Shopping Bonanza!

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At the moment we have the sales in Brussels and they really commit to BIG discounts!  With our shipment taking it’s sweet time to arrive we are rather in need of a few things, especially a suit for Bond to wear to a wedding next weekend!

First stop is always Hackett, this is a brand that really fits Bond well and that he loves because it is good quality.  We had decided a suit would be the best way forward but struggled to find one that wasn’t pure wool and thus extremely hot.  The hunt was on for a different idea.

The lovely salesman went out of his way to hunt down the perfect ensemble and now Bond will be very dapper at the wedding.  I would thoroughly recommend Hackett to all, the Brussels branch proved that wherever in the world you shop Hackett have ensured that the service will be great, the stores will be beautiful and the collection will have everything you’re looking for, and in this case even things you didn’t know you were looking for!

Having succeded at Hackett we rewarded ourselves with a calippo and a nice dinner at home.  Sometimes it’s the small pleasures!

The next day it was my time for some more shopping, I have a new favourite store here in Brussels and they sent an email saying they had a sale, well it would have been rude not to check it out!  Akaso is fabulous.  The brand is all based on a tribe in Africa, they use prints based on the body painting that they use as part of their tribal identity.  It means that each piece is really unique.  The way they apply the print also has a 3D effect which makes it feel a lot like paint.  The attention to detail is fantastic and the clothes are easy to wear while being stylish.  PLUS Akaso give the tribe money for all their prints and so the community is being helped, fashion and doing good are a great combo in my opinion!

Another favourite spot for Bond and I is Waterstones.  I suspect all expats have something that make them feel they are at home, and for us a good English book store is the way to go.  They even sell favourite English food and all important tea bags.  Nothing says home like a good cup of tea.  Bond bought a couple of books but I resisted temptation as I have a pile by the bed already to get through.

The next stop was Zara where I picked up a few summer clothes, this heat is insane and my work wardrobe was severely lacking.  Now I have a few pieces I can mix and match and not swelter on the Brussels Metro the whole time.  The sale was incredible and I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I saved!

My best find in Belgium is Veritas.  They sell all kinds of craft goods and for someone who LOVES to knit this is a must visit.  The ability to go in and actually be able to look at the wool and get inspired is so great.  The staff are also really friendly and helpful.  the danger is there are a LOT of branches and I can never resist going in…now I have four new projects on the go!

Next we went to Cliff Tailor for their liquidation sale.  Bond was rather upset that this store is closing down as it’s an old fashioned tailors with gorgeous stock and the store itself is so lovely, all wood pannelling with a stunning spiral staircase.  We were really pleased to at least find out that the owner is closing out of choice so he can enjoy his retirement.  Bond picked up some lovely belts which he needed so he was happy.  Hopefully the new owners will maintain the look and feel of the store and also the great staff.

We finished our day off by going to the pharmacy for plasters and managed to meet a nice couple too!  We hope to meet up with them again in the future so that we can have some new friends in Brussels!

All in all a great weekend full of treats!

 

 

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Parental Visit!

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This is how I WISH I looked while shopping…the reality is far different!

My parents came to stay last weekend while Bond was away and it was lovely to see them.  It’s been ages since I saw my mother and a few weeks since I saw my dad so it was great to be reunited.  It’s also the first time in forever that it’s been just us three.  We had a really good time shooting the breeze as well as running some vital errands…well they thought they were vital, for me I thought they deserved more of a break!

On Saturday my mother took a train and I met her at the station for a shopping bonanza.  We headed to an area of Bailli that i hadn’t been to before, this became clear when I confidently led my mother to the metro…only to go in the wrong direction!  Oops! Luckily she saw the funny side and eventually we got to Bailli.  There were lots of fab shops to potter about in, I love a good concept store and Belgium does them so well.  Even a clothes store will have lovely gift ideas and candles so there is something for everyone.

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My top two shops of the trip were Hopono and Bocacci.  Hopono is a fab store for things for the home, gifts, kids stuff and of course things you may like to gift yourself!  Mummy bought sunglasses and a wallet for dad and Bond got a USB fan from me – vital in this hot weather.  We loved the staff who were kind and helpful and who even beautifully giftwrapped our presents.  Bocacci is a GREAT shoe shop with a fantastic sale, we loved it and I walked away with two new pairs of shoes, one for a wedding we are going to and another for smart evenings where I don’t want to wear massive heels.  With the sale I paid less for both pairs than one was originally worth, I do love a bargain!!

After we had hit the stores we headed home to relax and I made some dinner in advance of Dad arriving.  Once he came having driven over we had spaghetti bolognaise, talked and drank good wine and just had a lot of fun catching up!

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The next day was a day full of errands, we went first to the rubbish dump to get rid of stuff we no longer needed.  I was impressed by the efficiency of the Belgian dump, we were in and out in five minutes!  From there we went to Brico (a homewares store like Homebase) where we bought large fans, paint for tiles and some storage boxes.  Then we we went to Carrefour where my parents kindly helped me stock up on the vital things that are heavy – all the cleaning stuff, canned goods and of course beverages!  We are stocked up for a good long time!

On the way home we stopped at St Katherine to have lunch out which was great!  We had whelks and shrimp and a chocolate mousse to die for.  St.Katherine is a lovely spot as well and we enjoyed sitting in the garden enjoying some much needed shade.

From lunch we went home where we chilled out and watched TV before all agreeing an early night was the way forward.

On Monday we drove over to Stone Manor which is an English store here that stocks the food and drinks that we all miss when living abroad.  Got major points from Bond for finding Branston Pickle!   Having all stocked up on our food needs and for my mother magazines that she loves we headed off for a great lunch again.  My dad being Belgian knows lots of great spots!

The next day they headed off and I felt rather sad to say goodbye to them! Luckily Bond returned in the evening so I wasn’t alone for too long.  Still I can’t wait for the next time we are reunited!!

Bond’s Birthday week!

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When Bond and I met I was a major birthday diva and he found this a comical thing that he didn’t really understand.  My family go HUGE for birthdays, they love to celebrate and make a big fuss.  His family are more laid back about the whole thing.  6 years on and I have been usurped, the birthday diva of the family now is most certainly BOND!

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This year he announced he would have a birthday week, this was so important we had to stay up till midnight to say ‘Happy Birthday week’. The morning of his big day he had a croissant in bed with candles and icing, in the afternoon he had another cake and then in the evening I cooked lamb chops at his request.  Then he made the foolish mistake of travelling which robbed him of two days of his birthday ‘week’.  On his return we had more cake and candles and yet more of my culinary prowess – again at his request…since he discovered that I can cook even though I hate it he has been finding ways to get me back at the oven!!

Image result for mont des arts sunsetFor the real celebration I booked dinner out at a great restaurant with a fab view so we could enjoy sunset while we ate.  KWINT has a fabulous view over Mont des Arts which is meant to be the site of the best sunsets in Brussels. On arriving at the restaurant they told us they had no gas and thus no food!!  Anyway we rallied, had a cocktail and watched sunset and then headed to another spot for dinner which worked out really well in the end. I am lucky that Bond is a good sport and didn’t get upset that the original plan didn’t work!

Au Vieux Saint Martin was fantastic, great and well made proper Belgian food with fabulous service and in a great location.  We had a lovely time and enjoyed eating good hearty food before walking home.  I would thoroughly recommend it, their Flamant stew was especially good!

For the rest of the weekend every meal had candles and then on Sunday negotiations were attempted for an extra two days to make up for the one he missed out on!  These failed I am sorry to say…we were out of cake and candles!

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Oh my Ommegang!

The historical re-enactment of the gala fête on 2 June 1549, organised by the Magistrate of Brussels, and given in honour of the Emperor Charles V “Quint”, his son Phillipe, Infant of Spain and Duke of Brabant, and his sisters, Maria, Queen of Hungary and Eleanore, Queen Dowager of France (widow of Francis I) at the Grand Place of Brussels. Departure of the procession of the Guilds and Serments of the Sablon.

I am sorry I am long overdue an update, work has been really hectic so by the weekend I can’t find it inside myself to sit in front of a laptop.  However I am braving the machine because it is time for a post.

A few weeks ago we went to see a spectacular show, something that even a few weeks later I still remember vividly because it was so special.  Ommegang celebrates the visit of Emperor Charles V and his family to Brussels in 1549.

This visit was marked by a parade through the streets of Brussels which culminated in a show in The Grand Place.  The Ommegang recreates the whole parade and show and we were lucky enough to witness this spectacle.

Image result for le grand placeThe Grand Place itself is stunning and is a Unesco site, all the buildings are beautiful with perfect gold gilt detailing.  We were lucky enough to be invited to watch the festival from the balcony of The Town Hall.  The view we had was amazing as we could really see everything and be comfortable. We were also fortunate to be seated with people who were kind enough to explain everything that was happening.

Image result for ommegang beerThere were stilt walkers who fought each other which I had never seen before and which was an incredible display.  HUGE floats and all sorts of people in the costumes that were worn at the original parade.  The flag display was also incredible, a group of people who were walking with flags and then were able to throw them around and catch them and pass them to each other, these flags were a metre long at least and were on heavy poles.  I was mightily impressed!

Ommegang is so popular and renowned in Belgium they even have their own beer.  This is VITAL of course, since we moved to Belgium I have really learned the importance of beer as part of the cultural identity.  They have matching glasses for each beer and I have even discovered my favourite fruit beers, a new find for sure.

 

The same evening as Ommegang Belgium won the football, the crowd went wild and we had fireworks to celebrate.

Truly it was a magical evening that we loved!

Tunnel Traumas!

Before I tell this tale I must first say that I really love Brussels and that it is a great city for the most part.  That being said it is not perfect and it’s biggest pitfall in my eyes is the Metro…

When I first started to take it I heaped praises on it compared to the Tube in London; less crowded, plenty of seats, polite staff and cheaper too!  However this was all before our heat wave…the trains are HOT…ridiculously hot, stick to the chair you’re in hot.  Punctuality is somewhat hit or miss AND on occassion they decide to kick you off the train!  This has all contributed to rubbing the shine off my commute.  The one remaining saving grace is my lovely colleague who I at least travel back with.

However the love is officially lost for the Brussels Metro after an incident a couple of days ago…I got on the metro as normal where it was already a sauna.  Then off we went until three stops along where we stopped indefinitely.  There were no announcements and people were getting increasingly anxious.  Eventually people started to force open the doors to let air in but we were in a tunnel and so we couldn’t leave the train.  Near us was a baby getting more and more distressed.  The whole thing was horrendous and at no point did ANYONE say what was happening.

An HOUR later they eventually allowed us to walk through the tunnel which was a surreal experience.  The staff were rude and off hand and almost seemed put out by having to help us – which was a bit much given they were literally standing around.  The whole thing was utterly weird and at no point did anyone apologise for any of it!  It transpired that it was an electrical fault that caused all this…a fault that happened two hours before we even went to the station so it could all have been avoided with some better communication!

Suffice to say I won’t be getting on a metro without water and a fan ever again!!

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Brilliant Birthday Bonanza!

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Last week I celebrated my 32nd Birthday in quite some style!  I felt completely spoiled rotten by everyone and had the best time!

The first day of the week my colleagues and I had a lunch together to celebrate both mine and my bosses birthday.  It was lovely to spend time all together as we are still all quite new and getting to know each other more and more.  They spoiled me with a lovely box of goodies from Yves Rocher which was a wonderful surprise as I didn’t expect anything, least of all something so generous!  A great kick off to my birthday week for sure!

My dad flew in from Berlin as he had some meetings here in Brussels and so he planned a dinner the first night of his visit (my birthday eve) which was FAB.  We went to a brilliant place called JB’s which serves Belgian Food but with great style.  Haute Belgian Cuisine is fantastic and I heartily recommend it.  The restaurant is also beautiful and the people who own it are fanatical about what they do so the food is to die for!  To mark my birthday they had a firework sparkler thing which was great fun and made me really happy.  I love a firework!

The next morning I woke up and got ready for work and Bond and Dad had cake and tea and presents waiting for me.  I was thoroughly spoiled by them!  I got a fabulous jumper from my favourite store and a great new book from Bond – one to add to my ever expanding reading list!  He had also iced my cake which was most impressive!  He got it from the same place that we had our wedding cake made so that was really special.  Mummy and Daddy got me a load of make up, face masks, bath salts, a new frock and a cardigan as well as an expandable handbag which is very clever indeed.  All in all a perfect birthday morning!

I had a nice day at work and lunch with some colleagues which was a nice way to spend some time before a hectic afternoon trying to get things done.  In the evening Bond had booked dinner at La Quincaillerie which was awesome.  It’s a converted ironmongers store and it has a lot of the original fittings and fixtures which for a design nut like me is great.  I also loved the giant clock that they have on their stair way.  The whole look of the place is very well done.   The food also proved to be fantastic, Brussels is really spoiled with wonderful restaurants!

All in all it was a completely perfect Birthday and I felt very lucky!

Conference Chaos

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So last week I had my first conference with my new job where we headed to Frankfurt.  My first experience of Belgian trains was extremely positive, I had a yummy eclair and beverage at the platform with my colleague, the train was comfortable and clean and arrived bang on time.   From then on though the trip descended somewhat into chaos as I realised that German efficiency was not going to be deployed.

First we had huge boxes to cart around (thanks to my valiant colleague I mostly stood and guarded them while he hefted them until he managed to force someone to give us a trolley).  Then we finally dropped all this off and tried to check our emails and do some work that was urgent for our event the next day.  Naturally the WiFi did not want to work and so we had to work from our phones, less than ideal for sure!  By the end of the day we were absolutely exhausted!

Thankfully we had the most enjoyable evening with the rest of the team and felt somewhat refreshed after our ordeal of a day.  We got to bed late but happy we had survived!

Up early the next morning our spirits were instantly deflated when we realised our conference room had not been set up!  Soon we were moving tables and chairs and cleaning the floor.  Not ideal!  Then we realised all our attendees were lost all over the vast conference centre.  Cue me running around in my Ferragamos trying to find them – btw those are the WRONG shoes for such a job!!  Eventually everyone had arrived and we started the event which thankfully proved to be a HUGE success and almost made up for my sore feet!

In the evening we had another team dinner, sadly neither my Belgian or Romanian colleague were overly wowed by German cuisine – the fries left much to be desired I was informed.  British boarding school obviously made me less fussy!  In any case we had a good time together and it was good to get to know each other all a bit better.

The last day of the conference was certainly the best as I got to actually go to the stand and meet the people that we help support in their projects.  It was great to learn more about their work and see the difference that our work can make.  I really enjoyed the feeling that in some small way I make a difference to them.

We took a late train home armed with donuts and chatted all the way back.  I got home to Bond who earned major husband points by greeting me with a bloody Mary ready made and a hot bath with bubbles!  As he had also been away on a business trip I was really touched and it instantly made me feel better – exhausted but happy.  Not a bad end to a hectic week really!