One of the best things about being stationed in England is how accessible Europe is from here. Elaborate “dream vacations” from the middle of America turn into “holidays.” A whole world of destinations opens up to you when you realize they will never require less time and money to visit than from here. Suddenly you find yourself thinking “why not take a girls’ trip to Brussels?” (Or London. Or Stockholm.) Then there comes a time when you feel like all of your friends are going to SO many more places than you, and you forget that it’s actually a big deal that you’ve been to the Olympics and Scotland and Italy.
Yes, it’s not so bad.
But I’m hoping there’s at least a portion of my readers/fellow imbibers who can sympathize with me on one thing: going to Belgium while pregnant. You know the Belgian beer I brought home isn’t going to make it to February. Except maybe hopefully at least one Westvleteren 12? Please, honey?
It’s beautiful. We hung around the Grand Place through our short stay, to take in the Christmas Market, shopping, food and sights. We found a great deal at Hotel ibis, which was perfectly located for all of this, very near the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert.
The market area was ridiculously crowded our first night there, as tourists flocked for the “Winter Wonders” festival. For most of December this heart of the city is lit up for the holidays. The juxtaposition of the modern colorful lights on historic buildings really conveyed a sense of wonder.
This year’s XMas tree sound and light show seemed to be a big draw. By day, the boxy steel-and-projection-screen tree feels like an impostor amidst the stunning, gilded historic buildings of the Grand Place Market Square. But the nighttime display and hourly show that’s synchronized with the lights of the surrounding buildings was, well, really cool.
The Christmas market wasn’t as large as we expected, but we were able to find gluhwein (mulled wine) and roasted chestnuts in addition to a wide range of sausages. This, from what I hear, is pretty standard.
One thing you’ll hear about Brussels sights is Manneken-Pis. It’s a small bronze fountain…of a boy peeing. They say it “embodies the irreverent spirit of Brussels.” I kind of get that. Separately, I found it hilarious given our toddler’s recent obsession with stripping naked and peeing on his bed. You can find souvenirs ranging from corkscrews to giant chocolates in the shape of this little guy.
We didn’t venture far, and there’s certainly more to the city than what we enjoyed. But sometimes it’s nice to just go someplace new, wander around, eat and shop.
Of course, it would be silly to visit Belgium and not talk about the food and drink. (Because it’s SO GOOD, see?) There’s a lot to say, so I’ll save that post for next week.
For more on the things to see and do (many of which we didn’t even come close to!), visit the official Brussels tourism site. PS, If you’re into comic strips, it’s your place.