An adventurous girl cooks, eats and explores in Europe.
We got off the train and headed to our hotel to drop of our bags and freshen up. It was time for lunch so we headed out in the direction the concierge told us would be a good place to eat. We saw a lot of the shopping in the area on our way and stopped at a waffle stand. The Belgian Waffles that can be found at vendors all over the busier streets were delicious! I normally do like waffles, but this is a whole new level!
We got to the street cluster the concierge pointed out and found many, many restaurants. It was all rather touristy though and each restaurant had someone out front with the menu offering incentives to stop at their place. They were surprisingly aggressive, however, and it was rather obnoxious. Some followed you halfway down the street. We saw some people actually blocking the narrow streets so that people were forced to listen to them. We were getting very hungry though and there was nothing but these same style restaurants in sight, so we picked one. Little did we know it would have been faster to walk ten blocks farther given the service. Once they got us in, they started with the deal advertised- free drink with lunch, and a set priced, three course menu for 12 Euro. We got a beer and champagne, and a menu on our table that did not include the fixed price lunch. We asked for that menu and by the time someone took our order, we had been there 20 minutes. Another 10 minutes and we got bread, thankfully since it was 10 minutes on top of that until our appetizer came. We were there over an hour before our food came, and this was after Marcus went up and asked about it. He ordered a beer when our food arrived but we had finished and still not seen it. We got up and went to pay, despite not receiving the included dessert, but we were not in the mood for it and had already spent an hour and 40 minutes in this place. The food was pretty good and was what you would expect for the price point, but the service is extremely rude and slow in an effort to get you to order more drinks, and to have their windows filled. We noticed the same thing in the identical restaurant across the way as people sat looking around, waiting as long as us to be fed. Be warned if you go here- you may never get out.
After the longest lunch ever, we walked around a bit more, heading towards the Mannekin Pis, the statue and fountain of a young boy peeing. It is an old and famous statue in Brussels so we had to check it out. It is small, but was nice to see and not much out of the way. We made our way back to the main square, Grand Place which had gorgeous architecture everywhere you looked. In the middle was a strange temporary structure that we learned was used for a Christmas light show done at 6pm every night. Continuing on to the Christmas markets, we saw another gorgeous Cathedral. The old buildings around Brussels were very pretty.
We walked around the busy market, seeing a mix of Christmas items, present ideas of all kinds and many booths offering food, mulled wine and plenty of other drinks. After walking around this area, we went on further to find more shopping, an ice rink and a Ferris wheel.
With over an hour until the evening light show, we went back towards the city center until we found a bar that looked like a good place to hang out. Finding La Reserve, a bar that looked smaller and calm, we went on in and got the impression that it was a bunch of older, local men, similar to a lot of bars we end up at. It had a traditional pub feel and design, and was a really cool spot. The bar tender was extremely friendly and brought us to a table with open seating, introducing us to the man sitting there. About this time is when I realized why people seemed surprised at my presence. It was a gay bar, with guys mostly in their later 30s and up. Still, everyone was very friendly and we had a great chat with this local, who had been to Morocco and told us we would have a great time. He also told us about another old fashioned pub close by that we decided to check out. Au Bon Vieux was at the end of an alleyway through an arched door. The pub was very cool, with a great layout and fun decorations. We sat and had a drink, having a bit of trouble ordering my red wine with the language. I don’t think my accent was quite right when trying to use the French or Dutch words. We realized it was getting close to light show time so we hurried out and walked into the center square.
The light show was pretty cool. There was a large structure, shaped vaguely like a Christmas tree, and it lit up in differing colors, on different branches coordinated to music playing into the square. They even lit up the surrounding buildings as part of the show. It seemed like neon and glowing lights were big things there, as some of their buildings were covered in changing lights, many others had colored lights in all the windows, and light shows were a common event.
After some more walking around, we started our way back to the hotel. Not too hungry because of our late lunch, we stopped in a nearby McDonalds for a snack to bring back to the hotel. We were surprised to find they had macaroons on their menu, though we didn’t try them. We got packed up and in bed early, since we had a wakeup call at 3 AM for our early flight. We saw much of what there is to see, but left a few things for when we got back there.