Travel guides - November 30, 2016

TBS Crew goes to Bruxelles: an unusual guide to the city

Let’s be clear from the start: this will not a Brussels guide like any other. Our objective here is to destroy any stereotype about the city you might harbor in your mind  — meaning, no we did not visit the European Parliament; yes, you do see people around who are not in a suit and tie, we swear; no, we didn’t eat any waffles or fries, but we do feel we will have to go back for that, and also, if you thought Brussels could be a good place to protect your wallet from compulsive shopping, well, think again. Hotel Amigo was our base for these 48 hours: this place is a favorite of the royal family, as well as of international stars like Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, who used it as a dressing room for one of her concerts. It felt like being home for us, amongst like-minded people! Lol. Needless to say, the place is the stuff of dreams, the rooms are bigger than our flats in Milan (hello, shoebox!), the walls are decorated by official Matisse prints, and should you ever feel homesick, you can have excellent Italian fare at the Italian restaurant in the hotel, BoCCOni. Since we didn’t have a car, one of the things we appreciated about Hotel Amigo was its location, just a few minutes’ walk away from central Brussels.


If this were a regular trip, I would tell you that the next thing we did was meet up with our guide. But this was not a regular trip! Our guides were Hotel Amigo’s City Insiders, locals who live and love the city in the unique way only locals can. Our first stop was at Delvaux‘s headquarters. Delvaux is a prestigious leather brand, whose bags are true pieces of art. We had the chance to visit their factory with Jessica, and explore every production step of the iconic bags’ production. One of the things that surprised us most was visiting the section where vintage bags are given new life: you can see that Delvaux bags are part of family tradition in Belgium, and that young people really try to keep their grandparents’ tradition alive. At lunchtime, we made our way back to the hotel, to try Café Amigo’s new health menu, developed by the hotel with Pascale Naessens, the Belgian food blogger and influencer who works to spread awareness of healthy, more mindful lifestyles.
After one quick coffee, it’s time to go shopping! We discovered so many boutiques, vintage shops and concept stores in town, on top of the usual boutiques of large brands. After leaving our hearts — and part of our wallets! — in these shops, we touched base for a shower, and to get ready for our dinner at Humphrey, a restaurant that revisits Belgian culinary tradition with an Asian twist. We still remember this wonderful culinary experience: if you want to know more, stay tuned for Friday’s edition of #TBSTaste! We carried on honoring Belgian tradition with a Belgian beer at La Mort Subite, one of the cult places in the area.

Even though our beds were extra comfy and totally alarm-resistant, we managed to get up to continue exploring, since a wonderful tour, featuring craft beers and traditional biscuits, was awaiting us. The morning started at the Brussels Beer Project, an independent brewery that was just recently started in town, where a group of young people are trying to rewrite the history of innovation of national lager beer. The beer tasting was not at all disappointing, and we found ourselves feeling really sad to only be traveling with hand luggage. If you ever go there, have a Phénix, you will not be disappointed! And then it was lunchtime, which we spent at Henri & Agnes, where we met up with Alexander, owner of Maison Dandoy, a true institution in the world of patisserie in Brussels. With Alexander, we visited the factory where speculoos, the cookies that everyone enjoys for Saint Nicholas, come from. Our last stop before leaving town was Maison Dandoy’s new boutique, where the brand’s heritage meets innovation, both visually in the shop’s interiors, as well as in the delivery methods used: the latest addition is a super-stylish bicycle that roams the streets of Brussels, helping out Santa Claus’s delivery work in the process.
At this point it was already time to go to the airport, while tearing up a little, with the promise of coming back soon — maybe with better weather — to taste the local specialties and add a few more tips to our Brussels guide. And why not, maybe we will even visit Parliament. Really!

All photos were taken using a Canon Powershot G9X.

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