Brand New Somewhere

Figuring out travel, food, life & exploring Brussels whenever I'm there

London in June 2012 - Day 1...DIAMONDS.


London in June 2012 – Day 1: Arriving in London & The Barbican Centre

So far, this has been my second trip to Europe this year. My earlier trip was in February to visit my other long distance half in Brussels, Belgium. By the way, the lovely man’s name is Gilbert. Yes, Gilbert. It fits him well. This late June/early July trip had two reasons: to once again visit for Gilbert’s birthday on July 5th and to teach two courses at General Assembly in London. General Assembly is a sort of tech incubator space that started in NYC and has so far spread to San Francisco, London and Berlin (opening in September 2012). The two courses I taught at GA London were a Basic Branding course and a UX (user experience) Basics Workshop.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to head to London again for the first time since August 2002, so almost 10 years later. The last time, a few friends and I stayed for about a day and a a half in Whitechapel before heading off to Lisbon and to do a road trip through Spain. This time around I had Gilbert with me to show me around his old haunts since he lived there for 13 years after finishing university.

So yeah, the trip. I first flew into Brussels via a layover in London’s Heathrow airport. Don’t get me started on the irony of having to return less than 24 hours later, really. When searching for flights, I considered flying directly into LHR but the time wasted of getting the Eurostart to and from Brussels on each end of the trip would have cut into our time together.

I touched down in Brussels late afternoon, June 27 from JFK, had dinner, slept and then we were off on the Eurostar train the next morning to London. The tickets cost about £190 total, roundtrip but that’s because we got them a little late. With some more planning and flexibility, we could get them for about £200 total. The exchange rate at the time was 1.5 dollars to a pound. So, £190 ≈ $285. The ride itself is extremely quick from Brussels’ Gare du Midi station to London’s St. Pancras train station at about 2 hours.

Below are a few highlights from the first Day or so of the trip, at JFK, in Brussels and in London the first night.

Photographing travelers and the sunset, while waiting for the Airtrain at JFK.

Photographing travelers and the sunset, while waiting for the Airtrain at JFK.

Dinner upon arriving in Brussels: Hanger steak with shallots braised in wine for hours at Le Saint-Hubert in Schaerbeek

Hanger steak with shallots braised in wine for hours at Le Saint-Hubert in Schaerbeek

The Queen doesn’t play. She lets you know she has way more money than you…DIAMONDS.

The Queen doesn't play. She lets you know...DIAMONDS.

After teaching the Branding course at General Assembly, Gilbert took me walking around The Barbican Centre, which is a theatre and arts complex equivalent to New York City’s Lincoln Centre.

It was about 7pm and the light was gorgeous everywhere.

Sunset at The Barbican Centre, London

Gilbert and me being silly, of course. 

Gilbert and me at The Barbican Centre, London, UK

More after the jump…

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Organic & Seasonal Food Shopping in Brussels: Market at Place Sainte-Catherine

Within the weekend of landing back in Brussels at the end of September, I immediately sought out a farmers market to stock up on food for the week. Cooking roots me down in a place, making it feel like home. Last week I visited the organic market at Les Atelier des Tanneurs. A post on my goodies will come up later this evening including ridiculously delicious yet inexpensive olive oil.

This week, I’m skipping over to the organic farmers market only a few blocks from where I’m staying. Thankfully an acquaintance I met at dinner last Friday night clued me into it. The market is located at Place Ste. Catherine, an old cathedral that borders the area called The Fishmarket. Location and details are at the bottom of this post.

The second issue I finally tackled was actually looking up food is seasonal in Brussels in October. Finding the answer was surprisingly easy as the very first entry in my Google search was to a site called which calls itself  “An English guide to a sustainable lifestyle in Brussels”. I’m sold. The seasonal produce entry is from March 2011 and is excitingly extensive. There’s even a downloadable PDF English Guide to Seasonal and Local Produce by tebiki that I’m going to put on my phone before venturing out.

Downloadable PDF of English Guide to Seasonal and Local Produce by tebiki

So What’s Seasonal in Brussels in October?

According to Tebiki’s guide, damn near everything. I’m craving eggplant and tomato-based dishes, so I’ll grab some of each while at the market. Mushrooms, chicory, endive, kohlrabi, horseradish, zucchini and a host of other vegetables are also fresh right now. I’ll probably pick up some mushrooms and one other vegetable I’ve never used before to try this week. I still have a bunch of leeks left over from last week and am thinking about making a leek and onion tart with some puff pastry. Supposedly there are meat and vendors at the market as well, so I’m looking forward to getting some of those delights too.

I have €36.50 in cash with me but would like to spend only €20.00 max. In American dollars, €20.00 ≈ $30.00 (I use 1.50 as the exchange rate after you count fees, etc). What do you think I could make?

English Guide to Seasonal and Local Produce by tebiki

Info for Market at Place Sainte-Catherine

Place Sainte-Catherine
All year round (Only on: Wednesday) – Wednesday : 07:30-15:00
MAPS: Google Maps

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Working on the balcony in Brussels with my laptop. Thank you please.

Working on the balcony in Brussels with my laptop. Thank you please | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

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The Brussels Design Market during Design September aka Modernist Furniture Heaven

mid-century serving cartsOn Sunday 9.11.11 (or 11.9.11 in Euro), Jenn and I visited the Brussels Design Market at the Ancienne Gare Maritime de Tour & Taxis which is located over in the Royal Depot. The event/market was part of the larger Brussels Design September program held throughout the city the entire month. If you’ve ever been to the Brooklyn Flea and perused the modernist or mid-century furniture with lust and envy, get ready to plotz yourself. Because everybody’s Belgian or European grandmother had this beautiful furniture in the her house during the 1940s – 1970s, there is an abundant supply of it currently.

I’m used to seeing these pieces for 10€  – 50€ in a thrift store in another section of Brussels where Ward previously lived with Joost & Els. But, most of the pieces here were at least 150€ – 200€ and many more in the 500€ range. It seems that as soon as you put the word “Design” with a capital “D” in front of anything, the cost increases by a factor of 10, similar to the word, “Wedding”.

Jenn's new Lucite earrings by Catherine Noll

Jenn's new Lucite earrings by Catherine Noll

Nonetheless, it was a great experience to walk around gawking at this beautiful furniture, vintage clothing, accessories and cars. Jenn even picked up a pair of clip-on vintage Lucite earrings designed by Catherine Noll, a famous French accessories designer who died young in the 1990s.

Foodwise, there were only a few stands and trucks. We patronised the main stand in the center of the hangar. Jenn had the cheese croquettes (they were out of croquettes) and I had the tomato stuffed with North Sea shrimp. Have you ever had North Sea shrimp before? So far they are the tiniest form of shrimp I know (even smaller than Maine shrimp), are slightly sweet and from the cold waters of the northeastern coast of England. It feels like you’re eating pure sea-minerally protein. In a few words: damn good. I had them in a Ghent back in May 2010 last time I was over here. Their season seems to last the entire summer but I have seen notes of them being harvested all the way through Christmastime. Oh and to add some starch to our meals, Jenn and I split an order of frites, lightly salted.

Jenn made a great observation about the food in Brussels: that while it’s full fat and decadent, the portion control completely prevents it from being excessive. Ahem…

Tomato stuffed with North Sea shrimp tossed with a bit of homemade mayonnaise

Tomato stuffed with North Sea shrimp tossed with a bit of homemade mayonnaise

After we nearly completed our rounds of the market, we stumbled upon a food stall run by two men from Ivory Coast and a Flemish woman playing music from the homeland. Goodness, Jenn wished we would have found them earlier. They had accara, fried plantain, stew chicken with okra, regular stewed chicken and ginger beer among other things I grew up eating in Nigeria. Both of us thanked heavens for the rich spices they used compared to the plain herbs used in the French and Dutch cooking we’d been eating the previous days. We bought a to-go plate of rice, chicken with okra, and plantains to split later for dinner. The vendors don’t have a permanent restaurant, but do festivals around Belgium instead.

Alas, there are tons more photos to show, below are a few more then scroll through the Flickr slide show to get even more of your design fill. A few more Brussels and Paris updates are coming up tomorrow, keep an eye out…










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Serious Belgian Streetfood: Snails and Scampi in Brussels

Serving up brothy escargot for only 5 euro a pop.

I don’t even remember where I learned about this guy, but I want to try this as soon as I get to Brussels this fall. He’s a street vendor selling snails and shrimp boiled in broth and butter in central Brussels near the famous Mannekin Pis statue. !!!! Can you imagine digging into such a luscious dish during a brisk fall day in Northern Europe. I can! I’m not really  a snails person, but I’m entirely willing to try eating any creature steeped in broth and butter.

Photo Credit: London Eater

Oh! Now I remember where I saw him, it was an episode of Globe Trekker where the travel does a tour through Belgium and Luxembourg. Immediately after seeing that segment, I did a Google search for the guy and brought up  a great write up of Brussels by London Eater a couple of years ago.

Alright then, who eat snails? I haven’t had them in a few years, but like I said, I’m entirely willing to eat creatures steeped in broth and butter.