My long time wish came true! Finally Brussels! We visited the capital of the European Union! I had Brussels on my list ever since I studied to become a European Secretary back in 1996. The variety of nations, the different languages (Dutch, French, German), the political importance for decisions regarding the EU… Needless to say that I hardly could wait to get there but it still took me 15 years. A short layover of 13 years in the US postponed my plans until April of 2015!
Butch knew how badly I wanted to visit Brussels and didn’t mind (thanks honey) that we were scheduled to fly out 12 hours after he touches down in Germany! Poor guy barely had time to unpack before we packed him back up and left early the next morning. Thankfully the flight from Hamburg to Brussels takes less than an hour and before we could finish our ‘gratis’ soft drinks we landed in the heart of Europe on a sunny Saturday.
Weeks prior Butch and I coordinated via the web where we would like to stay. Ever since we have three kids a typical hotel room hasn’t been a good choice for us so in comes airbnb! We love booking our apartments in Europe and the US on www.airbnb.de and www.airbnb.com (I mentioned them when I wrote about our trip to Copenhagen two years ago). It is lots of fun to search different kinds of apartments types or simple a room within an apartment all the way to renting a house with a garden! Some can be rented by the day or up to three months! Staying at someone’s apartment when traveling gives you such a unique insight into how locals live in other places in the world. But the comfort and space you get when you choose airbnb over a hotel makes it especially worthwile for us. A full functioning kitchen, a full size fridge, washer/dryers, extra sheets and towels are all part of the airbnb experience. In Brussels we chose the House of Grustam (the owner’s last name) a two-story town home in a quaint neighborhood of Saint-Gilles. To get to our apartment from the airport we took a regional train to the main subway (Metro) station (Gare du Midi) and switched to the Metro for another couple of stops to the station called Louise. From Louise it was only a short walk through busy shopping streets to the House of Grustam!
(There are my two men putting in the 4 digit code that the owners emailed us the day of our arrival.)
It was so nice to come to what instantly felt like ‘home’. No hotel lobbies, no small rooms but an actual apartment with a well-equipped kitchen: Bienvenue a maison du Grustam!
We made ourselves right at home, opened the door to the terrace, let some spring air in and explored all the rooms. The Grustam’s had left some info for us for how to find our way around town and especially find the grocery store!
You’d think that I would not want to do groceries while on vacation but in fact it is exactly that – doing what locals do – that excites me the most! So off to the market we went! So much fun to check out the different (and some of the same) labels and flavors in the stores. Then back home with all the yummy goodness and and behind the stove of this gorgeous open plan kitchen! Their tea maker was especially fun with all of it’s different temperature settings and the ‘keep hot’ feature that I really really could use at home too! 🙂
While I explored the kitchen the kids thoroughly took advantage of the access to the Xbox One system!
Butch was the only one who just sat back and soaked it all in. Afterall we hadn’t seen him since February and also he had just arrived the night before from Dallas. All that and the excitement of traveling the world made him just sit back and relax. Love you ButchMo!
The next morning, a Sunday, we started off with a delicious breakfast at one of my all-time favorite Belgian franchises: Le Pain Quotidien!
Back in California when Isaiah was only one year old and we lived in Southern California we used to go there all the time and dream of Europe. It is such an authentic, organic and delicious place to have breakfast, lunch and brunch too. Now, we finally got to experience it at its original location. Such a special treat. Such a perfect way to start the day in a new town. You bet, we took our time and made sure to purchase a few things to take back home to remind us of this place. Unfortunately, they haven’t made it to Germany yet although they are in 17 countries already. Anyway, we went to Brussels not just because I craved their hazelnut butter (see pic above) but see some sights as well so once everyone was well-fed we started our exploration of beautiful Brussels! At first the streets were rather quite on this springy morning but it changed with every street we took towards the center of town and finally after 1 pm the whole city seem to come alive! We followed the masses and took a random street car hoping it would take us to the place on the map called: Atomium & Mini Europe.
Both places costed a lot of entrance but were quite entertaining and culturally stimulating as well. But this was only day 1 of our trip. The rest of the time we pretty much applied the same pattern and just took to the streets, walked most of the ways, sometimes jumped into a street car and went wherever the streets took us. There was so much to see in each direction. We all loved the park by the European Quarter with the museum Autoworld in it and spent many hours there.
Oh, before I forgot (how could I forget!! :-)) we didn’t do sight-seeing all day of course. There was some fabric shopping as well!! I absolutely loved the two-story fabric haven ‘The chien vert’! We actually walked over there. Not a short walk but very interesting. There is so much you see that you otherwise wouldn’t if you choose to let your feet take you places.
The selection was just breathtaking. The cutting table above so unconventional and my loves sitting and waiting patiently as I browsed the many isles and touches the silks, cottons, linens and ribbons … definitely, the highlight of our trip for me.
The remaining two days we dined exotically, we went for long walks, we visited many parks, spoke some French, found the coolest Farmer’s Market, ate and purchased french macaroons, and simply admired the shops, the flowers, the architecture, …
Au revoir, Brussels! A bientot!