What Really Happened That Week We Went To Brussels

This week we went to Brussels for 4 days. They were a quite good four days filled with shopping, food, museums and rain. Lots of damn rain.

We took photos as evidence of our epic journey. We didn’t document the rain because that would be stupid and at one point we were being pelted by football sized hail (might be a tad exaggerated). As Cat quite rightly puts it we experienced The Day After Tomorrow in weather conditions, that’s NOT an exaggeration. But enough about the weather!

IMG_0311On the Eurostar on the way to Brussels Mama paid for us to be upgraded to Standard Premier… The difference between the norm and this is amazing. You feel all posh as they bring you a meal to your table, they balance a tiny tray with your coffee cup, milk and sugars in one hand while pouring your coffee from a snazzy coffee pot in the other hand. Oh and the train is moving.

We stayed in a lovely penthouse near Grand Place. Such a stunning place owned by a lovely couple who had great tastes in the antique area.IMG_0318 This meant we could buy in and cook our own food which led me onto Cheese Fondue flavoured crisps… I’m still undecided on them. Speaking of food we all know what Belgium is famous for. If it’s escaped your attention it’s chocolate, beer, chocolate, waffles, chocolate and chips. We bought lots and lots of chocolate. We also bought some beer.

One of the nicest places to go walking (when it’s not raining loads) is near the Hotel D’Ville and the Grand Place. This is a beautiful courtyard type square that in summer is filled with vendors selling flowers and the likes. At this time of year it was quieter even with the tourists bustling around. You can also have horse drawn carriage rides from here and there’s a Starbucks and a tourist information centre. On the first night we actually ate in this area… We went to Hard Rock Cafe where you can get some very decent American food served by wonderfully friendly staff who aren’t afraid to sit down and have a chat with you. I know you don’t go on holiday to eat the same food but we make it our mission to go to the Hard Rock Cafe wherever we go so we had to do it.

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On the second day it rained. A lot. We walked up rue du Neuve which is a pedestrianised street full of high street stores. It can get quite busy but it’s worth a browse. We also had breakfast in one of my favourite cafe’s in Brussels. It’s a little place called Peck 47. They do gorgeous smooth coffee, excellent blends of fruit juices and some stunning food. I had Eggs Benny and Cat had Eggs Hemmigway. The Benny came wth loads of crispy bacon and really set me up for the day. We carried on shopping and buying chocolate after that then we went back to the flat to have a picnic and allow me to get some work done. There was a reason why I had to go to Brussels, journalism waits for no man.

Thursday may be the most profound awe inspiring day of my life. It rained a lot of the day, not all though! Then the meteorite hail came and I saw someone knocked out by it (I’m joking, it was probably close though) First off we went to BelVue museum which, when it’s open, is a lovely little museum about the history of Brussels and Belgium. It’s currently being refurbished though so we went to the Coudenburg part instead. This is a museum under BelVue.filename-img-0339-jpg

It’s the old Royal palace and as some amazing archaeological history to it. It won’t be everyones cup of tea but it is worth having a look around. Even if it’s just to watch the big door swing closed and shut you in. An even better part is finding your way out. You do get a map but when you’re that deep underground that you have no phone signal and you realise they’ve installed toilets and seats it can make you feel a little unnerved about the situation.

After this we had lunch in Green Kitchen their lovely restaurant/ cafe. Here everything is freshly made on the day and you can create your own salads or pick from the ready made quiches, sandwiches and soup. It really is a great place to go eat, most of the museums have great food selections to them and usually have great deals on.

IMG_0326We then took a leisurely, rainy, walk down to the European Parliament. This is where I work a lot of the time when I’m in Brussels. If you get a chance I would highly recommend the guided tours they have on. They must be one of the only working Parliament buildings in the world that gives almost full access to tour groups and the tours are available in the corresponding languages to the 24 countries in the EU.

Behind the EU building you’ll find the Science Museum which contains rocks, shiny rocks, sparkly rocks and DINOSAURS. Everything from big dinosaurs to tiny dinosaurs. The kids and school groups that were there seemed to be really enjoying it. I liked the dinosaurs too.

You might be wondering what part of my day was awe inspiring.IMG_0337 Well I met a certain little boy. A certain little NAKED Boy who is doing something that some people might laugh at and other people might be disgusted by. Yep I went and found the Mannekin Pis or as we Brits call him the Pissing Boy. This little boy is on souvenirs all over the city and is well worth the effort to find him and join the crowds to have a selfie with. At certain times of the year the locals like to dress him up in appropriate clothing so it’s fun to see what state of undress he’s in. As I mentioned he was in his birthday suit when I visited him.

I might add that me and Cat went to one of our favourite museums in Brussels on the Wednesday… The Belgian Comic Strip Centre. They have some awesome permanent exhibitions showing all the best of Belgian comics including the Smurfs. They look at the progression of the comic and how digital art as changed what we read and look at in todays comics. They also have a floor of temporary exhibitions which on this visit were the works of Fred Jannin and Jean-Pol. Take my word for it you’ll be smiling the whole way around the exhibitions and it’ll really open your eyes to the Belgium contribution to the comic world.

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I had fun on my Brussels adventure I ate lots of yummy food including, sushi and waffles. In fact I didn’t buy anything but food and drink. Oh wait I bought a flat pack t-shirt. I have a new found love for the French language because I really don’t get Dutch.

So as I write this from my Standard Premier seat on the Eurostar to London, in which we’ve literally just exited the euro tunnel to the great British sunshine (Fuck me there’s no rain!), the first message I receive on my iPhone to alert me I’m back on British soil is not a hello from my service provider but an alert about Jeremy Hunt, I realise I’ve had a pretty good week. Not all work, not all play but there’s lots of chocolate to eat and a naked boy to smile at on my photo album.

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  • We travelled to Brussels Midi Station from St Pancras International with Eurostar and booked our accommodation through Airbnb. Other alternatives are available.
  • There are plenty more places to eat and museums to go to in Brussels. We just wanted to show you the variation there is in the city and some of our favourites.
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A Slice of Craft Ale Heaven in the Big City

Craft Beer BarWhilst the classic notion of pub culture is seemingly still in decline, the rise of Craft beer culture is reaching new heights. A recent post in the Guardian outlined that Pale Ale sells are higher than ever, increasing in as much as 70% over the past 2 years with younger demographics taking up the drinking of real ales. With this, London especially, is seeing new establishments opening up to cater for the growing taste. Festivals are being held all over the country so lovers of these, often limited edition drinks, can share in their unique tastes and talk about what is essentially a passion project for all involved. Continue reading

Late Night Ramblings of a Girl Who Was Defeated By An Allergy Test

I know I have bad allergies and I know I have anaphylaxis. I know I have a strange condition called Idiopathic Angiodema. To some extent I know what I’m allergic to. I didn’t, however, know I was properly allergic to peanuts, walnuts and brazil nuts until that damn skin test yesterday.

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Yesterday I had to go to the hospital for a skin prick test. For those of you who don’t know what a skin prick test entails or have never been through one I’m happy to tell you all about it.

I had my skin test at the allergy clinic. Here the doctor goes through a list of commonIMG_1577 allergens and ticks off what they want you tested for. In my case I was tested for pollen, tree pollen, weed pollen, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts and pistachios. They’ll also put a negative and positive test on you. This is all done on your inner arm. The negative and positive tests are put on your arm as control tests. Everyone will have a reaction to the positive one.

I hear you asking how do they know what they’ve tested you for? They write on you in pen. Then they put a little drop of the solution with the allergen in it next to the correct letter. e.g. the walnut solution went next to the W. After they put the drop on your arm in the correct place they stab you with a lancet. Honestly this part doesn’t hurt. You feel a tiny stab for every allergen you’re being tested for. That’s the easy part.

You then have to hope you’re not actually allergic to anything you’re being tested for. If you’re unfortunate to have a skin reaction then you get told not to itch it. I had a reaction to 5 out of 9 things and it felt like my arm was on fire. Or been eaten by ants. It doesn’t hurt really it’s just DAMN UNCOMFORTABLE. 15 minutes later a nurse comes back to measure the “reaction.” It all gets very technical because they measure the weal and the flare (the red bit) with a ruler… Pressed against your itchy skin. The bigger the weal the more they can tell if you’re allergic.

tumblr_m0os6c7kSE1qzr2ctThey give you a guide about a “nut free diet” where you realise all the foods you usually eat and your favourite foods are in there. You mourn the loss of toffee nut lattes and sob when you realise coconuts are classed as nuts in this case.

You also throw a fit over the fact that a nut allergy ruins all chances of you joining the military or feeling safe enough to be a journalist in a conflict zone. Being allergic to flowers is easy, just stay away from them. Many foods in the Middle East contain nuts. Hell many foods here do. At least our medical services aren’t too bad so I know I won’t die.

It’s like feeling trapped. You can only go certain places. You have to ask 100 questions at every restaurant you go to. You sometimes feel that down over it all you just chance it anyway. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S IN THAT LOVELY LOOKING CAKE, and the people behind the counter usually aren’t that sure either. I was comfortable with my allergies before. They were things I could stay away from and nuts were something that were not a dead certainty to cause me harm. Now it’s a strange new nut free zone. And honestly I hate it.

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York Coffee: The Perky Peacock

York is one of those places that suits everyone. It’s historical, touristy, quirky and studenty all at once. It’s even better for hidden gems of the coffee variety. We’ve become quite the York lovers over the years and added together with our love for coffee, cake and artisan foods we thought it was a no brainer to share our knowledge with you.

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Perky Peacock at Lendal Bridge.

One of our all time favourites is The Perky Peacock. Perky is in two locations, one in the tower at Lendal Bridge (blink and you’ll miss it) and the other on Gillygate very close to York St. John Uni. It’s all ran by the wonderful Nicola Peacock and her fantastic team. Nicola knows all there is to know about the food and coffee they sell and can put together an excellent bacon butty on Via Vecchia’s cheese bread. The coffee comes from Origin Coffee Roasters and no matter who makes your drink the coffee is wonderful. All food products are baked freshly every day and sourced locally which should keep everyone visiting York very happy. If you manage to get to the Lendal Bridge one early enough you’ll find yourself being led there by the smell of bacon.

The team put together a great range of sandwiches everyday and the shop at Gillygate do wonderful warm sandwiches and platters to suit everyone’s tastes. The bread PerkyIMG_1553 uses is an art form by itself, none of this plastic bread or stuff that looks rustic, all the bread is supplied by the guys at Via Vecchia so is artisan to the very core and is literally produced 2 minutes away from both shops on the Shambles. Bluebird Bakery also have some input with their temptingly gooey brownies. Honestly you’ll have to take one home. Both sites are completely different to each other but still a great place to chill out with a lovingly made coffee and a slab of cake. The ranges of cakes they have everyday is amazing and their NobHobs rival the Mcvities version.

In Cat’s uni days Nicola even made porridge with marshmallows along with a hot chocolate with marshmallows. Unforgettable really. If you have a take out drink from Perky take a look at the cup and try not to smile.

Things to most definitely try: Bacon butty on cheese bread and a flat white.

Things to look out for: Any cakes that catch your eye and the awesome tote bags. Help promote Perky Peacock! Oh and watch out for the rising water line when it rains badly at Lendal Bridge.

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