Brussels!

In addition to Köln and Edinburgh, Brussels seems to be one of those cities I can’t escape from. If you were to ask me how many times I’d been to Brussels then I’d probably say “two and a half..”

Theoretically I’ve only been to Brussels twice. The first trip was a few days to celebrate a friend’s birthday in December 2013, I then went back for a further few days in October 2015. However I’ve also taken the train from London to Köln (March 2013) and Amsterdam (December 2015) via Brussels. The Köln trip left me no time to explore but on the way home from Amsterdam I had 2-3 hours to kill in Brussels before catching the Eurostar home. I can’t really count it as a full visit but it gave me enough time to have a little wander. Hence two and a half!

Two and a half visits later, what makes Brussels a destination worth visiting? Plenty!
Let me start by saying Brussels exceeded my expectations. You might think I’m getting carried away but let me clarify; I went to Brussels with such low expectations it would have been impossible not to. I fully understand why it’s neighbouring capitals Amsterdam and Paris get such high praise but Brussels should get far more credit than it does. It has its rough edges like any city does and it’s quickly associated as a city drowning in European politics but there’s definitely more to Brussels than just politics. Brussels has a fun side to Brussels too and plenty to admire in its architecture, history and most importantly – beer!

If you already have plans to visit Brussels or you’re still in need of a little convincing as to why you should visit, here are my favourite things about Brussels.

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Grand Place, Brussels

The architecture!
Your first stop on any visit to Brussels has to be Grand Place. This is arguably one of the prettiest squares in Europe and will leave you speechless at how impressive it is. A little on the pricier side but take a seat outside at one of the cafes or restaurants at Grand Place and just people-watch this busy square and admire how beautiful it is with gold splattered everywhere. Visit around Christmas time and it’s more impressive, particularly in the evenings with it all lit up! You’ll also find Brussels town hall and Tourist Information area here.
Whilst Grand Place is certainly the highlight, Brussels has other impressive architecture too such as its palace, beautiful churches and cathedrals. The symbol of Brussels is the ‘Atomium’ which whilst an attraction (read more below) is also a cool and unique piece of architecture.

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The artwork!
Brussels/Belgium is home to some really famous artists and characters including the creation of loved characters such as Tin-Tin. You’ll find plenty of street art in Brussels and it’s also well known for it’s comic-book scene. If this is something you’re interested in then you should give Brussels Comic Strip Centre a visit.
Art might not be particularly high on your list of things to see when travelling but you should definitely make a quick stop to visit the “Mannekin Pis”. The UK is well known for “the boy who lived” whereas Brussels is famous for “the boy who pees”. I’m not expecting a JK Rowling masterpiece for the latter but it’s something the locals are proud of and they regularly dress him up in new outfits for the tourists and locals alike to admire.

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Me and Brussels famous ‘Atomium’

The Atomium & Mini-Europe
Alright, this is two attractions but they’re next to eachother so quite convenient to do both at once. As mentioned above – the Atomium is the symbol of the city and a pretty cool piece of architecture from the outside. The inside is one of Brussel’s leading attractions and gives you the opportunity to see Brussels from a much higher vantage point. We were relatively content to just see it from the outside but it’s worth a visit.
Across the street you’ll find another great attraction called Mini-Europe. If you’ve always dreamed of travelling across Europe but not had the time or money for it then this is for you. You’ll find a number of famous landmarks in miniature form that take you right across Europe and fulfill that dream you always had of seeing sights such as the Eiffel Tower – you’ll even find a mini Grand Place here!
I’d certainly recommend it as a great family-friendly attraction but it’s one for the adults to enjoy too!

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Potential day trip – Liege!

The daytrips!
Depending on how much time you have in Brussels and how much mini-Europe has quenched your thirst for more adventure, you might find yourself tempted to see more of Belgium! There are a lot of things I love about Belgium but one of the added perks is how small the country is. It means most major Belgian cities aren’t much more than an hour away from Brussels, making it a wonderful country for day-tripping. I’ve personally been to Bruges, Gent and Liege which I’d be happy to recommend for daytrips (expect future posts on these 3). However other towns and cities such as Antwerp, Dinant and Ypres also remain on my bucketlist and are all within easy reach from Brussels.
If you’re content travelling a little further than Western Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of France are all fairly close by too.

The cuisine! 
One of the first things you’ll associate with Belgium is its cuisine – particularly famous for their chocolate, waffles and beer. No trip to Brussels would be complete with delving in to this area a little. You might also be surprised to hear that Belgium is where the “French fry” originates. If you want an authentic Belgian dish order the popular “Moules Frites” (Mussels with fries) accompanied with one of Belgium’s famous beers. ‘Jupiler’ seemed to be the most popular in Brussels but you really can’t go wrong. Personal favourites were the Duvel, Leffe and Hoegaarden.

Of course it isn’t all about local cuisine. Like most capital cities you’ll find that Brussels is a multi-cultural city and you’ll find a range of different cuisine options in the city.

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Parc du Cinquantenaire, Brussels

Have you ever been to Brussels? Leave some recommendations in the comments on other tips you have.
If you haven’t been to Brussels hopefully this went some way in convincing you that it’s worth a visit!

All the best!

Jason

Left to fate

So if you know me well you’ll realise that in addition to travelling, one of my biggest passions is football. I regularly go to games and it can be both a help and burden to my travels. A burden because one of the first things I look at before planning a trip is what games is a trip away going to clash with?

However, for now, let’s focus on how it helps.

I grew up on stories from my dad and his friends about travelling across England and Europe watching Spurs in their youth, I was so envious of it and it meant I had a fondness of European football from an early age. I’d heard so many stories of the “European nights at the Lane” and trips to various cities.

My jealousy wasn’t helped by the fact that Tottenham were rubbish throughout my childhood – European football was a rarity and I used to dream of seeing us play in Europe some day.
Fortunately it’s now an annual opportunity and Tottenham regularly compete in European fixtures.

I witnessed my first European fixture (in England) back in 2006 and it only helped that love of European football grow. I’d finally seen a European game at our famous home in London under the lights. The European nights were great but I’d still restricted myself to home games, a European away trip was still a dream of mine and item to check off the bucketlist.

Every year I talked about finally doing it but there was always an excuse – for the most part it was just a lack of confidence. Sydney (2013) changed all of that, it was then just a matter of the right opportunity coming along to make my first European away game.

Fast forward a year to a European night in London against Ukrainian opposition. The (probable) prize for the winners was a match against Benfica – an excuse to go to Lisbon and Portugal for the first time!
As Spurs went behind my heart sank, I was so adamant I’d go to Lisbon if we won and things started badly. My dream was slipping away from me. We turned it around and the scenes when we scored our 3rd goal will live with me for a long time. The block I was stood in went crazy. Lisbon was a real possibility and given the celebrations it seemed many aligned with my way of thinking that it was a “must-do” trip.

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Trip to Lisbon for Benfica v Tottenham (Mar 14)

I got home from London at around 3am and booked my flights before going to bed. I was that excited at finally making a bucketlist item of mine actually happen. 30 years on (1984 – 2014) from one of Tottenham’s most famous nights in European football I was about to have a European adventure of my own.

My dad and his friends to this day still speak of the two 1984 games (in Brussels & London) and of all the great things my dad has seen in football it’s probably the one that makes me most envious.

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Trip to Brussels for Anderlecht v Tottenham (Oct 15)

Lisbon was amazing and I knew it would be the first European away trip of many. I’ve since been to a few further European away games which has meant my love of football has been a source of more European adventure. Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Germany – I’ve been fortunate to visit some wonderful places and cities because of football.

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Trip to Florence for Fiorentina v Tottenham

In the traditional sense, most travellers choose their destination. The unique thing about travelling for football is the decision is completely out of your hands. I’m at the mercy of the luck of the draw to decide where I’m off to.
I’ve been counting down all summer to today because it dictates where I travel to for the rest of the year. Tottenham’s European fixtures for the rest of 2017 get confirmed today and it means I can finally plan another trip away. Hopefully two!

There’s 18 potential cities on the list: Madrid, Barcelona, Porto, Lisbon, Seville, Munich, Leipzig, Monaco, Kiev, Paris, Maribor, Nicosia, Turin, Baku, Dortmund, Rotterdam, Glasgow, Moscow.
Of those 18, Tottenham will be visiting 3 of them before the end of the year. It’s such a wide range of cities and I’m incredibly excited to see where we end up.

There’s some specific criteria, one of the key restrictions is you can’t visit the same country twice. So I won’t be going to Madrid and Barcelona for example. I have my dream trio lined up already but play along with me.
Three cities left down to fate to decide your next adventure. Which three would you be hoping for?

I’ll be booking my next trip before the day is over, I’ll keep you posted on the outcome!

All the best!

Jason