Brussels Reflections

Winter in Brussels, Belgium

My introduction to Brussels was in a snowy January several years ago. I’d gotten the notion in my head that Belgium, with its beer and chocolate, would be romantic and l’d tacked it onto the tail-end of a trip to France. It didn’t matter that it was freezing–l was determined to have a fantastic time.

Touristy streets in the center

I hadn’t traveled solo for a few years, and was reminded of how easy it was to meet people while on the road. I pondered this: was I simply more interested in meeting others in a city full of unfamiliar faces? Was it due to my stay at a youth hostel? Did my smile look particularly inviting those days? In any case, I was tickled to strike up conversation with three Mexican girls in the shared room. It was freezing outside, but their laughter and light conversation made this strange city a bit warmer. We swapped Brussels stories and it was discovered that we were all interested in visiting nearby Bruges. “You should come with us!” the girls suggested. I agreed.

Cherry beer!

Quaint bar with an old-world feel

Despite this pending day trip, the visit was a solo one and l exercised my right to museum-hop to the fullest. Due to the weather, spending time gazing at art was the best activity of ’em all. I frolicked in the notable Music Museum and the Royal Beaux Arts Museum with its adjoining building dedicated to Magritte. In fact, with my ticket l was able to spend the whole morning wandering the art museums, exit for a beer and lunch, and return post-bar to continue my self-guided tour.

Snow, snow, and more snow

Stringed–and winged–friends at the Music Museum

Outside of museums, l ate crispy golden fries from the frietkot and sampled melt-in-your-mouth confections from tiny chocolate shops. Although my jacket wasn’t designed for the weather this far north, I had to admit that the snow on the ground made for some snappy photo ops. After the first two days of adventuring–and a few marvelous lambics–I had warm fuzzy feelings about Brussels.

However, by the third day I couldn’t shake the cold. The snow mixed with dirt and puddled into brown slush. The goodwill-toward-strangers abruptly ended when a creepy guy in the hostel lobby invited me to visit the sewer museum. (Sewers: the way a girl’s heart.) Food poisoning from a kebab shop (hey, I was on a student budget) halted hopes of any further gastronomic forays, a trip to Bruges, or anything that involved movement, for that matter. I left Brussels with one hand holding tight to my camera bag and the other clutching my stomach.

Fine Arts Museum

Holiday lights in January

 View from the Music Museum

Fast forward four years. Memory has smoothed the hard edge off of the trip and I’m remembering all the great things about Brussels. Fine art! Belgian chocolates! Beer that’s not Mahou! Two new languages to practice! I’ve recently dusted off the Brussels photo albums as another Belgian adventure is in the works. This time it won’t be the dead of January and, even better, Andres will be with me! We can muddle over the Dutch-French street signs together and conquer more beer than one person can sample by themselves. My only two requests? No sewer museums and absolutely no kebabs, s’il vous plaît.

Any last-minute words of advice for a weekend trip to Brussels? Look for more Brussels posts soon!

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10 Comments

  1. I loved Brussels when I was there over Christmas holidays. It was so beautiful with the lights and Christmas trees, but you’re right, a bit chilly. Enjoy your second trip!

  2. I also went to Brussels in January a few years ago. (2011, I think.) I remember being SO COLD all the time. I even had to buy new boots with “fur” inside. Oh man … But at least the RyanAir flight was super cheap! I think that was my last RyanAir flight, though.

    • Cassandra

      Brrr! I hear ya about the cold. Fur boots sounds like the only way to go.

  3. Do you know Annie from http://www.montgomeryfest.com/. They live in Brussels and I’m sure she could give you tons of great advice!

    • Cassandra

      Yes!! We’ve been in touch and she gave us several recs 🙂

  4. Ha, I bet Brussels is just as cold as NYC in January. My de facto shoes this past winter were my snow boots/UGGs, it made for some interesting outfits. I’ve always been curious about Brussels (or Belgium in any case), land of Tintin, waffles, and fries. Maybe it’s because the French make fun of them so much (pretty much the same way we make fun of Canadians), but I’ve always wanted to go. I hope you have a fun trip!

    • Cassandra

      Hope you get to go someday! It’s very easily accessed from Paris so maybe you can hop over before/after a trip to France.

      I don’t know how you guys survive the cold–I’m a complete baby when it comes to cold temperatures!

  5. Ah, good ol’ kebab food poisoning. We’ve all been there 🙁 (Unfortunately I got it at the Alhambra 4 years ago. Never ever go to Kebab King in Granada!) But those chocolates and Belgian frites? TO DIE FOR. I took a day trip to Brussels from Paris in September, and I probably gained 5 pounds in just one day from gorging on all those delectable treats! So worth it.

    • Cassandra

      Ohh no!! Those kebabs should come with a warning label. Glad you got to experience Belgian chocolate and beer in Brussels, too! Delicioso!!

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