The train unions went on strike Tuesday night until Thursday morning. Right smack in the middle of this strike, James and I were supposed to take a train for a day trip to Brussels. Lucky for us, our train (both ways) was not impacted, and were able to embark on our journey. We pulled into Brussels a little before 11 a.m. Unlike Paris, it was sunny with a cold bite in the air.
We decided to walk instead of figuring out the subway system. Brussels is a tiny city and were able to walk through a good portion of it during the day. We headed to La Quincaillerie, a hip bistro in an old hardware store. Since we arrived early, and restaurants here don’t open any earlier than noon, we wandered around the neighborhood and came across cool shops, patisseries and more. We were definitely in the Williamsburg Brooklyn of Brussels.
For lunch, I decided to give oysters another try. They were also on the tasting menu and sounded like the least filling option. I’m still not completely sold, but they were probably the best I’ve tried thus far (and no, I have not had any from home yet so I know there are many, many more varieties to tackle!). James also had the oysters. For my entree, I had the steak and frites, James had duck served atop of a perfectly formed pile of potatoes. We left and made a beeline for the patisserie around the corner, with the most beautiful display of treats. We had them boxed up and started making our way to the city center.
Along our journey, we came to a ledge – a huge overpass looking over the city. In fact, you could take an elevator down if you preferred to not walk down the steep streets and stairs. From here, you could see the entire city of Brussels, including the cool atom structure which is located much further away from city center.
At the bottom, we found a sunny bench and decided to enjoy our treats. Both of us had chosen a raspberry macaroon, but it was much larger than your typically macaroon, maybe the size of a chocolate chip cookie, with filling the incorporated a layer of raspberries and cream. It was heaven. The closest I can compare it to is the Haagen Daaz raspberry vanilla frozen yogurt swirl – but better, and less sweet.
During the rest of our journey through the winding streets, James stopped for a waffle, topped with whipped cream and strawberries. We finally came to the city center, the “Grand Place.” I had forgotten how truly amazing this section of the city is.
Each of the buildings ornate, covered in gold, and breathtaking. We opted to go into the Brussels History museum, which was one of these ridiculously orante buildings. Here we learned about the different periods in Brussels, saw how the city expanded from the 1200s to today, and the best part, every costume that Mannekin Pis has ever worn. Mannekin Pis is this tiny little boy peeing (it’s supposed to be Cupid) that was constructed in the mid-1600s. He’s situated outside the main square, and every time someone important comes to visit Brussels, the city creates him a special costume and dresses him up.
We left the museum and headed over to see the actual Mannekin Pis. He was dressed up (I think for Australia, but I have no idea!). We then made our way to a chocolate shop, purchased some goodies, and headed to the Comic Museum.
The Comic Museum is very cool. Tin Tin was created by a Belgian artist, along with some other famous comics, and so there is of course an entire museum dedicated to these folks and others. We saw the process of how comics were invented (monks used to tell bible stories in the same format that we see comics in today!). There was an entire section dedicated to the Smurfs, graphic novels, etc. It was a very cool spot, and highly recommended if you are in the city. Again, I wish I wasn’t so tired by the time we got here!
We made our way back to the city center for dinner at Aux Armes de Bruxelles – one of the city’s historic spots to eat their most famed dish – mousels and frites (mussels and fries). To get here, one must travel through the slippery snakes of tourist trap spots. Men outside yelling for you to come in, trying to veer you in a different direction. It reminded me of the tapas and paella places in Spain, but 100 times worse. We ducked inside the restaurant to be greeted by possibly the worst waiter in the world. At least the worst I have had! But the food was good and it was a solid 90 minutes of sitting. I had moules in a tomato sauce, and James had his in a wine cream sauce.
We walked slowly back to the train station, enjoying the quietness of Brussels at night, and arrived at our apartment in Paris before 11 p.m.