What a mission the train journey was from Paris to Brussels. The direct fast trains take just over an hour but the reservation costs are through the roof (30€pp) so of course we had to find a way around that. DB Bahnn suggested the best journey to be a change of 4 trains, which were going to take something like 5 hours all up. It definitely kept the trip interesting, especially when one of the trains was late so we ended up missing our connection. In the end we finally did make it to Brussels Central Station later that afternoon.
We were planning on walking the 4kms to the hotel however since we got there later than planned and it was starting to get dark, we decided to metro. In the end it was very easy to figure the metro out and in 20minutes time we were at our hotel.
Hotel Le Frederiksborg is in a nice area out of the city center, it’s 6 stops on the metro and situated beside a nice big park and lovely basilica. Downstairs is a restaurant/tavern, which we never actually ate at, but it did smell delicious!
The first evening we spent with an old friend of mine -Delphine. She was a Belgian exchange-student at my high school 9 years ago now! It was a great evening as she showed us into the center of Brussels and took us to a lively authentic Belgian restaurant in the Halles Saint Géry district. It was a great splurge as it was somewhere we never would of gone by ourselves as firstly there is no sign on the door or building and secondly there is no menu except for a large chalkboard up the wall with the day’s offerings… In French!
In the end we ordered the; Stoemp sausages de campagne and the Carbonnades a la chimay with a typical Belgian beer each of course. The Stoemp was literally the most delicious mashed potatoes with other veggies mashed up in it too. Around the mash was a tasty gravy and on top of the mash were two tasty sausages. The Carbonnades was the tenderest beef cubes cooked in Chimay beer with veggies and mash on the side. It was great to sit down and have a good proper meal with great company. Not to mention we racked Delphine’s brain about everything we can see and do in Brussels over the next two days, you got to love those insider secrets!
The next day was a very special day indeed – Morgan’s birthday!!! While Morgan was catching up on Skype with his parents (thank-you Hostel World for all the free Skype credit) I ventured out to grab coffee. We were still full from the night before so we figured we would pick something up to eat when we got to the train station. I had decided to take Morgan to Bruges for his birthday, it’s only 1 hour on the train from Brussels, easily accessible. As we had 20 minutes to wait to catch the next train at the station we decided to have the 1st birthday beer of the day. Since we hadn’t eaten yet we grabbed a couple of croissants before boarding the train.
Bruges is a gorgeous little town with various clock towers and canals running through the city. It’s a medieval fairytale town (yes we did watch ‘In Bruges’ recently). First stop was some fries and the 2nd beers of the day at a small tearoom in the center of town. We then had a wander around the Christmas markets, picking up a mulled wine for the walk to our next stop – De Halve Mann brewery (Walplein 26). We made it just in time for the 3pm tour. It cost us 6€ each for the 45-minute tour plus a glass of their blonde ale at the end.
Our tour guide was awesome, enthusiastic and overly excited by his job – it was great. He showed us all through the brewery including right up on top of the brewery where we had awesome views over Bruges. Afterwards we enjoyed our ale and then I decided to treat Morgan with a taste of the Straffe Hendrik quadruple ale…. A scorching 11%! Next stop was a pub I had read was recommended by plenty of beer aficionados ‘t Brugs Beertje. We stopped in, had a wheat beer each and a cheese, salami, gherkin and picked onion platter with some very delish hot mustard on the side.
Next up we decided to head to a place we briefly saw on the way to the brewery – The Pub (Hallestraat 4). They stock over 100 beers and it’s not so packed and crammed as the previous. We tried a variety of beers including; a Piraat, a Kwak, a Lucifer and a Blond Sec. By this time it was 8pm and it was time to head back to the station to head home. On the way back to the hotel room we grabbed a quick kebab and settled in to watch a movie to end the night. A great day!
The following day we wanted to explore Brussels. Delphine had drawn us maps and given us a list of foodie places to try. First stop naturally, was a chip shop. We decided to go for a 1-day metro pass so we could trip around the city easy. Chez Antoine is a chip booth in the middle of a small square, which serves up its double fried fries in the typical Belgian cornet cup. We ordered 1 large cornet between the 2 of us with ketchup on – €3.10 And they were as awesome as Delphine said, well worth the trip (closest metro stop = Schuman).
We then headed back to the center of town to the elegantly beautiful Grand Place. Being a Christmas geek, I am loving traveling at this time of year as in the Grand Place was a huge lighted Christmas tree with the markets just down the road. It was great to just wander round and soak up all the beauty and atmosphere. Plus the mulled wine here was so much better than the ones we tried in Bruges and Paris! Of course no trip to Brussels is complete without visiting the Manneken Pis Fountain (cnr Rue de l’Étuve & Rue du Chêne) – a little boy taking a leak. The funny thing is that the statue is dressed up currently in sort of Far Eastern clothes and we read that he has over 800 different outfits including an Elvis outfit and a Neilson Mandela outfit! You can’t see one without the other so we headed next to the Janneke Pis fountain – the little girl peeing.
By this stage the cold was getting to us a bit so we stopped for another hot wine and a hotdog in the markets. We were waiting to catch the sound and light show at 8pm to signal the start of the Christmas markets however we still had over 3 hours to go so we decided to head home to gear up with warmer clothes before heading back into town. The light show accompanied by music was awesome in the Grand Place, so much that you start to feel that childlike excitement for Christmas all over again. We grabbed a fresh hot waffle before heading home – we will start eating healthy when we get out of Belgium I think!
With a box of Belgian chocolate in hand and a croissant for breakfast.. We are now sitting on our next train and making our way to our 23rd stop on our epic Eurail adventure.