BRUSSELS REVISITED

View from the Mont des Arts“Brussels? Really?” is the kind of skeptical response I usually get when listing Belgium’s capital as one of my favorite European cities. I am not sure what people’s beef is with Brussels, but I was charmed by it on my very first visit more than a decade ago, adored it through the subsequent Christmas season, and liked it just as much when work took me back there this past July.

Actually, I liked it better. Because Annie Montgomery.

Annie and I met up on the third day of my trip, and I think whatever small reservations each of us might have had about our personalities meshing well, have evaporated by the time we got our first trays of drinks. Oh yeah, we both buy our booze in bulk, how could we not be a match?

A little Delirium

You know how nice and cute and sweet Annie comes across in her blog? And how you might think that nobody is that way in real life? Well, Annie IS, only about 10 times more! It’s absolutely ridiculous – in the best possible way. Also, this tiny southern belle has quite a mouth on her – though I’m not sure she’d like this fact being made public ;-). Too bad.

I do not remember the last time I enjoyed talking to someone so much on the first encounter. First it was over the aforementioned trays of beer at Delirium Tremens by Grand Place, then over a fancy-schmancy dinner at Viva M’Boma in the St. Catherine neighborhood, and then, having closed out seemingly all watering holes in central Brussels, we continued chatting away while strolling the city’s cobblestone streets well into the night, Mr. Montgomery and his endless patience in tow.

Here I must backtrack a little and say a few words about that fancy dinner of ours. When I first told Annie about my upcoming Brussels trip she was immediately ready with recommendations of where and what to eat for all my non-business meals, and offered to line up a few places for our night on the town. Usually, whenever I travel I like to sample all the cliché local dishes, but this wasn’t my first Belgian rodeo, so I was ready to skip the frites and the moules and the waffles in favor of something more creative and esoteric, something I could not get in Russia.

Boy, did Annie deliver!

In fact, my order at Viva M’Boma was so, um, creative, that the Snobbiest Waiter Ever first made a Face and then asked – TWICE! – if I were sure I wanted to place it, because the taste was very “specific and strong.” Damn straight I was sure!

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the infamous pork penis!

Pork PenisOk, so it wasn’t really a pork penis but some incarnation of the Andouillette – pig intestines stuffed into some other pig intestines – but come on, look at it!

The taste kind of matched the appearance, but, surprising myself, I still managed to eat more than half, and that was on top of my escargot appetizer. Did I mention that it was the first time that I ate snails? No? Well, it was. I was clearly in adventurous mood in Brussels. And I really wanted to stick it to the Snobbiest Waiter Ever.

For no reason that I can comprehend Annie ordered the Pork Penis™ too, and I think she is still traumatized by it. Mr. Montgomery (aka Justin), evidently thinking that Annie and I were playing it far too safe, threw all caution to the wind and went for a plate of assorted animal organs. It was a meal to remember, for sure.

What else did I get up to in Brussels?

I drank tiny cappuccinos, revisited my beloved Grand Place, cheered on the Netherlands in the World Cup semi-finals, ate pizza with truffles and the craziest shawarma ever, attended more than a dozen presentations and a champagne-fueled red-carpet gala (thank you mommy for making me pack a cocktail dress at the last minute!), listened to brilliant speeches by creative masterminds behind Lego, Coca-Cola, AOL and Huffington Post, and generally had a grand old time mixing business with pleasure.

Grande Place Citadel Grand Place Brussels 2 Grand Place Brussels 1

The Grand Place, Brussels, by night.

The Grand Place, Brussels, by night.

ECS by the way of AOL

The European Communications Summit Gala

The European Communications Summit Gala

I think that’s what I like about Brussels so much: it’s a smallish, very cute, very charming and tourist-friendly European city that just keeps going about its worldly business. And this appeals to me in a way that all proper cities do. Moscow, NYC, Madrid, London, Paris. At a fast pace they all go about their lives and their business, and that business is more than themed cafes and souvenir shops and picture-perfect squares. But they still do it all with style, class and beauty.

Brussels, with its EU-this and corporate-HQ-that, is made of real-life stuff in a postcard-pretty setting. My spirit city-animal.

Galerie du Roi, Brussels Charli Boulangerie Living it up in Brussels The cuteness that is Annie and Justin Amazing shawarma World Cup in Brussels View onto the Mont des Arts

Is there a destination that you love but that nobody else “gets”?

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35 thoughts on “BRUSSELS REVISITED

  1. Ive never been in Brussels before, but it seems to be a beautiful city! But its true that many people dont like it, I dont know why, I have to see it for myself! There is a city I love and many people dont understand why: Sao Paulo ☺️ great post! The food looks great!!

  2. Looks like you had a great time, and a great conference too. I have to admit, I’ve been put off Brussels from bad reviews in the past, but I might just have to check it out for myself soon.

    P.s. how did the pork penis actually taste…??

    • Um… interesting? 🙂 Not something I would order again thought. I think it helped that I had a few beers beforehand and the potatoes from that escargot appetizer – sort of cushioned the experience.

  3. I’ve been wanting to visit Belgium for a while, I’m not sure why everyone says it’s such a boring destination. For me it’s the other way around, there is a destination that everyone loves but I don’t get and that’s Vienna. Though I will be giving it a second chance next year so maybe I’ll change my mind.

    • Love it, love it, love it! Brugges is a stuff of fairy tales, Antwerp is totally charming (Annie and I went there as well – it’ll be up in 2 posts), and the food! The beer! Ugh, it’s divine. If you want to be further seduced into going to Belgium, definitely check out Annie’s blog – she was an expat there for 2 years and has crossed the country backwards and forwards.

  4. Brussels looked fantastic, and meeting fellow bloggers is always the best part 🙂 I love waffles, I love sprouts, I love old European charm…

    …and whatever those beers are, they look fantastic.

    • It helped that the rain scared a lot of people out of my shots 😉 (I love rain, tho I must say, I could have done with the weather that was a bit more… July).

  5. PORK PENIS. bahahaha ™. alternate post title and all around demise of my appetite for the next year. yep, still traumatized. I forgot about that waiter – guy, this is your job. yes, I’m sure I want to have what I just ordered. (!!) You’ve got me missing Brussels something bad right now! And you. Definitely you. But not pork penis. xx

  6. I love Brussels too! It’s the perfect weekend destination. Everything I ate and drank there was fabulous – although I would probably have drawn the line at the Pork Penis™…

  7. I have been to Brussels but it’s been an absolute age. It’s been so long that I was actually living in London in those days, and I was bored so I thought why not go to Brussels! Yeah, I did the tourist thing and spent a weekend strolling around and noshing on mussels and chips. I quite liked it and I agree with you when you say, Brussels is “a smallish, very cute, very charming and tourist-friendly European city that just keeps going about its worldly business.”

    You must have had an excelent time with Annie. It’s really nice meeting other bloggers in real-life. She sounds lovely and the fact that she has a mouth on her makes her all the more loveable LOL!

    And to answer your question: Is there a destination that you love but that nobody else “gets”? Yes, it would have to be Poland. I quite like it. It’s pretty old school and everyone has their opinion about the country. Some actively encourage me not to visit as it isn’t “interesting,” but I don’t really care. I like it, so I go there. 🙂

    ‘Love the post Anna. 🙂

  8. Pingback: ANNA AND ANNIE DO ANTWERP | Home & Away

  9. Pingback: TOP 14 TRAVEL MOMENTS OF 2014 | Home & Away

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