We had a day in Brussels and to be honest you really need more then this if you want to check out the many exhibits at the museums as well as the comic strip (Tin Tin and Smurfs to name a few). I highly recommend going on a walking tour of the city to learn some fun facts about Belgian culture and the historical significance of the buildings throughout the city.
We started in the main square, also known as The Grand’Place or Grote Markt. Here you will find the Guild houses, town hall and the King’s house. Since we were there over the Christmas holiday season, we had the privilege to see the famous Modern Art Installation of a Christmas Tree in place of a real tree. This display sparked a European renowned protest in the city. Many people took offense to the installation saying it is another form of removing Christian symbols and the celebration of Christmas from the city of Brussels, where the prominent religion in the city is Muslim. Others say it was just another light themed display for the city as it was one of the five they have had throughout the area this year. I’m not a fan of the modern Christmas tree however this has nothing to do with religion as there is still a large nativity in the center of the square which I believe is a strong representation of Christianity and Christmas in the first place.
From there we walked to see Manneken-Pis. He wasn’t dressed up at the time however we did learn that he has over 800 outfits and you can even contribute to his wardrobe if you like! To do so is very official as there must be an official demand sent to the College of Mayor and Aldermen where it is then analyzed by a committee with representatives of the city. From there an official ceremony of delivery is organized and sometimes ‘Manneken-Pis’ will thank the people of Brussels by serving beer and other beverages.The new outfit will then be added to his wardrobe that is kept in the Museum of the City of Brussels.
After this, we decided to check out the Musical Instruments Museum. This museum has about 1200 of its most interesting instruments displayed in 4 different galleries. However, it has a collection of over 7000 instruments. We were given an audio device and as we approached different instruments, the audio track would automatically change. There are over 189 musical fragments spread out throughout the galleries, amounting to 4 hours of music. It was very interesting to hear a wide variety of music from a number of different cultures.
Belgium is famous for almost all of our favourite things to eat. For me, it was the the chocolate and frites while for David, it was the beer and the waffles. We had frites with every meal on our trip so believe it or not we could not wait to get back to London and eat some veggies. If you go to Brussels or Bruges it is just as difficult to choose what chocolate truffle to eat as it is what beer to drink. The number of chocolate shops in these cities is outstanding, same with the bars! In Brussels, Delirium holds the Guiness World Record for having over 2,000 beers available to choose from.
For the chocolate shops, we walked down one of the most chocolatey polluted areas in Bruges, took a sniff inside each shop and then let our noses decide. Some of the shops had amazing displays in their windows, our favourite was the one pictured to the right. We ended up going to Prailenette, it’s chocolatey scent stood out above the rest. Their workshop is in the shop where they are melting and making their chocolates fresh daily. We chose 16 truffles, all our favourite flavours out of the 83 different filled chocolates you could actually choose from! They were delicious and the perfect Christmas day treat.
Next up was choosing what beer to have. David went with a beer called Kwack, created in 1791 by brewer Pauwel Kwak.The glass to this beer has a round bottom and stands upright in a wooden stand. Those that don’t notice the shape of the glass and try to gulp the beer will usually end up with this one all over them as a torrent can pour out when the air reaches the bowl. If this happens to you, you have been Kwacked.
For waffles in Belgium, they are the best when they are just served from the street. You can’t really go wrong with the waffles. We had ours with real whipped cream but places will offer all other sorts of toppings if you want. The frites in Belgium were also amazing every place we had them. I kept trying to figure out why they are so different the entire trip. On the last day I came to the realization that they are less greasy. This key difference, however they do it, is why they taste so delicious and why you feel like you can just keep eating and eating them! Perhaps it’s a good thing I don’t know how to make them like this as I would probably consume an unimaginable amount.
Our first Christmas together as a married couple was also my first Christmas ever being away from friends and family during the holiday season. Simply put, it just feels strange and different without many of the traditions you grew up doing. You make up your ‘once in a lifetime’ Christmas since you know there will most likely not be another one like it, where you are this far away home. To be blunt I would not have been able to do this if it weren’t for video chat. I felt like we were right there with our family, catching their jokes, watching them open up gifts and even joining the table for their Christmas breakfast. With the time difference we had the chance to make up our own Christmas celebrations in Bruge and still catch up with both families later on in the day.
David and I decided since we were going on this trip to Bruge we would allow ourselves to spend £20 each to stuff up our stockings with. David also got to experience for the first time me waking him up every couple hours throughout the evening saying, ‘it’s Christmas’, until the alarm actually went off at 8:15. We got up, dressed (in our Christmas onsesies) had breakfast at the hostel and then opened our stockings in the bunk beds. It felt like we were kids again.
If you’re wondering what you can get for £20 to stuff a stocking with for a female aged 23 year old, you can get: a hot water bottle (I forgot my sheep one back in Canada so David got me one that even feels like sheep!), a head massager (gift that keeps giving), a toothbrush holder (I didn’t have one for mine and they’re really cute), and finally a wonderful large package of After Eights. Total success all picked out by David. For a male aged 26 you can get: gum, maltesers, leather notebook, werthers original, mechanical pencils and bacon lip balm.
After we opened our stockings, David and I went out and spread plenty of Christmas cheer throughout the city! Our outfits were quite the hit and we even had some people ask to get their photo with us. Since it was Christmas and all we didn’t ask for tips ;) We danced to a man playing jingle bells on the accordion, picked up some nice chocolate truffles (all the flavours we like) and explored the city. Bruge is a beautiful city to see and there were plenty of people out on Christmas day. Most of the shops and restaurants were open. In the evening we just took it easy, caught up on our sleep and prepared ourselves for the next day in Brussels.