How to Spend a Month in Brussels

Late February and early March gave us our first taste of spring in Brussels and it was glorious- 2 weeks of warm weather without rain allowed us to leave our umbrellas at home and partake in outside extracurricular activities. It did of course rain again, and most recently with wind gusts so strong they closed the parks for a week straight, but I’d prefer to talk about the positive at the moment.

Spring in late February, unheard of in Wisconsin, means weekend walks with stops for Trappists and ice cream. Deciding the weather was too nice to work inside all day, we enjoyed a long Saturday afternoon stroll from our neighborhood of Ixelles to Parc du Cinquantenaire in Etterbeek. Dan navigated and I kept an eye out for new sites and hidden gems, halting our parade every now and then for a photo op.

You’ll see that I was very attracted to a specific color scheme while on this walk

We made it to Parc du Cinquantenaire after a refreshment stop in Place Jourdan, but unfortunately missed our opportunity to climb to the top of the Arcades du Cinquantenaure (the large Triumphal Arch extending over the park) where you have a nice panoramic perspective of Brussels. We arrived just as they were closing the Arch and Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History housed within the same building, but the receptionist was kind enough to let us sneak in to use the restrooms. Instead of a vista of Brussels, we got a quick glimpse of the museum (see pic below) and decided that both the view and the museum are on our Brussels short list.

Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History- never have I ever seen so many mannequins in one spot
Happy for the return of my evening walks!

With March came sad good-byes to our friends returning to the US after three years in Belgium. This called for full weekend of celebrations starting with a Friday night “finish off our booze” party and concluding with a Sunday morning visit with our colleagues to the World’s Best Pub, which sits about a half hour drive to the west in Lennik. The name of the pub, In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst, literally translates to “In the Insurance against the Great Thirst”. It is only open on Sundays and is run by a family, making it a popular spot for the Flemish locals in an area known for its Gueuze, which is a type of lambic beer. While sour beers are not my style, the visit itself was worth it, as was the subsequent lunch at Brasserie Julie in St Martens Bodegem. We will miss our travel companions and party hosts, but we’re grateful for their paving the way for our remaining ex-pat group in Brussels.

The pub where thirst goes to die
The beer was ok but that cheese sitting just behind the bottles was the real star

The following weekend didn’t disappoint either and involved a final Friday farewell to our friends, a shopping trip to Antwerp and an ex-pat outing to watch a Sunday evening soccer match. I spent Saturday around Antwerp with an ex-pat friend in search of shoes- not soccer cleats, but rather heels for the wedding. With the big day approaching, it was time to get serious about finding something to wear and when I asked a colleague, she had suggested Van Loock because of their selection and customer service. She was right about both, but the store does operate a little differently than how most Americans are accustomed to shopping. We walked in and took a number from a ticket machine. Typically, you would take a number from the department in which you are looking to shop- women’s or men’s, but we messed that up the first time and had a good laugh when an old women noticed our mistake. Next you wait to have your number called, at which time a representative greets you and instead of you telling her which shoes from the floor or racks you would like try on, you describe in as much or as little detail what type of shoe you are looking for and your size. The representative goes in the back and returns 5-10 minutes later with a plethora of options for you to try on. We joked afterwards that the representatives must become experts in reading their customers with one look because we both walked out with two pairs. We then decided to make the short drive to Antwerp and finished off the afternoon with a stop at a café and a little more browsing before heading home.

Sunday was cold and rainy, just like the start of high-school soccer season in Wisconsin, so it felt fitting to be attending the R.S.C. Anderlecht (“RSCA”) versus KV Kortrijk match. We wore purple and cheered for the home team, RSCA, who was sitting in fifth or sixth place in the Belgian Pro League. The weather, while unpleasant, didn’t ruin the fun, even as we ran through the hail to get to our seats under a much appreciated roof. We celebrated the two goals with the crowd and when RSCA won and the match was over, we sang Sweet Caroline while everyone else cleared out of the stadium.

This past weekend was a fun mix of a work event, the discovery of a new park, and a visit from a good friend. Our Friday evening was spent at a work event where we were entertained by Belgian musicians including the Wednesday Night Jam Band, Renato Bennardo (a finalist of the Voice Belgique), and a Belgian actress/ singer, Nathalie Meskens. We may not have known their names, but everyone else seemed to! We left long before the party stopped.

Light show/ concert/ dance party

On Saturday, Dan convinced me to break from the usual running spot in our nearby Bois and head to a new area- Parc Duden and Parc de Forest. I gave him many post-run high-fives for the suggestion because these are some pretty spectacular parks with great views and even hills. The route was so good I needed two jumping pictures!

My love for unique doors never ceases, even on runs

Melissa, travelling with her friends, wins the award for first visitor of 2019 and even the weather seemed to want to welcome these new-to-Brussels visitors to town as it cleared up after a very rainy week. I met up with them Saturday afternoon for dinner at Le Renard Bleu, an evening tour of Brussels, and Pink Killer beers at the ever rowdy and notorious Delirium Café. It’s so nice to share Brussels with friends, old and new, and I was extra happy to hear they had enjoyed their time before heading to Ghent, Bruges, and beyond.

The always stunning Grand Place by night made even better by visits from friends

We have our first out-of-the-country getaway of 2019 coming up and I could not be more excited. We are taking on the impossible and attempting to conquer Rome in 48 hours. It’s the first time there for the both of us. If Rick Steves says it is possible, we aren’t going to question our decision. After all, my trust in Uncle Rick runs deep… his Euro guidebooks have their very own shelf on our bookcase. I’ll report back on our successes and struggles after we’ve recovered from stuffing our faces with gelato, tiramisu, pizza, and pasta.

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