A Love Letter To Brussels
How do I love you? Let me count the ways.
I love your perfectionism.
When you do something, you do it right. I’ve never been to a place that has its sh*t together so completely, and that’s a very attractive trait in a destination. You just have a Midas touch, which seems to make everything you try your hand at turn to superb.
I love the way the sunlight hits you.
You’re pretty, you take good care of yourself and you have style. The classic Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings are gorgeous gilded things to behold, but there’s a lovely weirdness to you as well – the awesome mirror-ball Atomium makes that very clear. Right down to your hotels – I stayed at 9 Hotel Central, which felt like walking into a Pinterest board for interior design. But in Brussels there’s always substance behind style, and the place is as comfortable as it is beautiful, with all the finer details (plug socket placement, lighting, everything) thoroughly thought through.
I love your food.
You gave me the best fish and chips I’ve ever tasted, at Bia Mara on Rue du Marche aux Poulets. Fresh, sustainable, cleverly put together and perfectly cooked, this wasn’t like any fish and chips I’ve had before – this was special. This had light, crispy lemon and basil tempura batter, and side dishes like hot ink squid and samphire salad. It was our first meal together, and the start of something very special.
I’d heard about your mussels, and couldn’t wait to see if they were as impressive as everyone said. They were everything I’d hoped they’d be and more, and Le Zinneke was the perfect place to eat them. Plump, flavourful shellfish in delicious broth paired with beautiful white wine and followed by a sweet, crispy Belgian waffle… and of course the décor and atmosphere was just gorgeous too. It’s like you know that the way to a gal’s heart is through her stomach, and you made a beeline for mine.
And good lord, your chocolate… You’re like the ultimate Milk Tray man, swooping into my life and sweeping me off my feet with trays of mouth-watering chocolate. But your chocolate isn’t just any old sugar-laden low-cocoa-content stuff – you’re home to places like Laurent Gerbaud, where the handmade chocolates are like little delicious works of art. Glossy, intense chocolates made and flavoured with high-quality ingredients like pistachio, ginger, cranberry, or orange zest. Thick, sweet, rich hot chocolate to accompany them. You know how to put a smile on a girl’s face.
I love your chips, your waffles, everything that Maison Dandoy sells, and all the other gorgeous food that you have taken and turned into an art form. Most of all, I love your speculoos biscuits and spread, and the fact my hotel had them included in the breakfast buffet.
You know how to have a good time.
I’d heard people call you boring, but I just don’t think they know you like I do. Maybe they just went to Grand Place and the Manneken Pis, and thought that was all you had to offer? But you’re so much more. You’re where electronic music came from – techno is what it is because of you. You make more – and better – beer than almost anywhere else on earth, and you serve it in excellent bars full of lovely people. You have cool little jazz clubs and big, banging nightclubs and classy bars and cosy pubs.
Your concert venue, AB Brussels, is one of the best I have ever been to. For one thing, it’s beautifully designed and decorated, bathed in a red glow. The bathrooms are spotless, and there are equally spotless drinking fountains in them (nice touch, for when you’ve been dancing up a storm in a sweaty crowd). There’s no horrible overcrowding, or ridiculous queuing for anything – everything runs like clockwork. There are lockers where you can leave all your valuables and your coat, which means no queueing at a packed cloakroom at the end of a show. Most importantly the sound quality is, without question, the best I’ve experienced at any music venue before.
I love how cultured you are.
I was impressed by your creativity and love of art too. Comic books aren’t something that I was particularly into, but the murals that adorn your walls piqued my interest, so I followed the comic strip walk through your streets. I wandered into comic book stores, visited your comic museum, and got a fuller appreciation of your passion. It’s not just the comics, either – it’s all the other street art, and the beautiful little shops and art galleries that line your streets. It’s the little quirky places like Toone Theatre, where pints and puppet shows go hand in hand and old marionettes decorate the place.
And you’ve raised a fantastic population – polite and friendly, with a gently sarcastic sense of humour… they’re a credit to you.
Look, I know I’m coming on strong here, but sometimes you just have to say how you feel. I’m absolutely mad about you, Brussels, and I can’t wait for you to show me a good time again.