chocolandia

ok, i’ve held out long enough—even i can’t stand it any more.
and since i’ll be jet lagged all day, i just gotta do the chocolate post.

difficult as it is to recount such pain and trauma, i think it’s important for me to spill the beans on what we’ve been through the last few days.

it was tough but we survived and i think maybe we’re stronger for it.

actually, the day started out innocently enough—we left the hotel at a nice early hour and decided to stroll through the grounds of the botanical garden, which was right next door (hence the name hotel bloom, i’m guessing?).

what we thought was a smallish configuration of formal gardens, greenhouses, and sculpture, turned out to be a completely lovely and eclectic collection of gardens arranged in a much larger property than is at first apparent.

this pretty shepherdess gazes out over the maze of hedges toward the far corner, where a couple of portals in the shrubbery lead to an allay along a gravel path

lined first with japanese lantern trees and lavender, then with more exotic plantings

until finally we found ourselves wandering among lush fuscia plants loaded with flowers, fig trees, banana trees, and plants with these gorgeous flowers

which we couldn’t identify—they are really big.

this garden segued into a much more shady section that was focused on large specimen trees interspersed with cool grassy stretches and sculpture niches.

which in turn opened up into a sunny, more casual area where wild flowers and water

made a nice background for some inner city wildlife—all around the large pond and stream were herons, turtles, ducks, and well, rats, too.

but we try not to judge . . .

this last area led us back to the street, where we headed for a square in the city center known to house the very best chocolate shops—top of our agenda that day was exploring as many of those as possible.

now this was thursday, which as it happens, was a national holiday. the whole city was celebrating a day off to enjoy fun foods and free time and as luck would have it, the weather was spectacular.

and i promised you chocolate and chocolate you shall have at last.
we needed a shot of coffee before starting though and once fortified, we were ready to get to work—little did we know just how big a day of tasting, eating, and imbibing we had ahead of us.

alice made a beeline for pierre marcolini, pretty much poo-pooing everything else in her path as “chocolate we could find in any high-end shopping district”.

haha, like the one around the corner from me in canton, ohio, right?

all joking aside, the shop was absolutely stunning inside. we were asked to stop taking photos once we got into its depths

but trust me, it was lovely—all black with vintage style glass cases and everything packaged in beautiful boxes with ribbons. sigh.

the tasting went very well, ahem, and each of us left with a black shopping bag.

as if that wasn’t enough, very close by they also have a little take-away cafe serving ice cream, cookies, and cakes, where the displays are equally fabulous.

next we stopped in to explore delacre, where impossibly pretty cookies were displayed in cases, jars, tins, and packages. needless to say, we fell there, too.

by this time we were feeling a bit peckish, so we stopped off at the wittamer cafe before heading to their chocolate shop.

we rested and ate at small but savory lunch in their charming upstairs tearoom during a brief spit of rain (the only shower of the day). once we were refreshed, we walked in the direction of the chocolate shop, where adorable window displays of chocolate hats sucked us in

and an extremely friendly staff showed us around the cases, kindly translating the ingredients into english.

by this time it was pretty late in the afternoon; alice and carol decided to head back to the hotel for a rest while cookie and i continued to walk and take photos, hoping to work off a little of that chocolate we’d scarfed down tasted.

here’s a bit of what we wished we’d consumed, haha. but we couldn’t take it back by that time . . .

on the other hand, you gotta love a city that considers escargot to be fair food. and when in rome . . .

actually, i have a few street shots from earlier in the day that i love. as we entered pierre marcolini, i noticed that a marching band was assembling in the cafe across the street

happily sipping espressos and chatting while they waited for their call to the parade. i had a bird’s eye view from the second floor of the chocolate shop

and once they were called to assemble, they flew into positions and began their march. it was excellent.

this pretty doll shop sits below the main salon of the designer, where people-sized clothing is sold—the dolls are created and dressed in small version of outfits from the collection and make an effective display in their own right.

first we headed up the hill away from the center, walking partway toward the hotel with alice and carol.

we threaded our way further down the hill, heading away from the center along a street lined with furniture shops, salvage depots, draperies, etc, which fed into a part of the city that was a bit more edgy looking.

brussels has some really great grafitti and wall murals, which became one of the subjects we focused our cameras on

tin tin, the famous belgian comic book hero, is one subject that is repeated a few times in murals we spied during our walk.

brussels is very old of course, and because of that, it has some interesting contrasts in its architecture—here and there, where a gap existed or an old building fell down, newer ones replace them, providing a lively mix of styles

another subject we became enamored with is this church, which we ended up circling and viewing from nearly every angle

we love the dramatic shapes that comprise its steeple.

(i love this one—it’s hard to tell, but just as i snapped the photo that bike which rounded the corner and flew past turned out to be a tandem, ridden by a young couple; it was lovely).

when we got to the bottom of the hill and passed under the train tracks, we discovered a funky artist-run coop on the other side, nestled into what appeared to be a small middle eastern quarter.

as we made our way back up, we saw the church from a new angle.

now it was time to head for our evening activity, which was beer tasting. (yes i know; i think our poor stomachs have been paying for this decadent day ever since, haha, though the disturbance does seem to be abating a little now that we are back in london).

thanks to our friendly salesperson at the lush soap shop, we had a tip on a great taproom that was a bit off the beaten track.

and boy was she ever spot ON—we loved this place. with what seems like at least several hundred beers available, there is certainly something for everyone. shown here is the menu of beer on tap, but there is an extensive list of bottled beer that truly boggles the mind.

if you plan to be in brussels and you like beer, this one is a must.

and so ended our day of delicious overload. are we sorry? not a bit. would we do it again? probably—i mean, what part would you/could you leave out??

ok, now here’s the money shot—my grand total take for the day. now keep in mind that most of these items are gifts that i’m taking home and try to look at it as you would your haul from any respectable yarn experience . . .

41 Responses to “chocolandia”

  1. Mo says:

    Where’s that scratch and sniff button when you need one?

  2. Fibrefanatic says:

    Fabulous choccie stash, I think it should be stashed in the same way as yarn! Keep it all and buy other stuff as presssies, they’ll never know or appreciate it as much as you! Belgian chocolate is just yummilicious. Hope your system is now recovering.

  3. mkg says:

    The heck with all this knitting stuff. Why don’t we just keep you on a world tour of goodies!

  4. OK, that’s it, I’m moving to Brussels! What a fabulous day! Your photos of the architecture, art, shop windows, trees (I love the one that reminds me of a tulip maple), and of course, chocolate are just … amazing! (there are no good adjectives, really!) Love the shot at the end, everything is so beautifully packaged!

    Thank you so much for enduring all the tasting so we could enjoy vicariously~haha!

  5. ::sigh::
    Beautiful post. Absolutely beautiful. Please keep the travelogue coming!

  6. I gained 10 pounds enjoying your post!

  7. Cheekyredhead says:

    I want to hang out with you while doing some international travel!

  8. bonny says:

    I think the big flowers are Datura (Angel’s Trumpet). Don’t eat the seeds or flowers; chocolate is much better!

  9. Elise H says:

    THAT was a perfect start to my day. How lovely to be sipping coffee, staring at chocolate, architecture and beer. I only wish that I was there! Have a great time at Sock Summit!!

  10. mari says:

    Anne your travelogue just makes me smile. Thank you!

  11. Gretchen says:

    What a beautiful post. I wish I could have come along. I’m going to start the chocolate USA tour – my favorite chocolates are from Christopher Elbow in Kansas City. His shop is beautiful and the chocolates are like little gems.

  12. cherie says:

    Oh, what a lovely trip you’re enjoying! Thank you for sharing with us!

    The large flowers are Brugmansia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brugmansia. (if someone else has posted the info while I’ve been typing, so sorry!) The flowers look the same as Datura species except the Brugmansia flowers hang down, while the Datura flowers point upwards: http://www.emilycompost.com/datura.htm. You can order plants from garden catalogs, and I have had white Datura plants grow reliably as perennials as well as self-seeding in my corner of SE Michigan….the flowers only opened at night and had a most delicious scent! (I have saved some seeds…did not plant them this year, but maybe next year…would be happy to send you some if you have a spot.)

  13. Donna says:

    ohhh, this almost rivals your knitting posts – heaven!!

  14. Linda Shields says:

    Fabulous post! Always enjoy the knitting, chocolate, food and flowers. (The flower is an Angel Trumpet – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brugmansia – and every part of it is very poisonous. Beware!) Glad you had a fabulous trip. Wish you all the best at Sock Summit – wish I was there! Salam wa sa’aadah Linda

  15. nancy schwartz sternoff says:

    fabulous travelogues of both antwerp and brussels, anne. they are two best kept secret cities, as is bruges. and i’ll bet there are some ideas for lace patterns in those fabulous photos of the churches et al.
    enjoy and travel safely.

  16. Liz says:

    Where exactly are you staying in Portland? You know, so I can sneak into your hotel and steal all the chocolate! ;) Looks like you had a wonderful trip!

  17. stashdragon says:

    I think you showed great restraint in your chocolate shopping!

  18. maria says:

    just confirming the Brugmansia (or Brugs for short) ID. They truly are lovely, lovely flowers!

  19. kyrie says:

    Oh man! I got full just reading your post! And I can’t wait to see the shawl that evolves from those gorgeous big flowers!

  20. LizzyA says:

    I second the Brugmansia identification. Now, if you lived in California you could have them all year round, but for you poor folks that live elswhere…. you can take cuttings put in sand or starter soil and try to keep them alive and growing in your garage or mud porch during the wintere, they don’t like to be frozen. Otherwise, they’re very hardy, one little piece will grow into a fairly substantial tree/bush in just one season and the flowers are spectacular with a lovely smell (but, as mentioned above poisonous as all get out.) The one in your photograoh is, I believe Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi” There are also pink ones and of course the plain white, single or double.

    Yes, I really like them! why do you ask?

  21. Marcia says:

    Beautiful pictures!!!! Thanks for sharing!!!! Safe travel!!

  22. KatJ says:

    I’m having serious chocolate cravings after reading your post. You did great shopping. And even better picture-taking. Yum. What a fabulous day you all had!!!!

  23. Agnes says:

    Wow! Absolutely fabulous & marvelous!!

    I would love to travel with you…I can carry your bags & you can trust me with the chocolates. ;-)

    Safe travels Anne, I miss you and thrilled to read about your wonderful experiences!

  24. Cookie says:

    Oh man, that chocolate haul photo! Can you believe I’ve mostly eaten my way through all the chocolates I bought? I thought I wouldn’t be able to eat chocolate for a week but I had some for breakfast today. Mmm.

  25. Bobbie in AK says:

    The chocolate displays are amazing! They’re practically art forms. I immediately checked out Anna Heylen, as I have a collection of dolls. I think your haul for the day is quite respectable. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

  26. Sloknitr/carolenj says:

    Nice to see what I missed after you guys went off on your own. I think I will take a shot of my choco haul, too. So far I have only eaten the fudge :-)

  27. Joanne says:

    Belgian chocolate once made me sick…

    BECAUSE I ATE TOO MUCH!

    Somebody had to do it – and I would make the sacrifice again!

  28. yarnlot says:

    Being a Belgian knitter and chocoholic (I eat it on toast for breakfast) I can only agree to the excellent choices you made!

  29. Pat S. says:

    I have been loving these posts and am living vicariously through you. I hope you’ll come up with a fibery reason to visit Venice soon because I’ve never been there.

  30. marilynr says:

    HEAVEN!!! Every part of that city is gorgeous! What is the name of the chocolate company in the pictures? I am SO jealous!!

  31. Beverly says:

    Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing your trip to this beautiful city with us. All of the pictures are gorgeous. I really like the Tin Tin murals. I haven’t read that comic in a very long time.

  32. Madeline says:

    What a wonderful trip we’ve all been enjoying vicariously! The angel trumpet is a brugmansia. In Texas, they often grew large and the sweet fragrance was overpowering on humid nights. Logee’s in Connecticut has them:
    http://www.logees.com/searchprods.asp
    and just enter brugmansia in the search box and you’ll see a nice-sized selection.
    Looking forward to more adventures!

  33. Maryjo says:

    wow – there should be a warning on the post title: do not read before lunch!

    Looks like you are having fun. We lived in Belgium for a while, and everyone has their “favorite” chocolate brand (as they do their beer) and people get into arguments over the chocolate companies LOL. The chocolate is truly divine, and somehow you don’t gorge … one piece of really good chocolate is worth 5 Hershey bars, don’t you think (sorry, USA LOL)

  34. Susan says:

    Wow Anne – such a wonderful post of your travels. It always looks like you have so much fun – Good times!! Just saw your hourglass shawl (i am guessing one of the secret projects you were working on) LOVE IT!!! Have a great time at sock summit!!

  35. Chloe says:

    Wow….what a wonderful travelogue, and so soothing prior to my going off to work in a minute. You saw more of Brussels than I ever did. You need another blog just for your travels. Love the Venice suggestion!

  36. Susie says:

    gifts? I read gifts!

  37. Kathy says:

    Looks like a wonderful time was had by all. Now for a bit of chocolate!

  38. Lolly says:

    Brussels looked much brighter and more fun than Antwerp; but it’s hard to believe it’s Summer in either location. Your travel posts are appreciated!

  39. josiekitten says:

    I was doing almost the same thing in Cologne, visiting the museum of chocolate there! I could have seriously embarrassed myself with the chocolate fountain. Luckily it was fenced off, or Mr JK might have had to forcibly restrain me!!! We did get to sample the chocolate though and it was delicious!

  40. Gillian says:

    I lived in Belgium for three years and quite miss it. We were in the French sector, about 100 km (60 miles) south of Brussels. I think I’d have even more fun now.