07 April 2012

European Vacation: Brussels

Guildhalls on the Grand Place, Brussels.

Last week I was on a much-needed vacation visiting a dear friend (we’ve known each other since we were ten) at her home outside Brussels. 

The château fort.

After the hustle and bustle of New York, it was nice to wake in the morning to the sight of sheep in a nearby field and the sound of the occasional truck rumbling by. My friend lives with her family in a lovely old farmhouse in a small village that boasts an even older château fort.

The Brussels Town Hall on the Grand Place.

This was my first trip to Belgium (I had only ever been to the airport before) so everything was new to me. We made trips into Brussels where we wandered around the Grand Place, the city's main square, admiring the details on the buildings from carvings to shining gold statues. 

The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert.

Easter displays at Mary's.

Nearby we visited the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a beautiful shopping arcade where I received a birthday present from my friend—a lovely pair of orange leather gloves from Ganterie Italienne where I was fitted for the gloves (a first). This being the land of chocolate there were also numerous chocolate shops. We chose Mary’s to do our sampling. Founded in 1919, their chocolate is exquisite and it being Easter, their windows were naturally filled with displays of chocolate eggs. I wanted to take everything home but settled on a small selection of chocolates in a box that resembled a 1920s powder box (visit their site here).

The stairs in the Horta Museum. Photo from the museum's website.

Another day we visited the Horta Museum. Located in a neighbourhood with a series of Art Nouveau houses, the Horta Museum is the home that architect Victor Horta, the father of Art Nouveau, designed for himself. Fully decorated, visitors are allowed to take self-guided tours through the house and marvel at the stunning design. The staircase was particularly impressive; the wrought iron reminded me of the old entrance signs for the Paris Metro. The house was beautiful although I think I like my Art Nouveau in smaller doses (visit their site here).

We arrived before the museum opened so enjoyed a crêpe at the nearby Au P’tit Breton (delicious) and purchased some paper goods at le typographe, which had adorable rabbit notepads (visit their site here).

La Table des Matières. Photo from the restaurant's website.

One evening we drove to Mons to dine at La Table des Matières, an Italian restaurant that was amazing. Everything on the menu looked good but we let chef Renato Carati, who visited us at our table, choose for us—seafood antipasti and tagliatelle with asparagus. Heavenly.

And this was just Brussels and its surrounds. Next up: Bruges.

Unless otherwise noted, photos by Michele.

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