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venerdì 30 marzo 2012

Belgian chocolate

When in Belgium there is no way around it. Either you eat chocolate or, as they seem to suggest, what the hell are you doing there ? Fortunately for me I simply love it, so it wasn't a problem at all although I was there for work only for two days. I arrived in Bruxelles from Paris with Thalys the fast train coming from Paris and connecting France , Belgium , Germany and the Netherlands. A little expensive but really convenient. I had been in Bruxelles years before and hardly remember a lot except for the Grand Place (and how can you forget that?). This time I stayed in a very funny and coloured hotel called Pantone, where everything is colours including sugar at breakfast! It was a nice change for a grey and rainy day( not unusual it seems). I was given a room where the main colour was orange and a little yellowand where the painting behng my head was instead a giant lamp. I surely would go there again. Then I decide to take a stroll to go again to the grand place area and I found it very beautiful as I remembered it to be. I was famished at the time so with all the chocolate shops around me I was going crazy and I decided to have a taste of it, so i entered into Cafè Tasse and had a hot chocolate with a taste of typical Belgian sweet bread and speculoos biscuits plus of course some other chocolate. Guilty? Not at all. Pleased? Very much so.
Chocolate at Cafè Tasse
Grand Place
My room at Hotel Pantone
Then, while waiting for a very good friend of mine for dinner I wondered around the area. It's a very nice and lively part of the city, which on the other hand seemed to be (at least when I went there years ago), a little sad and dull. I'm sure it was also the weather and actually when the evening came the atmosphere changed and became warmer. I walked through Saint Hubert gallery very close to the Grand place and the Marchè des herbes and looked at the beauty of all the arcades and the old shops. Of course most of them were chocolate and sweet shops but I decided not to indulge more in the chocolate spree for the day. All the bars around the area quickly filled up with people giving the place a nice flare of northern European fascination. Then I met my friend who took me for dinner atT'Kelderke right in the Grand place: a very warm and lively place where you can taste the main Belgian specialties. I went for the moules mariniers with pommes frites which I used to eat all the time at this little restaurant in Greenwich village when I was living in NYC called La petite abeille.
Sweets shop
Bar in Saint Hubert Royal Gallery
Chocolate shop in Saint Hubert
Gallery Saint Hubert
Then my friend took me for a stroll in Bruxelles by night and I have to say I was misled from what I thought the city was. It's very interesting and fascinating. I have to say though that Antwerp is another story. I just love it and I suggest to anybody who hasn't been to go for a weekend or a couple of days. I had been there years ago and already liked it but this time I just loved it. Beautiful buildings, beautiful streets and beautiful atmosphere. The first imperssion at the railway station was excellent since it is absolutely stunning. Of course the weather was not too nice but still I enjoyed it very much (at least what I could see in between my work meetings). I would like to go there again just for fun and spend some time just wandering around. I stayed in a very nice hotel just by the station called Park Inn by Radisson not to be confused with the big Radisson in front of the station. I really really enjoyed staying there althoughI basically saw my room in the morning to drop my suitcase and late in the evening to sleep. I didn't find a lot of chocolate there but I found Wagamama (!) the London Asian restaurant chain I'm crazy about . (see my post on London). Before taking the train to Holland I realized how understimated Belgium is sometimes. I would really like to go back. Maybe next time I'll be so lucky to have a nice and sunny day for once...
Antwerp central station
Antwerp City hall