Brussels, the Unexpected Surprise
Updated: Dec 27, 2019
At was what the Sandeman Tour Guide, Adeline, described Brussels to be (male tour guide, don’t let the name fool you). The city that people plan into their itinerary as a “by the way” destination and never the main focus.
I couldn’t really put my finger on the draw of this country, coming from Paris and having encountered only 3 Belgians in my life. So yes admittedly when I said “see you again”, I was 30% sure i’d ever step foot in that country, feeing guilty that I was just paying lip-service.
BUT WE GOT THERE OK.
The quirkiness of the country started with the tour, and our witty tour guide, who opened up the tour introducing the Grand Palace (or Grand Square), where trades used to be held.
That very spirit is captured in a completely unsymmetrical building with structures that made no sense, would be seen as an eyesore to some. Yet the fact that the architects that kept changing didn’t give up and stuck to the plans... Maybe it is something to be lauded after all 😂
Then a rather unimpressive statue of Manneken Pis, which earned its reputation as 2nd in the hall of “most disappointing tourist attractions”, greeted us in a discreet corner, only noticeable by the hoards of people who crowded the area for a laugh.
This statue was made famous by whimsical tales of a boy who found relief at the house of a witch who eventually cursed him to stand there forever, but purportedly originated from the fact that the district it was placed in was a tannery which needed ammonia for the leather 🤷🏻♀️
Rumors upon rumors upon disappointments resulted in a generic statue of a little curly-haired boy becoming a tourist attraction, a model for café fountains, chocolate pralines, and useless key rings.
My sister, who had been away for 4-ish months prior 💕
If anything, I was pleased we got to visit the land of Tintin, a comic I grew up reading alongside Asterix & Obelix, Baby Blues, and Sherman’s Lagoon.
Till today I don’t know if Snowy could talk.
I wished he could.
Graffiti on the streets had hard lines which looked like they came out of a comic book, and made roaming the streets feel like just that!
BUCKET LIST FOODS
My PRIORITY, was to hit a few spots for really good food with “Belgium” written all over it.
2. Belgian Fries
3. Belgian Waffles
4. Flemish Beef Stew
& No I didn’t miss out on Belgian beers.
I took a sip here and there with an unimpressed “oh” as a response, simply because I didn’t (and still don’t) understand the draw to a beverage that had to be GULPED to be enjoyed. #hatersgonnahate
Aside from the usual Trapist and Kriek Beers, which I declined to partake in, we went on a food hunt for the above, much to the disdain of my parent’s protesting feet.
I forget they are getting old.
Shellfish is best eaten in white wine sauce and some form of celery/parsley. Popped these babies like popcorn and was NOT disappointed. I probably could go on forever.
Poor sister couldn’t eat many of these for her shellfish-allergy. She popped an anti-histamine but it really isn’t the same. #missingout
A surprising find and a last-minute addition to the list of “must-eat foods” by our tour guide, the Flemish Beef Stew was a perfect dish for the cold weather. Super hearty and savoury 🤤
The fluffy, crispy fries made in reused oil + that AMAZING Belgian Mayonnaise = a recipe for a very happy heart attack.
Fries served as a side were like bread rolls in an italian restauran. SO DARN GOOD to eat but so unnecessary as a log for MyFitnessPal.
Chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside, with a fragrant pastry peppered with pearl sugar and punctuated with chocolate sticks.
whats not to LOVE?
In those 3 days, I saw a piece of Europe that made me feel warm despite the cold outside. Good food, pleasant people, and an atmosphere that seemed to suggest that it’s people loved and lived life to the fullest.
If I had found out the draw of this country sooner as a student (i did my exchange in Germany) would I have seen and appreciated the nuances in the Belgian humor that I could see now? Probably not.
But in the bustle of life, Brussels provided that well-desired reprieve that even Paris couldn’t give.