Brussels – Last Bits

angel bunny

I’m rounding up a few more interesting places and tips for anyone else planning a trip to Brussels. First, a few things we didn’t manage to do:

Tourist Tramway & Tram Museum
If you’re in Brussels on a Sunday during the Summer, this looks really fun – a tour around the city on a 1930s tram! It does take four hours and cost 20€ but you get to see a lot of places. The tram museum looks interesting too.
http://www.trammuseumbrussels.be/en

Mini-Europe & Océade
Both right beside the Atomium, and there are combined tickets if you visit more than one so worth doing if you have the time. Mini-Europe is, as the name suggests, a collection of scale models of European landmarks and Océade is a water park.
www.minieurope.com | www.oceade.be

Comic Book Museum
If you like comics but don’t want to trek out to Musee Herge, this looks pretty good too. It was quite close to our hotel, but we never quite made it there.
www.comicscenter.net

Metro patterns Nutella waffle and blue slush puppy! So good.

Travel

The Metro (subway) and trams turned out to be pretty easy to use, once we got the hang of it. The best way is to buy a multi-journey ticket as you can use these on the metro, trams and buses. There are English-language ticket machines and it’s one price/ticket for each trip you take, no matter how far you go. We were lucky that our hotel was on the same metro line as the Eurostar station and the Atomium so we didn’t have to do anything too complicated. We also managed to buy train tickets to Louvain-la-Neuve from a ticket machine at Gare du Midi without any issues, though having our multi-lingual mother around to check things was very helpful!

General Tips

Our hotel had free wi-fi everywhere so that was brilliant for researching trains and opening times and things (as well as spamming Instagram with updates!). I don’t know if there was much free wifi around town as we mostly managed fine without it. I just had to remember to screenshot things I might want to check later.

In general, shops are closed on Sundays and museums on Mondays so plan carefully! If we’d known this, we could have done our out of town trip on the Sunday and kept our Saturday for shopping. We walked all the way into town from our hotel on Sunday and the only thing that was open was a Carrefour until we got to Grand Place, where the tourist shops were mostly open.

Botanics Reflections

Eurostar
This was my first time on the Eurostar, and one of the reasons for choosing Brussels, and it was brilliant. The check-in/security stuff is a bit tedious, but nowhere near as bad as getting a plane, plus you leave and arrive right in the city centres. It’s really fast and you get a decent amount of space. I would definitely use it again and I think we’re all already thinking about where else it goes.
www.eurostar.com

EasyHotel
This isn’t really anything to do with Brussels, but we stayed in the crazy cheap EasyHotel in Glasgow on the way back as we got in really late, and it was a real surprise! For £19 a room, we were expecting something super basic, grotty and cramped, but bearable for a night’s sleep. Instead we each got a clean room with a double bed, a little bit of space around it and a little bathroom pod including a shower! It was actually much nicer than our shared room in London at 3 times the price. You have to pay extra for wifi, TV or a window but the lack of window was actually a bonus as we slept really well in the pitch dark. I will be keeping it in mind if I need to stay over in Glasgow again. There are EasyHotels in Edinburgh and London too, but they seem to be more expensive.
www.easyhotel.com

What We Did in Brussels

Mont des Arts

Other than the Atomium, here’s what else was good in Brussels. We were only there for a few days, but we packed in quite a lot!

We're in Brussels! Loving Hotel Bloom. Marcy enjoying the swing chair in the lobby.

HOTEL BLOOM

We stayed at Hotel Bloom because it looked fun and they had an offer on. It turned out to be a fantastic decision as it was awesome. Each room has a hand-painted mural by a different artist and there were lots of quirky touches all around the hotel. One of our favourites were the hanging chairs in the lobby. The beds were pretty comfy too, and we had a gigantic TV and free bottles of water every day, plus it’s right next to the Botanic Garden. The only downside is that it’s not really that close to anything else – we struggled to find anywhere to eat nearby, though there is a Carrefour opposite for snacks and a big shopping centre on the other side of the Botanics. However, it is easy to get to on the Metro and trams and just about walkable into the city centre too if you’re not too tired.

Musee Herge herge

MUSÉE HERGÉ

Our main reason for visiting Brussels, as our family are big Tintin fans. The Musee Herge is actually in Louvain-la-Neuve, but it’s easy enough to get to on the train, which takes 60-90 minutes, depending on the train you get. We got the fast (double-decker!) train there and the slow train back. The museum itself is really interesting and full of original artwork and models, plus various films and interactive things. There’s a lot about Tintin, but it covers Herge’s entire life so we all learned a lot, particularly since you get an audio guide to put everything in context. The building itself is really cool too, and we spent quite a few hours there. We also found an e-card maker, where you can insert yourself into various Tintin imagery and email it to your friends. We may have made quite a few of them! It also has a great shop, but sadly they chose to have a pricey restaurant/bar instead of a cafe. We had a waffle outside instead! There’s no photography allowed in the exhibitions, so you’ll just have to go yourself. Definitely worth the trip if you’re a Tintin fan or interested in comics.

Tip! If you think you might go, there’s a voucher for 1 free entry with another adult. Print it out before you go unless you enjoy troubleshooting a hotel printer in French, like I ended up doing.

YourECard  Favourite purchase. Because who doesn't need a crazy bunny tin for storing cotton buds?

LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE

We actually spent most of the day in Louvain-la-Neuve as there’s a big shopping area beside the station and museum. It even had branches of our favourite Dutch stores HEMA and Blokker! The best shop we found had a selection of random gifts including some crazy illustrated tins – I couldn’t resist this bunny tin for cotton buds. As well as the waffles, we had some make-your-own-noodles where you choose what you want on a touchscreen and it’s made to order. Cool idea and the noodles were good too.

Grand Place This pretty much survived 2 days traveling across Europe in a suitcase. Almost too cute to eat.

GRAND PLACE

This is the main touristy area if you’re looking for souvenirs – there are a billion chocolate shops. Since it was easter time, they all had crazy enormous decorated eggs and lots of bunnies in the windows. I got a little meringue chick and some chocolate eggs. There are also lots of museums and interesting buildings around this area, and the famous Manneken Pis.

On the comic strip trail. Marcy & scary Friteman

We went to the Museum of the City of Brussels, which was free. It was my favourite sort of museum – one that’s just filled with lots of random stuff for you to look at. There were some great maps and models of how the city grew, some awesome tapestries, some crazy ceramics and a whole room of Manneken Pis models dressed up in hundreds of detailed outfits including national dress of every country. We also had some really good frites around here, and saw a few pieces from the Comic Strip Trail (PDF), a walking tour of the city centre featuring huge artworks on buildings.

Mont des Arts Botanics

Brussels is a really nice city to walk around in and luckily we had some great weather so we did a lot of wandering about taking photos and looking in shop windows. I’ve got one more post coming up of things we missed and stuff we learned, but you can have a look at all the rest of my photos on Flickr.

Atomium

atomium

The first thing we did in Brussels was probably my favourite – the Atomium! It was built for the World Fair in 1958 and the people of Brussels loved it so much they left it up – it’s now part of a tourist area with various attractions including Mini-Europe. We just did the Atomium though – it’s quite pricey but totally worth it.

View from the Atomium Mini-Europe from the Atomium!

First you go up in a lift to the very top sphere where there’s a 360° viewing area. The views are pretty amazing all round, but especially looking down on Mini-Europe! After that, you take various escalators and stairs around five of the other spheres, which contain permanent and temporary exhibitions.

Furniture display So many cool views!

The main exhibition is about the World Fair and the Atomium, with loads of great souvenirs and posters and press and photos from the time. The other exhibitions when we visited were about furniture design. Cleverly, the final floor had a collection of interestingly designed sofas to sit on so you could have a rest after all those stairs, plus try them all out.

Staircase Atomium Disco Escalator

The stairs and escalators were some of my favourite parts – the colours are amazing and there are super-long escalators that take you up and down the spokes. They’re really steep and a little bit scary, but they do have disco lights to keep you entertained.

Overall, it was brilliant, and I definitely recommend a visit if you’re in Brussels. It’s easy to get to on the Metro, and you can get close up and take some great photos even without going inside. It is worth doing the whole thing though, even just for the views. There’s also a shop and a couple of restaurants, one right at the very top.

disco escalator

Here’s a gif I made of my final trip down the almost endless disco escalator – wheee!

Working in my studio

IMG_3569

I’ve had my studio set up in the spare room for a while now, but I’ve only really been using it for packing orders. Because of my RSI, I can’t do computer work at a desk, so I’ve always worked on my bed. But my bedroom is the coldest room in the house so I decided to try and move to my studio. With a footstool and all my pillows and supports, it actually seems to be working out fine so hopefully no more freezing fingers. Plus I actually have a commute now, all of twenty paces!

So let’s have a bit of a tour. It’s a small room and pretty dominated by my trusty old sofa bed, which is extremely comfortable both as a sofa and a bed. It’s pretty grubby now, but I have this colourful granny square blanket my mum found me, plus an abundance of plush toys masquerading as cushions.

New view - now working from the sofa in my studio.

Here’s my desk and pinboard, plus lots of drawers to store my supplies, and boxes to store my stock. I need some more storage in here and I definitely need to buy some nicer boxes instead of the piles of old shoeboxes I currently use. I purposely ruined them all with packing tape to force me into it once I moved. I’ve tried to put a lot of my crafty things in this room, including my cross stitch gifts from Claire, some things my sister made for me and my art and craft books. No art up yet, as I’m still deciding which rooms to hang them all in.

IMG_3572

The windowsill has been nice to display all my tins and boxes, which are mostly full of buttons and badges and sewing supplies and printer ink. The one thing I cannot find after unpacking are my tins of pins and needles and bobbins. I’m sure they will turn up eventually but it’s getting very annoying. It’s also preventing me from making a new cover for that footstool.

The wall you’re not seeing basically just has a radiator and my bike, plus my new best friend, a laser printer! I love it so much. Also another secret electronic purchase I am looking forward to playing with.

So that’s my studio so far. All the furniture is IKEA by the way, but mostly discontinued.

Friday Catch-up #23

Spent the afternoon inside this. Pretty ace.

Just a quick catch-up as I’m back from Brussels and had a fab time! There were so many interesting things to do, like the Atomium above, so I have lots to share soon. Hopefully, I can get back to a normal posting schedule, at least until I disappear again to London and Leeds in a few weeks!

NEWS, OFFERS AND REMINDERS

- My sale is over, but I’m running very low on most of my Discontinued products, so grab them now if you don’t want to miss out forever.

- There’s free shipping worldwide + $5 off each item all weekend in my Society6 shop with that link only

A post about Towels

askingfortrouble.org

You might have noticed I have a new Home Sweet Home category for my blog, since I will likely be posting a lot of house-related stuff in future. I was changing my bathroom towels and was slightly embarrassed at how matchy matchy they are. The ones I replaced them with are almost as matchy!

askingfortrouble.org

The printed hand towels are by PataPri and I have been saving them for years. They are so nice with a terrycloth backing – I need to get some more. The panda wash mitt is from Japan, obviously, and for decoration only!

askingfortrouble.org

Also getting some use after years in a box – my lovely Ink & Spindle tea towel.

(and yes, I have a towel rail and a double oven in my flat – both are amazing!)

Giveaway Winners!

I’m sure you’re all desperate to find out who won my giveaway, so here’s the winners as picked by Rafflecopter.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 09.53.37

Congratulations! Sushma gets the Prettify pack and Malinda gets the Cakeify pack. I’ll be in touch for your addresses very soon.

Let’s do this again sometime!

Japan Links #16

Fields-of-Color Summer-at-Miho

It’s another round-up of Japan links I’ve been saving. Japanese poster design is suddenly popular - Collector’s Weekly has a lovely gallery of recently discovered 1930s Japanese travel posters, which now makes me want to visit the Ogaki Poster Museum mentioned in the article. Creative Review also have an an article about an exhibition of the history of Japanese poster design taking place in Zurich.

Ros always posts about such interesting things at her Polkaros blog – she recently shared a Tea and Kokeshi cafe and her area’s annual fabric dying event.

RocketNews24 have a review of the live-action Kiki’s Delivery Service, a list of Tokyo’s best cat cafes, an article about that Ghibli shop in Sunshine60 and the news that gashapon capsules may be changing shape!

The Laundress blog recently visited Tokyo and I enjoyed their favourite things to do and walking tour posts.

If you’ve ever thought about teaching English in Japan, Jenna has a detailed post on A Week in My Life as an ALT.

Asia Eater have an article about Tsujiki fish market’s impending move out of Tokyo.

I haven’t watched any of these yet, but Elleanor’s Tokyo video blogs of Harajuku, fashion and her travels look cute and fun.

I loved this gallery of photographs by S. Morita of Japan’s beautiful and colourful manhole covers over at Colossal. I also love this Fugu design from Shimonoseki photographed by Muza-chan.

muza-chan

Friday Catch-up #22

It's a lovely day in Helensburgh today but there's still snow on the hills.

I’m still busy organising my house, exploring Helensburgh and setting up my new studio. Biggest achievement of the week was getting rid of cardboard mountain yesterday – now I need to think of something to do with all that space! I’m also off to Brussels for a few days soon – any suggestions of things to do or places to eat?

Things I enjoyed recently

From Up on Poppy Hill
Finally got a borrow of this recent Ghibli film from Lovefilm. I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did, but it’s very much like Whisper in the Heart, which is my favourite non-Miyazaki Ghibli film. It’s mostly about a group of teenagers trying to save their clubhouse from being demolished, but as always, the real enjoyment comes from the daily life moments and the connections between the characters. Lovely. (Buy)

World War Z
I’ve been meaning to read this for ages, since the filming in Glasgow, and even got the ebook out of the library last year, but I only just got around to it. Despite not really being a horror/zombie person, I am really enjoying it, although it does also make me really sleepy for some reason so it’s slow going! It does seem like it would have made a much better TV show than a film. (Buy)

TV in general
I bought my very first television for the new flat so that I could watch my DVDs and things on a bigger screen, but now I’m starting to watch all kinds of random stuff which was not supposed to happen! The main culprit is my old friend the Food Network and reruns of Futurama, but there are also far too many good films on, even just with Freeview. Must. Stop.

NEWS, OFFERS AND REMINDERS

- My Moving Sale and giveaway both end on Monday!
- There’s a Spring Sale in my DaWanda shop, with 12% off a different category every day until April 6th