The weekend before Christmas, we headed north to Brussels, Belgium, which felt like we had traveled to a different world. Cold and perpetually cloudy, though unfortunately not snowy, Brussels truly felt wintery. At night in the center of town, the Grand Place magically lit up during the nightly light show. Click on the video below for a short glimpse (and excuse the poor quality--somehow uploading it to Youtube from my computer made the quality pretty low). I felt like I was in a winter wonderland meets Hogwarts--wonderful all around!
One thing that stood out to us about Brussels immediately was the international feel that it had, which makes sense: it's the headquarters of the European Union, and it has a large African immigrant population. We really appreciated this diversity when it came to food because, well, we are tiring of the Spanish cuisine. (If I see one more ham leg...) We had fish and chips at Bia Mara, right around the corner from the Grand Place, which we would highly recommend! They put a creative twist on your traditional English fare, throwing in some curry and various sauces and breading as well as different kinds of fish depending on what you order. One afternoon we tried Ethiopian food (a first for both of us) at KoKoB, and it was excellent. But then again, when would eating with your hands not be excellent? One evening, we took the advise of our Airbnb host and visited one of her favorite neighborhood restaurants to sample some Dutch fare, and we weren't disappointed. And of course, waffles, chocolate, and Belgian beer are easily accessible wherever you look. We stumbled upon the cutest little Belgian bar in a little alley downtown and sipped some Chimay and Westmalle, and also visited Delirium Cafe, a huge, old, and very busy establishment.
I wasn't really aware of the fact that Belgium is known for its comics. (I'm more of a novel girl myself.) We saw a lot of comic-related murals on walls around the city, and visited the Belgian Comic Strip Center which explained a lot more about the history of comics in the country. Did you know TinTin was created here? And the Smurfs? (Knowing that they are Belgian, I now I think the Smurfs are less weird. Win!) Comics really are an art form and seeing the process that a writer follows to create her craft from start to finish was informative. I'd recommend visiting the museum whether comics are your thing or not; you'll definitely learn something while you're there! And they have a great gift shop, too.
We also took a day trip to Bruges. There was a December promotion going on, and we managed to get 11 Euro round-trip train tickets to go from Brussels to Bruges! This medieval city of canals is lovely. We wandered the streets in awe of the architecture and walked in a very green park (we aren't used to that much green living in Madrid!); unfortunately, a lot was closed because it was Monday, but we still had a great time seeing another city in Belgium.
True to form, we stayed in an Airbnb in a neighborhood just outside of the city center and easily accessible by public transportation (we took every form of public available: taxi, train, metro, and tram during our time there!). A writer and her husband, also an artist, own this cozy book-lined apartment. It is the best Airbnb that we have stayed in to date! (And we have stayed in some good ones in the past.) Economical, I like staying in Airbnbs because I can make myself a cup of tea in the kitchen while I read at night, we often get local recommendations for where to eat, and I get a sense of what a typical [insert nationality] neighborhood is like. We would return here in a heartbeat.
We enjoyed our time up in northern Europe, but it was good to get back to sunny Spain. Even if there are too many ham legs.