As I sat in front of my computer writing what was quite possibly the most boring essay I have ever written, I decided that the idea of online shopping was more appealing. As I browsed through countless dresses I was distracted by an advertisement which was cunningly placed to the right of a strappy back maxi that I was admiring. “Visit Brussels for £29*”. Of course when you follow the link you come to discover that the asterisk means *plus dozens of extra charges. But it was too late, I was already intrigued, so I began to explore cheaper options.  Belgium via Eurostar, two return tickets, two nights and three days in a 3 star hotel with breakfast included for the attractive price of £209. Confirm booking? Yes. What better gift to give your boyfriend on his birthday than a trip to Brussels? I guess the more honest version of that is what better excuse to use to get away than your boyfriends conveniently placed early March birthday; that brief stress free period you have at university before you need to hibernate into a flood of books.

Two essay deadlines later we were there.  Hotel Floris Ustel was beautiful and absolutely fantastic value for money. It was around 2pm and after checking in we decided to explore our surroundings.  We did what I like to call guess-navigating and 20 minutes and a few wrong turns later (it all adds to the fun) we eventually found our way to the Grande’Place.  This was a huge market square with beautiful buildings that bordered it. Such a diverse multicultural community redefined pre-conceived ideas as we soon came to realise that we were among a large number of French, Dutch, German and above all Arabic communities.  It was interesting to see such diverse cultures all indulging in the traditions of Belgium.

There are many small roads that surround the square and I found it extremely fascinating to walk through them and see the countless shops, restaurants and Choclatiers.  One particular Choclatier we entered was called Pierre Ledent, situated on Rue au Beurre.  Behind the counter was clean cut, extremely smart looking young man. After I had chosen my box, I then chose an assortment of chocolates. As I pointed to the chocolates I wanted through a sparklingly clean glass cabinet which was no different to those you see in jewellery stores; with his latex glove he placed each chocolate into a gold coloured cup made to measure for each chocolate and carefully slotted them into their designated spaces in the box. He handled them with such delicacy and pride. He then put the box into a very stylish cardboard bag with rope handles and I was on my way. And that cost me 5 Euros.

Now, moving on to the alcohol.  Personally, I find beer a bit bloating and not very enjoyable to drink but my opinion soon changed.  We found this cosy little family pub where smoking was allowed; a win for all you lung abusers (though I’m not one to talk). It was dimly lit, old fashioned wooden interior and very friendly staff so we decided to have a few drinks This turned into several rounds as it was so welcoming and comfortable. It was situated on a corner near the Manneken Pis statue (which sometimes wees beer instead of water!). As I was in Belgium, I decided to follow the culture and order a beer.  The barman saw that I was a little indecisive about what beer to have and recommended one, so I accepted and I’m glad I did. He presented me with a beer called Leffe Blonde that didn’t look clear and bubbly as I expected, but more foggy and yellow.  The taste was perfectly suited to my taste buds though. If you are partial to fruity, non fizzy, subtle tasting beers that aren’t too overpowering then this is the one for you.  After this I was keen to try more, and I would, if I could, go into more detail and explain the tastes of the wide selection they offered but after my third Leffe I was in no fit state to recall any taste at all. Although my memory of the pavement outside may be more accurate as that is the last thing I remember. At this point I would like to stress that sensible drinking is paramount.

I won’t name any specific restaurants because all of the places we ate during our short stay were delicious. All in all Belgium boasts fantastic food, brilliant bars and was a lovely break. If you’re looking for a short, relatively cheap trip – one where planning every minor detail isn’t necessary – visit Brussels.  Make sure your hotel is close to Grande’Place and you can’t go wrong.  I would definitely recommend Brussels to groups as well as couples. I was in high spirits when I returned, and to top it off, the strappy back maxi went down to half price while I was gone. Win, win.

 

Ceren Senkul