Chocolate Workshops & Exploring Brussels – Day 1

City breaks are the best. If you’re regular flight browsers like we are, then you can find flights to all over Europe which are cheap as chips. The girls and I bagged ourselves a bargin and booked a weekend in Brussels because, as far as chips go we’d heard that they have some pretty good ones!

We arrived late on Friday night so headed straight to bed to get some shut eye to make sure we woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed eager for adventure.

Getting ourselves into true Belgium spirit we started the day with chocolate. Belgium is the home of chocolate after all, so it would have been rude not to.

We booked to go to Laurent Gerbaud’s chocolate workshop which was a morning of pure bliss.

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The workshop was taken by Laurent himself and after giving us a few tips about what makes great chocolate we were let loose.

Look at that chocolate..

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Pure, melted heaven right there. I just want to get a spoon (or a ladal) and drink it.

Which is kind of what Fran tried to do…

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before Laurent quickly advised her otherwise!

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Anyway, it turns out it was harder than the expert made it look.

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Warning, pure chocolate making concentration brings out some very attractive, very flattering facial expressions!!

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And even with all our great manual dexterity (?!) we still managed to get it all over ourselves.

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I was up next and I can’t say it went much better for me..

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I think we provided some entertainment though.. (my 10 chins certainly thought so)

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Then came Hazel.

The pro.

The one who put us all to shame and made it look effortless and easy!!

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After we’d managed to get enough chocolate into the moulds (and not just on us) the real fun began. We started mixing up different combinations of dried fruits and nuts.

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We started out quite tame with just a nut, maybe a couple of raisins, on each square and really tried to think about the combinations (because that’s what the experts would do). But then we realised, hey we’re no experts and 1 minute later we were working at a million miles an hour throwing as many things as we could onto each square before the chocolate set. No real flavour combinations going on, just hoping for the best.

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It was so much fun!

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Whilst they were cooling we started our tasting session.

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We went through a variety of different chocolates which Laurent told us all about. By the end we were connoisseurs and we could actually tell the difference. Honestly!!!

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Before we knew it our chocolates were ready. We carefully tipped them out of their moulds and admired our masterpieces.

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I had every intention on giving them to Mum as a Mother’s Day present. However, I can since confirm that even though some did make it back to England, I have officially eaten them all! Sorry Mum!

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What better way to start your day than with chocolate for breakfast!

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We thanked Laurent for a fantastic morning and then raced to the Grand Place to catch the free walking tour. Everywhere we go we like to do a walking tour. We’ve been on some really good ones in the past. They’ve been really informative and they give you a really good feel for the city.

It was grey and drizzly and, other than Paris, no city can look that pretty in the rain so I won’t blame you for not being blown away by my photos.

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We didn’t let the weather put a dampener on our spirit and soldiered on through.

Like I said, we met in the Grand Place, also known as the Market Square.

So Brussels is actually a bit of a funny country. It’s essentially split in half with the North speaking French and the South speaking Dutch/Flemish. However Brussels is a little French island in the middle of a Dutch speaking region. This meant that all the signs and street names were in both French and Dutch.

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^ Above is the Town Hall. It was absolutely beautiful but rather annoyingly the tower isn’t actually in the middle of the building meaning that one side is longer than the other. Once you notice it you can’t unsee it.

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The tour took us all around the city and we kept in mind the places we would like to go back to.

There was comic book artwork on buildings all around the city and there’s actually a special route if you wanted to visit them all.

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Even if you’re not that bothered you do keep noticing them as they pop up everywhere.

The Royal Galleries played host to an avenue of beautiful, mostly chocolate, shops.

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Next our tour took us to the St. Micheal and St. Gudula Cathedral.

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A gothic cathedral which was surprisingly beautiful and light inside.

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It wasn’t the most elaborately decorated cathedral I’ve ever visited but I quite liked its simplicity.

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The tour took us around a couple of other places including the Royal Palace. We didn’t get a chance to go inside but I would really have loved to.

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Visiting the city almost exactly one year after the horrific Brussels bombings our guide thanked us for still coming to visit Brussels. The tourism trade in the city has taken a huge hit since the attacks and in a time of such uncertainty he reminded us how important it was to support other countries, people, places and to show solidarity.

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Our tour finished at the garden of the Mont des Arts where you could see King Albert I’s statue at the end and the tower of the Town Hall in the distance. Apparently on a nice day the view is even better.

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The city is oozing with History and it was so interesting to have been guided through it all. Despite the miserable weather our guide kept it upbeat & as fun as a walking tour could be on a rainy day!

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However by the end of it we were slightly damp and hungry so we went in search of food.

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We grabbed some of the famous frites & mayo from the best place in town. Honestly, they really were about as good as fries go! If you’re going to go anywhere in Brussels go to Fritland but whatever you do don’t call them French fries…and get mayo!

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We headed back to our hostel to relax after a full day of exploring. We jumped into bed and snuggled down with our chocolates and a couple of episodes of Love Sick – our new favourite TV show!

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If you’ve made it to here then congrats…but this was only day 1!! Many more adventures to come..

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