I was up at the crack of dawn this morning to hit the January sales, it's the first time I've ever made an effort to go, and will probably be the last too! It was far too manic for my liking.
Not only does today kind of mark the end of Christmas, but it's a whole week since my mum turned 60. This also means a whole week since we arrived in Brussels, Belgium.
That was another early start for us as the plane departed at 7:50, and we arrived in Charleroi by 10:00am. We wearily made our way to the guesthouse, Sleephere, which I had made reservations for, and we were pleasantly surprised when we came out of the metro and we were in the Christmas Market. Although the guesthouse is in a really good location, it took me a while to find it as I didn't have a map and the building didn't have a sign outside. We were so relieved when we did find it, as it was raining and we were absolutely soaked. It turned out we'd actually walked past it a few times.
When we got inside it was really nice, it is an old fashioned town house with high ceilings, it was very welcoming to walk in and be greeted by a burning fire, a huge Christmas tree and a dog. The owner, Karel was very friendly and spent a lot of time talking through recommendations. Once in our room it was time to do some all important hat drying.
We wandered around the Christmas markets, did a little shopping, admired the treats that were on offer and drank hot cider. Yum.
That night we ate at In't Spinnekopke, a traditional Belgian restaurant that was filled with strange puppets and served home brewed beer. Not being a big fan of beer, I tasted my mum's it wasn't too bad! The food however, was delicious. I tried Sausage and Stoemp and my mum had meatballs.
Walking off our dinner we decided to go to the Grand Place. It was amazing to see it at night, all lit up with the sparkly Christmas tree in the centre. There were lots of people in the square taking photos or drinking in the cafes and bars around the perimeter.
On Saturday we decided to take in the sights properly and joined the free Sandemans walking tour. I would really recommend this as it gave us a bit of insight into the history of the country, the struggle between the Flemish and French, and also the colonial history involving the Congo. Our tour guide was an English student who had lived in Brussels while he studied. We followed some of the comic murals around the city and got to see the Mannequin Pis.
After the tour finished we decided to try a Belgian delicacy, Frites with mayonnaise and went to Fritland, they were incredibly good chips! I decided to be brave and try and order in french, the chips were fine to order, but then I had to ask for water, not knowing the French word I decided 'Acqua' was a safe bet. The man got the water and handed it to me, then asked in English 'Are you Italian?' Feeling a little proud that he thought I was very continental I announced proudly, 'No! I'm English!' to which he responded, 'I know, it was a joke!'. Obviously French isn't as similar to Italian or Spanish as I thought, and he was far from fooled by me!
Belgium has many famous comic book and cartoon characters such as Tin Tin and the Smurfs, so we went to the Comic Strip Centre which is in an amazing old art deco style building.
The second night we ate at the Greenwich Taverne, a French style bistro. The building was amazing, the food was average, but I think we made the wrong choice by going for a roquefort and pear burger and finished our night off with a few drinks.
With only one full day left, we decided to go to Bruges on Sunday as so many people had told us how picturesque it was. Sadly it was a very cold, windy and wet day, so I don't think that we saw Bruges at its best. The tour guide did his best to engage people, although being the only native English speakers, I think a lot of the information was lost to others behind his strong Scouse accent! Try saying in your best Liverpudlian accent: 'If ya look down yonder, you'll see that building with a burrr on it, I think that's mad, that burrr innit?'.
We got back to the hostel, cold and hungry, so decided to stay in the hostel in front of the fire with some cheese and wine.
We finished our short break with a bit of shopping on Monday, lots of waffle eating and chocolate tasting before we caught the plane back to England.
Happy 60th mum! I hope that you had a lovely weekend!