With Mr London Mum working in Brussels at the moment I thought I’d take the opportunity on one of his rare weekends off to head over to the city with Little London for a family catch up.
It’s been 5 tedious weeks without him at home, so having a few days where we could share the exhausting responsibility of a toddler was absolutely bliss.
Well maybe not bliss, because I think he could see from day one what I’m dealing with day by day at home by myself while pregnant and tired. Yes, the terrible two’s seem to have finally hit with just weeks until our sons 3rd birthday. And there I was thinking we’d escaped it!
Anyway I digress.
It’s nice and easy to get to as the Eurostar takes you straight into the city in around two hours. And with children under 4 being free it’s a cheaper option than flying. The only issue being the child doesn’t get its own seat. Luckily on the way out, no one sat next to us, but on the way back we did have a lady sat next to us and my little one isn’t the smallest toddler in the world. Would I pay for him to have a seat next time? No way! The savings are worth it! I’ll sit on the aisle floor if needs be- I’m taking advantage of those savings while I still can!
We had no real plan when we got to Brussels. Lacking on time my end and also on his end we didn’t do much research on the city before we arrived, so we took each day as it came which was perfect for me as being pregnant does mean things have to go more at my pace with regular eating and loo stops!
Where to stay
We stayed in the Saint-Gilles area of Brussels, which was the perfect location. It had lots of great shops, cafes, restaurants and it’s walking distance to the Eurostar terminal and most of the big sights within Brussels. It’s very hip in a way and reminded us both very much of East London. It’s full of great coffee shops and amazing furniture shops.
Everything seems to be very industrial chic in design and there’s just so much inspiration around you.
If we can translate the St. Gilles style into the design of our home we’ll have nailed the look we’re trying to achieve.
Where to eat
My favourite places to eat were really near the hotel and both on the same street- coincidentally very close to the big shopping street of Brussels (akin to Oxford Street in London).
For an all day brunch Peck 20 was perfect. There are a few Peck’s throughout the city so I’m guessing it’s a bit of a chain. They had a variety of savoury waffle dishes, pancakes (Little London went for the american pancakes topped with homemade lime cream cheese, blackberry sauce and basil sugar), great coffees, juices and teas, and they also had smoothie bowls- which I personally couldn’t resist (I went for the Blue Bell; frozen blueberries, spinach and bananas topped with chia seeds). The perfect start to a morning in my books.
For dinner though we couldn’t find anywhere better than DaDa Nouilles. Although not Belgian in cuisine, the price of the restaurant was so refreshing. Brussels itself can be quite pricey (could be something to do with the not so great exchange rate), so to find a place that’s well priced and delicious is just perfect! The noodles are freshly made twice a day and the staff were wonderful. We had full on toddler screaming going on when we arrived for an early dinner, and the lady that worked there couldn’t have been kinder and more willing to help out with Little London. She tried to find things to keep him happy, she made him smile, she offered him tangerines, helped us to prop up our iPhones with You Tube on them and more. Honestly she was an absolute angel. If you do manage to stop in and visit DaDa Nouilles you won’t be disappointed. They have a variety of starter options and they serve their noodles either as a ramen or as a dry noodle dish. Make sure to try their prawn option of either the ramen or the dry noodles- literally perfection!
Street food by the way is also great in Brussels, the waffles from the waffles vans are epic as are the frites from the chip vans! Cheap, quick and tasty!
What to see
In terms of sights we did want to visit the Atomium, probably the landmark of Brussels, but we didn’t manage to get ourselves to that side of the city.
Instead we took Little London to Train World.
Having filmed in front of Train World a few days previous, Mr London Mum had it clocked as a place to take Little London knowing it would be up his street.
Train World is toddler heaven for the train loving child. It’s the home of many trains, some of which children can go into and explore. Our son just didn’t stop running around it, and just when you thought you’d completed a room there were more trains to see. All from different eras. It really is quite something seeing these massive trains and engines- and I’m not exactly your biggest train enthusiast but even I loved walking into each new room and being awed! Children up to the age of 6 are free and it’s totally worth it.
The Grand Place is a must visit place in Brussels too, being the heart of the city. It was all decked out in its Christmas finery which just emphasised all the beautiful gold gilding on the buildings around the square.
We decided to sit outside on one of the cafe tables and get ourselves a drink (some orange concoction for Mr London Mum and a mint tea for myself while Little London snoozed away wrapped in my reversible wrap by M & Co- versatility at its best!).
You’d think if you bought a drink you’d be able to use the facilities for free. Turns out I had to pay €0.30 to head to the loo. Not a lot of money obviously, but it’s principal that matters. So my advice here would be steer clear of the restaurants in the square and head out into the other streets surrounding or you’ll be looking for shrapnel in your bag while hopping from one foot to the other.
The comic strip walk is a great way to keep the kids entertained- and yourselves really because coming across a huge piece of art work on the side of a building is really quite something! While there is a dedicated walk you can follow, we just decided to walk around Brussels and let ourselves stumble upon some famous comic book characters.
The Christmas market had just opened on the weekend we arrived, and it’s definitely somewhere to visit if you’re in Brussels around Christmas time because nothing screams festive then being able to walk through crowds of people picking up unique gifts while sipping on gluhwien or hot chocolate in my case.
^^ Berghaus Scafell Hydrodown Fusion Jacket| Millets
Historical statues and buildings are always a must in my books when we visit somewhere new. It gives that much needed hark back to the past. So we had to make sure we stumbled across Manneken Pis, which I assumed translated directly into pissing statue but actually it translates into little man pissing. Suppose that makes logical sense too. Although rather than being in the nude as he’d typically be found, he was dressed up for Christmas!
And of course we had to visit the Royal Palace, which I believe is free to visit in the summer but closed to the public in the winter.
It’s very beautiful and grand, and certainly worth seeing the outside of, plus it’s opposite a park which gave us some space to let Little London run riot for a while and attempt to get him to manneken pis against a tree which failed miserably (when a toddler needs to go you don’t question it!). What I will say is my son is more and more like me, and needs the right environment and preferably a coffee shop to allow the natural release. Good holding powers though!
Review on The City Mini GT
Heading to a new city and by myself with my toddler, I needed to make sure that I was capable of getting us both to the Eurostar terminal without hitch. I decided to bring our City Mini GT by Baby Jogger to Brussels, because I felt it offered everything we needed.
Although our little one is very capable of walking, a long day out sightseeing can be tedious on little legs so there was no question about not bringing a stroller.
^^ Pretending to sleep 😉
He’s too heavy to carry now and being pregnant even if he’s not in the pram I need it to carry my bags 😉
The all terrain wheels and front wheel suspension definitely gave this stroller an advantage compared to other strollers I have because although the streets in Brussels can be very smooth you’ll also frequently come across cobbles. And the wheels effortlessly ignored all terrain and just continued to push like a dream.
My favourite feature of the stroller was actual the hand operating parking brake which is up by the adjustable handle bar.
Unlike other prams where the brake is low down and by the wheels, I was able to put the brakes on easily at my level. It might sound insignificant, but when you’re on the Underground in London travelling I often find I’m having to tuck my pram into a corner right by the doors while manoeuvring it into the most convenient position. Usually this means I struggle to get my foot around to apply the brake, but with the City Mini GT I was able to just lift a lever by the handle bar and the wheels were locked. To unlock the brake I just had to push the two grey buttons either side of the lever and push the lever down. Simple.
Opening and closing the stroller was easy as well, it just required lifting a strap on the seat to close the stroller and just unclipping the side to pop it back open again. Literally Grandparent proof. In my eyes any stroller or pram system that is Grandparent proof means it’s simple and easy to use and not confusing. It made my life nice and easy when folding up the pram to store on the Eurostar. Because it folds outwards it also means any sized foot muff will work fine with this stroller. We have a really thick sheepskin foot muff and if we use it on a stroller that close inwards it just won’t shut, which is a shame when you’re trying to use something to give your child more comfort and warmth where you can. So big tick here in my books.
Certain features I didn’t use, but would expect them on a stroller irrelevant. Such as the multi positioning of the seat which was easy to do and the retractable canopy hood.
^^ Taking pretending to sleep to new levels…
The canopy hood is brilliant as it pulls forward quite far in all honesty, and it’s also UV 50+. In sunnier climates I can imagine just how useful that feature would be. I loved that the canopy could be pulled as far forward as need be whether that was slightly or all the way. When it’s fully opened up there are two little windows for you to peek through or little one to peek out. My son however hates being reclined even when he’s asleep and also hates having the canopy down- although we can put that down when he naps because he’s none the wiser and I felt with it being so large it helped protect him from the wind.
The basket size on the pram was probably my only fault. It is a little small in comparison to other brands I’ve used. But when travelling it did mean my bag was very secure- it literally wasn’t going anywhere. I found it easier to un button the side of the basket to push my back pack into the netting and then button it back up again. I was able to get two good sized back packs in this way but it certainly isn’t an easy feat and trying to get something quickly just wasn’t going to happen.
All in all though a great city pram, and certainly one we’ll use to travel with again.