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AFAR sent Ambassador Sivan Askayo to Flanders to indulge in the rich culture of the region and to enjoy the Flemish way of life. Explore the Guide to Flanders. http://www.visitflanders.us
If you were in Brussels last weekend, you were lucky because the city had laid down the flower carpet in the main square. This is done every five years and I decided to head up the road to have a look since it had been some time since the last one. It is made from real flowers and with the tropical weather that Belgium is having it wouldn't last more than the 4 days that were allotted for the display. Roll on 2017!
This weekend, for the first time ever in Brussels, the Food Truck Festival is taking place. Today I spent almost all day there trying the food from the trucks lined up on the side of the main train station in Brussels. One of the trucks is offering insects and insect based food. Of course I had to try some of it cause how often does one eat grasshoppers? Verdict? (tastes just like chicken) :-D. They are dehydrated so very crunchy and made with soy so they feel like weird chips in your mouth. With the cherry tomato is actually really nice. Go try it if you are in the Brussels area. Tomorrow, all day, the trucks will be there waiting to amaze you with great and yes, weird food.
The Grand Place in Brussels is the magnificent main square in Brussels. The square is the main tourist attraction in Brussels and is surrounded by numerous cafes and shops. Most of the buildings were constructed in the late 17th century, although market activity in the square dates back to the 12th Century. It's a great place to hang out, grab a coffee or a liege waffle, and people watch.
There is nothing I like better than a hot creamy soup during the cold months. The area around Orval Abbey is cool in summer due to the vast forest so in winter it feels even colder and damp. The soups of the day at the Orval restaurant are just what the doctor ordered during the cold days we are having. The soup is served steaming and fresh and made with all local ingredients. Do not miss having dinner at the restaurant when visiting the Abbey. It's available starting 6pm.
The Delirium Café in Brussels is nothing less than a pilgrimage for beer aficionados. Try mentioning a place with over 2000 different options, and see how starry their eyes will get. This bar is located right in the heart of Brussels, a stone throw's away from the Grand Place but yet tucked away on a side street - which only makes it all the more special. The decor is pretty much dedicated to beer - ceilings and walls are covered in beer memorabilia like trays, glasses, vintage advertising plaques and the likes - quite the ideal setting for a beer-filled evening. As the owner told me, out of the 2000+ beers available, there are only a handful of commercial options. Most beers are Trappists, Belgian Abbeys and lighter fruit beer from around Europe (also, chocolate beer!), because he truly believes that beer should be a tasting, savory experience, every time. And I gotta say - it's hard to do otherwise at Delirium. With this abundance of flavors and the welcoming atmosphere, everyone's a beer lover here. If only for one night.
Ghent appears almost magical the first time you see its architecture. My partner and I were in a dreamlike trance as our eyes moved from one beautiful building to the next. And we had just experienced the beautiful canals of Amsterdam the previous day! Insiders tip: most definitely take a canal boat tour for the best up-close views of Ghent's stunning architecture! Other pictures from the cruise precede this original post.
Maison Collard’s claim to fame is a cookie so hard they have to print a warning on it. Legend has it, during the great siege of 1466, the people of Dinant were starving and had only two things at their disposal: flour and honey. They made these into dough and baked it. Later, they began to stamp patterns into the hard dough, with brassware found in their kitchens. In reality, there is little historical evidence to support the existence of the couque before the 18th century. Throughout the period, couques were decorated with depictions of important historic events. Although the tough dough is no longer kneaded by hand, the cookies are still pressed into hand-carved pear wood moulds. Popular shapes include animals, fruits, and scenes of Dinant. Nowadays, sugar and spices are also frequently added to the mix. Couques sold these days must be labeled with a warning advising people not to bite into the hard cookie. Instead, you are advised to dunk it in a beverage, to soften it, or break off a small piece and suck it. In fact, couques are traditionally given to babies to suck on while they are teething. More Information: http://cheeseweb.eu/2013/08/flamiche-couques-de-dinant-foodie-favourites-wallonia-belgium/
The St. Feuillien brewery that we can visit today was founded in 1873 by Stéphanie Friart. In the recent years they have been under constant renovation combining the restoration of a nineteenth-century industrial heritage with modern facilities. The 5th generation of the Friart family continues to manufacture a wide range of beers, including the St. Feuillien and Grisette, demonstrating its willingness to be rooted in the history of the region and perpetuate local tradition. The beers they produce are: -St-Feuillien Blonde, Brune, Triple, Cuvée de Noël, Grand Cru. -Grisette Blonde, Blanche, berries and cherries -Saison For every party or event, there is a St-Feuillien beer to suit your taste: 25cl, 33cl, 75cl, Magnum 1,5L, Jeroboam 3L, Mathusalem 6L, Salmanazar 9L. Brewery tours are every Saturday at 2pm, in English, French and Dutch and the guide is very knowledgeable. Feuillien was an Irish monk who arrived in the area proselytizing Christianity to the locals but instead was murdered in Charbonnière forest in the year 665. In the spot of his death people put a rock to commemorate the martyrdom. That rock became an abbey dating from 1125. Burchard, Bishop of Cambrai, mentions the chapel of St. Feuillien and refers to the martyrdom of St. Feuillien, recognizing the new community. In the park of the Castle of the Princes of Croy, we can see some remains of the old abbey which was destroyed during the French Revolution.
Not only is Lessines the birth place of one of Belgium's most famous artists, Rene Magritte, but it is also where you can find the Hospital Notre Dame a la Rose. This is the church next to the hospital, taken from the hospital's garden where they grow not only flowers but plants that were used for medication.
In the beginning of the last century the need for coal became great and in Wallonia mines were opened to extract the black gold from the ground. One such mine was located near the town of Marcinelle and was known as Le Bois du Cazier. The mine was also the site of a disaster where many were killed.
I wasn't sure what to think when I first saw a picture of the Atomium in a Belgium guidebook, but it turned out to be one of the coolest kitschy tourist attractions I've ever visited. The Atomium was built for the World's Fair hosted by Brussels in 1958. It's not quite as famous as other monuments like the the Eiffel Tower and Space Needle, built for similar expos, but in some ways it's far more intriguing. Visits start with an elevator ride to an observation deck. After returning to the ground floor, visitors explore remaining levels of the Atomium by escalator and stairs. The exhibits inside focus on the history of the Atomium and on Belgian design. The exhibits aren't always thrilling, but there is absolutely nothing like spending a couple of hours wandering around inside a giant metal atom.
The Cantillon Brewery is one of the few that still makes the unique gueze and lambic beers. The brewery was started by a family and four generations later, that same family still runs the place and brews the beer. You can tour the place and even drink beer there. For the price of 8 euro you can get a tour and sample two different beers. The brewery is a short distance from the south train station. Best to take the train if you're going to drink!
Crupet is a member of the organization Les Plus Beaux Villages de Wallonie (The Most Beautiful Villages in Wallonia). It is a very small village with gorgeous stone houses decorated with many different types of flowers. Most of the houses date from the 17th, 18th and 19th century. The highlights of the village are the Crupet Chateau—a medieval farm-chateau situated below the village center, dating from the 13th century, and the Grotto of St Anthony of Padua. The grotto was designed by the local curate and inaugurated on the 12th July 1903. It features 22 religious-themed statues. Many of them depict scenes from the life of St. Anthony of Padua. The Ardennes region is an undiscovered Belgian treasure. There are many more charming little villages like this one. They look like time did not pass over them. When you enter a bakery people treat you like one of their own. Go and discover this wonderful part of Belgium. For full size photos see www.facebook.com/adisphotopage and www.lifeinasuitcase.com
Face it; if you are going to visit Brussels, you're more than likely going to get wet. It rains quite a bit in the whole country, as a matter of fact. Don't let that put you off enjoying yourself though. When it rains in the main square in the evening and the lights are on, it makes for some dramatic photos with the lights and buildings reflecting on the wet cobblestones.
The Manior de Lebioles is a true gem located in the Wallonia Region of Belgium. During my most recent trip to Europe I had the opportunity to stay at this magnificent place. Just about 10 minutes from downtown Spa and about an hour away from Liege the Manior de Lebioles sits among the rolling hills and is as grand as it looks. It was such a treat to stay at such a beautiful property. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful, the rooms have been recently redone and are modern with a classic feel. The property is surrounded by beautiful views and as you walk the grounds it is so peaceful to be away from a bustling city and just relax. They also have a spa and restaurant that are definitely worth visiting even if you can't stay the night. Staying at the Manior de Lebioles was a great experience and one I will never forget.
but in Brussels it doesn't matter. This was about a week late but the people in the Marolles section of the city are working class and said to be "special"anyway so they can get away with it! This section of town is overlooked by the gigantic Palais de Justice, which casts its shadow over it when the sun decides to shine on the European capital. The neighborhood is small but has some very good restaurants and a really unique Ethiopian coffee house. .
We visited Averbode Abbey today because I had heard about their beer, cheese and bread baskets offered for sale at the Abbey. When I hear about cheese and bread made by monks I pay attention. I searched online to see how the Abbey looks like and I was in love. I HAD to see the Abbey. You pass the gates and then are welcomed by this incredible image. Crystal clear water in front of the main buildings allow the sky here on earth as the reflection is perfect. I was mesmerized by this image. The day was gorgeous and the Abbey was quiet, perfect place for meditation. If you manage to pull yourself from here, outside the gates, in the parking lot you will find food and ice cream trucks serving tall towers of ice cream, cream and wafers that will 100% impress you.
For a great shopping experience, provided that you have a wallet full of Euros, is the Sablon area of Brussels. Other than the art galleries and cafes and restaurants, you can catch the brocante, or flea market, in the square. The photo is of a very beautiful art deco statue that was on sale at the market. Although this is one of the "posh-est" areas of the city, you can still find some bargains.
I'll be the first to admit, a museum of printing didn't sound terribly exciting to me, at first. Antwerp Belgium's Plantin-Moretus Museum certainly changed my mind. This is the only museum on the UNESCO World Heritage list and the recognition is well deserved. The museum is housed in the 16th century home of Antwerp's first printing company. The house itself is stunning, and the ancient printing presses (some are the oldest still in working order) are fascinating. The star of the museum's collection, however, is the family's personal collection of books and archives. The library includes an early Gutenberg Bible, the first Dutch dictionary, one of the world's first atlases, and many other treasures. If you are a book lover, interested in social history, art, design or architecture, don’t pass up the Plantin-Moretus museum. More Info: http://cheeseweb.eu/2011/05/plantinmoretus-printing-museum-antwerp/
La Mer du Nord is a cafe/seafood shop in Brussels. There isn't any indoor seating just a few stools and standing room space for patrons to quickly eat some delicious seafood fare. Over Grote Mrkt or the square in the centre of town near the train station (tourist zone), plates of mussels cost 25 Euros. You're pretty much guaranteed freshness when you see seafood being delivered as you wait for your food. Mer du Nord is definitely a favorite! Here's a more detailed blog post I wrote about La Mer Du Nord: http://bit.ly/1ajPwxD
My sister and I ducked into Brussels' Bozar museum to seek refuge from the rain and noticed that the lobby was littered with scattered pieces of hanging blue film. We were intrigued as to the meaning of the unlikely art installation and were tickled when its secret revealed itself to us when we reached the center of the room. Our experience played out just as the artist intended.
When in Belgium, make sure to try not only the famous chocolates, but also the hot chocolate! During a tour of Bruges, we became so enchanted with the medieval city that we decided to sneak away from our tour group and explore on our own—and I'm so glad we did! The streets are lined with shops selling quintessential Belgian wares, and there seems to be a chocolate shop on every corner. The April chill was beginning to get to us, so we sought shelter at De Proeverie Tea Room just down the street from the entrance to the Church of Our Lady. This place had such character! It was very relaxed and the locals seemed to enjoy helping me with my French. We ended up ordering hot chocolate and the "assortment of chocolates" from the menu. Hot chocolate in Belgium is very different than what I'm used to. You are served hot, steamed milk with chocolate, sugar, and whipped cream on the side. You then melt the chocolate in the milk, sit back, and enjoy. Breaking away from our group ended in the most memorable experience of my trip!
As Canadian expat in Belgium, one thing I miss is the sea (and good lobster), so when I saw "Lobster Six Ways" on the menu at the House of Eliott in Ghent, I had to try it. Far from the traditional 'crack it open and dig in' style lobster I was used to, this was still a wonderful meal. The varieties included a curry lobster and a more traditional herb and garlic sauce. Even if lobster isn't your thing, this quirky restaurant is worth visiting. It's a bit like dining in your crazy Aunt Nelly's attic. The homage to Coco Chanel in the lady's room is worth the trip on its own.
Jeu de Balles is a quintessential flea market set in the heart of the Marolles District of Brussels that runs daily through the morning. My favorite time to go is on Sunday when the square is filled with the most vendors who sell anything from bric-a-brac to antique furniture. Since it is one of the city's most well-known markets, it's not always easy to find steals, but you can still manage to haggle a decent bargain. One of my favorite finds was a dealer who specialized in vintage, ceramic figurines full of quirk and character.
We visited the Royal Greenhouses today and were very impressed. They are only open until the 12th of May so hurry up if you want to see them. A bit crowded but the flow of people runs pretty smooth. The entry is very cheap at 2.50 euro for adults and free under 18. No picnicking aloud inside.
Traveling by train can be a wonderful way to explore Belgium. A few of the country's train stations are destinations in and of themselves. Antwerp's Centraal (or Central) Station is one of the prettiest. Renovations and expansion have restored the station to its former glory and made it accessible to international trains. The main hall, pictured here, is often home to impromptu performances, concerts and flash mobs. When I took this photo, a tango competition was taking place.
Every year on Ascension Day since 1291 the procession of the Holy Blood passes through the streets of Brugge, Belgium. Half the parade represents scenes from the old and New Testament characterized by guild, trades, brotherhoods and chambers of rhetoric from the burgundain period. The second part of the procession is devoted to the relic of the blood of Jesus brought to Bruges by Derrick of Alsace, Count of Flanders after the second crusade in 1150. Ever since, the precious relic has been kept in the basilica of the Holy Blood at the burg square. This event is a must see when visiting Brugge in the Springtime.
Some locals call cuberdons “priest hats” and others refer to them as “little noses.” Hard on the outside and gooey on the inside, the conical, raspberry-flavored treats slow-cook for five days in a 131°F room. Stock up at Temmerman, Ghent’s oldest sweets shop, which has been in the same family of confectioners for eight generations. Kraanlei 79, 32/(0) 9-224-00-41. Photo by Andreea Gulacsi. This appeared in the September/October 2010 issue.
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