Brussels was the first stop on our two-week world-wind tour of Europe that spanned eight countries if you count France and the Vatican.
Everything started swimmingly, we got to the station early and half asleep, climbed aboard and were pampered by first class seats where our only companions in the sparsely filled train car were grumpy-looking French businessmen. We managed the Paris Metro with ease, found ourselves at our next station, and hopped aboard our second train for the day, one that provided snacks and tea during the brief ride.
Then we arrived in Brussels and quickly discovered that the directions I had taken to get to the hotel were a bit lacking and rather than having a simple 25-minute walk from the station to our hotel, we took about two hours and covered much more of Brussels than we needed to. We finally arrived at our hotel and collapsed in our room, famished, and realizing that it was nearly 2:30. Now, in the States, this would not be an issue, but we are in Europe where there is lunchtime and there is dinnertime, and few establishments acknowledge the possibility of individuals wanting to sit down for a meal at a time in between. So rather than relaxing in the room and freshening up a bit, we rushed out in hopes of getting food at a burger joint Colton had discovered only to find that they had closed early, so we settled on the pizza place next door. It was a relaxed yet awkward meal as we were the only patrons for majority of the time there as well as I was never quite sure if our server was speaking French or Italian, plus Colton ordered a pepperoni pizza that did not have any pepperoni.
We returned to the hotel and got a much needed nap (remember to rest on trips right?) before heading out to find the Christmas market. We took a detour from the markets and retraced the steps of those I had seen with red cups and found ourselves at a Starbucks (I know, I know—we’re horrible and should be ashamed of ourselves, but it’s nice to get something familiar from time to time and we both wanted something warm to sip). We passed the Coca-Cola Christmas store (yep) and followed the crowds to the market, what the crowds led us to however, did not involve any shopping, but rather a spectacular light show.
We found ourselves in Grand-Market Place, a square surrounded by exquisite old buildings, the only objects filling the square were a large nativity scene with live animals and a Mary that looked like Kirsten Stewart, and a large Christmas tree. Hundreds of people stood in the square to watch the light show, it wasn’t anything fancy but it was spectacular for some reason. Music filled the square and lights on the building flashed and changed colors in accordance. Hands-down, that square that night was my favorite site of the whole trip.
After refusing to waltz around the Christmas tree with Colt and various strangers (I know, I missed a wonderful moment of dancing with my husband around a giant Christmas tree in Brussels but I was in my “business mode” trying to find the markets that were apparently hidden and I wasn’t wearing a long skirt and cute fur hat like a lot of the other girls, and Colton had a backpack on. The mood wasn’t right, OK people).
We started following another crowd because we assumed they would lead us to the markets but sadly, they had wandered down the street to see a small statue of a small cherub-boy-thing peeing in a fountain. Apparently it’s famous, not really our taste though, so we turned around and shoved our way through a convoluted crowd of those returning from the markets watching the lights and those leaving the lights to get to the markets.
We didn’t see much of the markets that night, we explored through the first portion, feasted on bratwurst and potato pancakes, but the majority of the market stalls laid farther down the path so we called it a early night and turned in.
Following the advice of another blog we headed to MoKafe for some waffles (duh) for breakfast; Colton’s came with ice cream—healthy start—and chocolate syrup which I stole to drizzle over mine which was decked with strawberries.
After breakfast, we took a short walk to the St. Michel cathedral, which just happened to be right next to our hotel and is gorgeous, might possibly be my favorite cathedral—from the outside at least.
On the inside, it was the typical elegant cathedral, although at the time was filled with nativity scenes from various cultures around the world.
We walked out of the cathedral only to discover something we did not think we’d be lucky enough to see while in Brussels, it was something else in the blog I had read the night before and we were not disappointed.
That’s right, we got more waffles and they came out of a van. Guess what? They were amazing. Supposedly, the sugar in the batter caramelizes while the waffles cook, so there’s no need for toppings. Verdict? Best. Waffles. Ever.
Finally, we headed out to the market. Brussels was the most commercialized of markets in my opinion, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t fun. Established next to the Saint Catherine cathedral, hundreds of stalls stand selling wares that range from mini-fireplace incense burners (Colton got one and loves it) to soaps, and character hats.
A big factor in all of our markets was the food. The first thing we grabbed were some roasted chestnuts.
I had no idea what they tasted like but like so many people, I’ve sang that bit about “chestnuts roasting over an open fire” but had never had any and I had already decided that that was going to change on this trip. I ate a couple, I didn’t like them but fortunately Colt did. I wasn’t super smart with my next food choice either. A candy apple—there’s a reason I hadn’t seen any adults eating those.
And Two hours later…
Besides all the food and potential Christmas presents, there was a Ferris wheel, a blow-up walk-through lizard (I have no idea, I think it ate Christmas or something), as well as an ice-skating rink (we decided to avoid the inevitable falling and potential sprained ankles and not put on skates).
We took a break from wandering around and had some (I’m going to get this wrong) Tartiffette (something like that), it’s essentially an unhealthy potato and bacon mixture so it was delicious.
We followed suit of the previous day and took a break from the market and snoozed at the hotel (I highly recommend this if you decide to do a Christmas market tour—it allows you to see what everyone’s selling, eat some food, then you get a nap and come back when it’s dark, enjoy the ambiance and then make your purchases).
Our last tasty treat was from one of the Swedish stalls and essentially were kebabs covered in very potent spices (seriously, my tongue was tingly after eating).
We purchased some “presents” for ourselves—Colton’s incense burner and I got a leather bracelet—and Colton saw his first Alaskan malamute (no picture, I didn’t want to be too creepy—we were already staring at it). He had been around my Siberian Huskies, but malamutes are about three times that size (i.e. males can weigh 100 pounds) and that more cuddly. Guess what dog he wants now? (Not that I’m complaining).