Thursday, December 08, 2016

BELGIUM 2016: The Christmas Markets

As you may know, or not, Astrid and I have an on-going tradition now of taking a few days off following America's Thanksgiving weekend at the end of November.  It helps me get through that one holiday of the year that I miss the most.

This year we decided to make home base as close to Leuven in Belgium as possible, planning on making the Brussels Christmas market our highlight for one day, 30 km away.

So, off we drove to the Atomium outside of Brussels to park for the day,
a no-brainer at €6, plus purchasing an all-day Metro ticket.

But when we got to the Grand Place, or Grote Markt, we had a shock.
No Christmas market there because they were setting up for a concert that night.
The so-called Christmas market was in the side streets.

But first, we wanted to see if Manneken Pis was dressed up for the occasion.
He was, but not for Christmas!  Instead, he was wearing a Scottish outfit
 in honor of St. Andrew's Day, celebrated on November 30, that day.
We're huge fans of Scottish Andy Murray, #1 in men's tennis right now, so this was fun to see.
[Note to self:  one day go visit the City Museum to view Pis' hundreds of outfits.]

We then walked back to the Grand Place for lunch where Astrid got her mussels in Brussels.
She can have them, I always say, while I tried a wonderful chicken and mushroom stew.

While we were there, we spent a few minutes looking at the market square that we love.
Since we were last there, it all seemed spruced up with lots of extra gold touches.

This time I paid more attention to some of the architectural details.
Who thinks these up?!

And because that's what we were there for, we did start checking out the Christmas market,
up and down a few of the side streets.

Can you tell how disappointed we were????
It wasn't anything like what we're used to, by German standards.

So we ended up leaving, thankful for Manneken Pis and the mussels, and promising to check out
if by chance there was another Christmas market in the area for the next day.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

YAY for Astrid's magic Googling fingers that evening because she did indeed find another Christmas market, only 56 km east of Leuven in Hasselt (still in Belgium).

THIS time we were thrilled beyond words, making up for everything we had "lost" the day before in Brussels.

We arrived late afternoon before the crowds descended, which we prefer.

It's nice to walk around without bumping into people, you know!

And true to high standards, this Christmas market had everything,
including an ice castle with sculptures and an indoor ice-skating rink.
To be honest, some attractions remind me of being at an American county fair!

And if you have a Christmas list, you surely have plenty of places to buy 
something special for that special someone.
Me?  I bought a Stuart minion ornament for Astrid.  :)

But to be honest, our eyes were on the Glühwein and....

the braadworsts.
OMG.  We both died and went to heaven!  
(As you know, it doesn't take much.)

By that time, the early evening magic starting lighting up the place.

Isn't it wonderful how Christmas is the Season of Light!

Well, and also of Santa...or Sinterklaas, for the Dutch.
There were enough Santas there to sink a ship.

But this one was set apart, a reminder of the Dutch Sinterklaasdag on 5 December.
That's the day 7 years ago when I arrived in the Netherlands from America
to begin my new life with Astrid.  We were married 2 months later.

You know I'm gonna say it again:
YES, Virginia.  There is a Santa Claus!


  1. It is always nice to have a 'plan B'... we both enjoyed Brussels for the right reasons... the food is outstanding and walking around a treat. Hasselt was great to see a real WinterWonderLand... this was fun. They did a great job. The atmosphere was wonderful. Waiting for the dark and the lights are one...what a delight. Yes it does not take much... and yes Virginia, there is a Santa... IHVJ. Thank you for being my partner in crime....

    1. Thank you for finding the "fix" for us both. It was totally worth it!

  2. Thank goodness you found a good market! Good for Astrid.

    But that grand plaza in Brussels, wow, just gorgeous.

    (A little "Trumped" up I think?)


  3. Such a lovely visit to Belgium. The market looked wonderful!

    1. It was a great way to spend out time, Marie. Thank you.

  4. Was that a merry go round with REAL horses? lol that made me smile... and so did 'enough Santas to sink a ship' lol... Those hotdogs made me super hungry! I'm going to have to ask hubby to pick some up tomorrow... Loved the pictures of the market at night!! salut!!

    1. The merry-go-round, or carousel, is with fake horses, of course, but those are real horses in the riding coral...just like at the county fair. We LOVE braadworsts!

  5. We are thinking about booking a cruise that would hit the Christmas markets next year; let's see if that happens.

    1. You'd be talking mostly about Germany, Maria, where the best ones are! How fun that would be.

  6. That's enough color and vibrancy to last a year! WOW! So happy for you both to have the ability to explore! xo

    1. The "color and vibrancy" of the Christmas nailed it, Robin. It's a "must" for us every year right after Thanksgiving! We're so lucky to be able to do it.