Weekend Break in Belgium – discovering Brussels

When I first considered travelling to Brussels I encountered numerous articles, blog posts and reviews which strongly discouraged me to ever visit the capital of Belgium. Described as grey, boring and dangerous, the city seemed like the last place I wanted to visit. In October my best friend and I found cheap flight tickets, which were so inexpensive (around 20$ or 15 Euro both ways) that I simply had to go, even if I was extremely agitated with safety issues. I literally freaked myself out reading safety articles and how Brussels’ safety index in only 59%. Then, to increase my disconcern, I watched documents on terroristic attacks on 22nd of March 2016 and even considered not going. Above all, my paranoia was infused by the fact my landing date was on the third anniversary of the attacks. Luckily, my boyfriend convinced me not to be such a crybaby and we flew to Brussels.

A great arc in Brussels

Charleroi Airport and getting to Brussels

We landed in Charleroi Airport just before 11 PM. Being a control freak as I am, I planned everything in advance, purchasing tickets for the shuttle bus. It was a rather neat idea, as we were one of the last ones to get on a bus to Brussels (it was second-to-last bus that night so with the crowd that gathered in line, there was a great concern we would not make it, if I didn’t purchase tickets online). The bus took us through well-lit highways straight to Brussels-South railway station in Rue de France. We were a little bewildered by the marking system, so we decided to take a tram instead of metro. What is interesting, the timetable of trams was so confusing, we didn’t really know which way we should go. The monitor above tram-shelter projected direction the tram was coming from, as oppose to where it’s going. Also, the timetable showed next stops above the stop we were on, which was even more confusing. I don’t know how it is where you live, but where I come from it’s the complete opposite.

The Grand Place

We started our first day with a long walk from our hotel to the narrow streets around La Grand Place. In the heart of Brussels, the “Great square” one of the most often visited places in Belgium. It is a great quadrangle surrounded by architectural masterpieces altogether forming a UNESCO Heritage Site. The 15th century Town Hall and King’s House, as well as 200 years younger guild houses give the La Grand Place an astonishing feeling of wealth and luxury.

 

We spent a rather long time reading interesting details about guild houses and how each sculpture or even shape of facades conveyed a deeper meaning. My favourite building, the baker’s house named Le Roy d’Espagne, decorated with busts of Saint Aubert (patron saint of bakers) and sculptures of six figures representing force, wheat, wind, fire, water and security, all believed to be necessary ingredients for baking a perfect bread, charmed me immediately.

 

Manneken Pis

From the Grand Place we ventured towards the statue called Manneken pis. “Little Pisser” is a bronze figure just next to the Town Hall, depicting a toddler urinating into the fountain. The statue is the best-known symbol of people of Brussels, representing a rather dark Belgian sense of humour. Each week a non-profit association “The Friends of Manneken-Pis” dress the figure up in various outfits. While we visited Brussels Manneken Pis was dressed in FC Barcelona attire and we have yet to discover why.

Manneken PIs statue in Brussels

After a rather long walk through narrow streets around La Grand Place we decided to head for lunch. We found out earlier that our hotel is just next to the place with “greatest pommes frites in Belgium” so we headed there. There was quite a queue, with a lot of Belgians so I knew the fries were going to be delicious. We ordered and were pleasantly surprised that we could take them out and eat in one of the nearby bars where we ordered additional beer. The size of fries is rather tricky, so if you visit Brussels always go for small ones as you will get full quite easily.

The Atomium

After lunch we travelled by metro to one of the most well-known symbols of Belgium – the Atomium. Built for the first postwar Expo in 1958 the steel structure has become an unmistakable trademark of Brussels. In the shape of iron particle enlarged 256 million times, designed by Andre Waterkeyn and architects Andre and Jean Polak, Atomium is 102 meters tall and is a rather literal symbol of progress and development. Connected with escalators and elevators hidden in pipes each sphere is 18 meters in diameter. I enjoyed the sight of it but felt as though the surrounding was not that pleasant.

After lunch we travelled by metro to one of the most well-known symbols of Belgium – the Atomium. Built for the first postwar Expo in 1958 the steel structure has become an unmistakable trademark of Brussels. In the shape of iron particle enlarged 256 million times, designed by Andre Waterkeyn and architects Andre and Jean Polak, Atomium is 102 meters tall and is a rather literal symbol of progress and development. Connected with escalators and elevators hidden in pipes each sphere is 18 meters in diameter. I enjoyed the sight of it but felt as though the surrounding was not that pleasant.

Used as a museum, exhibition center as well as a viewpoint the structure is a great place to explore. We did not enter inside as the tickets were rather pricy (20 Euro per person) and the weather wouldn’t allow us to appreciate the view anyway. If you ever visit Brussels and the sky is clearer visiting interiors of the Atomium is an absolute must!

Dinner and Belgian Ale

In the evening we returned to the Grand Place for dinner and drinks. We started out in the restaurant called Chez Leon, as we did not have to wait long to be served. We ordered seafood (of course!) and a bottle of cooled, white wine. I really enjoyed the food, although if I knew while ordering it would be covered in cheese I would have probably picked some that was not. We have also visited Delirium Tremens, most recommended bar in Brussels, but it was way too crowded for us and we finished our evening with some beers in a bar next to our hotel.

Autoworld

Visiting Autoworld was one of the main points of our trip to Brussels. Displaying more than 250 cars the Automotive Museum was one of most entertaining museum I’ve ever been to. I learned a great deal about the history of automobiles and discovered various trivia. Did you know that in 1955, during a race a car crashed and it’s scattering particles killed 82 people? Considered as the worst crash in motor sports history, it happened during a Le Mans 24-hour race in France. The accident was so tragic both France and Switzerland banned motor racing, the latter still holds the ban active today. You can read more about this here.

After visiting the museum we had only one thing left on our “to do list” before catching a bus to Charleroi Airport. WAFFLES. I could not leave Brussels without the famous chocolate! Therefore, we returned to La Grand Place, visited the oldest shopping centre in Europe and devoured delicious waffles!

Overall, I really enjoyed visiting Brussels and I would recommend a weekend trip to anyone. It was safe, beautiful and the food was quite delicious. I really enjoyed museums, historical buildings as well as modern parts, with bars and fancy restaurants.

Have you ever been to Brussels? Did you enjoy the city? Let me know in the comments!

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Stopping food waste and saving money – meal planning.

In my previous post titled “How to stop being broke” I have slightly brushed through the topic of money-saving by changing your diet and establishing a plan for shopping. I am myself not a very frugal person – I try, but I was never really thought how to save money, since I never had any – so I have some financial issues that need solving quite fast. Even though I may not be a saving expert, I consider myself a rather practical lad, hence I decided to start my saving adventure right about now. At 7 AM, in the morning, the day before the last exam in my entire life.

What I’ve found on YouTube and several other platforms are various posts considering shopping planning, meal optimization and other, that focused mainly on throwing out less leftovers. So not only am I gonna save money, but I’m also going to be more eco-friendly – great, let’s do it.

I started with giving myself a reason for why I should plan:

  1. The better you plan, the less you buy. Simple as that. If you think you’re not overspending on food look at what you bought recently and check how much of it you threw out. I had to get rid of many things this week – I bought too much and later, with all the events I attended, I didn’t have time to eat all of the food and had to throw it out (very bad Dorota, I know, I’m trying to be better).
  2. You improve your diet. If you plan a shopping list, drive to the shop, spend hours picking up all that you need, drive home, unpack everything, there is a very small chance you will go to McDonald’s later. That’s just it, the more effort we put into something, the more difficult it is for us to waste it.
  3. Reduce waste. I once heard a very interesting interview with a freegan living in Poland, who said that he doesn’t spend nor earn any money. He lives off food found in the trash or taken from supermarkets when it hits expiry date. Very noble indeed, and even though I did not agree with most of what he was saying (he lived in his friends apartment, for example, which means someone had to pay for it), I think the idea behind what he was doing was great. I’ve actually looked through the page of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and found some really bothering information. Did you know that food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people? 200 million people is just like more than half the population of the United States. If we reduce what we waste, by reducing what we buy, the market will adjust itself and produce less. The environment is going to thank us all for that. Let’s look up some UN statistics over here:

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Source: SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction by the UN.

I’m European and I feel ashamed we don’t respect what we have and waste such amounts. I think that’s enough of reasons to support, that meal planning is worth trying.

How I started?

With a rather basic concept in my head – what I can actually cook, what do my boyfriend Floret and I like to eat, is there something seasonal now that I can use which is cheaper than imported goods? I listed all my thoughts onto a piece of paper and moved from there.

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I prepared my plan – on an A4 sheet of technical paper I drew a table. I could buy one but I wanted to hand-craft something myself to try out some of my non-existent calligraphy skills which I gained by doing absolutely nothing ever with calligraphy, but I did get some special pens for a birthday gift (last October) and I think it’s time to try them out – even to write in my regular handwriting.

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As you can see I’m not an artist – duh! – but I tried to make it easy to understand and very clear. Almost all the dishes I chose for lunch and dinner are my home’s classics that we enjoy and are quite easy to prepare. I started out like that just because I’m not very used to planning everything in such detail (and none of my diets ever lasted longer than “until Tuesday”). I thought I will give it a slow start, just to make sure I don’t resign after couple of days. My main concern is that I work full-time from 7 am until usually 5 pm, so I have to eat lunch at work – hence it has to be prepared in a way that allows microwaving and also doesn’t make food taste like paper afterwards. I don’t necessarily eat breakfast at home either, actually I don’t remember the last time I did, so I might have to change that and start waking up a little bit earlier (I already suffer when I think of it, I will have to wake up earlier than 6 am!).

What I hope will keep me motivated is:

Roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.

I have to visit UN’s site more often.

I made my plan include a shopping list – since the designed place I would hang it on was the Fridge (notice the “F”. Not a fridge, the Fridge) it made perfect sense to me. I tried to use blue colour mostly, because the only elements in my house that are not white or wooden are blue – so I made a food table to fit my couch – so tricky. Unfortunately the Fridge itself is for some reason black (and it also makes a noise that annoys everyone that stays over for a night on my couch), and I don’t own fancy magnets, so I had to improvise and give you a little preview of what my other posts might be about.

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Here it is, ready-to-go plan for meals. I hope I can handle doing everything as perfectly as I wrote there. I think what might be the most difficult part is lack of chocolate, or generally sweets, but I have to start getting my bikini body (haven’t worn a bikini since 2012, but ok) and finally get back to my weight from before I quit smoking.

I hope you will get inspired with all the meal planning and hop aboard my train to reduce waste. I made my first step towards being more conscious last night. I attended one of my friend’s bachelorette party and at the end the waiter asked if we want to take the remaining food (which was a lot) out. Naturally I said “yeah” and that’s how some of my friends have great Balkan food to eat for the rest of the weekend. Small step, but what matters is that it’s a step ahead.

I hope to let you know in a week how it went.

Let me know what you think about food wastage and meal planning. Do you plan yourself?

Dorota

 

Hello World!

Hi everyone!

Thank you for being here to witness the start of my new adventure – this time blogging and getting myself into the Web.

My name is Dorota. Probably the first time any of you ever heard that name, unless, of course, you’ve seen every single episode of the Gossip Girl (which you probably haven’t if you’re not from the 90’s).

If I could, I’d name myself Blair or Serena, unfortunately I am Polish, and only Polish names are allowed to be given to children here, hence… my name is used for Blair’s servant. Well… at least I can refer to something!

I started this blog just to share some creativity with the world. Working a full-time job and studying for an approaching exam made me realise that for a long time now I have not really created anything – I don’t paint, I don’t draw, I don’t sculpt, I don’t really do anything creative anymore – maybe except occasional polishing of my penmanship skills.

I’ve been writing my entire life. Ever since I can remember, and quite frankly, I used to be rather good at it. In Polish, that is. English is my second language, I’ve never been to England or any other country where English is an official language – so please keep an open mind about any mistakes you can find here.

This blog was created for a simple reason – I do not want to lead a boring life of a hamster running on its tiny wheel everyday for the rest of its life. I want to wake up one day and be able to think that yesterday I created something and it was cool. Or at least that I created something that has not been immediatelly shut in the drawer 😉

you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will – Stephen King

What I want to write about? Things that interest me, things that make me happy, reports from my trips – if I ever go anywhere interesting – my tips for you guys, which might help you start an adventure just like mine or simply my everyday thoughts which may, or may not, bore you to death.

After this rather long prefix, I’ll try to keep it short this time. I titled this entry with words “Hello World”. The first thing I learnt during Computer Science classes at the University of Technology was how to code a program which output presents “Hello World”. Why these particular words?

Well, the romour says that it is the first message that has ever been displayed on the computer screen. Is this true? I don’t know, but the truth is that since it appeared in the first chapter of a book titled “Programming language C” in 1978 it has been a part of all programming languages ever since and you can check how it looks using a search engine.

I studied Computer Science over 7 years ago, and except how terribly my teacher smelled and how he was alway late, the only thing I remember is “Hello World” story, which made quite an impact on me at that time. Nice to think that students around the world use the same exact phrase when they start programming classes. Makes you think the world is really small, doesn’t it?

I hope you will enjoy this adventure with me and keep up with my posts. There is only one thing left for me to say now:

hello world