A Weekend in Brussels – Two Travel Bloggers & Six Clues #ParkInnExpress

Last summer, a little email appeared in my inbox inviting me to join a small group of bloggers to participate in the #ParkInnExpress challenge. My first thought was to find out more about what it would entail. (Actually, that was my second thought – my first assumption was that this was spam so I’m very glad I read on before automatically banishing it to the unloved junk folder – pays not to be cynical huh?!)Grand Place BrusslesThe challenge would involve two weekends away in Europe in pairs or groups of three. Think of it as a treasure hunt meets city tour with cryptic clues guiding us from one tourist attraction to the next, allowing us to explore a city, engage our brains and have a bit of fun all at the same time. How’s that for efficiency? We could walk, cycle, take buses, boats or trains between locations but taxis were not permitted and we had a budget within which to work.Grand Place Brussels at night

The #ParkInnExpress Challenge, Brussels

For my first challenge, I joined the lovely Jodie from The Little Backpacker for a weekend in Brussels (a city where I had never properly visited before – unless you count two hours in the main square a decade ago).#ParkInnExpress Challenge Our clues arrived right at the last-minute, adding to our intrigue and fortunately, weren’t too taxing…although we did end up at an antiques market instead of the intended flea market but that’s by the by.

On a perfectly sunny Saturday (in Brussels that is – London was positively grim), we got over our traumatic 4am alarms to board the Eurostar at London St Pancras and commenced our journey in Brussels’ Grand Place – a crowded but splendid place with stunning ornate architecture, its majestic views enhanced at night when the moonlight competes with its man-made counterparts to illuminate these Gothic fronts.landscaped gardens BrusselsWe strolled for about an hour taking in the landscaped gardens, pedestrianised streets and open squares before heading to the quirky Restobieres restaurant where an early lunch awaited us.Manneken Pis statue BrusselsBut not without first stopping off to see the famous Manneken Pis –  a statue of a little boy err…urinating. As one of Brussels’ most famous chaps, we knew we’d solved our first clue when we saw the crowds gathered around one small monument!statue boy urinating Brussels

A touch of traditional Belgian food at Restobieres

With colanders and pans hanging from the ceilings of this cosy and kitsch restaurant, whose distinguishable feature is the use of beer as an ingredient in almost all of its dishes, it was easy to see why it pulls in the crowds.traditional Belgian food Restobieres Brussels The rustic and eccentric decor slighty reminded me of the iconic Troubadour Cafe, London.

Restobieres serve a selection of piping hot, typically European, hearty meals. I went for the rich and creamy shrimp croquettes to start and tilapia fish as mains and two courses definitely left me too full.

Learning how Belgian Beer is made

Eager to burn off those carbs, we continued our mission by visiting a beer museum; this was really just one small room with some videos, posters and pieces of brewery equipment, which you can glimpse at before taking your seat in the cosy pub to sip a fresh, cold beer. You choose between blonde or dark – this will mean more to you than me since I don’t drink (but much like my experience in a German beer house last year, I still enjoyed the atmosphere inside, although I did get a bit of a death stare when the staff spotted mineral water tarnishing their beer glass!)

The Place St Gery, is where you need to head to find Les Halles Saint Gery, once an indoor arcade market and now a protected location, seemingly rather like a chill-out area with deck chairs, banners documenting its history (sadly for us, not many in English) and a bar at one end.There is little evidence now that would make you realise it had once been a market.les halles saint Gery Brussels

Saving the best till last…

Clue number 6 was a well-chosen final one, allowing us to rest our tired legs and sample a delicious Belgian hot chocolate, which we practically inhaled at Le Comptoir Mathilde, so irresistible was it. You can read more about Brussels’ top chocolatiers here.

By this point, our early start had started to catch up with us so we headed back to the Park Inn Midi by Radisson – our home for the weekend, where we had dinner and of course got onto our social media outlets. You never feel quite as guilty being on your smart phone around bloggers because most of the time, they’re doing it too! Sunday was a free day where we immersed ourselves in Brussels’ markets and climbed inside the metallic spheres of The Atomium.Atomium night viewAfter an exhausting but exciting weekend, the reading on the scales had gone up (oops!) and I wonder if this had been the Belgian waffles we grabbed at the last-minute, desperately afraid that we would be missing out.Belgian waffles Los ChurrosThe next installment of the challenge happens very soon indeed in Lille so I’m eager to see how that fares in comparison and to discover an area of France that’s totally unfamiliar to me. If you have any recommendations for Lille or know of somewhere special that I must try in Brussels in the future, feel free to let me know!

 

Disclaimer: We were guests of Park Inn Express during our weekend in Brussels but I am an opinioinated little hot-chocolate consumer and all views, good or bad, are entirely my own.

27 thoughts on “A Weekend in Brussels – Two Travel Bloggers & Six Clues #ParkInnExpress

  1. This seemed like a very interesting, but fun trip! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 19, 2015 — 5:13 pm

      Thanks so much! It was great fun and a really unusual way of seeing the sights and keeping us moving along! Really appreciate you stopping by and reading 🙂

  2. Mmm, those waffles look great and I love your photo of the Atomium at night. I really liked Brussels, being a chocolate fiend!

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 19, 2015 — 12:19 pm

      Great minds Suze – it’s a chocolate paradise isn’t it?! So glad you liked the atomium pic – I love how magical it looks all lit up at night ☺

  3. What a fun weekend! I love the idea of a treasure hunt around the city. And those waffles look AMAZING.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 19, 2015 — 12:29 pm

      Thanks Laura! It was really good fun – seeing the same sights we probably would have done anyway but with a fun challenge to work towards! And honestly, I have no idea how the people of Belgium manage to resist the urge to eat waffles everyday – I’d really struggle! Thanks so much for reading ☺

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 19, 2015 — 12:30 pm

      Thanks Jodie! It was nice writing it up & reliving such a fun weekend ☺

  4. Now that looks like a great trip. Great photos too! And those waffles are to die for!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 19, 2015 — 12:31 pm

      Thanks Sophie! It was really good fun & I couldn’t believe I had managed to put on a bit of weight in just one night then I saw all the pics on my phone of all the hot chocolate, normal chocolate and waffles & then it became more obvious! :mrgreen:

  5. What a great idea! Belgium is quiant and Lille is absolutely lovely. I was there in September on a press trip too. Go to the flea market, the town hall, and the town square.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 19, 2015 — 12:33 pm

      Thank you so much! It was great fun! Really appreciate the tips about Lille – that’s really helpful as I’ll only be there for a weekend so keen to make the most of it!

  6. Love the pic of The Atomium (and the waffles, but you already knew that right?!) x

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 19, 2015 — 12:46 pm

      Thanks Char! Very happy you like my atomium pic….and yes, I probably could have guessed that you might like the waffle one too :mrgreen: you’re a lady with good taste!

  7. Those waffles look amazing! I’ve only visited Brussels once before and it was freezing, so I mostly remember going from cafe to cafe to drink hot chocolate in a bid to keep warm – well, that was my excuse anyway 😉

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 19, 2015 — 12:48 pm

      No you’re absolutely right Emily – Ann – keeping warm is of vital importance after all – I’m sure both you and I did the cafe hopping thing out there out of pure necessity 😁 Thanks so much for reading!

  8. Sounds like so much fun. I would have loved to be part of it (if only I wasn’t so far).I love treasure hunts.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 21, 2015 — 9:23 pm

      If you love treasure hunts Rachael, I’m sure you would have enjoyed this! I’m the same – I think I must be a big kid at heart!

  9. What a totally cool way to explore a city. Can anyone join in on this or do you have to have a connection with someone? I’d love it if this was a tour package I could join because I think it would make my kids really engage with a city instead of feeling like they were being dragged from one place to another. Add the hot chocolate and waffles, and I’d be in heaven.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 21, 2015 — 9:27 pm

      This particular treasure hunt was arranged as part of a bloggers trip but I think you’ve just hit upon a really great idea just there!! Wouldn’t it be fabulous if tour companies arranged treasure – hunt style trips? Like you say,kids would love it and actually, I think a lot of adults probably would too! I wonder if there’s anyone out there doing it! And yes, if I lived in Belgium, those waffles would totally be the end of me :mrgreen:

  10. Yes Shikha, Brussels is a lovely city.Worth taking buses who do round trips ..so no painful feet, and being able to admire some of the architecture. One big problem…Belgian portion of food is usually rather ‘too’ large…and rich! but so good.!Happy you had a good and interesting weekend .

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 21, 2015 — 9:40 pm

      Thanks so much for reading Fabienne! It was really my first proper trip to Belgium and I loved it! The bus may be a good idea next time as my feet were so achey by the end! And yes, I learned the hard way about the food – couldn’t finish my starter or my main when they arrived even though they were both delicious (but somehow always have space for waffles!)

  11. What a fabulous way to explore a city! I saw something similar being done for a group of children in Vienna and they looked like they were having a blast 🙂 And those waffles? Is it wrong that it makes me want to lick my screen? 😀

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 11, 2016 — 9:12 pm

      Haha, thank you so much Diya! And no, not wrong at all – I’ve lost count of the number of blog posts I have read that have made me want to lick my screen too! 😀 If there’s one foodie thing from any of my European city breaks that I’m craving right now, it’s one of those freshly made, hot Belgian waffles!

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