BELGIAN DELIGHTS

London, England
Dear Reader, 
     A long weekend in Brussels, Belgium provided the opportunity for me to explore and get to know the capital city of Europe. I am becoming increasingly interested in creating a particular catalog here on my blog and personal remarks of the most authentic aspects of the cities I am visiting here in Europe, and wherever else God has in store for Matthew and I to visit in the future. To me, the authenticity and culturally-intact part of a place might include a stellar art collection, an uber chic or eclectic shop, an awe-inspiring cathedral, sites of local, cultural, and/or historical intrigue, and of course, the best and juiciest organic restaurants, grocers, and cafes. It is my goal to provide to you some words from my personal and tried explorations to guide you in having a holistic, gourmet, budget-friendly, and culturally-enriching experience in the places I write about. So, here is the best of the best from “Rose Knows” Travel – Brussels Edition.
LANGUAGE. French, most common in Bruxelles; Dutch and German.
Photo. Hurray for art! Brussel’s Musée OldMasters; Rose in front of the rich-hued Triptyque de L’Abbaye de Dieleghem by Jan Van Dornicke done in vogue of Antwerp Mannerism. 
To clear up potential confusion of the name(s) I myself had of this art building and the various museums within, I believe the whole complex is called the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Beligique; within this Royal Art Collection are six museums. You pay separate entrance tickets for each one, so Matthew and I chose the Old Masters [a.k.a. Museum of Ancient Art (however, not ancient like Egyptian hieroglyphics, but XV-XVII centuries)…misleading names like I mentioned].  Some stellar artworks spaced within a moderate collection. The most widely-known work in the Old Masters Collection has to be Jacques-Louis David’s Marat Assassiné. 

Photo. Holy Moly, Brussel’s Meininger Hotel – “The Urban Artist’s Home” – was the best hostel I have stayed at in Europe, for price (€16/night, variance) and modern, uber-cleanliness. It is a green-conscious renovated building that is sleek with materials and soft bedding that beats the socks off grimy, germy, or plain worn-out hostel spaces around Europe. Above, this large Belgian beer cask is inventively converted into a computer workspace in the Meininger’s spacious lobby and hopping Bar attached.

Photo. The Brussel’s Meininger Hotel, converted from an Art Exhibition space, retains some of its creative charm with a recycled green glass chandelier hanging over the lobby. More good news, the Meininger Hotel group has hostels near London’s Hyde Park, and other European locations – I highly recommend for the budget traveler.

Photo. Artistic focus along Rue Antoine Dansaert, Brussels; the white scribble reads, “From the 6th of October, the Bistro will open each Sunday!”

Photo. A historically reminiscent, sparse hospital bed window display in a multiple designer clothing shop called Stijl along Rue Antoine Dansaert; Stijl showcased designer collection A. F. Vandevorstwhich may have inspired the display because of the medical Red Cross Symbol of Vandevorst’s designer label. Another fashionable store not pictured, at 80 Rue Antoine Dansaert, is Canvas White. Canvas had a few beautiful Red Valentino numbers that I would love to have in my closet someday. 

Photo. A neat shop called Siblings Factory featured a number of regional designers including a new favorite discovery with a stamp of “Rose Knows” approval – clothing label, Le Mont St Michel. This unequivocal, understated line retailed for too much for me to purchase, however, a gorgeous piece to add to one’s wardrobe at one point or another for any cooler, sweater-happy day. I love the maroon dye fading into the creamy top of this cashmere Le Mont St. Michel Sweater.

Photo. On a small street corner south of Brussel’s La Grand-Place is a 17th-century statue called “Manneken-Pis” resembling a baby boy peeing into a fountain. A widely popular statue perhaps because of its rebellious-nature, and not ever without tourists mingling about, this dog statue called The Zinneke on the corner of Rue Saint-Christophe and Kartuizersstraat is a take off of the Manneken-Pis.

Photo. Little chairs sit unattended on Kartuizersstraat.

Photo. Two globes feature the world in small spheres, the pencil scribbles tell a story.

Photo. Biologique salon and hair-colouring, Boomba located along Kartuizersstraat (or Rue des Chartreux 31).

Photo. Bioshop, located half a block south of the dog statue you saw in a photo above along Kartuizersstraat (the “sstraat”in the word signaling “street”), has all the organic (“biologique” or more simply, “bio” in French) essentials and some. Of course I had to buy my “favv-oar-reat” French Goúters Chocolat Noir Degustation by Evernat, certified “Produit de l’agriculture biologique (AB).”

Photo. Oh, how wonderful is the sight of Bonneterre Milks on a shelf, a French biologique brand I absolutely adore. I would like to note as well, I have found throughout Europe a much more prevalent sense of localism, the emphasis on homegrown and sustainably-produced food sources, homeopathy, and sort of ‘au naturelle’ way. Where in America, especially in less populated or less affluent areas, we have the most typical fast foods, Walmarts, and pharmacies, Europe, has a whole different meaning for Pharmacies, for example, where homeopathics are prescribed first (alongside the finest probiotic-rich local honeys) with organic snacks stocked to the ceiling, and basically a little mix of everything instead of straight-up conventional, sugar-and-syrup-laden products.
I believe that the more American shop owners make the choice to educate (throw up a sign next to a new food/drink item, what its beneficial properties are, or simply, what it is made without) while simultaneously carrying the healthier, organic options, we can reverse the many health epidemics we are facing today. Perhaps we can stand to take a lesson from Europe and be a little more choosy about our food (e.g. standing up with a resounding “no to GMO”), spending even a little more of our overall budget on authentic food (and less on medical bills and a reprieve to our wellbeing).

Photo. I actually gasped when I turned the corner and first saw Eglise Sainte-Catherine (“Eglise” is French for “Church”). I have no idea why, other than that I found it strikingly beautiful and simple. There was something about the exterior though, I really could be imagining things, but it radiated a certain serenity because everywhere I walked in the vicinity seemed, well, peaceful.

Photo. Yes, a gourmet burger place with a variety of speciality proteins including lamb and salmon on the house menu. Ellis, Gourmet Burger at Place Ste. Catherine 4; ate here a couple times, because of the quality, quick service, and to fill up on some unadulturated protein.

Photo. Inside Ellis Restaurant, a little history on the walls. Also, Ellis has the famous Belgian Trappist Beers in the house, so do not forget to try one, if not here, somewhere around Brussels. The Trappist Beer is as pure as it gets and is made devotedly by Catholic monks.

Photo. I already smashed my burger some (and took a big bite which I thoughtfully hid) before I realized I needed to capture a photo of this Norwegian Salmon-spinach decked event. 

Photo. Papers. A rare paper and art shop in which inherent throughout the petit space is the shopowner’s eye for exceptions versus rules; exotic, authentic, oriental to couture originals, placed thoughtfully and creatively together to make for any artist’s delight to stop, view, and study. The French shopowner was extremely gracious with his time, and shared with me a few of the stories behind the original pieces, their history, how they were acquired by Papers. One such piece was the drawing of a Frenchman immaculately dressed and with flair, pompously walking down a French Rue in Paris drawn by the very loved French cartoonist and illustrator (best known for the drawings of the rambunctious Nicolas in the children’s book Le Petit Nicolas and brilliant covers created for The New Yorker), Jean-Jacques Sempé, or better known by his signature, Sempé.

Photo. My photos of the shop do not do it the justice of how exquisite and special all the art pieces for sale were. Perfect shop to purchase one-of-one pieces for those who appreciate art and design at its finest.

Photo. Frames, papers, and art. The painting on the right is an original drawing for Dior. Very elegant, it would look terrific hung on a special wall in a lady’s bath or dressing room.

Photo. Word from a trusted local, Mer du Nord has fishmongers offering the freshest, salty-becuase-it-was-in-the-sea-that-morning North Sea fish snacks smoked and/or cooked, and to be eaten with fingers on the corner with friends.

Photo. Champigros. Fascinating French/Belgian delicacy shop (obviously organic without being labeled organic…the way it should be) with serious Shop owners who know everything about their “nourriture” ( French for “food”) from earth, forest, beast, farm to shop.

Photo. Charli Boulangerie, Rue St-Catherine 34. Happy, loud conversation made this Belgian Bakery feel full of life with espresso cups on tables rimmed with a brown stain – the main evidence there was liquid caffeine poured in them in the first place. This photo is of an old-school map of the actual Belgian city plan pasted along the whole of one of Charli’s walls.

Photo. Exki is revolutionary for its ‘fast-food’ and ‘take-away’ preparations, however using local, organic ingredients, products, and sugars. For example, sporting vitamin-enriched Belgian energy drinks called Tao and whipping up lattes with alternative biologique milks, it was awesome. Exki made me so happy to see this business thriving in and around the city of Brussels; multiple locations.

Photo. Only one section of a smattering of smashing desserts offered in various displays around the Exki store; wholesome, yummy desserts that taste passionately homemade.

Photo. Flowers bloom from spindly vines in Bruxelles (French spelling of “Brussels”).

Photo. The sweet, helpful shopowner of Herboristerie Moderne (located Rue Marché au Charbon 87) helped me pick out a few things for myself (ginger chews being one of them). Definitely worth a pop in to pick up some hard to find pure, holistic French/Belgian beauty and body products.

Photo. Inside Herboristerie, perhaps all the spices, herbs, and medicines in pure form you could hope for.

Photo. Artisan Chocolatier, Mary. A storefront conveniently located near La Grand-Place, has been around the block for nearly a century, and while I never got to try the chocolates, would recommend this over the more conventional, and mass-produced Belgian chocolates being sold everywhere (e.g. Godiva). Lovely, feminine boxes to take home your chocolate in too.

Photo. Belgian and waffle go together. It sounds so much better too. Who wants a waffle when you can have a Belgian waffle? Well, you are going to be sad, I never actually had a waffle because they all smelled so sugary and I just was not up for it (I was up for the flaky apple pie though one night, so no need to worry). If you have to have one though, Rose Knows recommends Maison Dandoy near La Grand-Place over the €1 variety with so much whipped cream and chocolate syrup on top you want to go see a doctor afterwards.

Photo. La Grand-Place on a grey morning, punctuated with the beautiful girl in a red coat and the lull of people admiring the space, because it is hard not to stop before continuing on and passing through.

Photo. La Grand-Place is perhaps “zee”most famous and monumental space in Brussels; no exploration in the city is complete without the iconic stop here. The buildings are all so ornate and beautiful, from all views, in all directions, the details of a community space built with majesty.

Photo. These berries look terrifically succulent and fresh. What I call God’s “gummy-bears.”

Photo. Tranquillité; a favorite photo from this trip. This woman eats her lunch on a bench looking at the Eglise Saint Jean-Baptiste au Béguinage. The red doors make a statement, the variance of cream to gold bricks give it charm, the stone detail ornate, and the green moss growing happily in the cracks of every cobble laid before the Church.

Photo. Ok, Le Pain Quotidien, please take note. This is a delectably moist and delightfully apple-cinnamony muffin from your Brussels store that I thoroughly loved. Your London version is hard, has no real apple on top, and is dry. You may contact me directly and I will help you sample modified recipes for a London version to qualify, or even come close, to this one.

Photo. Co-Cathédrale Collégiale des Ss-Michel et Gudule. I can honestly say one of the finest pieces of woodwork I have ever viewed, and this pulpit is every inch the spectacular artistic and labour-intensive creation you would imagine it to be. My grandfather would love it.

Photo. I was surprised when I looked up, the lungs of the Church hoisted and suspended above the columns…singing pipes we call “the Organ.”

Photo. Precious stained glass, and the solemnity of being one of only a few to be present in the Cathedral at this particular hour – oh holy, heavenly, God-induced awe I felt.

Photo. The lush study of a bouquet; Musée OldMasters

Photo. A portrait of a Mare and her Foal; Musée OldMasters.

Photo. An absolute favorite, sweet painting from the Musée OldMasters, L’Atelier des Femmes Peintures by Philippe van Bree.

Photo. Interior Chandelier at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Beligique – a room within the Musée OldMasters.

Photo. Matthew in the gallery, looking upon Jacques-Louis David’s Mars Désarmé par Vénus.

Photo. If I designed fashion, which would be nice to do at one point in my life (even if it was me simply learning to sew and making some flowing dresses), I would design a few pieces based off the inspiration of this lovely gold and pale blue crown Venus wears as she flirts with Mars.

Photo. Another Triptyque with such vibrant colour; Musée OldMasters.

Photo. The smug look of a young man who knows exactly what he likes. Gabriel Coulet’s Roquefort (raw sheep’s cheese) – smooth, milky, perfectly-balanced for the palette.

Photo. Gorgeous gold-honey-hued stone, both to construct with, and turn into the statues of history’s most religiously devout, Rose in admiration. L’église Notre-Dame au Sablon.

Photo. Looking in on an antique shop along Rue Ernest Allard, a delicate and inlaid gold and wood table sits inside, the globe doorknob the curious exterior feature.

Photo. Wandering through more antiques, many shops like this one north of the Palais de Justice, Belgium’s Supreme Court of Law.

Photo. Fat “Pistache” Macaron display outside Pierre Marcolini’s Exotic Chocolate Shop. Yum.

Photo. Pierre Marcolini. One of the richest chocolates I have ever tasted, fascinating in complexity and layers of flavour. These macaroons were equally delicious as the chocolates, my favorite was the purple one – Grape.

Photo. Yeti, 4-6 Rue du Bon Secours. Homemade organic brunch – the fluffiest pancakes drizzled with bio maple syrup, eggs on toast, and granola that came out of the oven an hour before they sprinkle it over thick yogurt in a glass cup.
Thank you for making it to the end of this winded post made especially for you. *Smile.* I would like to end with a quote from a special map business called Use-It that develops maps for travelers created by locals to give you a better insight into the European City – on Brussels – “Brussels is ugly and we love it. And if we don’t love it, we live with it. So don’t be surprised that we built a terrible apartment block next to an Art Nouveau jewel…” There is certainly truth in this, and I found it quite amusing.

Do you have a favorite eatery in a city you have visited? Share with me in a comment below.

“Live in love, as Christ loved us,”
Emily Rose
© by Emily Rose Reeder, est. 2012. All Rights Reserved
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One thought on “BELGIAN DELIGHTS

  1. Em, Once again, a fabulous journalistic pictorial of your visit(s) abroad. Your photos and choice of subjects was carefully and well done. The architecture they have preserved for centuries is unique and captivating. I was salivating over the delicious treats and yummies you captured in your travels. Thank you for allowing us to escape momentarily from the land of tract homes, Eggo's and Bud Light to this place of character and originality.

    Like

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