Brussels Clout

A Rainy Mid-Morning in Brussels

I had a few hours to enjoy in the old centre of Brussels recently, and I'm always glad of it. Why was I in Brussels? Because I try to avoid the purgatory of London airports at any cost, and was using Brussels Airport as a hub. The centre of Brussels is fifteen minutes from the airport by train.

Of course, I didn't venture much further than Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, with its lovely selection of shops, cafés and restaurants. Actually, I went absolutely no further as it was conveniently tipping down with rain. A few hours in rainy Brussels — perfect.

Since 1847, Les Galeries has provided a retail experience under cover, and might be considered a forerunner to the modern shopping mall, much like Burlington Arcade in London and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.

I took a few (not very good) photos (above) to capture the old-world European ambience.

Eat Belgian Food

The arcade has a nicely restrained and civilised atmosphere. Assuming you are there for a few hours, you have traditional Belgian dining choices, such as Ogenblik and the Art Deco La Taverne du Passage (above); once popular, they say, with surrealist painter René Magritte. (Surreal joke: What's red and invisible? This tomato.)

Buy Belgian Things

After you have eaten, treat yourself to the following:

Newspaper bag from Delvaux (1829), reputed to be the world's oldest name in leather goods.

Now stuff your Delvaux newspaper bag full of Belgian chocolate from Mary (1919) and Neuhaus (1857); and also Meert (1761), though Meert was founded in Lille and is not strictly Belgian — but we like their chocolate and the age of the company — it is timeless, endless Europa.

A few hours in Les Galeries is infinitely more preferable than waiting for a connection in the ghastly confinement of a London airport let me tell you. In fact, if you choose this route out of Blighty, make sure you get the longest connection waiting time you can.

Mary Rosine Rose chocolates:

Neuhaus Haute Pâtisserie Collection:


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