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Romantic breaks in Europe this Valentine’s Day

The most romantic day of the year has crept upon us again this year – Valentine’s Day. Shrouded in mystery as to the precise founder of this romantic celebration, Valentine’s Day is as popular as ever, and has even been recognised as the second largest card sending day after Christmas. We appreciate it can be hard to find something unique to surprise your loved one with (if you’re looking to do something a little different to the usual flowers, chocolates, dinner etc), so our Great Escapes experts have personally selected some romantic Valentine’s getaways across the water, which are sure to get you into your better half’s good books.

Hotel Prinsenhof, Bruges

Nestled comfortably in the heart of Bruges, is the charming 4* Hotel Prinsenhof. Set within a beautifully converted manor house and located in a quiet cobbled street, this hotel is only 350m from the city centre and the stunning sights of Bruges.

With 24 stylish guest rooms, the hotel has a very unique and personal feel, which is sure to make you and your loved one feel very special and well looked after during your stay. Take a romantic walk into the centre of Bruges, where you can explore the meandering canals and array of eateries. Or, take a horse and carriage tour around the city, where you’ll see everything from historical sites and museums, to canals and striking architecture. Carriage tours take place day and night, and the best place to find them is at the Carriage Station, or on a Wednesday morning before midday at The Burg.

Great Escapes are currently offering 3 nights for the price of 2 at Hotel Prinsenhof, from £229pp (including ferry crossing from Dover to Calais). You’ll stay in a beautiful superior room, with bed and breakfast, and will receive a complimentary box of chocolates for your custom.  For more information, visit the Great Escapes website.

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Château Hôtel Cléry, near Boulogne

If you’re looking for a romantic stay that’s quiet and away from the hustle and bustle, then Château Hôtel Cléry could be the ideal Valentine’s break. This beautiful manor house, located in the charming village of Hesdin l’Abbé, is surrounded by 5 acres of parkland and exudes traditional French elegance.

There are 25 comfortable guest rooms, some located in the main building, and some in quaint little cottages within the grounds of the Château. Only 10km away, Boulogne offers lots to see and do, including exploring the historic Ville Haute with its cobblestone streets and beautiful old buildings, visiting the impressive Nausicaa aquarium, or you could take a stroll in and around the famous Basilique Notre Dame.

Great Escapes are currently offering your second night’s stay at Château Hôtel Cléry for half price, from £119pp (including ferry crossing from Dover to Calais). A ‘charm’ room with bed and breakfast and two bottles of selected wines is included within the price. For more information, visit the Great Escapes website.

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Hôtel St Paul Rive Gauche, Paris

If you’re feeling a little more traditional, you could always surprise your partner with a trip to the city of love… 4* Hôtel St Paul Rive Gauche is located close to the stunning Jardin du Luxembourg, and with its wonderful lawns, fountains, statues and palace, it’s the perfect place for a romantic walk. The hotel itself is full of character, with exposed stone walls and beams just some of its superbly attractive features.

Being only 4.5km away from the Eiffel Tower, you don’t have to travel far to experience a true air of romance in quite possibly the most romantic monument in the world. Another close by attraction is which is worth a visit is Pantheon Paris, just 950m away. A stunning church building turned mausoleum completed in 1790, is home to the crypts of Marie Curie, Rousseau and Voltaire, among others.

Great Escapes is currently offering your third night free when you stay at Hôtel St Paul Rive Gauche, from just £199pp (including ferry crossing from Dover to Calais). Stay in a standard room with bed and breakfast, along with a complimentary map of Paris and visit to Montparnasse Tower, where you can see some of the most stunning panoramic views of the city. For more information, visit the Great Escapes website.

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Hopefully we’ve sparked a little inspiration for your plans this year, and you’re now feeling the romance.

Please share the love by commenting below if you’ve been somewhere that you thought was a great location for a Valentine’s break.


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Tis the season…

Christmas has finally arrived! So we wanted to treat you all to a compilation of beautiful Christmas photos from around Europe – a mixture of food and drink, markets and lights – arguably all the best things about this wonderfully festive time of the year.

So let’s make a start with a classic Christmas in Paris, the city of love…

You can’t really beat the gorgeous Eiffel Tower, covered in a glistening layer of snow, a beautiful backdrop to a very festive looking carousel.

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As you can see, Galeries Lafayette knows exactly how to decorate for Christmas and keep up an ambience of class.

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I’m sure you’ll agree there’s nothing more magical than wandering around a Christmas market, mulled wine in hand, looking at all the trinkets and gifts on sale. And in the snow, it couldn’t be much more festive!

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As we all know, it’s not just Paris that are skilled in adding that little (or large) festive touch…

Lille, France is a dab hand at adding a touch of bling to their architecture.

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And Reims looks stunning when the markets start to pop up, coating areas of the city in lights.

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Now let’s take a stop next door to Belgium, and see the handsome buildings of Grand Place, in the central square of Brussels take your breath away…

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And definitely not forgetting one of the best activities associated with this time of year, ice-skating! Take to the ice in one of Belgium’s Flemish Christmas markets.

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Once you’ve spent the evening picking yourself up off the ice and probably feeling rather worn out, a Rakomelo is certainly well deserved. Actually a traditional Greek beverage, its warm, sweet (and alcoholic) taste will be sure to go down a treat – only for adults though, sorry kids!

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So moving along again, this time to Deutschland, we’ve found that Cologne is a trinket buyer’s paradise. With gifts galore and all sorts of wonderful bits and bobs to look at, we couldn’t not feature it in this blog.

Here’s a rather unique stall at one of the markets:

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Now here’s the bigger picture for you…

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And the ice-skating rink looks perfect for a family friendly race (if you can stay on your feet of course).

Blick auf die große Eisbahn auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt "Heimat der Heinzel" auf dem Heumarkt in der Altstadt Köln, im Vordergrund das Reiterdenkmal, im Hintergrund Dom und Groß St. Martin.

Our final stop on this festive tour takes us to a little place called Amsterdam, which embraces the Christmas spirit in a delightfully cultural way.

The most impressive perhaps, is this Christmas tree made of bicycles:

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Image credit: Xavier Vergés, Flickr

We then have performances from the ‘World Christmas Circus’, which is a festive tradition in Amsterdam.

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Image credit: DirkJan Ranzijn, Flickr

And finally, I can’t think of a better way to round up these images than with a drink, and better yet – a Christmas drink! Delirium Christmas, a festive Belgian beer will send your taste buds tingling with hints of fruit, spices, caramel malt and candied orange. You can buy a bottle or two here.

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Image credit: Hideyuki Kamon, Flickr

We hope you’ve enjoyed our mini festive tour around Europe, and are now well and truly in the Christmas spirit!

So now’s the time to go and get your favourite festive drink, a mince pie or two, put your feet up and await tomorrow’s fun and food filled day.

From everyone at Great Escapes, we’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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The Ferris Wheel, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France


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The Champs-Elysées at Christmas

Each evening throughout December lights sparkle in the trees, headlights glow and white wooden chalets line the pavements of the Champs-Elysées. From the magnificent Ferris wheel on the Place de la Concorde in the east to the Arc de Triomphe at the western end of the avenue, it really is an impressive sight.

The Ferris Wheel, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

Having recently visited Paris for a long weekend I couldn’t resist trying to capture the magic of Christmas with my camera. If only I could incorporate the sounds of chatter and laughter and the delicious smells and tastes from the food and drink stalls. Imagine mulled wine, spicy sausages, toffee apples, fizzing glasses of champagne, mulled cider and so much more.

Please join me on a photo walk down the Champs-Elysées in the City of Lights.

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Hundreds of stalls line both sides of the road for over a mile and as the light starts to dim the fairy lights that bedeck each chalet start to shine.

Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

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There’s a plethora of craft stalls with colourful ideas for seasonal gifts.

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

No Christmas market would be complete without an ice-rink.

Ice skating at Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

One of my favourite parts of the market though, as anyone who knows me would guess, is Le Marché Gourmand. One of the first things to catch my eye are these toffee apples and waffles. But I resist until I have checked out every stall.

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

A chilled glass of Champagne or warm glass of wine perhaps?

Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

People drink and eat while walking, perched on stools or inside one of a number of pop-up restaurants.

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

The stall holders are full of Christmas cheer.

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Corsican specialities at Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

A stall over-laden with Corsican specialities brings back happy memories of Colomba and Pietra beer, fig and chestnut preserves, not to mention their delicious cheeses and charcuterie, from the ‘Island of Beauty’.

 Le Marché Gourmand, Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

Having carefully eyed-up every edible option I settle for a very tasty Toulouse herb sausage.

 Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

 Le Marché de Noël des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France

Paris is full of magic whatever time of year you visit and it was wonderful to see her once again sparkling for Christmas.

Things to Know

The Christmas market runs until January 3rd 2016 and is open every day from 10.30am until midnight (1am on Fridays and Saturdays).

The Champ-Elysées Illuminations will be lit every day until January 6th 2016 from 6pm to midnight and all night on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

The Ferris wheel, which costs 12 Euros per adult, will remain until September 23rd 2016 and opens every day from 11am until midnight (1am on Friday and Saturday). It makes one rotation as everyone gets on and off and then two more for a glorious bird’s eye view of the city.

For details of other Christmas markets in Paris visit Parisinfo.com.

And you can find out more about our Eurostar breaks to Paris here.

 


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Foreign festive foods

With Christmas nearly upon us, the supermarkets are now well and truly laden with traditional treats and food that we all know and love – mince pies, Christmas puddings, chestnuts ready for roasting, turkeys, sauces – the list is endless. But if you’re off on a Christmas getaway or short break abroad this year, or want to know where’s good to go at Christmas for a bit of a culinary overhaul, what might you expect to be eating this December 25th? We’ve looked at different traditional cuisines across Europe and a little further afield, to see what feasts appear on their tables…

France
Christmas eve is the main event for the French, as they celebrate le réveillon (or ‘wake-up’ meal) after attending midnight mass. Here, the aim is go all-out trying new, fancy recipes and impress the family with creative culinary skills. Meats such as goose, duck and partridge are popular, but also refined dishes including filet mignon garnished with truffles can appear on the table in a French household. Christmas day sees entrées include escargots, (cooked land snails) and oysters, and mains can be anything from a traditional turkey, to fish, lobster or boar (depending where you are in France). Thinking of taking a short Christmas break to France? Visit www.greatescapes.co.uk for more information.

Holland
Holland sees food fairly similar to ours grace their tables, including roast pork and game meats, although interestingly, part of their festivities can include grilling and cooking your own meat and veg at the table together. ‘Kerstkrans, wreath shaped pastry decorated with glacé fruits and filled with sweet almond paste, ‘speculaas’ – spiced cookies, and ‘Duivekater’ which is sweet bread, are also gorged on during this time of the year. If you’d like to find out more about short Christmas breaks to Holland, visit www.greatescapes.co.uk.

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Image credit: Agnes Kantaruk, Shutterstock

Italy
Festive dishes in Italy vary across the different regions, so if you’re visiting this year, you could find some very unusual food at Christmas time. Basilicata, a region in the south of Italy, traditionally sit down to a dish called ‘Baccalà Con Peperoni Cruschi’, or in English – salted cod with fried peppers.

In Sicily, you might be enjoying ‘Timballo Di Pasta Al Forno In Crosta’ – which is macaroni pasta in pork sauce baked in a breadcrumb-lined pan.

But perhaps the most similar to our traditional dinner can be found in the Lazio region in the central peninsular of Italy, where they like to dig into ‘Abbacchio Al Forno Con Patate’, which is roast suckling lamb with potatoes – now that’s more like it!

Germany
A goose with red cabbage and dumplings can be found on the table in a German household at Christmas, stuffed with a meat or dough filling and served with gravy. Another traditional meat which makes an appearance during the festive season is duck, filled with a variety of fruits, and again served with red cabbage and dumplings. If you fancy dining on a German inspired Christmas dinner, you can find an easy recipe for roasted stuffed duck here.

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Image credit: Dar1930, Shutterstock

Goa
If you venture slightly further afield to the western region of India, you’ll be met with an even more intriguing Christmas menu. ‘Sorpatel’ – a traditional Goan curry made with pork meat and liver, pork vindaloo, and ‘bebinca’, a Goan coconut flavoured layered dessert, typically served with ice cream. Christmas is a magical time in Goa celebrated by both Hindus and Christians alike. The day is commemorated with feasting, fireworks and many festivities all over the state. If you’d like to book your traditional Goan Christmas break, you can visit www.goaexperience.co.uk.

Hopefully we’ve given you a little insight into what some other countries might be tucking into this Christmas, so if you start to see new and intriguing festive foods entering our UK supermarkets, you might be more tempted to give them a go and embrace an international Christmas.

Antwerp at Christmas


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Europe’s Christmas Markets in 2015

It may only be October but hotels, flights and ferries are booking up fast with visitor’s to this year’s Christmas Markets in Europe. I love wandering around the stalls, finding interesting presents for family and friends, sampling mulled wine and other tasty treats. And, being a keen photographer, the markets and Christmas lights make wonderful subjects for my camera. I’m looking forward to photographing Paris come December.

Here at Great Escapes we’ve looked up the dates for some of our favourites to inspire you to do the same.


Belgium’s Christmas Markets


Antwerp, 5th to 27th December 2015

Each year the Groenplaats, Handschoenmarkt, Grote Markt and Suikerrui have a Christmas make-over. A festive atmosphere and music fills the air with many a cup of hot chocolate and glass of Glühwein consumed. There’s also an ice-rink set-up near Goenplaats, although dates vary slightly from the markets. Visit Antwerp.

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Bruges, 20th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016

We couldn’t imagine a more picturesque setting for a Christmas market than Bruges. There will be stalls on the Market Square and an ice-rink and stalls on Simon Stevinplein,  packed full of crafts, seasonal decorations and tasty things to eat and drink. Visit Bruges.

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Brussels, 27th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016

Brussels at Christmas

This vibrant Christmas market is held in the heart of the city on Place Sainte-Catherine. The big wheel and the ice rink at Marché aux Poissons will both be back again this year, as well as some 150 stalls. Don’t miss the magical son & lumière illuminations on the Grand-Place.  WinterWonders.be. Visit Brussels.

Ghent, 4th December 2015 to 3rd January 2016

Ghent’s city centre with an ice-rink, a giant Ferris wheel and the Christmas market at Konenmarkt transforms in to a winter wonderland each year. Following the success of last year the Castle of the Counts will again be part of the festivities and decorated as a winter castle. VisitGent.be. Visit Ghent.

Ghent at Christmas

Hasselt, 14th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016

This cosy winter village offers Flanders’ largest mobile skating rink, the House of Santa Claus and a fun Ferris wheel in Kolonel Dusartplein.  For the little ones there is also a small Christmas train.  Winterland.be

Leuven, 10th to 20th Dec 2015

One of the oldest Christmas markets in Belgium is held in Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein and Herbert Hooverplein in Leuven. The streets are lit up by candle light and you can enjoy everything from an intimate Christmas concert to tasting sparkling winter beers. Leuven is also home to the largest brewery in world, Stella Artois, which was originally a Christmas beer, brewed for the first time back in 1926. LeuvenseKerstMarkt.com Visit Leuven.

Leuven at Christmas

Mechelen, dates TBC

The Christmas market is centred on Grote Markt, City Hall, IJzerenleen and Veemarkt with choirs, food and drink stalls and plenty of ideas for Christmas gifts. Visit Mechelen.

Ypres,  27th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016

The Christmas market in Ypres is growing in reputation and takes place on the Grote Markt in the centre of town each afternoon during this period and all day on Saturday. The Swiss style chalets, together with the popular ice rink will certainly put you in a festive mood. (Closed Mondays). Kerstmarkt-Ieper.be Visit Ypres.

Ypres at Christmas

 


France’s Christmas Markets


Amiens, 27th November to 31st December 2015

Amiens is one of the largest Christmas market in the north of France bringing the magic of Christmas into the heart of the city with fairground rides, an open air ice-rink and an impressive light  show at the city’s cathedral throughout December. Visit Amiens.

Arras,  27th November to 30th December 2015

Arras at Christmas

Arras, the town renowned for its tapestries of the late Middle Ages, holds a spectacular Christmas market on the Grand Place with some 60 stalls offering a wide range of arts and crafts and local delicacies. Visit Arras.

Le Touquet, 19th to 31st December 2015

Le Touquet offers a traditional Christmas setting with fables, characters, lights, music and a truly festive atmosphere, with street stalls offering seasonal goods. Visit Le Touquet.

Le Touquet at Christmas

Lille, 18th November to 30th December 2015

The one of the biggest Christmas markets in northern France is held in Lille and attracts nearly a million visitors each year. The Grand Place is transformed by a majestic mix of illuminations and a big wheel which turns majestically to the sound of Christmas carols. Visit Lille.

Lille at Christmas

Paris Christmas Markets and Illuminations, 15th November 2015 to 4th January 2016

Paris at Christmas

What better time to visit the ‘City of Lights’ than at Christmas when the department stores vie with each other for the best Christmas decorations and illuminations and the trees lining the Champs Champs Elysées sparkle with lights. There are numerous Christmas Markets around the city. Visit Paris.

Reims, 20th November to 27th December 2015

You’ll find around 120 stalls at the Christmas market at Reims. Festive foods and gifts, street entertainers, carol singers and magicians all add to the festive atmosphere. Visit Reims.

 


Other European Christmas Markets


Amsterdam, dates vary

From traditional Dickensian markets capturing the magic of a Victorian Christmas to trendy food festivals you’ll find a range of Christmas markets in Amsterdam itself as well as nearby. In the city itself you’ll find ice rinks surrounded by wooden chalets over flowing with gifts and festive food and drink. iamsterdam.com. Visit Amsterdam.

Cologne, 23rd November to 23rd December 2015

Cologne hosts 7 Christmas markets with the largest located at the Cologne Cathedral, on the Alter Markt, on the Neumarkt and on the Rudolfplatz. The most impressive has to be Cologne Cathedral as it makes such a spectacular backdrop and it’s here you’ll find the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland. Visit Cologne.

Cologne at Christmas

 

Details of markets and festive activities have been provided by local tourist offices and are published by Great Escapes in good faith.

Please note event dates and details are subject to change – please check with our reservations team if you want any further details.

Hotels fill up fast during the Christmas Markets so we would recommend booking early if you would like to travel at this popular time. Call 0845 330 2084 or email holidays@GreatEscapes.co.uk for a quote.


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24 hours in Brussels – Eating, drinking and shopping at the Christmas Markets

With Brussels being only a couple of hours from London on the Eurostar, it’s a great place to visit for a short break or even for the day! So what can you do in 24 hours in Brussels? I found out for myself with a whirlwind visit to this lovely city.

Hot Chocolate at Wittamer, Sablon

Having checked-in to our hotel, we headed straight out to explore and soon we were walking down quaint cobbled streets, passing beautiful historic buildings, quirky shops and a lovely park in Sablon.

Wittamer chocolate, Sablon, Brussles, Belgium

The area is known for its night life, restaurants and surrealism and is many people’s favourite part of the city but I had one thing on my mind… hot chocolate! Not just any old hot chocolate but a Wittamer hot chocolate. I’d been told by a few people that this was the very best in town. I knew it was on the Place du Grand Sablon and had a bright pink awning, which made it very easy to find.

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As I stared in through the shop window my heart did a somersault as my eyes beheld the exquisite cakes and pastries on display. I managed to tear myself away and we made our way upstairs to the charming café with its beamed ceilings, dramatic chandelier and oodles of character. Having ordered our drinks, we soaked up the atmosphere. A sense of serenity filled the air as everyone in the room indulged themselves in their favourite Wittamer treat. A couple sitting opposite, in unison, each picked up a white jug and slowly poured melted chocolate all over a delicious looking ice-cream creation decorated with an over-sized macaron. Then in front of us appeared our drinks, with a couple of Wittamer chocolates each and a large dollop of Chantilly cream. They tasted as good as they looked!

The Grand Place (or Grote Markt in Dutch)

From Le Sablon we walked on through more cobbled streets and I caught my fi rst glimpse of the Grand Place, Brussels’ main square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and reputed to be the most beautiful square in Europe. I had high expectations. As I turned the corner I caught my breath. Beautiful is not quite the right word… awe-inspiring, breath-taking, stunning… neither my words or my pictures do it justice. Every building that opened onto the square was an absolute gem. Grand and imposing with the most intricate of decorative adornment, these buildings almost sent me into a blind panic, as I wanted to capture it all in my camera, but in which direction to point it first? In the middle of the square a huge Christmas tree added to festive atmosphere.

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Throughout the weekend we walked into this square a number of times and each time I gazed at the square not quite believing what I was seeing. What’s more I know it will have that same effect on me when I return and return I will.

The Christmas Markets

Each December a number of squares in Brussels are home to the famous Christmas Markets and should you visit at this time of year they are well worth checking out.

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Though crowded there is a wonderful atmosphere and plenty of arts and crafts to buy and food and drink to tempt you. I was delighted that my visit coincided with the festive season and we had plenty of time to explore the stalls and enjoy the entertainment. In 2015 they will be held in the Grand-Place, Bourse, Place Sainte-Catherine and Marché aux Poissons from 27th November to 3rd January. For more information visit Winter Wonders website.

‘Keep on Toasting’ Gourmet Street Food in Brussels

We were enjoying simply wandering around so much that when we stumbled across the food truck ‘Keep on Toasting‘, rather than have a sit down meal, we decided to try our luck with these, reputedly excellent, gourmet version of the traditional Belgium, Croque-Monsieur. We soon got chatting to the man behind the counter, chef Jean-Baptiste. I tried the Croq’ November (semi-soft cheese, bacon pieces, celeriac and parsley) – it went down a treat. The melted cheese was deliciously gooey, and the combination of taste and textures with the perfectly toasted spelt bread, really hit the spot.

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As I munched away Jean-Baptiste explained that having trained for two years at cookery school, followed by five years hands-on experience working with different chefs, he wanted to start his own business. While there were plenty of other food trucks around these were, more often than not, of the deep fat frying variety producing poor quality food. He wanted to offer the people of Brussels a healthier, higher quality alternative.

Croque-monsieur is an extremely well established Belgium snack but it rarely varies from the traditional cheese and ham filling. Jean-Baptiste took this popular dish to another level. Using taste combinations and ideas he had gathered over the last seven years, he developed a unique range of delicious toasties. He chose to concentrate on producing just this one type of snack, so that he could work within the confines of the truck and still produce something really good to the high standard he desired. Through the year the menu changes with the seasons but you’ll always find four types of toasty available including a veggie option, costing €4 to €5 each.

Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

The next day, after an extremely filling breakfast from the huge variety of dishes on offer from our hotel, we re-traced some of our steps and sort out an arcade that I’d been told was well worth visiting, Galeries Royales, just around the corner from the Grand Place. Opened in the 1840s the arcade has been home to some 70 luxury boutiques including jewellers, fashion designers and the finest Belgium Chocolatiers ever since. In addition you’ll find theatres, a cinema and an art gallery as well as private residences. It’s the perfect place to explore on a rainy day but well worth popping by whatever the weather.

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Out of all the chocolate shops here we found Le Belgique Gourmande the most welcoming. The staff were very helpful and were handing out plenty of delicious free samples.

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Belgian beer

Before we knew it, it was nearly time to leave but not before sampling a glass or two of the beer that Belgium is so famous for on Rue des Brasseurs by the Grand Place. Somewhere so close to the most popular square in town is usually not the best place for a bite to eat or a drink but a particular bar had caught our eye and even though it was just a few yards from the Grand Place we decided to give Au Brasseurs a go. I think it was the parasol covered in pink elephants and a promise of a glass of Delirium that swung it for us.

As we stepped inside we immediately felt at home in this colourful down-to-earth pub that I could imagine locals enjoying as much as the tourists. Although they had a long list of beers
to choose from, how could we say no to a glass of Delirium and very good it was too.

Belgium beer

After a little more window shopping we popped back to the same bar. This time instead of selecting a beer by its name, we went for the shape of the glass! Kwak is served in a unique fluted glass with a round bottom, designed so that a coachman, who couldn’t leave his horses to enter an inn, could easily hold the glass while still wearing thick gloves. Once again this proved to be a perfect selection process as another fine beer slipped down our throats.

I really would love to go back one day to this very bar for a little more beer research work plus we hadn’t even scraped the surface when it comes to Belgium cuisine so a return visit is inevitable.

I found Brussels the perfect place for a weekend break and, while it may not be as pretty as Bruges or as cool as Antwerp, I can’t imagine anything, anywhere in Belgium (or even Europe) beating the splendour of Brussels’ Grand Place.

For more information about short breaks from the UK to Brussels please visit our website, GreatEscapes.co.uk.

Bruges at Christmas


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Great Escapes Autumn Sale

The later part of the year is a wonderful time to visit Belgium or France. One of our favourite annual events is held in Bruges, the  ‘Magical Winter Moments Christmas Happening‘ which runs from 21st until the 30th of November in 2014. Previously known as “The Grand Christmas Happening Bruges”, this is a stylish and festive event in the heart of the city, featuring all the newest trends in home and floral decoration.

 

Bruges at Christmas

Bruges at Christmas

Mid-November sees the first of the fabulous Christmas Markets open. These are held in many towns and villages throughout Belgium and northern France. The atmosphere is festive with the smell of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine in the air. Find our more about the Christmas Markets in Belgium and France in our post, Dates for this year’s Christmas Markets.

Lille at Christmas

Lille at Christmas

Autumn SALE, book by 31st October 2014

Great Escapes is currently holding an autumn sale on short breaks to France and Belgium, offering £40 discount on any package booked between now and 31st October 2014 for travel in 2014 or 2015. Bookings must include ferry, Eurostar or Eurotunnel travel and include at least 3 nights’ accommodation. Discount is valid with ‘free night’ offers for even greater savings.

Here’s just a couple of our favourite examples to tempt you but you can find more on our website, Great Escapes.

Bruges, 3rd night FREE at the 3* Hotel Bryghia

This  family run hotel dates back to the 15th century and overlooks a quiet square within very easy reach of Bruges’ main attractions making it an ideal base for exploring this beautiful town.
A box of chocolates, to be collected locally, is included in all packages booked to Bruges.

Hotel in Bruges

Other information:  3rd night FREE offer valid from 03/11 to 13/12 for Sun to Tues arrivals. For the free night, breakfast is included.  Package also includes return travel Dover to Calais with P&O Ferries (car + 4 passengers). Package price from £109pp before Autumn Sale discount.

To book call 0845 330 2089 and quote 14Save40

Lille, 3rd night FREE at the 4* Alliance Couvent des Minimes

This elegant and comfortable hotel is a stunning  is the perfect blend of ancient architecture and modern design. A former 17th century convent, the Alliance Couvent des Minimes is less than a 10 minute walk from the Old Town with a fabulous range of restaurants, museums and shops close at hand.

Alliance Couvent des Minimes, Lilles

Alliance Couvent des Minimes, Lilles

The rooms are comfortable with all the amenities you would expect from a 4* hotel including free Wi-Fi and tea and coffee facilities. The glass atrium in the centre of the building adds to its character giving the hotel a great feeling of space.  The piano bar and the new champagne bar are the perfect place for relaxation in refined surroundings. The restaurant serving appetising dishes at very reasonable prices befits the excellent standard of the hotel.

Other information: 3rd night FREE offer valid from 12/09 to 31/12 for Fri-Sat arrivals. For the free night, breakfast is included. Includes return travel by Eurostar (Standard Economy). Package price from £209pp before Autumn Sale discount.

To book call 0845 330 2089 and quote 14Save40