Sunday, 20 March 2016

A long weekend in Brussels

Back in January it was my birthday - 49th for those who are curious about those things - and Mrs Scrivs presented  me with a Brussels city-map and a pair of tickets for Eurostar. Fantastic we were back off to Brussels for three nights, one of my favourite European cities!

We awoke early on the Thursday morning, I am not sure why because our train was not until 0920 and after a simple breakfast at Subway - egg & cheese flat-bread with an orange juice - we were on our way to Newark Northgate station. A brief fight with the car park entry barriers and we were soon on the train to London Kings Cross.

An hour and forty minutes after alighting we were in London and crossing the road to St. Pancras station, probably the most beautiful railway station you shall ever visit, loads of fantastic Victorian ironwork made by the Butterley Company, only a few minutes away from our first marital home.

If you get the chance I'd advise that you enter the building from the front as the architecture is stunning. When I was a young chap this place was a rather run down sorry place, but since being adopted as the Eurostar terminal this jewel has been truly and deservedly polished.

We drop into Fortnum and Masons at St. Pancras and have a late brunch of coffee and toast before heading over to Yo Sushi! to pick up some lunch for the journey. We are soon through security and waiting to board the Eurostar to Brussels.

Eurostar really is an easy journey, a short stop at Ebbsfleet and we are into the tunnel emerging in France for a quick stop at Calais then another slightly longer one at Lille. Just over two hours after setting off from St. Pancras we are at Brussels Midi and catching the Metro to Botanique.

Just a couple of minutes from Botanique Matro station is the Hotel Bloom, our regular stopping place in Brussels and is a lovely hotel. Each room is decorated with individual art works. This time we are in Room 818 on the top floor decorated by Dutch artist Amber Bijl.

After a quick stop in the room to unpack and freshen up we walk the 15 minutes or so into the centre of town, stopping at the nearest Exki for a coffee. If you get a chance drop into an Exki, the food and drinks are great and really cheap. A coffee and croissant breakfast is only €2.00!

After our invigorating coffee it is time to hit the hard stuff, fending off the restaurateurs on the narrow Rue des Bouchers we make a right turn and are at probably our favourite bar in the world! Delirium 

Oh bollocks, it is closed for renovation. Fortunately the Hoppy Loft at Delirium is open. We bag a table and both start off with a very refreshing Tangerine Wheat beer followed by a Raspberry Brown Ale, both are from the Lost Coast brewery.

We then head downstairs to the bottle bar, I have a refreshing Delirium Red and Victoria a Mongozo Coconut, served in its own Tiki bowl. Making a bit of a night of it we decide to indulge in the big bowl of Gouda with celery salt and mustard and I have another Delirium Red while Victoria has a Mongozo Mango.

We head over to Fritland where we share a bag of frites. We walk back towards the Hotel Bloom stopping at Galleries Royales St Hubert to pick up some chocolates for supper and then at the Brasserie on Place de la Liberte where I have a final beer for the night and Victoria has a coffee.

Waking on Friday morning I have a bit of a headache, I would have though that all last nights fruit beer would have been practically a health-food. We have an unhealthy breakfast of the chocolates we picked up yesterday evening.

Leaving the hotel pretty close to 11am it it raining cats and dogs and my Merrells are soon soaked through. We have a early lunch of cheese salad baguette and a cappuccino at Le Pain de l' Abbaye before catching the 61 bus to Chavelier and walk the short distance to the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History James and I visited this when we were here in November 2014 this time Victoria has the benefit. Mindful that although this is my birthday treat she does not want to spend all day looking at swords and guns we have a good couple of hours in the museum before catching the bus back to Botanique.

The draw of Delirium is strong and its now mid afternoon so we settle down with a rather splendid cheese board and a pint each of Delirium Red. The next course is a Floris Apple each and a bag of paprika crisps.

Victoria now tries a Floris Honey and I have a Floris Strawberry. The session continues with a Floris Cherry for Mrs Scrivs while I have a Campus Premium, probably my least favourite beer so far. By now we are quite tipsy so polish off for now with a Floris Ninkleberry for Victoria and a Rulles Triple for me.

Heading out into the early evening Victoria grabs a chocolate waffle from Galler on Grande Place, if you get a chance try one, a bit of a posh pop-tart! We wander around the alleyways stopping for the ubiquitous photo with Mannequin Pis before an early supper of pizza for me and pasta for Victoria at Pizza Napoli on Rue du Marché aux Herbes.

Walking back Victoria picks up a couple of teacakes at Mary Chocolate and we pick up a pack of Senseo pods for the coffee machine in the room. Back at the hotel after a skin full of beer and a pizza I'm shocked to find it's only 2100! Time for bed though.

The trouble with an early night after a day on the booze is that I wake at 0300 with a hankering for a pint of orange juice. I settle instead for a bottle of water and soon get back to sleep. Waking at a more humane hour I have an early breakfast of coffee and chocolate and we get dressed and head out back into town.

This time we walk through the Botanique park, picking up the main shopping drag we have one of the aforementioned €2.00 breakfasts of coffee and croissant at Exki before a browse around Hema  before diving into some of the comic book stores where we pick up another instalment of Pin-up Wings. I'm tempted by some of the WWI Verdun comics but resist in the end.

No visit to Brussels could be considered complete without a visit to the Tin-Tin Galleries. Again like moths to the light we  are drawn back to Delirium for a light lunch of a cheese-bowl and a Rulles Triple for me and a Floris Cherry for Victoria. We are quite restrained though and leave after just the one drink, too much of a good thing and all that!

As a few family birthdays are coming up we decide to pick up some treats for people in the chocolatiers and confectioneries that abound in Brussels, I'll not say what or for who as I know they read this blog. We have a slow walk back to the Hotel Bloom via the Palace and have a couple of hours relaxing in our room before the evenings onslaught!

We walk back into town and hit Delirium again. The main bar is now re-opened and it's really packed so we head up to the Hoppy Loft again and bag a table. It's packed in here too, at the bar I have a Half Moon IPA and Victoria a Floris Kreik. We play a little Carcassonne but the table next to us seem to be having a who can squeal the loudest competition.

Time for another round Victoria orders the Green Killer, I had a Pink Killer. Unfortunately the squeal the loudest competition is reaching a new crescendo so having had enough we leave Delirium and head across town to Le Cirio, a much more sedate place where we settle down for a more relaxed evening.

I order a Brugs Whitt and a Victoria a Fruit Defendu, we are soon joined by the fat ginger cat who it appears owns the place.

The surroundings are a lot more conducive to our ongoing Carcassonne campaign and soon we are on to a Leffe Blonde for me and a Hoegaarden Rose for Victoria, accompanied by a plate of Frites! When in Belgium and all that. We finish the evening with a Lindemans Framboise for Victoria and I have another Leffe Blonde.

Victoria trounces me 3-0 in that evening Carcassonne campaign!

We walk back via the Grand Place and stop for coffee and crepes at  Gaufre de Bruxelles before walking back to the Hotel Bloom and bed. We pause to check on Victorias grafitti :0

Oh no! It's now Sunday and our last day. We get up and do our ablutions and pack the cases before heading to an Exki for a breakfast of cheese rolls, croissants, juice and coffees. All lovely and fresh and for about €6.00

I am rather liking the chocolate olives that you can buy here so pick up a few for the journey home before heading back to Hotel Bloom were we finish our packing, have a coffee and then check out just before midday. We catch the Metro to Gare Midi and having a couple of hours to spare head over the way to Europa Brasserie for a drink. I maintain my preference for Leffe Blonde while Victoria has a coke light. Setting in for the duration we break out Carcassone again and Victoria maintains her winning streak.

Time for one last beer so we order another round, I have the Leffe again while Victoria tries a Belle-vue Kreik, we also have a portion of gouda with celery salt and mustard and a portion of Frites.

Finally it's time to check in and a few hours later we are back home. What a splendid trip!