brusselsfeat01

Where I Slept

Alone.

I sleep alone right now and it’s best that way. I snort loudly sometimes, often hogging the covers. My left hand has the tendency to curl up into a ball and stay in that state until I rouse. Weird, I know.

In case you were thinking of dating me, isn’t it best to be honest now?

When it came to sleeping in Brussels the emergence of theme hotels is at an all time high. I certainly don’t mean a gaudy, monstrous slab of architecture à la Las Vegas style, but something inherently European.

Eating was another matter, I ate food interlaced with a strong history. Some of it wild and wholly unexpected, others a pure pleasure to familiarize myself with.

Hotel BLOOM!

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How to sum up Hotel BLOOM! It’s as though I existed inside a permanent art show. I’ve since fallen back in love with art after a 10 year struggle with it, if you recall.

Get this, in 2007 the hotel decided to renew it’s look and invited 287 artists, many European in heritage, some only by postcode to paint frescos in the rooms, the lobby and other public use areas.

The restaurant is also interesting because each section is assigned a mood or smoods, as the hotel calls them.

BLOOM! is about two blocks from the Le Botanique, the botanical gardens of Brussels, which now serves as an arts and cultural center.

The result of Hotel BLOOM! is an atmosphere that is fresh and young. Potential guests can peruse the art of each room and select a fresco that speaks to them before booking. A few rooms have been left white for revolving art exhibitions that come and go.

What most impressed me was how management scouted local graffiti artists to feature their work at the hotel, adding a sense of the art scene in Brussels, which I hear is thriving.

For me, it was being able to enjoy art again without the pretension and bullshit — a breath of fresh air.

My dreamy bed

My dreamy bed

The fresco over my bed, done by artist Pedro Peixoto

The fresco over my bed, done by artist Pedro Peixoto

Public areas.

The art on the walls.

By Belgium street arts Bue the Warrior

By Belgium street artist Bue the Warrior

By London Police, duo, Chaz & Bob. You recognize the women's face?

By London Police, the duo of Chaz & Bob. You recognize the woman’s face?

By FSTN, also known as Fiston. a Belgian illustrator

By FSTN, also known as Fiston. a Belgian illustrator

Breakfast buffet in the OO! — the cafe.

Indoor waffle truck

Indoor waffle truck

Smoods — the dinner restaurant.

To book a stay at Hotel BLOOM! go to: www.hotelbloom.com.

Funkey Hotel

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I was intensely inspired by Philippe Thibaut, the founder of the hotel. He was a major player in a large corporation at one time and use to travel for business frequently.

Basically, he hates hotels. He thinks they are pretty much all the same.

So he set out to create experiences for people by not just selling another hotel bed to sleep in, but by:

  1. Decorating the interiors with whimsical, playful touches. There are several board and skill games people can play.
  2. Each room has ceiling or mural art courtesy of Belgium artists. Some very cool art, I might add.
  3. By encouraging guests who are strangers to communicate with each other by proposing games they can play together — in other words, stop being so suspicious and trust — talk and laugh together.
  4. By hiring staff with more than hotel experience, selecting people from a variety of backgrounds. They lend ideas that are out of the box, he listens to them.
  5. By giving his staff free reign to make decisions. Example: one night a family came back from sightseeing and were quite exhausted. The night desk person used petty cash to buy them all pizza. The family were very grateful. They said lovely things about the hotel and spread that nugget to others.
  6. By not using booking engines like HostelBookers and relying on word of mouth. So far, so good.
  7.  Philippe and his staff are passionate, inquisitive people. I admire people like this.
  8. Funkey also supports artists by displaying their work in the rooms.
My lounger

My lounger

Scored two beds!

Scored two beds!

Midam is a popular Belgium cartoonist

By Midam, a popular Belgium cartoonist

The outdoor area.

Recognize this? My old logo! A paint by numbers for those who'd like to paint for fun

Recognize this? My old logo! A paint by numbers for those who’d like to paint for fun

The material will surprise you: Rubik's cubes!! The person is a famous Belgian football hero. Any guesses who?

The material will surprise you: Rubik’s cubes!! The person is a famous Belgian football hero. Any guesses who?

The games and lobby area.

Breakfast.

To book a stay at Funkey Hotel go to: www.funkeyhotel.com.

What I Ate

I didn’t get a true picture of all the food, only eating a fraction of what I could have. Is this because I’m a failed food blogger? Oh probably.

Nevertheless, I still got some decent chow to nibble on.

Macarons! Traced to 1792, this French Confection is a staple in Brussles

Macarons! Traced to 1792, this French confection is a staple in Brussels

For the best cookies in Brussels, go to Maison Dandoy at Rue au Beurre 31. I didn’t eat these sadly, only gazing from the window,  but I was told they are GOOD.

Maison Dandoy cookies

Maison Dandoy cookies

Let’s get the waffle thing out of the way now.

A Liege waffle is thin, crisp and light. It’s usually coated in a caramel crust (pearl sugar caramelized in the pan) and then sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. Dang good.

A Brussels waffle is thicker and a bit flakier. The toppings are a little more diverse too.

The Brussels waffle is less tradtional

The Brussels waffle is less traditional

There’s sad news I am about to tell you. There is no such thing as a “Belgium” waffle, that name is only a North American construct. People in Brussels call them either Liege or Brussels waffles.

I ate Foie Gras for the first time. Verdict: I liked it! But I always liked liver in my past meat eating days. The texture was lovely!

Naturally, Belgian chocolate was always on the menu. I can say with confidence, some of the best I’ve ever eaten.

I will admit, this one was difficult. The long and short of it is, I took part in a European tour that was competition based and one of the tasks involved eating horse sausage, otherwise I wouldn’t have sought it out on my own.

Eating horse dates back to the French Revolution; the horses that once symbolized status for the aristocracy became a way to alleviate hunger for the lower classes. This food source also sprung up again during World War II, again the purpose to fulfill a scarcity in food supplies. This practice carried over into Belgium from France.

Anyway, the horse sausage I tried was actually in Ghent and not Brussels.

And how did I enjoy it? What do you think?

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A trip to Brussels wouldn’t be complete without doing a chocolate making class at Zaabär.

My new profession: I'm quitting travel & writing!

My new profession: I’m quitting travel & writing!

Watching our teacher pour out chocolate to work with it

Watching our teacher pour chocolate to work with it

What me and my partner Laura made — a chocolate sculpture.

Jenga anyone?

Jenga anyone?

I didn’t know I had it in me to be this creative with chocolate.

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To sum up Brussels, or anywhere, there’s always so many rich layers to a place isn’t there? It was fun exploring this one for sure.

It just means I have to return for more!

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Hotel BLOOM! and Funkey Hotel generously provided my stay, but as always, all opinions are my own.