Nick’s workmate, Jeremiah and his girlfriend Anna were planning a trip to Brussels in Belgium for Anna’s birthday in December. We decided to tag along too – why not, we said! Apologies in advance for the dark photos – the iPhone didn’t like Belgium!
The drive took about 3 hours to get there. Or should have. We decided to find an Esso station to stop at just before the border. It was an extremely foggy day (low visibility) and we passed a gas station and decided not to stop there and just push on. We should have stopped there. We turned up in the little German town to discover that the Esso was long closed down, that google lead us astray, and learned our lesson – always rely on the Esso app, not google! We turned back around and ended up having lunch at gas station instead of in Belgium! It set us back well over 1½ hours, but it is part of the adventure.
Another lesson – the traffic around Brussels is pretty bad. We did arrive when people were leaving for work (Europeans leave early on Friday, apparently,) but it was still difficult getting into the Grand Place area, which is where we were staying. We found a parking garage next to the hotel we were staying at and parked up there for the weekend.
Our hotel was the Novotel Tour Noire, which ended up being unexpectedly next to a pretty Christmas market. I had no idea when I booked it that it would be right there. The hotel room was amazing, with an incredible walk in shower and modern features. We would definitely stay there again, and with being right next to the parking garage, it was really convenient.
We met up with Jeremiah and Anna and headed to the Delerium beer café. I’m not a beer fan, but I have found one beer that I will drink, and it just so happens that it is everywhere in Belgium. We sat and enjoyed the cool (kind of dark) atmosphere of the pub, and then headed out for dinner at an Indian restaurant that we all passed on the way to the beer café. It was pretty disappointing, so just as well we had already had beers. It was also difficult going from an extremely loud pub to a quiet restaurant. I’m pretty sure everyone heard every bit of our conversations.
After dinner we headed to the Christmas market by our hotel. It was pretty busy, but it was nice to wander around. We tried gluhwein for the first time, and didn’t like it. We threw it out still half full. The Belgians seemed to love their blow up Santa’s and weird creepy snowmen! The back drop was cool though – a ferris wheel and a temporary ice skating rink.
We did discover something amazing – Speculoos liquor! Speculoos is a cookie(American)/biscuit(New Zealand) that is cinnamon/spice flavoured that is delicious. We are obsessed. The best is the Speculoos butter (ground up cookies). We get excited when we find anything Speculoos flavoured, and we found the liquor the next day at Cora for only €9! Bargain!
It was time to head back to the Delerium café, so we went back and had another beer before bed. After a long day the hotel room was very welcoming, even though we wanted to stop at a supermarket and take drinks back with us. (They were all closed). I think Europe is turning us into alcoholics!
The next morning we went out for brunch (where there were language difficulties). Belgium trips me out a little. Some people speak French, some Flemish, and I never know what to use. After that, we wandered the streets and checked out the chocolate shops before leaving the city.
On the way back, we stopped in at a Cora. It was kind of a bad idea, being so close to Christmas it was absolutely packed. We had to circle a huge parking lot to find a park, and were about to leave when we found one. We stocked up on Belgian essentials (chocolate and beer) before heading back home.
We will definitely be heading back to Belgium, but next time we will probably head to Brugges – I’ve heard such wonderful things about there, it’s just a bit further of a drive.
Until next time!