Sunday, 30 March 2014

A Wonderful Mother-Daughter Weekend in Brussels.

Sigh. I am currently suffering from PPLD. You know, Post Parent Leaving Depression. It’s totally a thing. Anyone who’s felt the lowness after saying goodbye to your mum or dad having had a delightful weekend together will know what I’m on about.

Yup, I’ve just said au revoir to Mama Hosie on this fine Mothers’ Day (let’s not get into a debate about the apostrophe), she’s hopped on a Eurostar and I’ve ambled home, hiding my inescapable tears behind giant sunglasses – they have more than one use, am I right, gals?

Current depression aside, we have had a truly wonderful weekend together. Brussels being that much closer to home than Bayreuth, spontaneous visits are that much more doable thanks to a little something called the Eurostar. Well, when I say spontaneous I mean booked five days in advance, but that's pretty spontaneous for we Hosies!

Having someone to visit is a great excuse to try out new restaurants, explore and show off your new city, and as we found what I consider to be a fair few gems, I figured I'd share them with you all. That OK? (Feel free to stop reading if it's not. But you'll be missing out. Trust.)

After post-work drinks on Friday evening, I practically skipped to the train station to meet Mama, and not just because Belgian beer is extra strong, honest! It was late-ish, so we simply dropped off Mum's suitcase then ventured straight out for some dinner.

Naturally, after wasting far too many hours on TripAdvisor and asking around for restaurant recommendations, I'd made five reservations - I'm a gal who likes choice, what can I say? But don't worry, we whittled down the shortlist, chose a winner and cancelled the others.

That winner was, my friends, Le Clan des Belges. And winning we were indeed.

Le Clan des Belges is a very trendy restaurant: trendy inside, trendy clientèle, trendy menu. All the hip, young things in Brussels seemed to be in there so obviously I was in my natural habitat. Ahem. But there were plenty of other ages too, worry not, parent generation.

Feeling in the need for something substanstial, the madre and I both opted for the MEGACHEEEBURGER (their use of capitals, not mine), and it was pretty epic. Even though I knew we had MEGACHEESEBURGERS coming, we couldn't resist munching on the yummy bread rolls we were brought in the surprisingly short wait.

So, MEGACHEESEBURGER time had arrived: Mama had hers with Reblochon because she's sophistiquée. I had mine with cheddar because I am a child. Cheese choice aside, this was a gooooood burger.

Juicy juicy meat in a delicious, soft sesame bun, served with a side of classic Belgian frites and some token nutrients in the form of a little pot of coleslaw.


Being a gal who can't resist a spot of research, I knew the puddings on offer were going to be awesome, but we truly were, for want of a more polite word, stuffed. That said, the Hosie gals certainly managed to find room for a little bit more...

Along with the bill we were brought a massive jar of sweeties. And yes, I proceeded to stuff my face like a fat kid in a candy shop (which is basically what I was.) How can you not love a place that brings you sweeties with the bill? So yes, I liked Le Clan des Belges and would recommend it. There seems to be a surprisingly large number of burger joints here in Brussels though so I'll of course let you know if I find any other goodies!

Mama and I practically rolled home and hit the hay ready for a packed day ahead (of course I had an itinerary...)

So, the next morning the sun was shining gloriously and I took Mama into the old centre of Brussels to show her all the best sites: the Palace, the Grand'Place, Mannequin Pis, the cathedral and more. We nattered as mothers and daughters do, and had a delightful morning soaking up the sun and seeing Brussels in all its glory.

Doesn't she look lovely? I hope I'm as stylish as the madre when I'm her age. And yes, we were both walking round with our Mulberrys, repping the UK.

Mannequin Pis was dressed up.
Over a coffee and juice outside in the sun, we felt very European and discussed our love for the Continent.

I was trying my best to impart some knowledge about Brussels, but there's still a lot I don't know. It always helps to have a backdrop of blue sky and sunshine when showing off a city though.

A new discovery for me was Place Sainte Catherine where - surprise, surprise - there was a little market going on. We sampled some local specialities and admired the pretty church.

We did some more strolling, wandering and exploring and soon realised we're actually old women and needed a good sit-down. Good thing I know just the spot then: outside the cathedral there are fixed sun loungers. So, lounge in the sun we did. For a while. And it was super blissful.

Soon though, this gal was hungry. As per. And so I dragged mum up and to a café just down from the cathedral called Delish. If the name wasn't enough to make me love this little café, the menu certainly was: I felt thoroughly spoilt for choice with all the wraps, ciabattas, bagels, sandwiches, soups and more. In fact, I'm going to have to go back because there was simply too much I want to eat. (We've all been there, right?)

I eventually decided on a roast vegetable and red pesto warm ciabatta and it was indeed delish. The staff were lovely and friendly too which is always a plus.

We spent the afternoon doing - you guessed it - more wandering. It really is the best way to see a city, and we popped into lots of lovely little shops as we went, of course. 

I saw this. I liked it. So I took a picture. Obvs.
Come the end of the afternoon though, we. were. EX. HAU. STED. Seriously, we'd been basically walking around all day, and my feet and legs just can't take that. So, we picked up an apple tart and a Belgian pastry called a Maton and headed back to mine to crash out.

A Maton
A maton is made of puff pastry and filled with a light, slightly almondy and cream cheese-like filling. Not the most amazing thing in the world but nice all the same. And you've gotta try the local delicacies, haven't you?

Oh, tea and cake. You really are the one. Multiple cups of tea, much cake (well, tart) and prolonged sitting and lying occurred. And it was goooooooooooood.

Eventually, we found the strength to venture out for some dinner. Only this time, we decided to take the tram back into the city centre. Dayum, Brussels was looking fiiiine in that almost-dark-but-not-totally light.

Grand' Place just makes me smile every time I'm there.

Now, I had a couple of dinner places in mind having done my research, but it seemed that all the best-yet-still-affordable places were unbookable, alas. I was thinking we should probably try and sample some proper Belgian cuisine - don't get me wrong, I'm loving frites and waffles, but apparently there's more to Belgian food than that.

With this in mind, top on my list was a little restaurant called Nüetnigenough. It's just off the Grand' Place yet not one of those places that clearly only caters for tourists, and when we rocked up it was packed. Bums.

However, we were in luck: there was one little table for two left outside, and seeing as it was a mild evening, Mama and I pounced. 

Yeah, I didn't know what Nüetnigenough meant either, but according to the website, ""Nüetnigenough?" Literally, in Brussels' dialect, that's the one who has never, never ever enough." Now, I think that relates to me in many a way, really!

Nüetnigenough offer lots of different Belgian specialities, but I went for the "stoemp saucisses fondue de poireaux" (AKA sausages in a leeky/tomatoey sauce with potato and vegetable mash.) I was keen to try stoemp (the mash) and it was yummy I must say. Belgian sausages aren't like German sausages, but I definitely enjoyed these too. It turns out bangers & mash is a winning combo in more countries than one!

Mama also had the stoemp but went for "boulettes de veau à la gantoise" (AKA veal meatballs in a white beer sauce.) Naturally, we tried each other's dinner, and I have to say I think I preferred the meatballs to the sausages. Next time, eh? (Oh, Daaaaaad...!)

Our food came amazingly quickly and we were given a big salad and fresh bread to share too, all included in the price! Not too shabby, eh? Eating outside is always lovely too. We gobbled up our dinners and discussed everything from gay marriage (the first ones in the UK had just occurred) to our summer holidays. As ya do.

The great thing about the centre of Brussels is there's lots still going on at night. And when I say 'lots still going on', I really mean 'lots of chocolate shops still open.' True to form, I know which ones are the best for free samples, and we obviously needed pudding. (Duhh.) Mama couldn't go home without any Belgian chocolates!

I imagine you're never more than three metres from a chocolate shop in Brussels city centre, whether a big chain like Leonidas, Neuhaus and Godiva or a little independent boutique. It. Is. AWESOME! The chains don't give out free samples though. Boo.

To do our shopping (OK, mum's shopping, my eating), we settled on Chocolaterie Elisabeth. I liked Elisabeth a lot: everything was beautifully packaged, the chocolate was DIVINE (truffles, pralines, bars, chunks, biscuits and so much more) and the friendly man let us try pretty much everything.

Mum bought a few presents (including some for ourselves) and, despite being beyond exhausted, we decided strolling home might be a good call considering the day's consumption. Brussels is beyond beaut at night though, so it was really rather pleasant.

The Palace
We got home, watched the news (part of the daily routine in my family), carried on chatting and nattering as only mothers and daughters can, and went to bed.

The next day was Mothers' Day, and oh how lovely it was to be able to spend it with mine. We enjoyed a leisurely and huge buffet breakfast of croissants, pains au chocolat, fruit, yoghurt, granola, bread, cake (me, obvs), scrambled eggs, cheese, meat and juice, tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Because we hadn't eaten enough the day before. Ahem.

It was another sunny morning and I took mum off to show her another area of Brussels: we strolled through Place du Luxembourg (or 'Plux' if you're down with the local kids), past the European Parliament and round the beautiful Leopold Park. With it's little lake, blossom trees and grassy slopes, it was blissful.

We then wandered into Place Jourdan to find a wonderful market bustling with life. Now, I don't know about you, but Monica and Rachel Hosie are both big market fans - particularly French market fans, and the Place Jourdan market was certainly of a similar vein. 

Remember how I told you about all the free samples at the Marché du Midi last week? Well, Place Jourdan did not disappoint on that front either. Because we were obviously hungry. Ahem. (It's been scientifically proven that that calories don't count if a) you're finishing someone else's food, b) it was free, or c) no-one sees you eat it.)

Notice the Matons near the back there

Fruit and veg, meats, cheeses, baked goods, flowers, mattresses (for sure)... It was all on offer at Place Jourdan today, and it was all delightfully colourful and bright.

'Pink grapefruit' sounds better in French.
Thankfully, the market at Place Jourdan is nowhere near as busy as that of the Marché du Midi, which is much better when you want a casual peruse rather than a 'get in, buy cheap fruit, get out' experience.

After spending a fair amount of time wandering round the market, we managed to walk right into a demonstration/march by lots of nations campaigning for independence: Catalonians, Bretons, South Tirolians and yes, even a few Scots were charging through the streets of Brussels, holding placards and chanting as they went.

Not wanting to get in the way (because we're so selfless like that), Mama and I decided to pop into Paul for a sit down and a drink while they all marched by.

Ooh just look at that patisserie!
Mothers' Day selfie!
I usually walk past Paul and gaze longingly through the window, envious of those inside (because I'm a poor intern), and although I felt bad that it was mum treating me on Mothers' Day (she insisted!), it was lovely.

We walked up to my favourite park in Brussels, Parc Cinquantenaire and took a stroll and a few snaps.

I showed Mama the rest of the EU buildings as well as my office, but soon it was time to make our way back to the station. *sob* And that brings us pretty much up to now!

Mums really are the best, aren't they? It's so sad to have had to say goodbye but it was so lovely to spend this weekend with my mother. Mothers' Day may only be once a year but we must make sure to always appreciate our mothers and everything they do for us. Happy Mothers' Day to all the wonderful mums out there, and Mama, when I'm rich, the patisseries will always be on me.


  1. "The friendly man who let you try pretty much everything" in Chocolaterie Elisabeth is very happy you had such a wonderful moment discovering the real Brussels, not the tourist one! :-)


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