Wednesday, 7 June 2017

THE BRUSSELS TRAVELOGUE | INC EXCLUSIVE PROMO*


If you weren't already aware, I have just returned from a 4 day trip from Belgium visiting the capital city, Brussels. Now, considering I am an avid city-break goer, Brussels well... it was a weird one, and that's the first time I've ever said that about a trip. The vibe was weird, the people were pretty rude and there wasn't much to see or do. Although, it always comes down to the company we still had an amazing time. I guess it is always nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of every day work life, but I don't think I will be visiting again.

I am in no way anti-Brussels, because what we did see and experience was lovely - as always - but it was the first break we had where we completely chilled, enjoyed a few too many drinks and put down our phones and cameras. If you're ever thinking of a short trip away - read on for an exclusive promotion code for one of the best up and coming hotels in Brussels.

When you visit such iconic cities with those all important must-see landmarks, you try to cram as much as you can into your days - almost too much. This was the opposite, it was relaxing, but we also did quite a lot given the time we had there. We were incredibly lucky to have good weather as it was 29 degrees for two of the days we spent there. Having this luck on our side probably made us warm to the city more so if you were to go I'd definitely recommend a summer trip.

In sum, Brussels is beautiful, quiet, yet fairly expensive. Compared to Amsterdam, Berlin etc. you pay way over the odds for something as minor as a coffee, which is always a bit disappointing. As you can see from all the photos, the city is highly picturesque. With some of the cutest shops, chocolatiers and waffle houses, it is a food-lovers paradise.

For this, I'm going to take you through where I stayed, what we did and what to expect from a trip there - much with the same structure as my Berlin Travelogue. However, I'm going to keep this one as short and as sweet as possible!




WHERE TO STAY (psssttt promo code!*)
We stayed at a relatively new and up and coming hotel, JAM Hotel. The hotel itself is modern, quirky and in a perfect location to central Brussels - this was the best thing about it! Having spoken with staff prior to visiting, they were super accommodating and I spoke with Antoine in great length about our room, our visit and collaborating.

The hotel itself is renovated from an original art warehouse. This originality shone through the unique, clean and rustic decor which was a bit different for us - but definitely a nice change! JAM is a frenzy of mixed audiences, I felt there were families, backpackers and couples all mixed into one which is quite rare to see, and something I wasn't overly keen on. Offering cheaper dormitories for those InterRail folk, there is something for everyone really. We decided to go for the HYPER room which was spacious, featured a third bunk-bed area and lovely sofa. 



There were three main highlights of our stay with JAM. Firstly, the restaurant - oh my god the food was immense. If you go please as for Claudio and definitely try the homemade pizzas. Next, was the roof top terrace and pool on the 7th floor - this area is a must - even if its just for an Aperol Spritz or seven. Lastly, I have to say we had the best nights sleep every single night. Despite some negative reviews regarding noise complaints, the bed was one of the comfiest we've stayed in during a trip away.

Although, for the first time for us, there were some negatives to point out about the hotel and its facilities - but some genuinely couldn't be helped. Firstly, we were told our room wasn't ready (which was absolutely fine), so we left our luggage in the holding room only to find some of our items missing when we came back. Although these items were inexpensive we were still scared to leave anything valuable in our rooms afterwards. The next negative was the construction going on next door, although this was unavoidable, I think we were just unlucky on timing with that one, but luckily our room was on the opposite side to it all, so thanks JAM

I would recommend staying at JAM for a short trip away to the Belgian Capital. You can use the code ELLIEHILLIER17 for 10% off your entire stay. Thanks JAM for the generous discount and for treating my readers to one as well!




WHAT I WOULD RECOMMEND
Ok, so, we felt pretty underwhelmed with the selection of activities on offer in Brussels. But luckily, this all changed when I decided to organise a Belgian Chocolate making workshop. Well, could there have been a more perfect place to do it?!

Considering I had the impression that many people were rude, the staff at the Belgian Chocolate Workshop were the complete opposite. Speaking to Titch, she was lovely enough to give us complimentary tickets to the workshop which I was so touched by. The workshop is priced at 35 euros per person, and really, it would be worth every single penny having actually now done it myself. The workshop duration lasts 2.5-3 hours, from 11am-2pm. It absolutely flies by, and you get to take every single chocolate home with you - yes every single chocolate.

We arrived at Grand Place at 11am to meet our guide. We met with Efil, who couldn't have been a more welcoming and down to Earth girl. This wasn't your average guide, she asked questions about us and was genuinely interested in what we all had to say and vice versa. There was around 20 of us in total, working in teams of 2, though she made each one of us feel included and comfortable.

So, for the workshop you begin with learning to temper chocolate properly, which is something I have wanted to do for such a long time (I was so excited). From this, you start to make individual praline chocolates filled with ganache, then we moved on to creating our own mendiant chocolates topped with mixed fruits and nuts - I couldn't quite believe the quantity and quality of Belgian chocolate we were given. When I thought it couldn't get any better, Efil poured the leftover tempered chocolate into a saucepan and started making hot chocolate. It was sickly, but so tasty - and so worth every sip.

We visited on such a hot day that it took a little longer than expected for our chocolates to set. We both left with our own personal golden box filled with chocs which managed to make it all the way back to Manchester with us. I honestly had such a great day and I learnt a great deal about managing and cooking with chocolate. I also featured it a lot on my vlog, so stay tuned for that very soon.

Thank you to all of the lovely team at Belgian Chocolate Workshop. Remember booking in advance is a must, so book now to avoid disappointment. They also hold a Waffle Workshop for people with younger ones. I saw the workshop area and that looked incredible!


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