Brussels AKA The Chocolate Hunt
Sorry for my absence on here recently – I have been off enjoying myself for the past week, firstly in Brussels, Belgium and then in Centre Parcs! Poor me eh?! However, do not fear, I am back now and will be posting more later this week but first, I want to tell you about Brussels!
We went to Bruges a couple of years ago for a very short break and completely fell in love with it so, this year, we decided to go to Brussels as we only saw it very briefly from the station on our way to Bruges. Now, you can imagine, the art I was most excited about was the chocolate. BELGIAN CHOCOLATE.
As you know from my last post, I was sent on my way with the amazing news that I’ve made the shortlist for the UK Blog Awards! (Thanks again SO SO much for this…I still cannot believe it!) So, off I went, super excited for the whole two hours on the Eurostar about blogging and about the chocolate that I was going to devour!
The first thing we did after getting there and settling into our little apartment was get the tram into town to have a little explore and, most importantly, find some choccy! We headed to the area around the Grand Place and had a wander around there – to my delight there was a plentitude of chocolate shops but, not the cheapest prices. My boyfriend bought a cone of mayonnaise covered Belgian Frites and I went into one of the cheaper chocolate shops, as I couldn’t wait any longer for my fix! I bought a bag of little truffles and the shop assistant warned me that a lot of them contained alcohol – no problem there! I do think, however that perhaps She mixed her English phrasing up as they were ALL full of a LOT of chocolate! Nevertheless Delicious!
The hunt continued from there onwards for tasty treats in between sight seeing and exploring. We were delighted to find a really great bakery just a couple of doors down from the building we were staying in and we bought pastries for breakfast each morning. I forgot to take a picture of the delightful little bakery itself but here’s a view of a couple of the delicious pastries we scoffed!
Actually, there were a lot of boulangerie/patisseries displaying their beautifully tempting wares in their front windows. I was quite surprised by the ones we passed regularly as many of them displayed beautiful big cakes alongside their miniature morsels and everyday pastries which would go every day! Clearly the people of Brussels like to treat themselves to lovely big cake! This particular one a short walk away had two levels – one with croissants, pain au chocolats and other more “everyday” treats and the one below was packed with beautiful cakes and more special treats.
As I said before, the prices in the city were not cheap. I suppose this is something I should have relised would be the case before I left. All capital cities are more expensive than elsewhere in their countries. This did not stop me buying a good amount of chocolate though and, for the shops that were out of my price range, I was not stopped from pressing my face up against the windows staring in wonder or going in just to smell the delicious aroma! And not just at chocolate – this city is packed full of cakes, pastries and lots of Nougat and Marzipan too!
Here’s a couple of shops that I didn’t buy from but had to take a quick snap of their fabulous window displays.
This next one was a quaint little shop that we found out of the city on a tram ride we took. We were surround by green and trees and even just this far (about ten minutes) out of the city, everybody was speaking Flemmish rather than the French which is spoken in Brussels itself. This made ordering this a bit more tricky as I can get by with French but have no Flemmish at all – luckily lots of people spoke English! We stopped here to get a quick pastry and some chocolate milk! I was Enchanted by the selection of cakes and particularly amused by the ones that look like potatoes! I’ve tried to search them online to find out what they are exactly but to no luck. Any of you have any ideas? I’d really love to know as it is simply labelled Aardappel, which apparently just means Potato!
Whilst ou tof town we found a little chocolate shop too and I treated myself to a selection box. I could have picked the flavours myself but, due to the language barrier, I decided to just go with a pre-packed mixed selection – sometimes it’s more fun that way! The Chocolates were yummy and were quite different to the traditional Pralines that Belgium is so well known for. I must say though, the lavender flavour did remind me slightly of soap!! I still have a few of these left and I’m excited to see what they turn out to be!
I got two more, larger boxes of chocolate whilst I was there, one of which was shared with my family at Centre Parcs and was VERY delicious and another which I have only tried one of – I’m trying my best to stretch the pleasure out a bit! It was from a cheaper and probably more tourist-aimed chain right on the Grand Place but, as they were giving away free tasters in the shop I can vouch for the fact that they are delicious!! I also picked which ones I wanted so I’m very excited to try more of them!
I’ve saved the best shop until last. There is a chocolate shop called Mary in Brussels and they are so good they even supply chocolates to their Royal family! I treated myself here as I just HAD to try some. The little shop is so beautiful inside and everything is laid out so precisely amongst the gold tables and Marble surfaces. I didn’t dare take a photo onside – it all seemed far to proper for me to have my tourist hat on! I picked about ten chcocolates from the counter to go in my little bag although I would have loved to try them all. It works out a over a Euro per chocolate, probably a pound a throw but trust me, I would pay four times that for these chocolates. THEY ARE DIVINE! it may have been ten in the morning but we both tried one straight out of the shop and I think I died and went to chocolate heaven! Please, if you go to Brussels, treat yourself to a few choccies from here and I promise you won’t regret it!
So my chocolate adventure was over, but I’m still savouring the treasures I found in Brussels. I will say that if you are planning a chocolate based holiday then here is not necessarily the place – go to Bruges. It is a fairy-tale town with a chocolate shop at every corner and there the shops are one-off and really artisan. The chocolates in Brussels, whilst they are still delicious, are all part of bigger chains and more obviously mass-produced, as opposed to the handmade luxury you can get in Bruges at a cheaper price (or not if you go higher end). However, I’m still pretty happy with my haul and I did enjoy the trip – any place that has chocolate shops in it’s Metro stations is a good place to me!
I hope you enjoyed reading about my Chocolate adventure and look out for a little valentines bake coming up soon! In the meantime…I think I need some chocolate!
Happy Baking (and chocolate eating)