As far as I’m concerned, you just cannot beat a good stew. Not only can it taste insanely good, if done right, but it’s filling and comforting. All in all, it’s basically the perfect meal. Thankfully, many countries seem to agree with that conclusion so when I’m out and about in a new place, looking for traditional eats, I can always justify a stew.
I have to admit that I am pretty lucky to live in Europe, the continent has so many interesting and beautiful cities that are just a stone’s throw away from good old Blighty. Even if you do live a bit further out, however, there are many that are worth the trip:
Towards the end of last year, I wrote about the 5 places that I’d love to revisit. Although I love exploring new countries, I also love going back to places that I enjoyed the first time around. I mean, if you have a favourite flavour of Ben & Jerry’s (Half Baked, of course), you don’t only have it once and then continuously just try other flavours- you go back to what you love. Besides, just because you’ve been to one place in a country, doesn’t mean you’ve done it- the culture of one town can be wildly different from another.
It’s a great thrill when you’re travelling to stumble across a hidden gem: somewhere off the beaten track which you didn’t expect to find. That thrill is even better when it happens with an entire city. On occasion, for one reason or another, I’ve ended up in places that are far from my bucket list: Dusseldorf for work, Dublin to visit a friend and Brussels because I got a good deal. I’ve gone doubting that I’d be particularly taken with the city but knowing that I’d probably still have fun. I was only half right- and I don’t mean that I didn’t have fun. In fact, I was left wanting to go back.
This is the first of what I plan to be a series of city guides, in order to give you a bit of an introduction into the city in question: activities, accommodation, transport, restaurants, food and nightlife. It’ll also basically act as a contents page for everything I’ve ever written about the place. I went to Brussels in October 2014 for a weekend. Not a long weekend, just a normal weekend. Although there was obviously things in the city that I didn’t see or do (or eat, the city has a serious sweet tooth) I don’t feel like I missed out on anything major. Brussels is a great city to visit if you can’t afford to take time off work but need to get out of the country.
I do love a big trip, spending weeks or even months travelling from one country to the next, but such things are not always practical. When you’re working, you’ve generally got only a few weeks off, which you have to stagger throughout the year. When you’re studying, you are probably skint. But fear not! Just because you haven’t got oodles of time or money, it doesn’t mean you can’t get out and explore the world. That’s what weekends are for, especially bank holidays where you get an extra day tacked on, although transport and hotels may be more expensive.
I’ve always liked the idea of hopping on the Eurostar one Friday night after work and heading over to the continent for the weekend, but sadly budget constraints have never allowed me to do it. It doesn’t have to be expensive if you organise your trip in advance and look for deals but, lets face it, I’m generally not that prepared. You can therefore imagine my delight when my friend got complimentary tickets to Brussels from work and invited me along for the ride.
Date I was there: 5 October 2014 The morning after the night before was not particularly pleasant. My Eurostar train left Brussels Midi/Zuid station at about midday and I think we had to be there about a half hour early. It didn’t take too long on the tube to get to the station but we still wanted to aim for a 10.30 checkout just to make sure. By 11am we were sitting on the tube- pretty good all things considered.
Date I was there: 4 October 2014 The next morning marked the start of our one and only day in Brussels. It was a good job we hadn’t gone out the night before because we had a lot to pack in. We started off with the cultural activity of shopping: Zara, Mango, H&M- I truly believe we saw the real Belgium as we wandered up and down the Rue Neuve. This was apparently the best place for shopping in Brussels- we came back with approximately zero bags between two of us. And we dedicated hours.
3 October 2014 Over the weekend, I got my first work perk- free return travel on the Eurostar to Brussels. And I didn’t just get any seats: it was Standard Premier on the way out and Business on the way back. I’d like to say this perk resulted from someone reading my blog and thinking it was genius but the truth is that it was not my work perk at all. I was my friend’s plus one. Well I’m not complaining.