This past weekend we went to Brussels for a short trip, and the actual trip ended up being even shorter than planned! Laurent had a meeting in Brussels on Friday morning, so we left Lille, by car, at 8a.m.
I have been to Brussels on multiple occasions in the past, but it has been six years since the last time I visited. I can’t say I really know the city very well because in my previous visits, a Bruxellois always guided me around. But I do remember certain neighborhoods and places and things to see and eat!
When we arrived in Brussels, we parked the car at a garage right near our hotel, the Méridien Brussels. The Méridien is fancy schmancy, but we got a deal with Laurent’s points from hotels.com. We checked in, and then the husband had to leave for his meeting. The hotel is located near the Grand Place, so I strapped Louis into his stroller and we went out for a little exploratory walk.
The thing that stands out most in my memories of Brussels is Dandoy. Dandoy is an amazing Belgian biscuiterie. They are well known for a number of yummy treats, notably the speculoos (similar to gingerbread) and
pain à la grecque, my personal favorite. Pain à la grecque is a kind of sweet rectangular flatbread sprinkled with gros sucre. I’m not exactly sure what gros sucre would be in English. It looks like irregular shaped pea-sized sugar crystals and they are nice and crunchy, but it is not nearly as hard or as dense as rock candy. There are two Dandoy stores near the Grand Place, one is more of a retail store and has all the yummy biscuits and cookies on display and the other is more of a gift shop with nicely packaged items and ice cream. The former is where I bought my pain à la grecque, on the aptly named rue au Beurre (Butter street, for the non-francophones). Rue au Beurre is also home to a number of very enticing chocolate shops including Galler, Leonidas, Cornet Port Royale and others.
After the detour to Dandoy, we strolled around the Grand Place and the surrounding streets. We ambled through Galeries royales Saint Hubert and peeked into the shop windows and cafés. The Galeries are several connected beautiful covered passageways filled with shops, restaurants and cafés. I have eaten at l’Arcadie a number of times, and there is good window shopping with some design-y furniture stores, a glove seller, the luxury handbag shop Delvaux, a bookstore, clothing stores and a few cafés. After our stroll, we returned to the hotel for Louis’ very late morning nap.
Laurent returned a bit after naptime and we went to eat in a nearby Exki, an all-natural chain restaurant with a nice and seemingly healthy selection of sandwiches, quiches, lasagna and soup. The rest of the afternoon we spent strolling around the central part of Brussels. Without trying, we stumbled onto the famous Manneken Pis, the statue of the little naked boy who is peeing. The center of the city is covered in cobblestones and I think our poor little guy was quite shaken in his
non-shock-absorbing Maclaren stroller. But that didn’t stop him from having a second nap.
For dinner, we had plans to see friends from New York who are now living and working in Brussels. One of them lives in the Ixelles neighborhood and we walked to her apartment from the hotel. It was nice to catch up and have a drink with familiar faces.
During the night, disaster struck. I will spare you the gory details, but I will say that I have never seen Laurent so sick. He hadn’t been feeling well for a few days and several family members had been sick too, but it all came to a head Friday night. Neither of us slept very well after that episode and we decided to skip Saturday brunch and further tourism in favor of returning to Lille. Since I don’t really know how to drive a stick, Laurent had to drive the hour and a half back to France. As soon as we were home, he went to bed and stayed there for the rest of the day. Our 36-hour trip turned into something like a 24-hour trip. But luckily, Brussels is very close and we can always easily return.
The Méridien Hotel, Carrefour de l’Europe 3
Dandoy, 31, rue au Beurre
Galeries Royale Saint-Hubert, entrances on Rue de l’Ecuyer, Rue d’Arenberg, Rue des Bouchers, Rue du Marché aux Herbes