On our first day in Belgium we explored Brussels. My grandfather, who I never met, was from Brussels, and so I found it interesting to look around the city and wonder about which places he liked to visit. Because such a large area of the city dates back to the 15th century, much of it will not have changed since his days there in the 1920s.
The Grand Place is incredibly beautiful and has been so well preserved over its lifetime. Every way you turn, an ornate building looks back at you. I can never understand how these sorts of buildings got built, so many hundreds of years ago and without all the technology and tools we have at our disposal these days.
And there are chocolate shops all over the place! As you’d expect I sampled quite a few different kinds while we were away, and I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that despite my Belgian heritage, I think I prefer Swiss chocolate… I do love the Belgian flaked truffles, and very much enjoyed eating those, but in terms of chocolate bars, I think the Swiss win. I liked seeing how in the supermarkets we visited, most of the bars for sale were Belgian in origin, just like how in Switzerland most of the chocolate they sell is Swiss. It amuses me that countries can be so close to each other geographically and yet they know what they like when it comes to chocolate.
We also made sure to sample the waffles – and again, it became clear that I’m not very Belgian after all. The waffles we had were nice enough, but I wasn’t wowed by them. However, the fries! The fries were excellent – they really know how to cook a nice chip!
As well as walking around the older part of town, we made a visit to a big art gallery to see some paintings my mother has liked since she was in her teens. I think she really liked seeing the originals in person.
Once we’d taken in all the culture and waffles we needed to sample, we went shopping – our hotel was close to a smart shopping district, and there were a few places I wanted to visit. First up was Zara Home. Have you been to one of those? We don’t have one near us, but I think there are a few in the UK. The stock is really nice, and it’s mostly reasonable. I found a quilt I liked but didn’t fancy trying to stuff it in my suitcase to get it home. Another visit was to Hema – a shop I’d read about a few months ago on Decor8 and had been keen to visit ever since. It’s an inexpensive and colourful place, and we bought a few cheap and cheerful goodies while we were there.
But the best shop we went into on our trip was Dille & Kamille, a kitchen, home and garden shop that was a pleasure to spend time in. I quietly took a few pictures while we were in there so you can see what it was like. Products were beautifully displayed and affordable – I wish we had this shop in the UK, it would be such a good place to buy presents for people (and yourself). It was a big place, and one corner sold lots of kinds of loose-leaf tea. Near that was a counter in front of lots of enormous jars of fresh herbs and spices – it seemed that you could take your own spice jars in to have them filled. There were all kinds of kitchen tools and linens, and candles in every colour imaginable. I think we visited three times in all, and goodness only knows how much time we spent pottering around the place.
I bought some sweets, some notebooks, and a bar of handmade soap. My mother returned, as she always does from any decent shop, with armfulls of candles and teas.