Last week, I was lucky enough to visit Belgium on a business trip. We spent roughly 3 days in the beautiful city of Brussels and even though we were there for work, we managed to squeeze in the standard touristy things as well.
Le Dixseptieme, which translates into The Seventeenth, was the hotel that we stayed in. I’ve never cared for hotel rooms very much, I’d rather pay for a cheaper hotel and save my money for other things like food! When we went to Florida, my dad kept saying ‘where do you want to stay?’ And my reply was ‘I don’t care I just want to go to Disney.’ So, this hotel was the most incredible hotel I’d stayed in and it was beautiful! My room had a balcony, 2 televisions, wooden beams everywhere and a bed that was bigger widthways than it was lengthways. From my balcony, I could see a tall intricately decorated building and I was determined to figure out what it was.
Our flight on Monday was delayed quite significantly so we decided to ditch our luggage at the hotel and try and get our bearings in Brussels. Our first stop was a very late lunch and we ate at a restaurant in the Grand Place. Here I found out what the building I could see from my balcony was and I discovered that it is the town hall, built in the 15th century. The whole square was breathtaking and it’s a welcome change to be able to dine out in the cobbled streets without fear of wind or rain!
After eating, we wandered around to find out where the Fine Arts Museum was, the main goal of our trip, and after successfully finding it we continued on to the Royal Palace! To be honest the Palace puts Buckingham Palace to shame and it was considerably more quiet in Brussels than London. Exhausted from travelling, getting up at about 5am and walking a lot, we decided to rest in our hotel rooms before dinner.
For our evening meal, we ate at an Italian restaurant called Giannino’s and I had Spaghetti Bolognese. While we were eating, a man playing the accordion was wandering up and down the streets and to me, the whole evening just summed up Europe. We were sat outside till about 11pm on a little cobbled street, eating and drinking amongst the locals and other tourists with the sounds of an accordion filling the air.
Our second and only full day in Brussels consisted of the whole reason we were in Brussels. After much chagrin trying to find the entrance to the museum, we eventually made it to the Fine Arts Museum and located the statue of John Willett. John Willett is a relative of the man who built my place of work and the man, Ralph, expressed in his will that the statue never leaves the entrance hall. Of course, the statue was sold to the museum at some point in history.
After speaking with staff about the statue taking our photos, we headed on our way. I’d dressed smartly for the museum trip but the weather was so hot I had to go back to the hotel to get changed! A city sightseeing tour was next on our agenda and we rode both bus tours around the city, stopping in Flagey for a drink and bite to eat by the lake. Driving is pretty crazy in Brussels, so if you’re going on the city bus tour, I’d recommend getting off at each stop to appreciate it fully as the driver drove too fast to take it all in from the bus!
The last stop on the bus is at the Mannekin Pis, which is the city mascot of sorts. The Mannekin Pis is a statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain. The whole street leading up to is filled with 1 Euro waffle shops and souvenir shops selling Mannekin Pis souvenirs. I’m not going to lie it’s a bit weird seeing ornaments and chocolates sculpted into a little boy having a wee, bits and all but it was also quite funny. Especially as the little boy is quite small but he is evidently popular as the street was packed.
That evening, we dined at a steak restaurant called Colonel which was a bit of a trek to get to but was so worth it! I had a huge burger and salad while my colleagues had steaks. As usual, I forgot to get a picture of my food as I was too hungry but rest assured it was incredible. After eating, we decided to celebrate our successful trip with a glass of champagne from Champagnothèque de Bruxelles. Normally I don’t like champagne but whatever we drank there was lovely!
Our flight back home was at 4.45pm which meant we had to be at the airport by about 2.30pm. We had breakfast and then went on a quest for Belgian chocolate and gifts for people at home and colleagues who were unable to come on the trip. I bought a tiny statue of the Manneken Pis (of course), a postcard, waffles and chocolates for my parents and boyfriend.
The weather was even hotter than the previous two days (I’ve got the sunburnt nose to prove it) and as it was a business trip we hadn’t really planned for the heat. We spent the last portion of our trip in the shade of the Grand Place at the Hard Rock Café eating chicken wings and drinking fruit smoothies while soaking up the beauty of the square. We didn’t really eat too much traditional Belgian food but I didn’t really fancy the calf head, tongue, cheek or mussels that were on most of the menus!
I have fallen completely and utterly in love with Brussels. I’ve never felt the way about a city than I have Brussels and I would go back at the drop of a hat. If I was braver, I’d move there.