Rewind 2016

img_20170101_124228_edit

There’s a sweet noise on the small crowded streets surrounded by flats in all colors of the rainbow and there’s a smell of pizza and oven baked goods coming from all around and all you can hear is Italian words and the face of Gianni, that Italian elderly owner of a traditional pizzeria makes you feel strangely at home. We celebrated the coming of 2017 in Naples, Capri and Procida and as we look forward with curiosity and anxiousness to the year to come we look back with wonder and we are grateful for an incredible 2016

IMG_20160102_141127_edit

with leprechauns, Irish pubs and songs, Guinness beer and trips to the Titanic in Dublin and Belfast

IMG_20160102_140939

Scandinavian snow, perfect muffins, athletic people going out to ski by metro in Oslo

12744163_818590741602818_1679290715306204204_ntraditions, family time, colorful clothes, days of joy and celebrations at our best friend’s wedding in Jaipur, meeting up with old friends for precious stolen moments of happiness

img_20161115_152408_edit

Milan Duomo, pizza and pasta with a heavenly taste, espresso, chilling in parks, polenta, discovery of the Navigli area

img_20160520_152111img_20160520_191659wandering the shores of Como Lake and enjoying breathtaking views of Brunate in Comoimg_20160521_095903unexpected trips to Sighisoara and Brasov

img_20160507_211445_edit_edit1beer gardens, charming coffee shops, Berlin wall, relaxing parks, strolls amongst restaurants and pubs of all nationalities just to charm any food lover in Berlin

img_20160815_180024_hdrbeach days and live music at the Black Sea

img_20160730_163533_editday trip to Negotin, Serbia just to have one Serbian beer

img_20160722_142418pagodas, Shan food, night markets and organized street quarters in Yangon

img_0518img_20160918_122523_editboat trips, traditional rowing fishermen, floating markets and lifetime friends in Inle Lake

img_20160920_084311img_0533sunset, sunrise, pagodas, temples and history in Bagan

img_0869img_0884gold leafs, temples, the best Shan food, monks, longest wooden bridge in Mandalay

img_20160924_141903img_20160924_172918the Grand Palace, new friends, live music, sweet memories, Same Same t-shirts and the best foot massage in Bangkok

img_20160926_135550_edit_editdays of shared thoughts, incredible views, swims, beach strolls, Rum Cola in the charming solitary Duli Beach resort in Philippines, El Nido

img_1254img_1294days of chilling and relaxing in Jaipur and Delhi making plans for future adventures

img_20161114_231850_editRoyal Palaces, Christmas trees, pierogi, beetroot soup, large café latte, Christmas markets in Warsaw

15349820_1019346348193922_3613498593471740022_nChristmas market madness in Bucharest with the view of the Parliament House, hot spiced wine and the best atmosphere to wish for

15380714_1020952261366664_6606025568305505877_n15492319_1025481797580377_6451251349531931751_nChristmas parties with memories of childhood and priceless friends

 15337529_1025171017611455_5783832348673760968_n

family and friends time colored in green, flowery, sunny, snowy surroundings to adapt to the seasons but at all times packed with an overload of joy and happiness to last for a lifetime

 img_20160618_170717_edit

Past year has thought us that we are never alone as we carry with us all the family and friends, present or past, imprinted on our skin and it takes nothing more than closing our eyes for one second to feel them all around us. We’ve lost good friends and gained new friends and family just to remind us one more time of how precious every day we receive is and that it’s up to us to not let it waste and fully live every single second of it. We hope in a happy and peaceful 2017, a year of expressing less and feeling more, of being true to ourselves and the others, of taking leaps of faith without a net, of putting dreams into reality today rather than tomorrow, of carefully using the chance given at each and every new day, of still wondering at everything around, new or old, beautiful or less beautiful, of searching for more balance in life, of still believing.

What do Manneken Pis, exquisite chocolates, French fries, dark beer and BDs have in common?

Grand Place


First time in Brussels was in 2011 on the way to Germany. It was a brief encounter just walked around a bit in the city center, took some pictures of Manneken Pis, bought some Godiva chocolates and off we went to Germany.  At that time Brussels seemed to me more like a one day pass through city and nothing more. When I started planning the 5 days trip to Brussels in November last year I was a bit worried about what we will do for almost one full week. If you ask me now what I think about Brussels I will tell you that it is the kind of city that grows on you with each minute you spend there and sticks to your heart forever. But let’s leave the poetry behind and get into the real talk about what you can see and do while in Brussels.

 
Once arrived in Brussels the first place you should go is the Grand Place or Grote Markt.  This is the central square of Brussels surrounded by guildhalls, the Town Hall and the Breadhouse and is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

 

 
Next (at least from where I see it) is beer, beer, beer and some more beer. Beer in Belgium varies from pale lager to lambic beer and Flemish red. There are roughly 180 breweries in the country. It seems that beer in Belgium dates back to the age of the first crusades; under Catholic church permission, local French and Flemish abbeys brewed and distributed beer as a fund raising method. If you ask me abbey beers are still one of the best beers. More on Belgium beer here http://www.roughguides.com/article/top-twenty-best-belgian-beers/.

 

 

My personal favorites were Chimay and Delirium Tremens. The Delirium Tremens Cafe (http://deliriumcafe.be/) which you can find next to Jeanneke Pis (more on this below) in Impasse de la Fidelite is like a huge laboratory of beer with tubes and glasses and pretty cute waitresses and they sell nothing else than beer. In 2004 the place won the prestigious Guinness book of world records for being the establishment with the most commercially available beers with a total count of 2004. Today they have more than 3,000 beers.
 

 

And since we are talking about beer you next topic should be food. You can eat in Brussels all kinds of food you would imagine: there are fancy restaurants, coffee places, fast-foods, local Belgian kind of fast-food with French fries and huge sandwiches, Turkish food, Vietnamese or other Asian food, Greek food, American food. We tried fancy restaurants, local Belgian kind of fast food, Greek food and Hard Rock Cafe. First on our list is definitely A La Morte Subite (http://www.alamortsubite.com/). It opens at 12 sharp and get instantly crowded with locals that like to have their breakfast with a pint of beer…just to start the day better :p
 

 

 


If you are a chocolate lover than Brussels is the place to be. You can find chocolate shops everywhere you turn your eyes and we are not talking about any chocolate but one of the best chocolate in the world (for more on this see http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2012/12/28/the-10-best-chocolatiers-in-the-world/). If we were to listen to Google, Brussels has more than 2,000 chocolate shops. We entered a couple of them and tasted some of the chocolates on display and we confirm that yes they taste delicious. As chocolate lovers you must not miss the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate (http://www.mucc.be/). It has a nice exposition on cocoa and chocolate and provides for free lessons on how to make chocolates with a chocolate fountain that you can use for tasting.

 

 

 

 

And if we are talking about chocolate and cookies definitely one of our favorite shops is #LaCureGourmande (www.la-cure-gourmande.com)- with biscuits, chocolates, caramels, cheerful old time boxes and many more surprises for sweets lovers. We stuffed half the luggage with their biscuits.
 
 
Now that we walked a bit, tasted the beer, eaten something is time for Brussels landmarks or those things you see on those lists of 10 things to do when in…
 
One landmark of Brussels is definitely Manneken-Pis. Who would have thought that a peeing kid could become so popular. The famous statue is located a the junction of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue du Chene.  The small bronze statue was designed by Hieronymus Duquesnoy the Elder and put in place in 1618/1619. You can read some of the legends on Manneken Pis here http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMFX6V_Manneken_Pis_Legends_Brussels_Belgium.
 
 
The statue of Manneken-Pis is dressed in costume several times each week, according to a published schedule.  We did visited the City Museum, located in the Grand Place, which has a room dedicated to the wardrobe of Manneken-Pis (call it a dressing :p). The wardrobe of Manneken-Pis counts today more than 800 costumes (seriously the little fellow has more clothes than I have!) from lots of countries around the world like UK, France, India, Canada, USA, Japan, Korea, Mali, Mexic, Peru and we are happy to say that the Romanian traditional costume was among the couple of costumes on display.
 

 

And if you think this is all about Manneken Pis well think again. When searching for the big Delirium Tremens to drink some beers we found the little peeing girl because yes Manneken Pis has a little lady called Jeanneke Pis.  The statue may be found on the east side of Impasse de la Fidelite from the restaurant packed street Rue des Bouchers and was built in 1987. More about Jeanneke here http://www.jeannekepisofficial.com/index_m.html. And if you still did not have enough with this Pis know that in Brussels you can also find Zinneke Pis which represents a dog in the same lines as Manneken and Jeanneke.
 


Another landmark and one of my favorite part of Brussels are the mural paintings.  BD – the Brussels’ Comic Book Route offers more than 50 mural paintings, most of them located inside the Pentagon (as the city center is often called due to its geometrical shape).

 

 
Broussaille by Frank Pe was painted in 1991 and is the first city’s giant comic mural depicting a young couple arm-in-arm discovering Brussels. The strip is located in Brussels’ gay nightlife hub and, in the original version, it was difficult to tell whether the couple was straight or not. More on Brussels BD here http://www.ebru.be/Other/Strips/StripsHome.html.
 
 
We did visited the Atomium (http://atomium.be/) just because it was pictured on all the lists of to see when in Brussels. Honest opinion? Too much advertising :). We used the metro to get there and all in all with transportation, ques and visit it took us around 4 hours. Atomium was built for the Expo in 1958; it represents a molecule and it provides a view of the city (more of a glimpse) from almost 100 meters.
 
 
Although not on the landmark list we have to say that we enjoyed immensely  the Musée royal de l’Armée – Royal Military Museum (http://www.mivb.be/). Great exhibition of military clothing, gear, vehicles, planes and we even got to “fly” a plane :p.
 
 

 

 
Finally we did visit also the quarter with the European Union institutions but let’s just say it was not our favorite part of the city and felt like it misses a bit of the free spirit in the Old City Center.
 
Tips and tricks:
 
– if you are coming by plane to Brussels use the train to get into the Old City Center; is cheaper than a cab and really fast; it took us not more than 30 minutes to get from the airport to the Ibis Hotel where we were staying in the hearts of the old city (more information here: http://www.brusselsairport.be/en/passngr/to_from_brussels_airport/train/);
 
– don’t bother with buses or Metro while in the city, just wander around by foot; surprises are around each and every corners and if you are a BD lover you are going to definitely enjoy the walk;
 
– plan to stay more than 2-3 days in Brussels; in addition to the city that offers lots of adventures it is damn easy to take the train from Brussels and in not more than 3 – 4 hours get to Paris, London or Amsterdam (we went to Amsterdam and back in just one day and had plenty of time for wandering around the city, eating Argentinian beef and visiting coffee shops);
 
– if you are a beer lover make sure you taste all the beers in Delirium Tremens locations;
 
– best brunch you can have (with a must have 12:00 o’clock beer) is in the restaurant “A La Morte Subite”; opens at 12 sharp and servers omelettes with bread and butter as big as a main course plate;
 
– do not go to the Beer Museum unless you go there for drinks, there is not so much of a Museum more like a movie about beers playing in the background in a small room;
 
– do not miss the Musée royal de l’Armée – Royal Military Museum (Metro need for this one) – it’s free entrance and they have an impressive collection of military equipment, vehicles and planes (http://www.klm-mra.be/).

 

View of Mini Europe from the Atomium