The lost month at the end of 2011

Before I knew it, December had come and gone, along with my three-month anniversary in Brussels.  I’ll get to 2012 soon, but first I want to look back a little on a great month (Christmas crimewave excepted).

I was lucky enough to have not one but two good friends come to stay with me at the beginning of December.

Fleur arrived first, with her backpack and tales of life on yachts in the Mediterranean, and kept me company for a week while my flatmate was overseas.  We checked two things off her Brussels list on the first night, with some frites from Antoinette at Place Jourdan taken to one of the frites-friendly bars for a beer.

We took great delight in selecting pastries from Au Vatel to welcome Lauren to Brussels (a giant pink strawberry macaroon, a fruit tart and a lemon meringue – too tasty to photograph before they were demolished).  She definitely needed them after arriving at Gare du Midi, with its charming urine smell, dodgy types lashing out at strangers and a metro-walk-taxi combo to get home thanks to the transport strike. Fleur and I kept ourselves entertained at the Eurostar terminal while we were waiting.

And so began a fun-filled weekend.  We started off with a coffee to warm up at Natural Caffe on Avenue Louise (Brussels weather was not behaving, showing signs of a Wellington storm).  Fleur was keen to check out the art deco buildings, so we had a pleasant wander around Chatelain.  I would never have noticed these without looking for them expressly, and I’m glad I did, they were impressive.

After showing my friends my favourite view of Brussels from the Palais de Justice (even if not so good on a cloudy day)…

…it was high time for lunch – at Sucré Salé on Chaussée d’Ixelles.  I was pleasantly surprised with this place, would definitely return.  Grean panini-salad combos for reasonable prices.

In the evening we headed down to check out the Christmas markets, sample the different mulled wine and frites stores, and see the Sound and Light Show at the Grand Place.  Walking around a city with all the Christmas lights up and festive cheer in the air is one of the best things about being in Europe in winter.  There was a 15-minute ballet performance (the “Living Snowglobe”) before the light show – captivating and beautiful, but they must have been so cold!  Even two cups of mulled wine – and one of warm Kriek, not recommended – didn’t stop the chill from creeping into our toes after sitting still for half an hour.

The grey weather didn’t let up on Sunday, but we still managed to get a walk around the Ixelles lakes in, in between bagels for brunch at Karsmakers (new favourite Sunday hangout) and a beer at Café Belga.  We also had a quick look around the Sunday market at Flagey, buying some of the delicious and very fresh pasta.  Fleur and I got a mix of the artichoke and mushroom types and enjoyed them the next week, and I think Lauren was pretty chuffed with the duck she chose.

Before Lauren had to get back on the Eurostar, we went for an early Sunday dinner at Les Brassins.  I’d read about this on a fellow Brussels blogger’s site, and it looked like just the ticket for some quintessentially Belgian food.  It was tasty, and reasonably priced, but the chocolate fondant was disappointingly non-melty middle.  Can’t win ’em all I suppose.  Still looks good doesn’t it.

Other highlights in December included going to Namur with Fleur and trips to Antwerp and Cologne (posts to come), learning about St Niklaas day, my birthday, and several more evenings centred around mulled wine.  To make it feel like winter proper, the snow did arrive briefly, but I’m glad it didn’t hang around long enough to disrupt my travel plans at Christmas.  Here are some pics from a beautiful evening hosted by Caroline just before Christmas.

Click for more photos

Note: I have just discovered the origin of the wonderful carousel you can see in the Flickr gallery at the end of this post – a French manufacturer, Les Machines de l’Ile.  Thanks to Amber Ruth Paulen for bringing this to my attention in her great article on Brussels in the AmericanMag.

© May Guise’s Wundiverse, 2012

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5 thoughts on “The lost month at the end of 2011

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