Brussels Winter Wonderland

Christmastime in Brussels is magical.  A few years ago, I decided to go to Brussels to explore the famous annual Brussels Winter Wonderland and to taste as many Belgian delights as possible.

I must admit that I’ve never done well in winter and wandering around Brussels during the day, I wondered what all the fuss was about.  I was intrigued by the architecture but everything looked so drab and gray.  I even started to miss London, even though the whole point was to get away for the weekend.  But in the evening, the Christmas Market came alive with all the beautiful lights and the delicious aromas quickly made me forget the cold.

I felt like a child again, taking in all the colourful displays and wandering from stall to stall, sampling more chocolate than I should have.  Hand rolled Belgian truffles are a must try–in a word, they’re moreish!  They simply melt in your mouth and aren’t sickly sweet like I find some chocolates can be.

Before I lose myself to the fond memories of all the gorgeous food, I must mention the amazing carousel at the market, which had me mesmerised.  The design of the carousel reminded me of a mix of characters from Hayao Miyazaki‘s works, like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) or Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986).  Completely magical and fantastically mysterious.  Unfortunately, my camera at the time was a bit crap so the video clip doesn’t really do it justice.  So do yourself a favour and go see it in the flesh!

Another item on my  list of indulgences was ‘the Brussels waffle’, known in Belgium as gaufre de Bruxelles.  In a word, yum!  They’re lovely hot off the press and eaten plain.  The waffles and chocolate were all very nice, but the highlight of my culinary explorations were the  simple but warming bowls of escargot in broth.

I had two bowls the first night and went back for a third the next day.  I’d only ever had French escargots de bourgogne prepared with garlic and parsley butter.  Don’t get me wrong, I absoultely love them the French way, but I guess it was just SO cold and the broth was a nice surprise, not to mention deliciously soothing.

Before heading back to London I had to make one final stop at Chez Léon for a steaming pot of delicious Moules et Frites.  Chez Léon is right next to the Grand’ Place in the historic centre of Brussels and the mussels were just as good, if not better than Belgo!  Is it bad that I also spent the entire time I was in Brussels looking for Belgo Bill?  I’ll definitely have to return to Belgium to look for him and  visit the Christmas Markets again!

This year the Brussels Winter Wonders market will go from 25th November 2011 through to 1st January 2012. 

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