I was making the most of having international friends from uni this week and went to visit one of my favourite people at her home in Belgium – somewhere that I’ve always wanted to go. And for once I didn’t have my trip planned down to the most microscopic detail – gasp! I don’t know how I coped – leaving my week in the hands of Marion to show me her beautiful home country. Here’s what we got up to! (Along with a lot of photos)
I arrived on Monday around dinner time and we were both way too exhausted to go out and do anything. So once we got back to Jochmans’ lovely home, in a wee village called Sauvenière just outside of Gembloux, we went for a little swim while her mum made us a delicious curry for dinner. Marion’s sister and her family came over to visit after their holidays too so I got to meet the adorable baby Luca and the crazy dachshund Pippo. It was nice to just chill out after travelling all day.
For my first official venture in Belgium we visited the town of Namur and make our way up a huge hill to view the city from the Citadel which was really lovely to see, we also learned a little about the geology of the citadel and the history of the country which was interesting too. After this we were starving so caught a lovely lunch at Le Pain Quotidien, we both had spiralised vegetable spaghetti, which was lovely. With our hunger satisfied, we went for a wander in Namur’s old town and came across the Cathedral St-Aubain which was super huge and pretty, then went for a cup of tea in the Place du Marché before heading back to Gembloux. We then had another lovely dinner thanks to Maman Jochmans and another chilled evening, watching Doctor Strange.
The following day was a big day out to the capital, Brussels, which is a flipping awesome city. We took the train there which took about an hour, not too bad. We walked up the Mont des Arts (which means Hill of Art) through the lovely gardens up towards the Place Royale which is home to the pretty Cathedral Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg, as well as being the home to Brussels’ selection of museums. We decided to visit the museum dedicated to famous surrealist Belgian artist, René Magritte. Nicely, it was a museum that Marion also hadn’t visited before so it was exciting for both of us. I love the bizarre weirdness of Magritte’s work, it felt like I was looking at images from the Mighty Boosh. What I also found super amazing about Magritte was that he could have such creativity and amazing quality depth and dimension to his paintings, so many of them were so 3D and he was painting in the 20’s-60’s, I loved it.
We were then strolling past the royal palace and going for a walk through the Parc de Bruxelles when it started to rain. No, not rain, POUR. We were soaked through and dripping and had to run under the trees for mild shelter from the torrential downpour that came out of nowhere. Belgian weather is intense. After it lightened up, we wandered back the International Court buildings and down to visit the stunning Cathedral de St-Michael et St-Gudula. We then hit up Exki for lunch (a Belgian equivalent of Pret).
Again, needs relieved, the adventure continued! We headed right into the center of Brussels to the stunning Grand Place where all the buildings are so extra and stunning. For some reason, one of Brussels’ tourist attractions is the Manneken Pis, a statue/fountain of a small boy peeing. Even Marion wasn’t 100% sure of the reason behind it but it’s possibly something to do with a boy saving the city by putting out a fire… I don’t know. The streets of Brussels are super cute, I absolutely love how the buildings look and we spent a large portion of the afternoon in awe of its cuteness. I was also on a mission to experience Belgium’s famous foods so I bought some chocolate and a Liège waffle (both beyond delicious). After all the walking we were feeling pretty tired so we sat down in the lovely Peck 47 for a smoothie and a coffee.
Continuing the Belgian lifestyle trend of finding a place to sit and have a drink we headed over to Bruxelles les Bains – an event held in Brussels where they turn the bank of the canal into a temporary beach, just for the fun of it. We sat there in the sun with a glass of wine, bliss. The final part of the day before we headed home exhausted was a traditional Belgian dinner at Chez Leon, which is located on a super cute wee street. Belgium’s national dish, in case you didn’t know, is moulles-frites which is mussels and chips, and as much as I wanted to try it, I’m just not a seafood fan so I ordered another Belgian delicacy chicken vol au vent. Although I did have a taste of the mussels – and it’s true, I just can’t like them. Anyways, Brussels was super cool and super cute and I’d totally recommend a visit there as there’s loads to do but it’s still really lovely and chill despite the tourists.
Another day, another city and I think I have to say that Ghent was my favourite. It is SO adorable! The first order of business was to get lunch and continuing the mission to eat all the Belgian things I got me some frites belges with the classic combo dip, mayo. Fun story: chips were actually invented and perfected by the Belgians but apparently they’re not so strong at branding since everyone knows them as French fries.. awks. They were some damn good chips though and all the better that I got to sit by the canal whilst I ate them. Our inner Moana’s drove us towards the water and we decided to take a boat tour along the canal. Our tour guide was so extra saying his facts in three languages the whole time – what a clever guy. My fave fact was that the last time the castle was captured was by the students of the city protesting the rise in beer prices, they threw potatoes at anyone who tried to come inside until the prices were dropped back. Classic Belgium – they’re super chill unless you try to mess with their food and drink.
Ghent is actually so adorable, I loved it so much. We wandered through the Patershol which is basically just a maze of adorable streets with quaint wee bars and cafés and we came across a street lined with graffiti which was pretty neat. This day was the hottest of the trip too (I came away with some sunburn, oops) so we got some yummy fro yo at Moochie which had soy for the vegan Marion who chose raspberries and chocolate toppings and I got me some vanilla fro yo with pineapple, cherries and honey. And just when I thought I’d tried all the delicacies of Belgium, a cart seller passionately pursued me until I bought some Cuberdon from him because I “definitely won’t get this in England” – they’re basically a jelly type candy from Ghent but they’re kinda hard to explain.
Since I was so pleased with my fact (as mentioned above) we went inside the castle which was super pretty and really interesting. They have a whole room dedicated to being a museum of torture instruments, which is cool if you like the darker side of history. Standing up on the towers of the castle gave you a great view of the city and its mazes of streets too.
By this point we had reached the daily need to sit down and aperitif the time away until we could eat so we got a glass of wine at a bar called Barazza which is sat right on the canal which makes for some fun people watching. Dinner was at the adorable Le Botaniste, a vegan restaurant themed to look like a pharmacist because healthy food is the best medicine, where we had a lovely dinner, closing off my last night in the country in an appropriately chilled and happy fashion.
There wasn’t much time to do anything on my last day before heading to the airport so we allowed ourselves a lie in. I had a last breakfast of waffles, appropriately. Then I had to pack. Sad face. We went into Gembloux (the town where Marion lives) and visited the markets, they were small but lovely and we somehow managed to see many of the world’s cutest puppers that morning. Finally, we went for lunch at a “concept store” called Rosalie where the food is so fresh, they change the menu every day and I had the most delicious chicken in a lemon sauce with potatoes and other veg. Then I sadly had to fly home to a grey and rainy Scotland.
I’ve said it a million times, but I’ll say it again: thank you so much Marion for sharing your country with me and a big thanks too to your family for welcoming me. Love you lots x
Belgium is so great, it is adorable and I love how chill the vibes are there. There’s so much more I have to explore there and still take the time to just sit with a vino and chill. I would love to come back again one day.