Promise me. We visited more than our fair share of chocolatiers, but I recommend two places - Mary and Frederic Blondeel. Mary is a Belgian institution and represents traditional chocolate at it's finest. Apparently it's the chocolate preferred by Belgian royals, a subset of Belgians whoI assume have a fairly decent palate for cocoa. Also, the store is stunning: rows and rows of truffles, cellophane bags filled with chocolate dipped marshmallows and barks, glass hurricanes to the brim with caramels. Oh my goodness. The man working at Mary wouldn't let one of the patrons purchase a less-than-packed full box of chocolates. Why? Because when the lady arrived at her final destination, the chocolates would have moved too much and wouldn't be pretty. When she said she'd pay for a full box but she just wanted eleven chocolates he answered, "I'm sorry, we have a reputation." Mary: It's chocolate with a reputation -- one you want to experience. Frederic Blondeel was a modern take on the truffle. Vinegars, chillies and fancy salts abound in the descriptions. Their balsamic chocolate truffle was my favorite of the trip. I might have had that truffle along with a mug of hot chocolate. Don't judge, we were in Belgium. If you need a break from the chocolate there are always cupcakes. Yes, I had the King Louis banana chocolate cupcake so it wasn't much of a "break" from chocolate, per se, but I believe King Louis would have loved it too. Now you can judge me. What I didn't expect to find in Belgium were amazing home stores and boutiques. My Table was our favorite home store. It is stocked with tea cups, mugs, throws, pillows, ceramics, candles, quirky gifts, pretty cards and modern kitchen wares. It's the kind of place you don't realize you've been in for half an hour. The area surrounding My Table was full of great store gazing. In one of the boutiques I fell in love with a bag but the price tag didn't love me back so it's probably hanging stylishly from some other woman's arm. Such a tease. Last but not least, we spend an evening watching the light show at the Grand Place in the central square of Brussels. We didn't even care that our faces were frozen we just kept watching the lights flash and flow over the striking old architecture all in time with Christmas melodies. I am a sucker for Christmas spirit. When you go, you could walk the "comic strip" with frites in hand, go to the beer museum or visit in the spring and see the "carpet" made entirely of flowers in the Grand Place court. We didn't do any of that, we barely scratched the surface of this fair city. I am going to dream of doing those things during our next trip while I have tea at our flat with the babe and the boy... out of my Brussels souvie of course.