Brussels Part 1

BY ONEIKA RAYMOND





I knew that going to Belgium was in my future when I found round trip Eurostar tickets to Brussels for £69 ($105 USD). However could I pass up such a prime opportunity?




While Eurostar’s comprehensive website frequently has an abundance of travel deals, the best ones are often sold out within the proverbial blink of an eye.  Not wanting to miss out, I booked a cheapie ticket for the high speed train faster than you can say Jack Robinson.  

I spent two days and one night in Belgium’s capital and largest city, only one day after returning from my 10 day trip to Germany.  I made the trip solo as Liebling had already been to Brussels and was otherwise engaged- he had to work (boo, sad face!).  But no matter! I’ve travelled solo in Latin America and Europe and have always had the best time.  I couldn’t wait to see what Brussels would have in store.

On the day of my departure, I arrived at Eurostar’s train terminal at St. Pancras Station at the scarily early hour of 6 am. After going through a security check and answering a few questions about my journey by a customs officer, I was let into the general waiting area. I was shocked at how many people were there. Joining the long line that snaked outside of a coffee in the terminal, I bought myself a cup of Earl Grey and a plain croissant. I tucked myself into a seat  and waited for my train to board.

Once on the train, it was pure bliss. I adore train travel. I got myself nice and comfortable in my seat and gingerly sipped tea as I read on my brand new Kindle (a Christmas gift from Liebling!), and admired the serene landscapes that sped past my window.

A little over two hours later, I disembarked at the Bruxelles-Midi train station, and promptly made my way to the city centre, after a bit of retail therapy in the train station *snort, giggle*. Not even an hour into my Brussels adventure, I had purchased two pairs of knee-length boots. Once a shopaholic…



After my splurge, the first order of business was to drop my stuff at my hotel and then begin my Brussels exploration.  But all hopes of an efficient transfer to my hotel were dashed when I stumbled upon the Grand Place (which is actually a World Heritage site!), Brussels’ most beautiful square. I hung around for about 20 minutes taking pictures of the intricate architecture.

I finally managed to drag myself away from the gorgeous square and head to my hotel, The Dominican, which was conveniently located a five-minute walk from the Grand Place.  When The Domincan first invited me to stay on their lovely premises, I clapped my hands in glee after sneaking a quick look at the hotel photos on their Facebook page: they revealed spotless rooms that were elegantly decorated.  Upon arrival at the hotel, I was excited to see that the real thing was even better than the photos. What follows is a quick tour of my lodging for the night:

The room was spacious and the bed inviting.

I had my own sitting area (which I didn’t use because I was too busy luxuriating- is that even a word?-in bed).

And the stylish bathroom passed my very stringent criteria: it was clean, bright, and the fixtures were modern. LOVE.

I longed to spend more time in the comfy room (the early wakeup to catch the train was having its toll and big, plush bed was calling my name), but Brussels was begging to be discovered.  First, however, I needed to refuel.  And what better way to do that than to pick up a Belgian waffle? I hit up Vitalgaufre, a waffle franchise that has locations all over the city, and ordered. Two minutes later and two euros later, I had a piping hot gaufre au sucre in my eager little hands.  Three minutes after that, the waffle was but a distant memory.    I was that hungry. It was that good.

Appetite quelled for the moment, I decided to do a bit of touristing.  My first stop was the Manneken Pis.

I’ll admit, I was a bit disappointed. He was so small!  In my Travel ABCs, I revealed that the most disappointing monument I’ve seen was the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, but I think the Manneken Pis is up there, too. I was mildly amused by his costume, until I realized he was dressed as a blind person– dark shades, seeing eye dog, white cane, and all.  I’m probably as un- PC as they come, but I don’t know how I feel about such a portrayal.  Was it to raise awareness?

I got a much bigger kick out of the life-size chocolate replica of the Manneken outside the waffle store adjacent to the real thing. Tourists seem to enjoy this guy more as well; people lined up waiting to take a picture beside this choco statue.

I, however, didn’t bother with all that. For I was too busy gaping at the waffle shop’s offerings and debating whether or not to get yet another.

I gave a brief thought to my calorie count and decided not to spoil my dinner by eating another sugary treat.  Instead, sighing, I pulled myself away and headed to the subway station.  I was off to check out the next stop on my sightseeing tour, the Atomium!

Have you ever been underwhelmed by a statue, place, city, or monument on your travels? Where? Which one? Why?



A huge thanks to The Domincan Hotel for hosting me during my trip to Brussels!


Psst! Don’t forget to “like” me on Facebook if you haven’t already! Your support is much appreciated!

SHARING IS CARING

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76 Comments

  • Fantastic pictures. I love your life! I am sure everyone will ask but how did you blag an invite to the hotel?

    I look forward to Part 2 of your Belgium story.

    Reply
  • Amazing! I'm even more impatient to discover the city in a couple of weeks. Those waffles look so delicious, I wonder if I'll be able to be as wise as you were :p

    Reply
  • Have you ever read 'the Great Railway Bazaar' by Paul Theroux? Really great book if you like train travel! Also, those waffles look dangerously enticing. Seoul could probably give Brussels a run for its money, tho – the concoctions cafes come up with here are RIDICULOUS! 😉

    Reply
  • I want to go to Brussels for no other reason than the waffles:) OK, so there are plenty more reasons, but that's the top of the list…

    Reply
  • Oh wow Oneika! Your photos are lovely and you have absolutely convinced me – I simply must zoom over to Brussels soon. The food looks divine, I can imagine doing a hungry caterpillar around the city!

    Reply
  • I love the Grand Place with its architecture, shops, and restaurants. Be still my heart. The waffles, chocolates, fries with mayo. LOVE!!!
    Yes, I was totally and completely underwhelmed by the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. Oh well, that's how it goes, right?

    Reply
  • Your room was FABULOUS!!! My bf and I took a day trip to Brussels from Paris over the Christmas Holiday. I loved walking around eating and drinking, and of course the Grand Place christmas light display! Your post brought back so many memories:) So jealous of that price! Sheesh!

    Reply
  • OMG! Get out of my head! You are going to all the places I'm planning to go this summer. If you go to Amsterdam next I will scream! (My itinerary is Amsterdam, Brussels (with side trip to Bruge and Ghent) and Paris (with side trip to Versailles).

    Love it!!

    Reply
  • This is going to sound horrible but when I went to the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, I was so underwhelmed! You have to walk through the whole museum in order to get to it so I was expecting something a bit bigger. I'm sure everyone else around me thought it was grand but once you've seen a couple pretty churches in Europe, you start to get jaded haha!

    Reply
  • After my last trip to Brussels, I came back to Holland dreaming of those waffels. I kid you not! 😉

    Reply
  • Those pictures of the waffles!!!! and the chocolate!!!!!! I could probably just eat them all day long and be happy. btw, I love cafe nero!

    Reply
  • Belgian waffles, they are so damn good! I've only ever visited Bruges in Belgium, which is a gorgeous little city. I was really amused to hear whipped cream in Flemish is 'slagroom'.

    Reply
  • Glad you like!! I let them know I would be in the area and they extended an invite. :-0

    Reply
  • My biggest regret is not having more, so I would advise you to just go for it!!

    Reply
  • Never have! Now that I have a Kindle, I just might, though… I'm not surprised about Seoul, the cafe culture there is ridiculous! So cool!

    Reply
  • I think Brussels is seriously a foodie's dream! Waffles, chocolate… You can't go wrong!

    Reply
  • I've heard the same thing from Nicole is the New Black about the Little Mermaid! I still want to go and see it for myself, though. The Grand Place is just breathtaking, no? Never seen anything with that level of detail!

    Reply
  • Honestly my Grand Place night photos are just so amazing, it's such a beautiful place at night! I'm so happy the tickets were cheap because I probably wouldn't have gone otherwise!

    Reply
  • Nice! How long are you going for? I don't have any plans to go to Amsterdam at the moment, but you never know!

    Reply
  • I hear ya! After two years in Asia I felt all "templed out" so I know exactly whwat you mean! The funny thing is that I've been to Rome twice so I theoretically know I've been to see the Sistine Chapel but I can't remember going! I guess it didnt leave that much of an impression!! LOL

    Reply
  • I was sad that I didn't have the time to visit Bruges because everyone says that it's way better than Brussels! LOL @ Flemish…

    Reply
  • I read your article on beyondblackwhite.com. Sorry, I dont believe you have a job. No way. Come on, what's the real secret? lol

    Im a teacher, as well. Although, currently I am not working and dont plan to until my little one is older. But I never had the time nor the money to travel like you. And I traveled throughout Asia, So. and Central Amer, and Europe. Anyway, I cant wait to visit Brussels. Maybe if I can get a decent price, I will stay at The Dominican. Til next time…

    Reply
  • Great pics! I remember being disappointed in Manneken Pis too. He was dressed in the colours of the Brussels soccer team when I was there in May.

    I'm a huge fan of train travel too, and some of the best trips I've had have been on Thalys or Eurostar. On the TGV I somehow always manage to not have a seat (even though I bought my ticket in advance….).

    Definitely hit up Brugges when you can though. It's so charming and lots of great shopping. I brought my parents there when they visited back in 2007 and they loved it. Great Flemish architecture and cheaper than Brussels I think.

    And enough with the waffle pics – show us some photos of the new boots woman!

    Reply
  • My dream is to one day take the transcontinental trip on the Orient Express. Yes, I know that is a very lofty goal, but ever since my Agatha Christie reading days I have always wanted to take the orient Express.

    I have heard a few ppl who visited Brussels thought is was boring, and lacking nightlife. How was your overall feel of the city, of course considering you were there for only a short time? Do you think it's better as a short time stay, or worthy of a week+? The hotel is looking noice..Thanks for the recommendation.

    Jules

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  • great pictures oneika! i hope you also tried the famous fries in brussels! Hati x

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  • Haha! I sooo do have a job.. 🙂 I love travelling in the places you mentioned because they are so cheap (with the exception of Europe)!

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  • Hhaha! Maybe I should do a post on my purchases… I need to look up tix for the Thalys, I think someone told me it's cheaper than the Eurostar?

    Reply
  • I would love to take a trip on the Orient Express as well! So expensive though. To be honest, I would only do Brussels for a two day stay- apart from a few sights and the food, there isn't much else to do! It's a small city.

    Reply
  • I have lived in Brussels almost all my life, but I still can't get enough of those waffles. Did you only visit the centre of Brussels?

    Reply
  • Apart from going to the Atomium, I didn't explore much more than the center, not enough time!! Are there any cool things to do and/or see further out?

    Reply
  • I really want to take the Eurostar! We were in St. Pancras terminal, and it's gorgeous, so I can only imagine how nice the trains themselves are, especially since I like train travel anyway.

    Reply
  • The husband & I are planning a trip to Belgium at the end of summer for the F1 race in Spa but we’ll be staying in Brussels. It looks beautiful and my mouth is watering at the site of those waffles!

    Reply
  • I didn’t see any comments on the underwhelming-ness of the glockenspiel in Munich. I couldn’t believe how boring and silly it was.

    TIP: If you ever visit the glockenspiel, turn around the look at the other hundreds of tourists who’ve gathered to see it. The looks on their faces are far more entertaining. haha

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