I do believe I took Europe for granted when I actually lived in the UK. Just the proximity of so many wonderful cities to go and visit. And the fact that it is somewhat cheaper getting to a European city from London than it is Bahrain.
A couple of weeks back we headed off to Belgium for a family holiday. Yes, Belgium. Specifically, Brussels. The aim of the holiday? Eat and drink and maybe do some sightseeing. I think we accomplished that mission.
We rented a flat in Brussels rather than stay in a hotel or B&B. Worked out pretty well – money wise and convenience. Found a nice little place in the De Broukere region of Brussels. It wasn’t prettiest of locations, but we were walking distance to pretty much everything in the city. (No Air B&B nightmare here!)
The drinking and eating started as soon as we got to Brussels. Well it would have started sooner had we known that quite a few eating places don’t open until much, much later in the day! See, I’m a bagel virgin. Yes, I’ve never had a single bagel in my life! OH had found a nice bagel place for us to go to so that I could pop my bagel cherry. And we get there at about 10:30am, and it’s closed. Not opening until 5pm! What the hell? We have until 2pm until we can check-in to our flat, so what do we do now? Well, we find this place called Exki near our flat, eat some breakfast and think about our next move.
Fuelled up with breakfast we felt like it was high time to have some Belgian beer. (As you do.) With suitcases in tow, we weren’t up for any long distance walking. So we walked into the first decent looking bar/cafe we came upon – La Lunette. Quickly realised it wasn’t a good idea at all. The beers were great. I tried a fruit beer and there were some other tasty beers too. But this place sucked. There was the most miserable, terrible waiter, ever. We’re not sure if it was because we were tourists, or we had our suitcases with us. But this guy, an oldish Belgian guy, pretty much refused to take our orders. We did try to speak a little French, as much as we could. But nothing worked with him. Miserable man. Our first impression of Belgians wasn’t great.
Time stood still, so after hopping to another couple of cafes for some more beers and sheltering from the never-ending afternoon rain, we finally got into our flat.
A combination of exhaustion and beer settled in and the rest of the day is a little bit of a haze. We headed to the pub to watch the match, did some wandering around and then headed to a Thai/Chinese place for dinner. Where we were charged SEVEN EUROS for a bottle of water. Apparently this is a common practice with some restaurants in Brussels. They don’t offer tap water, so if you want water it has to be bottled and you’re charged a ridiculous sum.
The plan for the following day – find somewhere to get some proper frites and eat at Fin de Siecle – this Belgian food place I found the previous day. We failed just after breakfast. The place that was chosen for frites was a little out of the centre of town, so we needed to get the Metro there. After we decide on which Metro ticket to get and actually buy the tickets, we find out that the place is closed until 5pm! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS CITY? I think Bahrain’s permanently open everything has spoilt me a little bit. With frites on hold, dinner place turns to lunch place. (I did tell you that one of the main purposes of this holiday was to EAT.)
I was very excited about lunch at Fin de Siecle. Very excited. I’d looked this place up the day before, just anything within walking distance of the pub we watched the match in. Stumbled on this place in Google. Just search result after search result of reviews of Fin de Siecle, blog posts, recommendations, everything. The previous day we even walked to this place and in the evening there was just a huge queue of people outside. Waiting to be seated. They don’t do reservations. There is no menu but the blackboard. With a few of us being vegetarian, we just needed to find out if it would be worth coming back the next day. The very friendly owner of Fin de Siecle let us know what was on the menu and what we could get and we were sold.
The excitement was warranted. Not only were the people there friendly and warm. The place itself was the epitome of charming inside. The food was freaking fantastic. Never ever had pork the way I had it in there. Pork shin with mustard sauce, salad and a whole jacket potato. The pork was pink. And so full of flavour. And the portion size was MASSIVE!
And then there was dessert. Yes, I have a sweet tooth. So I might have scoped out the dessert menu before the mains. With there being so many of us it was only prudent to get a few desserts. So we got four different desserts – creme brûlée, speculoos tiramisu, tarte tatin and ice-cream with this yummy chocolate sauce. Without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite was the creme brulee. It was just so tasty and surprisingly light! I think the one I had not much cares for was the tiramisu. Mostly because I could just devour that entire brûlée.
Epically full after that lunch, with frites in mind for dinner, some walking off the lunch was needed. Walking to the next place for more beer that is! Which wasn’t all that far away. A nice little cafe called Les Gens Que J’aime. Small place, but the space was used to amazingly. Wish I could have gotten a photo of the balcony they had on the inside. Instead, make do of this photo of a print on the wall which amused me.
In the evening we hopped on the bus for our beloved frites. The place of chocie? Fritkot Bompa which was just a short bus ride away.
The weather began to turn on the bus ride though. And the 10-15 minute walk from the bus stop to Fritkot was in the rain. Why did we choose Fritkot Bompa? Well, mixture of pick at random and some amount of research. See, out of a few places Fritkot Bompa came up top in their sauces. And what’s the point of some nice frites without a decent sauce?
The journey to Fritkot Bompa was well worth it. Fluffy crispy frites and some amazing sauces. My favourite? The homemade tartar sauce. One of the best I’ve ever tasted! We got to experience some more extremely friendly Belgians, so the memory of the dude we encountered in La Lunette was definitely fading. Really chatty and nice people.
By the time our gorging of frites was completed it was chucking it down. The plan was to head back to town to Grand Place and check out the Flower Carpet. It was the final day it would be there and is meant to be a real sight.
We did make it to Grand Place. A little more damp than when we started out. Had we been drier and warmer and had it not still been raining we probably would have spent more time checking out the flower carpet at night. It really was beautiful.
Part II of the trip post, coming soon, includes Bruges, Ghent and a Brewery.