Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Brussels and Ypres

The hubby and I decided we needed to get out of London so took a cheeky trip to Brussels. We traveled on the Eurostar from Ebbsfleet direct to Brussels and chose to stay for one night at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Brussels.

We actually upgraded to a business class room as they had all been refurbished and were incredibly modern with en suite rain showers and robes. The reception area was lovely and we were granted early check in at 11am, which is always an amazing perk on a city break. The concierge were helpful and friendly and even lent us an umbrella. Our room was spotless and we also had access to a small lounge providing complimentary coke, water, coffee etc etc. The breakfast here was OK, definitely not the best I have ever experienced. It was very, very busy and service was slow. The continental choices were good with cold meats, cheeses, breads, croissants, juices etc but there were very limited hot options to choose from and there wasn't anything particularly special available.

The location, however, is good and we were quickly on our way to see the sites of Brussels. First stop was the Mannekin Pis! It had to be done. Unfortunately he was naked on our visit, which was a shame as I have been told he often gets dressed in little outfits that change regularly. After this random and amusing siting we headed to eat lunch at Chez Leon, which is the most famous place for mussels in Brussels! The menu is vast and mussels are served in large 1kg pots with a variety of flavors. French bread and french fries are also available for dipping and you will definitely leave warm and full from this delicacy.

Next stop was the sightseeing bus. By this point it was pouring with rain and our time was limited so we felt this was the best way to see the city. The bus has two different routes so we bought a ticket that combined both. On our first route we jumped off at The Atomium for some photos, although we didn't actually go inside and we also headed to Mini Europe whilst in the area, which was a tacky, novelty little place but was fun all the same! On our second route we jumped off at The Parliamentarium. This has free entry and is very interactive so would suit groups of all ages. We actually learnt a lot about Europe here and I would say it's well worth a visit if you are in the area.

After a good nights sleep we hopped on a train from the station, which was walking distance from the hotel to Ypres. For our one night in this beautiful, sleepy, little town we chose the incredible Main Street Hotel, which is about a 15 mins walk from the train station. I can't really sum this hotel up other than WOW. On arrival we had a welcome glass of wine with the owner and another group, discussing our trip and what we planned to do in Ypres. We were then shown to our room called Glory.

Glory was a huge room with a massive double bath and separate rain shower. The bath had a TV so you could sit back in the warm bubbles and literally watch a movie with your loved one. The room had a free mini bar with coke, wine, water, gin, Bacardi, Baileys, milk and mixers etc etc. There were fluffy towels, comfy robes and chocolates at bed time. Breakfast here is an absolute dream. There was a little buffet table containing cheeses, meats, pates with homemade bread and all kinds of coffee, tea, fresh juice, cereal, yogurt etc etc. There was then an A La Carte hot breakfast menu. This contained smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (for the hubby), waffles with fruit and maple syrup (for myself), scrambled eggs with truffles, scrambled eggs with bacon and mushrooms, you get my gist, it was good!

After luxuriating in our hotel room we had whiled away a large proportion of the day so we took a little trip into town, which is walking distance and had a wander before lining up ready for The Last Post. Everyone must do this once in their life time, it's poignant and really hits home the sacrifices that were made for our cushy modern lives to be possible. Dinner was at the amazing Trattoria Alloro, which we had pre-booked. It's not a huge restaurant so probably safer to reserve ahead of time. The setting is romantic with exposed brick and candles and the service is attentive but not intrusive. The food is insanely good, fresh and tasty. All of the Italian flavors shone through and we were very happy with our choices. The best part is the restaurant was also only a few minutes stroll back to the comfort of our Glory Room!

After a good night sleep we ventured out on a tour of the battlefields with Flanders. The tour lasts for around 2.5 hours and you are split into small groups. You will be driven to different sites in a mini bus and then hop off regularly at different stops to look more closely. The guides are great and the tour is very educational. I really didn't know what to expect and was overwhelmed by how vast the area is. We learnt a huge amount on this trip and I would really recommend others to take a similar journey as it's a real eye opener.

After a lovely couple of nights in Belgium it was sadly time to head home. This was a great little weekend away and one that blessed us with lots of knowledge. We enjoyed the food, the scenery and the accommodation and would definitely suggest this trip to others.