Brussels, Begium October 2013

by Emma Bumpus on November 5, 2013

Sophisticated cocoa enriched chocolatiers harmonised by pretty patisseries amidst a plethora of laid-back brasseries, artisan shops and eclectic architecture, puts Brussels firmly on the careertraveller roadmap!

Perfumed, bustling and convivial we feel instantly transported to a city bulging with cultural diversity, independence and style.

First stop Hotel Amigo, awaits our luxurious Rocco Forte haven, smack bang in the city’s heart, adjoining the Grand Place where everything is happening and alive. Kids in tow we are swept away with superb hospitality in the form of swift check-in, kids own check-in cards and dedicated childrens’ amenities in the form of delightful Tintin gifts, personal robes/slippers and exquisite handcrafted Maison Dandoy “Specculoo” biscuits brimming with refined brown sugar and spices. Slick!

Interconnecting rooms offering mod cons, Wii consoles and Ren toiletries with uncluttered touches in the form of Tintin artefacts and Magritte paintings in a beautifully sumptuous boutique airy space makes this luxury hotel insatiably addictive and nurturing!

A wander round this unusual 5 star palace provides clue-like examples of Belgian delights in the form of chocolate pralines, jewellery and fashion around a modish lobby brimming with detail, texture and grand concierge.

A breeze past the chic The Bar Amigo and notably award winning BoCConi restaurant is enough to contemplate room service later as we gush with tourist excitement amidst a myriad of multifarious attractions. Formidable!

Led by the cobbled streets, dolce aromas form a unique trail of exquisite chocolatiers bursting with praline and truffle displays that fill the streets with fun and joie de vivre.

Our cocoa pilgrimage is cemented at The Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate where we discover the Central and South America roots of the beans, first used as currency and as a drink. A superb master chocolate demonstration is the finished product and fuelled with 70% cocoa we set sail for the Pièce de résistance Grand-Place!

No ordinary Place, we are spellbound by the encompassing regal architecture of this former market square that exudes historical power and protection dating back to the Middle Ages. A quadrangular ambience of geniality, trade and culture is an excuse to savour a traditional monastic blonde beer and enfant-friendly hot chocolate, whilst admirably gazing at the City Hall’s gothic façade, gargoyles and statues which echo stories of a bygone age.

Somewhat star struck by this effervescent city we meander curiously around the sugar coated pathways that rather charismatically illuminate the Belgian culture with it’s comic strip frescoes, all 47! From Tintin to Nero we discover street treasures in the Belgian Comic Strip Centre and Marc Sleen Museum to the kids delight.

Room service at Hotel Amigo followed by authentic Belgian waffles decorated with racy red strawberries, redcurrants and cream is the moment to acknowledge Brussels has it all; passion, flair and art!

A morning at the Hergé Museum in Louvain-la-Neuve is a 30-minute excuse to trial the Brussels Card, discovering the easily accessible sights around town. Within this contemporary architectural moored ship – like gem we time travel through the life of journalist, graphic designer, cartoonist, illustrator, artist storyteller and Tintin creator – Georges Remi, aka Hergé amidst a personal trajectory of photographs, sketches and artefacts that celebrate humanity and art.

A pit stop at the European Quarter is our flavour of Parlamentarium where we journey virtually through the centre of the European Parliament with interactive maps, photographs, cinematic debate and future wishes!

Home is Chez Léon for the evening where we salute the traditional Flemish cuisine of mussels (14 home made to be precise) and French fries in true tourist style! Buzzing with families, locals, and travellers we experience a heart-warming family run atmosphere that has evolved over 160 years within walking distance of the celebrated Grand Place. Magic!

Our 48 hours in Brussels is heightened with a city sightseeing tour on the infamous Hop On-Hop Off Bus past the Royal Palace, Botanical Gardens, Manneken Pis, National Basilica Church of the Sacred Heart (the world’s 5th ranked largest church and careertraveller favourite Atomium!

Knee jerkily abstract, ostentatious and futuristic our eyes capture an out-of-this-world “seminal totem” sculpture or building, which in the form of 9 atom- like spheres, 20 tubes, 3 pillars and 360° panorama makes travel to Brussels essential!

Atom inspired, we discover this iconic symbol was built for science and culture in 1958 for a global World Exhibition, hence amidst neon lit escalators we traverse through society, engineering and design. All 8 levels standing 102 metres high we take the fastest (1950s) lift in Europe (5 metres per second, 18 kph to seventh heaven where Brussels stands proud. Marvellous!

Further details of Brussels can be found on the VisitBrussels website as well as The Little Explorer which provides families with useful out and about information.

For information about Hotel Amigoand their “A Tintin Family Affair” package click on the Hotel Amigo website and to view more of the Atomium’s magical architecture click on their website Atomium.

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