Bruxelles – 9 places I claim: mine!
Beware of the weather! – they said. You’ll be depressed! – they said.
Admittedly, mid-October is not an ideal time when choosing to turn upside down your life, giving up your country, your lifestyle, your profession, your family and your friends, in the autumn of your discontent.
Still, reducing Brussels to capricious weather is like saying that Barcelona is all about Las Ramblas and the thieves and that Rome is nothing but a bunch of old stones.
It’s only been a couple of months since I’ve moved here and yet, the city (well, the explaining about communes might take a while) already feels like home.
Call it young love enthusiasm, if you will, but I feel like sharing with you the nine places in Brussels I call mine.
In no particular order:
The name alone sufficed to entice me, as “gypsy” is the nickname given by a friend of mine, I grew fond of.
Sure enough, in this deco-resto-boho house, close to Bailly, I felt at home. The indoor garden, I suspect, looks lovely in the summertime and I cannot wait to confirm it.
My keyholder, a velvety notebook, an aromatic candle and 2 coffee mugs were some of the first things I bought here the first week I moved to town.
L’Abbaye de la Cambre
Synchronicity or not (whatever happened to the word coincidence, btw?), I passed nearby this place the first days I came to town, while looking for a place to rent.
Not only did I end up living near L’Abbaye de la Cambre, but this pittoresque monastery, founded more than 1000 years ago!, and its lovely garden bring me solace and peace of mind in these turbulent modern times. The place is beautiful, serene and feels a bit surrealistic, with the silhouette of a sky tower office building reflecting in the pond placed in the middle of this centuries-old heaven.
So, should you happen to call me when I am going to the monastery, don’t panic: I am not joining the convent per se, I am just taking advantage of its beautiful surroundings.
Bois de la Cambre
Cambre, again. This time, the Forrest. Bois de la Cambre is spread over 123 ha and is tamed enough to have joggers and bikers on the alleys and wild enough for you to forget you are in the middle of the city.
Daytime or midnight, you’ll love it. Don’t forget to bring enough bread crumbs, though, for the trails are so intricate that Mr Google Maps himself is confused at times.
In French (Étangs d’Ixelles) or Neerlandeese (Vijvers van Elsene) these ponds in Ixelles are equally beautiful. On my way home to Avenue Buyl, from the ever so puzzling crossroad of Flagey (still amazed how there are little to no accidents with cars, trams, buses and bicycles coming from 5 different roads having no lights or traffic signs), I pass nearby these lovely ponds, L’église Sainte-Croix and the impressive Art Nouveau and Art Deco mansions.
The ducks (*as the only species nesting here I can name) are also cute.
A little bit further, but going the opposite way, towards the Porte de Namur, lies the most dangerous place in town: Renard Bakery. If there is no cue, there is no merchandise left and this might happen long before closing time. For their eclairs are divine, their croissants yell You are mine! and their quiches pair well with wine.
While enjoying their truly amazing pastry, sandwiches or olive bread in the nearby Place Fernand Cocq, I cannot help but wondering: How come something so light and airy ends up weighting so much on your scale? This conundrum is yet to be deciphered.
Place Fernand Cocq
It was love at first sight. I discovered the square while going to register at the commune (that is to declare myself as a foreigner residing in Ixelles).The late October afternoon in the square was idyllic and it felt like a promise of good things to come. The Town Hall – this neoclassical jewel of a building, with a rotunda overlooking the square – and the portraits of 2 women painted in somewhat Modigliani style add to the charm of this very bohemian square.
As I have no pictures, you`ll have to take my word for it: Leopold Park, with its little pond and its pack of noisy birds, minding their own business in the business district of the city, is just a well-deserved breath of fresh air. It’s a 2-minute walk from Place Jourdain, where, incidentally, rumor has it, you find the best French fries in town. Don’t call them that, though, for Belgian people are notoriously at war with the French and the entire world over the fries, and don’t let the name fool you: Maison Antoine is no fancy restaurant. But in truth, the fries (frite) are really good. My suggestion: forget about the sauce, they are tasty enough!
Astérix and Obélix first came to mind when I heard about Ambriorix, and turns out I was (almost) right. One of the loveliest squares in town is named after the ‘artist formerly known as Prince’ of the Eburones, leader of a Belgic tribe of north-eastern Gaul.
(Art) history is alive and well, as well, in this lovely square. The Saint-Cyr House, designed by a pupil of Victor Horta, father of the Art Nouveau, hold as dearly by Belgian people as Antonio Gaudi is by the Catalans, is just one of the many houses to be admired in this square.
Bonus: each Wednesday, you get to sample tasty food from the local vendors selling not so local dishes. My personal favourite, by far: the Balinese somethingsomething I ate here.
Across from the Ambriorix square, there is this teeny tiny, 2 in 1, hair saloon-coffee house. The You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy coffee and this in close enough sign I saw when I first entered here told me loud and clear this is the place to be, when in need of some peace and quiet, a cappuccino or a haircut. I’ve done them all and I tell you: it felt good!
To be continued:)