Brussels smells like chocolate and those of us who are chocolate lovers go crazy. There are chocolate shops on any street. There are several brands that have fame but are very expensive such as Marcolini, Neuhaus and others are more affordable as Leonidas and Geller. The chocolatiers of the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert are very expensive.
As for the waffles, they are divine, as the dough is soft, tasty and without lumps. They fill it with whatever you want and enjoy it. The only problem is that they are a bit expensive. We ate some next to the manneken pis and we took them with chocolate strawberries, but they were vice.
Our trip begins with arrival at Charleroi airport at 22:30 h. The flight is punctual as usual. We head from Charleroi to Brussels by bus that are synchronized with the flights arriving at the airport. The journey takes 1 hour. They drop us off at the Brussels Midi station. As it was quite late, we took a train at the same station to the Brussels Central.
From the station, although it was quite late (almost 00:30 h), we walked to the apartment that we had rented next to the Grand Place.
Day 2 - Bruges
We have a good breakfast at the hotel cafeteria with a very cozy decoration, impeccable service and some cakes, smoothies and other delicious specialties. The coffee and tea came in their own coffee pots and teapots, to be served in ceramic cups, with varied decoration and accompanied by a glass of chocolate mousse and vanilla ice cream and homemade masterful cinnamon cookies.
I did not resist leaving my tea immortalized. The large plates, also made of earthenware, contained generous portions of homemade cakes, either blueberries, apples, chocolate with a very fine texture. It was further proof that the city had to satisfy us fully.
We take the train. The journey is about 30 minutes and very comfortable. We arrived in Bruges and stopped at the tourist office, where we asked if we could take a map and a girl gave us one. Walking a little further we reach Minnewater which is very bucolic and romantic with his ducklings.
Next to the Minnewater is the Beguinage of Bruges. It is part of the World Heritage Site according to UNESCO, along with the rest of Beguinages that have been in Flanders. The occupants were women who in their time decided to live single and in community. It is a set that transports us to another time.
There are several houses and a church dedicated to St. Elizabeth if I remember correctly in which there is a smell of candle that is wonderful. Once we leave the Beguinage we head for the Wijngaardstraat, Warplein and Walstraat until one of our obligatory stops at the chocolate shop located in Katelijnestraat.
We could see the large number of stores dedicated to the sale of lace products, bobbins and other confections, such as cushions with the drawing of a cat dressed as Audrey Hepburn. The chocolate shop is great, just like the people who serve us. We decided to take what they simply call Hot Chocolate, a big cup of hot milk.
They also serve a small jug with pure chocolate so we mix it with milk, and two dishes. There is one with cream and another with four chocolates. There is one of black chocolate, another of white chocolate and another filled with hazelnut. It is delicious. With the coffee we also get the cream and the chocolates.
Once our sugar level is satisfied, in that same street we enter a specialized shop, of course, in chocolate, with varied products and of good quality and price. They also have a sugar free section. It is a good option to eat Belgian chocolate without having to spend too much money.
With our chocolate we went to the Church of Our Lady, since I wanted to see the only work of Michelangelo that is outside Italy. This work is supposed to be here because it was acquired by a wealthy Flemish merchant. After the church, we walk around Gruuthusestraat, where we find an arch that we cross. From here we can see the Church of Our Lady from another perspective and some images of the canal. This area is romantic.
We walked to Mariastraat. Surrounding it and walking on Steenstraat, a totally commercial street we arrived at the Grote Markt. There was a kind of super tent in the middle of the square. We decided to enter the hall. Before entering the hall, the adorable smells of French fries had reached our noses. There are two positions right on either side of Belfort.
On the right there is a huge queue that did not move. As the potatoes opened our appetite and it was time we decided to go eat. We went to the Philipstockstraat. It did not take us long to find a table and we ate half a roast chicken, with salad and potatoes. With the full course and the spirit in all the high, we continued the walk until the Burg square.
The square is very beautiful and it highlights several buildings, including the town hall and the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Here we enter and we have to climb about two floors of stairs until we come across the church itself. This time in one of the side naves of the same, a good lady was dedicated to guard a kind of test tube that is supposed to contain the blood of Christ.
The faithful who wish to go up there and only to pass by must give a donation. As a believer, it seems absurd. I think that if it is true that it is the blood of Christ, we should be able to see without having to pay a donation for it. It is precious for any believer or in this case Catholic. I do not understand this kind of things, nor will I ever understand them.
The church is not ugly, but there is a guy who is responsible for shouting people as if he were a guard. We had to see the Jan van Eyck square and from the Burg we walked a ratin there by the Wapenmarkerstraat. There ends one of the Bruges canals and on one side there is a very cute building that is a Library.
The decision to make a cruise through the canals of Bruges was already made in advance, so we went to one of the multiple piers there. In our case we caught a boat on the back of the Huidenvettersplein. The journey lasted about 40 minutes and cost. The boy who took us explained things in English, French, Flemish and German.
After disembarking we decided to buy there a chocolate box. And then have a beer. We wanted to visit a very remote place that we had read that was very good. It is located on De Garre Street. We enter a kind of alley and there we find it in the background in a very authentic and rustic place. It has spiral staircases to climb.
They make their own product and we decided on it. They put us some glasses with some squares of very tasty cheese. Now we had to go back to Ghent and retracing our walk more or less in the early hours of the morning we arrived at Minnewater. In these moments the sun had already been shining while during the afternoon it was beautiful.
We took the train back happy as partridges and went to Ghent and we had a pizza and a few garlic loaves. We walked to the hotel, which really was quite close and climbed a small slope that seemed interminable to me. Between the cold, the bag, the haste and the accumulated fatigue, I almost arrived at the reception without breath and with my heart at a gallop.
In front of the door was the bathroom, quite spacious and very well equipped, with enough cleaning supplies and a bathrobe and slippers for me. A short corridor led to a small hall, with the desk, mini-bar, a Nespresso coffee machine (but without George Clooney) and a closet. In the rest area, there is a very large double bed, where we settled.
Between one and the other there was a coffee table, a sofa, two armchairs and a small table with a large plasma television. The entire front wall was covered by large windows, but without views, because it faced an office building. So since we were only at night, it was necessary to be with the curtains drawn in case there was someone with a great fondness for overtime.
We left the suitcase and went to the street. The first stop was made in a small shop of hats, scarves, gloves and other outerwear to buy a scarf and gloves. We continue on our way and see the place fully illuminated in Christmas decorations. On the opposite sidewalk is the cafe. We went with the intention of having a beer and dinner.
After dinner we continue our walk. At that time there was a light show on the facade and sound that further increased the Christmas air with the fir with blue light bulbs and the birth with figures on a large scale that was located on one side. We were there a long time until the countdown began and the show ended, after which we continued walking and we reached the square.
The whole square and adjacent streets were full of Christmas decor stalls and, just in front there was one where they sold hot wine and waffles. Needless to say, we thought it was better to drink hot wine to mitigate the cold. We had a lot because the glass was like the coffee cup in Starbucks, that never ended. I do not know if they would also have it in a small size or if they gave us the big one.
We had to go to bed relatively soon because we could already feel the fatigue of the day of travel and tomorrow Ghent was waiting for us.
Day 3 - Ghent
The day in Ghent dawned with a very early sun that gave us a lot of hope that the day was going to be beautiful. We had breakfast near the hotel in a place just at the entrance that had four tables outside. Although it was rather small, there was a wide variety of bread and pastries as well as coffee, chocolates, smoothies, juices.
Everything was great and we had breakfast abundantly for much less than what it would have cost us at the hotel. When we returned to the room after having breakfast, the sky had turned gray. We were a bit sad, because we had thought of going up to the Belfort to have a nice view of the city. But nevertheless we kept hope.
We took our beloved tram to the center and we got off in front of the Gravensteen. At first we entered the Saint Nicholas' Church, which we liked a lot. From there we went to Belfort. At this point the sky was rather gray.
The climb to the Belfort is by elevator. We climbed to the top floor and then decided to go down. When we go down to the floor immediately before the one above we can see an exhibition and in another floor there is the golden dragon statue that crowns the Belfort. After visiting the Belfort and admiring the views, we stop to take a cappuccino.
With it we order a chocolate mousse and a cake. The truth that up in the Belfort was quite windy and we wanted to warm up a bit. We started our steps to St Bavo's Cathedral to visit the church and also the world famous board of the Van Eyck brothers. The ticket price includes the explanatory audioguide of the work that I have to tell you is great.
From the front, to put it in some way, Adam and Eve are being restored, and the back is all in restoration. We can see everything around. The room is well lit, with a dim light that seems appropriate. Its bell tower is also in the process of being restored. From there we went to the City Hall, a large and spectacular building because of the variegatedness of its facades.
It was already lunchtime and we decided on an Italian restaurant located right next to Gravensteen Castle. They closed at 2 o'clock, and so they did not bother to attend us properly. I took cannelloni with spinach and cottage cheese and to drink a kriek. After this we did a walk in which we are dedicated to do some shopping in Korenmarkt.
Up we went with our coffees on a table in front of the glass from where we can see a nice view of the square, very busy at that time. We decided to go to rest a bit at the hotel. We had thought that night, since it was the last one in Ghent, to dine in picnic in Graslei to see the lighting of the canal and other monuments. So on the way to the hotel we stopped to buy our dinner.
Before dinner we paired up to Patershol, typical neighborhood of the city and where we can find all kinds of local hospitality and others. It was getting dark and the temperature and the atmosphere were very nice. We reach the Vrijdagmarkt square where the statue of Jacob Van Artevelde is located.
In this same square, there is the famous Dulle Griet brewery where there is the famous ritual of leaving the shoe in pledge if you ask for a one liter beer. The place is cool because it has that typical atmosphere that every good brewery should have, and as a curiosity in the ceiling they hang jugs of beer.
From Dulle Griet and taking a walk through Patershol we reached our destination that was Graslei where we had our picnic. It was not uncommon because the truth was that there were many people doing it, and well equipped with their plaid blankets for the cold of the night. Until 10 o'clock at night they did not light the lights of the different monuments.
We hesitated between going to the hotel. At a confluence with another perpendicular street, and in what would be a somewhat wider area of sidewalk is the little fountain with the small Manneken Pis. That day they had not dressed him at all. So we found him in the natural, with the niche surrounded by a kind of mistletoe with little Christmas lights.
We were not sleepy and did want to take something to finish the night well. Therefore, we headed again in the direction of the square and in a side street there was an ice-cream shop with one of those fondues where the chocolate falls in cascade and fruit skewers with a smell. We asked for one with strawberries with white chocolate, and banana with dark chocolate. It was difficult to decide which was better if the strawberry or the banana.
With these images of the lights reflecting off the waters of the Ghent canals, after a while we went to the hotel. Mysteriously, we had not bought anything beyond some chocolate bars and some dolls for immediate consumption. Reminding ourselves of the exquisite second dessert that we had taken, we said goodbye in the elevator. Tomorrow the capital of the country awaited us.
Day 4 - Brussels
Rain. That was the first thing we saw in the morning from the window when we got up. And when we open the window we notice something else. Cold. Fortunately that morning we did not have any scheduled things to see and we hoped that the rain did not bother us much. We decided to go to a bakery that was next to our accommodation. There we had a chocolate mousse and a lemon cake. With the rain that fell the chocolate taste the best.
We headed towards Brussels from Sint Pieters-Gent by train and as always we are punctual. After a journey of about 30 minutes, we arrive at the central station of Brussels. To stay in the capital, we had opted for an apartment located on Rue de la Croix de Fer, about ten minutes from the station. We arrived and left the suitcases, since it was still too early to be in the room and we went to wander a little.
Being quite close, we went to the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. On the way to it we found one of the famous comicstrip that are all over Brussels and that I had loved when I saw it on the internet. But going back to the Cathedral it is in Gothic style and quite imposing and beautiful. There are a good number of stairs to be able to enter it. As we enter, there are some pictures of when the current kings of the Belgians and Balduino got married and such caught my attention.
After we went to the MIM. Since the museum did not interest us much, we wanted to take a cappuccino and see the views. The building is beautiful in Art Nouveau style. There is a terrace from where we can have a good view of Brussels.
Once we leave the MIM from there we can see the area of Mont Des Arts, which at that time was full of people because there was a kind of folk festival and there were several groups performing. From there we went down with a pseudo-human tide, until we reach the Madeline street, where the Marjolaine store is located, with its Art Nouveau facade as well. Right next there was the Belgian Frites, put on the sign, where we bought a good cone.
After eating the chips and walking a little further, we arrived at the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. Crossing these galleries we see the famous Rue des Bouchers, full of restaurants and waiters who never stop calling to eat at their premises. We decided to go and see how our experience is.
The place was bursting and at that time a very large group of Orientals arrived. It looked like a wedding, with which we almost thought we were not going to have a table. They took us to the second floor where we had our table. We ordered pasta to eat. The place was full, but they have a very large number of waiters. After about 40 minutes a plate of pasta and some lasagna arrive.
After the meal we went to the apartment to unpack our bags and clean things up and with a little rest we got into the arcade entrance. From our accommodation we headed to the area of Grote Markt. We buy some truffles and other chocolates. After a while of delighting in the little square we went to see another of the attractions with more flash and hearth of the city. It is not the Atomium vut the Manneken Pis.
We decided to have a beer in a very cool place with a terrace and others right there where the Manneken Pis is. The bottom was overflowing, so we went to the top floor and waited a bit until two adjacent tables were vacated. We started with a Mort Subite cherry beer that, according to my friends was very good, although I did not like it too much. In my case I took a Blanche de Bruxelles.
Then I tried one made by the monks of an abbey, the Chimay Azul, very good for lovers of beer with a strong flavor, although this one also has a certain sweetish point. They serve it at room temperature. It made us ask for another one to change flavor. This time I opted for a Stella Artois. We accompany the beers with some cheese dishes, others of a kind of sausage, different sandwiches, tortillas.
The waitress who served us set a half quarrel when we began to eat the cheese tacos from a plate left in our table. Although we had asked for it, it turns out that she had been wrong and it was not for us but for another table. She took the plate and after a while came with ours. We never understood why she took away the one we had already started and brought a new one because it was the same cheese. Then we asked and in the end, she just laughed.
We wanted to see the Grand Place lit up at night, so we headed for a quick dinner. We went to the one that is right in front of the Stock Exchange. The square was lit around 10 o'clock at night and it was beautiful. It was also full of people who were almost all on the ground and when it was illuminated, we all broke into an applause.
After that gourmet moment, we had to buy the chocolates because the next day we would not have time for it. Although we left at mid morning, we did not want to go running. So we went to rue du Beurre, an authentic temptation from beginning to end. When we did the counting to see how many boxes we had to carry, we were clear that they could not be from Neuhaus or Godiva because the budget would go too far.
So we opted for some tin boxes shaped like the typical houses of the square that we had already seen in the shop windows of the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. Possibly, the chocolate would not be as delicious as the first but we tried and were really good (I really think it is difficult to find some Belgian chocolate that is not).
The place was smaller but the store was very stocked. We had to have the dessert. We continued to see trays and there were the boats with fruit skewers coated in chocolate. We ordered the skewers but we wanted them for dark chocolate and there were none, so we had to wait for them to be made. We would have liked the chocolate to be hot and melted.
So I told the lady who prepared it because we did not want to waste too much time, but looking at me in a strange way, she followed her own without flinching. The way to make them was most interesting by threading the fruit on the toothpick, pouring the hot chocolate over it with a saucepan and putting it on a rack to cool it down.
When I asked her to give it to us as it is, and not to worry about cooling them, she told me that to get them out we had to wait for them to cool down, because if they did not get hard, they could not stop to clean it. As she saw that we were in a hurry, she accelerated the cooling process in a rather interesting way. She opened and closed the door of the house to serve as a fan. With that good taste in the mouth we went to rest.