Brussels, Belgium - December 2007

After a short train ride we found ourselves in the Capital of the European Union, Brussels. We were very excited to arrive, mainly for the culinary treats.

Many cities have foods that are the heart of the city and its people. New York has bagels, pizza, hot dogs and doughnuts. Buenos Aires runs on gelato, wine, beef and dulce-de-leche. Brussels runs on moules, waffles, frites and chocolate. Our goal for this trip was to seek out the best of Brussels' four food groups.

After a short walk from the train station we arrived at our hotel. It was about 5:00 pm and Elliot was nice enough to fall asleep in his stroller. This was a great opportunity to enjoy some beer at the hotel bar. The bar was exactly the way Keith likes it, quiet with big comfy couches so we could relax. Like clockwork, Elliot would nap in his stroller each night around the same time so we were able to visit different cafes.

The exchange rate is 1.5 dollars to the Euro. Many establishments are nice enough to put alcohol percentages on the menu so you can easily calculate the Euro to alcohol ratio to assess the best value. It's best to do this before you start drinking.

When Elliot woke up he was thrilled to be in Brussels and immediately swiped the beer off of the table. Fortunately we were able to negotiate it back by offering a handful of peanuts.

On our first night we made our way to Chez Léon which is famous for their Mussels. Mussels or moules are the national dish of Belgium and are in season from September to February. Most of the mussels in Belgium come from the North Sea, off the coast of the Netherlands.

Elliot loves mussels are couldn't wait to dig in. He ate the entire pot. Its a good thing kids eat free at Chez Leon. Traditionally they are served in a large steaming pot of savory broth with a side of Belgian frites. They were yummy!!!


video

Here is a video clip of Elliot at work in Chez Leon.


The next day we started out by walking around the Grand'Place which guidebooks and web sites proclaim as "One of the most beautiful town squares in Europe, if not in the world." Since we have not been everywhere in the world yet we will have to agree for now.

We literally followed our noses and that lead us to the Dandoy Tea Room. The gauffres (waffles)here turned out to be the best that we found on our trip.

There are actually two kinds of waffles in Belgium. Brussels waffles are big, light and fluffy. They made with special waffle irons that are said to only be available in Belgium. The second type of waffle is called a Liege waffle and it is more dense and has a burnt sugar coating on the outside. The tray above has Liege waffles cooling before being served.

Brussels waffles are found in restaurants and eaten with a knife and fork. Toppings such as berries or ice cream are typical. The one above has stewed strawberries and powdered sugar.

Elliot wanted whipped cream on his. This is not Ready Whip!

This is a typical street side waffle stand selling warm Liegue waffles. No knife or fork is necessary so you can eat them on the run.

The statue above is called the Manekin Pis. I think the translation is self explanatory. This is actually the most famous thing in Brussels. Why? We have no idea but we had to check it out since we were in the neighborhood.

At 9:30 in the morning, before we even had our first waffle, Keith spotted these guys setting up and said that we needed to come back here for lunch


YUM!

Brussels response to the Eiffel tower is the Atomium. It is a 335 foot high model of a Iron Crystal magnified 165 billion times.

The line for the elevator was at least an hour long so we decided to travel through the structure by climbing the stairs and escalators. The escalators in the Atomium are the longest in Europe.

In our opinion this should be the top destination in Brussels, not the Manekin Pis.

The exchange rate is almost 1.5 Euros to the dollar and that can lead to some extreme price inflation of ordinary items. In the restaurant menu above, a small bottle of water or Coke is $3.60 but a nice Belgian beer is only $3.95. Not bad considering it includes all of the taxes and tip. When in Europe drink less water and drink more beer.

One more example from a train station vending machine. A half liter of soda is a rip off at $2.40 but a nice 16oz Belgian Jupiler beer is a great value at only 15¢ more.

On Saturday we took a side trip to Brugges in the north west part of Belgium. Most of the medieval architecture is intact. Each building and plaza is more beautiful than the next.


It was hard to pick a restaurant because they all looked like they would be great. We headed away from the main square and found a elegant looking restaurant that had the traditional Flemmish dishes that we were looking for. The plate above is Lapin a la Flamande which is rabbit braised in prunes, onions and beer. This was one of several excellent meals that we had in Belgium.
After lunch we needed to burn some calories so we made our way over to the Belfry of Bruges. This 13th century tower is open to the public and Elliot was excited to climb to the top.

There are 366 steps that lead to the top through a windy and progressively more steep and narrow staircase. This is the wide part.

Going down was a little bit easier.

A fantastic restaurant in a residential neighborhood: Au Vieux Bruxelles.

Again we had traditional moules frites and two orders of Escargot (one for Keith and one for Elliot). The food was so amazing that we decided to return the next night, but the wait was over an hour, outside in the cold. Since it was already getting late we had to go with plan "B."

We promised Elliot that we would go ice skating this winter. Before this day Elliot said he wanted to be a hockey player. After his first skating experience he may want to rethink that plan.

When planning our trip we tried to find things that would appeal to Elliot as well as us. This is Autoworld which is located in a 19th century exibition hall. The exhibit contains 300 cars from around the world.


Hooray for fire trucks!

BMW Isetta Bubblecar from the 1950's. The only door in this car is in the front pannel which swings open allowing two people to slide in.

By the last day we were sure that we had found the best examples of moules and waffles but we were not sure that we had the best frites. Maison Antoine is a traditional friterie and generally regarded as the best in the city.

Corinne and Elliot are in heaven eating them from the traditional paper cone. In Belgium they are traditionally served with mayonaise but ketchup and other toppings are available. Corinne claims to remember this from her childhood trip to Belgium.

It was time to get serious about Chocolate. This photo was taken in Neuhaus. We purchased 2 of everything and sampled away. We were also lucky to get lots of free samples. All of the chocolate we had in Belgium was outstanding and we really couldn't tell the difference between the different brands.

One last evening stroll through the Grand'Place.

The trip was winding down, so Elliot had a big night out.

Elliot flirted with a flight attendant on the way home and she asked him if he wanted to hang out in the cockpit of the 767 with the pilot. What kid could resist? We were finally home after a week away.

Wishing all of our friends and family a happy and healthy 2008.

Corinne, Keith and Elliot

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I found your site from Delicious Baby, and your post about Belgium reminded me about my time there as a college student. Oh, how I remember those fries! And the beer - seems like I could have had a different beer each night of the week. Thanks for the good memories, I look forward to taking my kids to Antwerp, Brugge and Brussels someday!

Gudrun from Kango

Anonymous said...

what hotel did you stay in Brussels?

Thanks

Keith, Corinne & Elliot said...

We stayed at the Sheraton Brussels Hotel. We enjoyed staying here and the location was great. Easy walk to public transportation and many attractions.