Across the Pond

A year in the other Cambridge

Belgium with Anne!

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Last weekend I went on my first trip of Easter break to meet up with the lovely Miss Anne in Belgium.

Hi, Anne! :)

Hi, Anne! 🙂

Since I was passing through London on my way to Brussels anyways, I went into the city on Friday afternoon and met my old advisor at London Business School and got dinner with Grace at a pub around the corner. It was Rib Night… and they were delicious.

Then bright dark and early Saturday morning, I went to St. Pancras to catch the Eurostar to Brussels. I was nicely settled in my seat when the guy sitting next to me arrived and insisted that the seat was his because he “always gets the window seat.” I gave it to him because I didn’t want a disgruntled dude sitting next to me for 2 hours, but then I was disgruntled for 2 hours instead.

Anne and I planned to meet at the Brussels train station and then take the train to Bruges together, but that train station is really confusing… good thing Anne had enough foresight to come up with a back-up plan, so I hopped on a train to meet her at the hotel in Bruges instead. It was a short walk from the train station, and I knew I would like this town as soon as I saw it.

Cobblestones, horse-drawn carriages, pedestrian bridges, and puppies!

Cobblestones, horse-drawn carriages, pedestrian bridges, and puppies!

Unfortunately, Anne was waiting for me at the train station… but she found me eventually! And just in time to go to Hertog Jan for what is possibly the best meal of my life to date.

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(I just downloaded a trial version of this AutoCollage thing–pretty fun!)

This was a 5 course meal… preceded by 4 amuse bouche and 4 appetizers, including a trio of desserts, and followed by 5 treats at the end. Whew! Anne and I shared a wine pairing, but I’m pretty sure they gave us more than they should have. The staff were so lovely and friendly and we have photos with the kitchen staff and our waiter!

These wines looked so pretty... and so does Anne!

These wines looked so pretty… and so does Anne!

To walk off our very large meal, we wandered around town, taking advantage of the remaining daylight.

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The townscape is dominated by a few tall towers (like the bell tower in the photo directly above, and the St. Saviour’s Cathedral in the ones earlier), but it’s amazing how around every corner, the view is different but just as beautiful as the one before.

If anything, the town got more beautiful at twilight.

the bell tower in the market square (Markt)

the bell tower in the market square (Markt)

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We were still full from lunch, but given that we only had 2 days in Belgium, skipping a meal just was not an option. So, after a great deal of wandering in the cold trying to find the place, we arrived at Chez Vincent for fries and beer:

double fried and delicious

double fried and delicious

Since the snow was really starting to come down, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for Sunday. In the morning, we found that the snow hadn’t really stuck, so no slipping and sliding!

view from our balcony

Since it was so cold, we planned our route in advance. Stop #1: Find a liege waffle stand close to our hotel.

…or the cheese shop next door. We picked up some local cheeses from Bruges and then set off. But we couldn’t actually find a waffle shop (or they hadn’t opened yet)! So we skipped on to Stop #2: a tea room for lunch.

…okay, fine, we actually stopped at chocolate shops along the way too. But check out these Easter displays:

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And this one had a sign saying it was mentioned by Rick Steves, so it’s not like we could not go in..

also, what a cute little shop!!

also, what a cute little shop!!

But we did finally make it to the tea room and had a delicious lunch!

a full-out afternoon tea

a full-out afternoon tea (minus the scones, they were still baking!)

Stop #3: the Burg, where the City Hall is.

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And also where we finally found a liege waffle truck!

so delicious and yet so painful (because we were so full from lunch!)

so delicious and yet so painful (because we were so full from lunch!)

We then headed across the river towards Vismarkt, where Anne and I picked up some watercolor paintings of Bruges.

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I cannot get over how pretty all these buildings are!

I cannot get over how pretty all these buildings are!

Finally, we arrived at Stop #4: the Dijver Canal, which is in a bunch of postcards.

postcard shot!

postcard shot!

Having successfully seen that, everything else was just gravy. We figured we could wander around Bruges a bit more before heading to Brussels, so we tried a hot chocolate, which is made by stirring a piece of chocolate into a cup of hot milk;

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visited a frozen fountain in the square where there’s a big market on Saturday mornings;

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saw a quieter side of Bruges;

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had a pint of the only beer brewed in the city;

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and had one more liege waffle.

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Then we were off to Brussels!

Honestly, I didn’t love Brussels… it’s just kind of a big dirty city, and it felt a little creepy walking around at night. Grand Place, the central square, is really beautiful though. Anne says it was even more spectacular the last time she was in Brussels, but I think it already looks pretty cool:

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We then had traditional Belgian food for dinner at Fin de Siecle, and I tried the Mort Subite Kriek beer. The restaurant was really interesting; the menu is written on a blackboard and they don’t accept “plastic money.” We spoke with the bartender and the owner, who were both really friendly and happy to translate things into English for us.

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this may look like sausage and mash, but it's Belgian food, okay?

this may look like sausage and mash, but it’s Belgian food, okay?

meat-filled endive

The next morning, we took our time leaving the hotel room, since we still hadn’t gotten around to eating the cheese and other snacks we had bought in Bruges! However, before we left Belgium, we had to go eat the “simple face” steak at Les Brassins. It was… amazing. The steak is marinated with mustard, shallots, and parsley and then grilled only on one side.

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So yummy, but so filling… I couldn’t manage to finish my steak, or the fries and mashed potatoes that came with it! Anyways, we rushed over to Grand Place to take some photos in the daytime and buy some beer for presents, and luckily the sun came out–but unluckily, so did the cranes.

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Anne and her bread-man stand-in... in the same photo!

Anne and her bread-man stand-in… in the same photo!

And last but not least, Brussels is known for the many murals that you can find on the sides of buildings all over the city. Here’s the TinTin one!

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We did manage to get to Brussels-Zuid train station in time for Anne to hop on the train to CDG, and then I proceeded to while away time drinking coffee and buying more waffles and chocolate from the shops in the train station.

I left Brussels around 6pm and then stayed with Grace on Monday night and wandered around London on Tuesday. This is the only picture I took though, as I then got handed a seafood wrap and it was delicious and the camera didn’t come back out of my bag again…

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One thought on “Belgium with Anne!

  1. This was amazing.

    I like the waffle truck. It has a classic and no-frills attitude.

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