City Guide: Weekend in Brussels

A Girl, A Style _ BrusselsA Girl, A Style _ Brussels

Between all our recent European travels, I feel as though my feet have barely touched the ground the past few months. But one of my big New Year’s Resolutions for 2016 was to take more frequent small trips and explore Europe more (rather than eschewing the cities on our doorstep in favour of the extended long-haul trips we usually take).

Although I frequently travel to Brussels for work, I only ever get to see the Government district and the inside of the European Commission buildings while I’m there (with an occasional detour through the Grand Place on the way back to the Eurostar station if the weather is behaving). Given how easy it is to get there from England, I decided it was about time we properly explored all the city had to offer (which is so much more than just the seat of the European Union).

So when Alcatel asked if I’d like to put together a city guide in conjunction with their current promo (get return flights to one of eight European cities when you buy the new Pop4 handset), it was the perfect excuse to finally explore this grand old city. It was my first time trying the handset, but I have to say it was the ideal phone for travelling; because of the dual-SIM function I could put both my UK and travel SIM in at the same time, and the camera and maps were excellent for navigating our way around town without getting lost (and snapping everything along the way, of course).

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Brussels is the perfect size for a weekend city break; small enough that you feel you can cover a decent chunk of it in two days, large enough that you’ll have no shortage of things to do. These were the best things we covered during our stay:

Do // For a dose of culture, start with the magnificent Grand Place. A large cobbled square bordered by the opulent Town Hall and guildhalls which marks the centre of the old town; it is a Unesco World Heritage site and surely one of the most beautiful squares in Europe.

Afterwards, walk over to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (around €8) on Rue de la Régence for a morning with Rubens, van Dyck and all the Flemish greats. Afterwards, head to the Royal Palace next door; it is free to visit from July-September when the Royal Family go away, and the spectacular rooms are worthy of any Disney princess (I’m not sure I have ever seen quite so many chandeliers in once place). Afterwards, we bought an ice cream and happily lazed beneath the canopy of trees in the Parc du Bruxelles across the road.

Shop // Treasure hunt for antiques: We visited both the Sablon (every Saturday and Sunday at the Place du Grand Sablon) and Les Marolles (every day on the Place du Jeu de Balle) flea markets and the surrounding antique shops. On the first Sunday of every month there is also a vintage market at Halle Saint-Géry. I picked up vintage postcards from Paris and a set of 1960s cocktail glasses at the Sablon, and an antique bust of Marie Antoinette and a pair of golden pheasants for the dining room table at Les Marolles. During a sudden downpour at Les Marolles, we dashed into the Cafe La Brocante on the corner of the square for coffee, which was charmingly stuffed with locals and antiques in equal measure.

Grand arcades: Don’t miss the beautiful Galleries Royales Saint-Hubert near the Grand Place. Built in 1847, it is a beautiful glass-roofed passageway housing luxury shops and cafes. We loitered for nearly an hour in the magnificent Tropismes Libraires bookstore in the Galerie des Princes section.

Hip boutiques: For the best small, independent fashion, design and lifestyle boutiques, head to the Rue Dansaert / Rue des Chartreux district. We made the mistake of visiting on a Sunday morning when many stores were closed, so visit on a Saturday or weekday instead for the best range of options.

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Eat // It would be positively remiss to go to Brussels and leave hungry. From the famous chocolate and waffles to the traditional carbonades flamandes (beef stew) and moules frites (mussels and fries), there is no shortage of gourmand delights on offer.

For brunch, head to Peck 47 on Rue du Marché aux Poulets for eggs + savoury waffles or the original Le Pain Quotidien on Rue Dansaert (both a short walk from the Grand Place).
For lunch or dinner, make for local-favourite Le Fin de Siecle on Rue des Chartreux. We had dinner there on Saturday night and the atmosphere was lively and cosy; the food a delicious offering of Italian and authentic Belgian dishes.

Craving something sweet? Head straight to haute chocolaterie Pierre Marcolini for the best chocolate the city has to offer (not to mention glorious macarons and ice cream pops dipped in the chocolate of your choice). For a snack on-the-go whilst sightseeing, the chocolate-dipped strawberries at Godiva and the cheap as frites nutella-topped waffles (find them beside the Manneken Pis fountain) both earn an honourable mention.

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Souvenir // I’m sure it’s obligatory to return home with a stash of Belgian chocolates in your suitcase. Pick up a box from Pierre Marcolini, Mary or Elisabeth (all have several locations dotted around the city), and a few blocks of Dolfin from the convenience store (I’m especially taken with their Earl Grey-infused dark chocolate tablets). A tin of Belgian waffles or speculoos (traditional cinnamon-spiced biscuits) from Maison Dandoy will also make a marvelous gift for friends back home. For something more unique, hunt for a vintage copy of Tintin or an antique tchotchke from the Les Marolles or Sablon flea market.

Good to Know // Brussels is small enough that you can walk just about everywhere, but if the weather is bad or you want to save your feet, the subway is clean, easy and goes everywhere you need to go (aside from hopping on the subway to get to our hotel, we walked the entire weekend). Everyone speaks English perfectly, but otherwise it’s the perfect excuse to practice your French.

A Girl, A Style _ BrusselsA Girl, A Style _ Brussels

Look 1: J.Crew jacket // Gap jeans // J.Crew top (similar style here) // Ferragamo shoes // Chanel bag // ASOS hat // Kenneth Jay Lane necklace (similar style here) // Chanel brooch // Karen Walker sunglasses.
Look 2: Zimmermann dress // J.Crew necklace // Ferragamo shoes // Valentino bag // ASOS hat // Karen Walker sunglasses // Michael Kors watch.

Have you been to Brussels before? Let me know if you have any more recommendations and I’ll try them on my next trip!

Love, Miss B xx

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This post is in partnership with Alcatel, who are offering return flights to eight European cities when you buy the new Pop4 handset. 

The Island of Burano, Venice

A Girl, A Style _ Burano, VeniceA Girl, A Style _ Burano, Venice
Wearing: dress // hat // sandals // bag // bracelets // sunglasses // necklace

As those who follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat will know, last month my Fiancé and I headed to Italy for the most marvellous vacation (and some much-needed sunshine; England was in the throes of a very gloomy June). I thought I’d start with our day trip to the Venetian island of Burano; quite simply one of the lovelies places I have ever visited.

Whilst I had seen plenty of pictures and knew to look for the colourful houses, I hadn’t expected the entire island to be such a charming, brightly-hued rainbow. Traditionally, the houses were painted in bright colours so that the village fisherman could find their house in even the darkest storm when they returned each evening, and every single house really does look like that (or, as we say over on Instagram, #nofilterrequired). Nowadays the whole island is a UNESCO world heritage site so that the tradition is officially protected, and if homeowners wish to change the colour of their house, they have to apply to the government – who respond with a list of available colours to choose from so that no two neighbouring properties are the same.

As soon as you arrive at the dock, you’ll see what I mean. And it only gets prettier from there. We were lucky to have blazing sunshine and cornflower blue skies for our visit, and as we stepped off the main canal and explored the little alleyways, I couldn’t help but think how those sunbleached, cheery houses – with their laundry hanging from the windows, children playing happily in the streets, and contented cats lazing in the shade – looked exactly as they might have done a hundred years ago.

A Girl, A Style _ Burano, VeniceA Girl, A Style _ Burano, VeniceA Girl, A Style _ Burano, VeniceA Girl, A Style _ Burano, Venice

Given Burano’s small size, it hardly requires a ‘guide’ to what to do – instead the best thing is to simply walk down each canal and colourful side street, discovering your own secret corners and favourite spots yourself. But nonetheless, here are a few tips to make the most of your visit:

Good to Know // Burano is an island in the Venetian lagoon and is a leisurely half-day trip from ‘mainland’ Venice. The easiest way to get there is to either take a private water taxi or the number 12 vaporetto (water bus) which runs frequently, takes the same time as a taxi – around 40 minutes – but only costs €7.50 each way. Go early or late afternoon to avoid the largest crowds if you can (but don’t be put off either way, as the crowds quickly disperse between each vaporetto arrival).

Do // Burano is really a tiny little island; there are no roads – only footpaths and canals for the fishing boats – but you can walk the entire island and all it’s side streets in a couple of hours (add in another couple of hours for lunch and pausing to take approximately 16,000 photos along the way). There aren’t many shops on the island – which helps retain the traditional charm – but if you like lace, then be sure to stop into one of the little lace shops for the authentic lace linens the island is famous for (I’m still regretting the fact I didn’t buy a lace parasol and a stack of beautiful handmade napkins).

Eat // We had heard great things about Trattoria al Gatto Nero (my friend Julia had gone there earlier in the year), and the name – which translates to The Black Cat – had us sold, but when we arrived there wasn’t a free table to found until fully three days later (moral of the story: book ahead). My friend Alex had also recommended Trattoria da Romano, but both the restaurant and street looked a little too crowded with tourists when we passed. So instead we simply followed our noses and ended up at the charming, pastel pink Riva Rosa Enoteca, which turned out to be the very best choice of all. We had big plates of spaghetti alla vongole (a local specialty, pictured below) outside at one of the tables overlooking the colourful canal, and it was quite simply one of the most delicious, memorable meals I’ve ever had.

A Girl, A Style _ Riva Rossa Burano, VeniceA Girl, A Style _ Burano, VeniceA Girl, A Style _ Burano, VeniceWearing: H&M dress // Eugenia Kim hat // Valentino bag (mini version here) // Dune sandals // Kenneth Jay Lane bracelets (necklace version here) // Tom Ford sunglasses // J.Crew necklace // Chanel brooch.
Beauty: Chanel ‘L’Eclatante’ lipstick // MAC ‘Dollymix’ blush // James Read tan // Essie ‘Limoscene’ nail polish

There was just something so magical about Burano, and I couldn’t help falling a little in love more in love with each street we explored. I’m so glad that places like this – frozen in time and still retaining every ounce of charm and history – still exist in the world. I can’t wait to return one day.

Stay tuned for Venice, Florence and Bologna soon!

Love, Miss B xx

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7 Things for the Weekend

A Girl, A Style _ Weekends in the Park
Pictured: hat // book // sunglasses // dress // sandals // bracelet

Summer has finally arrived here in England, so I’m trying to make the most of every free hour. This weekend will involve bike rides, lazing in the park with my love, and Sunday brunch and a trip to the flower market with my friend. I wish these long balmy days could last forever.

1. Last weekend, after a late Saturday night at a glittering Cambridge ball, we spent all of Sunday afternoon lazing in the Botanical Gardens. We packed a little picnic, found a peaceful corner, and spent hours and hours just reading beside each other beneath the shade of a big tree. I started The Versions Of Us (which had been sitting in my ‘to read’ pile for at least a year) and haven’t been able to put it down since (bonus points for being set in Cambridge). It’s meant to be lovely all weekend, so I know where I’ll be tomorrow morning…

2. How are your 2016 goals and resolutions going? We’ve over half-way through the year, so now is the perfect time to assess how things are going and put in motion actions to get where you want to be by the time the year is out. Personally, I’m trying to have more spontaneous adventures and travel more often, get better at balancing every part of my life, and actually turn up to barre class every week.

3. Do you need a palm-print teapot? Of course not. But it sure beats a sad tea bag in a mug. I ordered this one recently and it makes me smile every time I use it (and I’m pretty sure I score bonus adult points for actually using a teapot).

4. Business in the front, party in the back: obviously I’m going to need these cute little ankle-strap pumps for work (and weekends, and everywhere in between…)

5. Ok, I probably need a Self Portrait intervention but, well, it’s just so very lovely (and the quality of labels triple the price). I just added this blouse to my collection and it’s true sartorial love.

6. Have you read Lena Dunham’s piece on our addiction to apologising? Even though I know that as a woman it’s incredibly disempowering to say ‘sorry’ a hundred times a day – sorry for having an opinion, sorry when someone else is rude to me, and sorry for one of the many balls I’ve failed to juggle that day (not seeing my friends enough, not leaving the office early enough to spend any time with my fiancé, forgetting to do something important) – it’s a habit I have trouble shaking. Do you say sorry more than you should?

7. We’ve lived in our place for exactly two years now, yet still most of our walls are completely naked. So I’ve resolved to finally set about getting all my pictures framed (including my beloved Gray Malin aerial prints) and putting up a gallery wall.

P.S. Don’t forget you can follow me over on InstagramTwitterPinterest and Facebook for daily updates + catch my latest posts (in case you missed them) here: 
Style: The best little white dress + coffee dates in Notting Hill
Life: On freedom, love and politics
Style: Punting on the River Cam with friends

As always, please do let me know what you’re buying, doing or enjoying this week in the comments below (I always love reading your favourites).  I hope you all have a wonderful long weekend!

Love, Miss B xx

 

Farm Girl, Notting Hill

A Girl, A Style _ Farm Girl 7A Girl, A Style _ Farm Girl, Notting Hill

Dress // bag // sandals // sunglasses // purse

Although we live in Cambridge, when Summer comes around we try to make the most of the warmer weather and head to London most weekends for brunch and a wander around our favourite neighbourhoods. We live just near the station, so can be from our front door to a cafe in less than an hour.

If we weren’t in Cambridge, I’d live in Notting Hill in a heartbeat. I love the leafy streets, the pretty pastel terrace houses, hunting for vintage treasures at the Portobello Road market, and settling into one of the bohemian little cafes for hours on end with brunch, the weekend papers and plenty of coffee (go on a Saturday for the markets and Friday or Sunday if you want the place to yourselves).

A Girl, A Style _ Farm Girl 6A Girl, A Style _ Pink Door, Notting HillA Girl, A Style _ White Lace Boohoo dressA Girl, A Style _ Farm Girl Cafe, Notting hill

After a particularly hectic couple of weeks, this weekend we made the most of the blazing sunshine and headed to Farm Girl (one of my favourite new cafes at the start of Portobello Road) for rose lattes and a stack of berry pancakes. If you’re lucky, you can get one of the pink tables (pretty much made just for Instagram) outside on a sunny day, where they don’t mind how long you loiter.

Afterwards we wandered over to Westbourne Grove to restock at Aesop and pick up a new candle for summer at Diptyque (Choisya, which smells of gorgeous orange blossom on a warm evening), and then spent the afternoon strolling those gorgeous leafy streets and imaginary house-hunting (we’ll take the big white mansion overlooking the private garden, thank you very much).

A Girl, A Style _ Farm Girl 4A Girl, A Style _ Farm GirlWearing: Boohoo lace dress (also in black) // Valentino bag // Miu Miu purse (very similar style here) // Zara sandals (old, but very similar style on sale here) // Tom Ford sunglasses // Lulu Frost crystal necklace + ring // J.Crew pearls // Michael Kors watch.
Beauty: Estee Lauder ‘Wicked Sweet’ liquid lipstick // NARS ‘Orgasm’ blush // Deborah Lippmann ‘Naked‘ nailpolish.

What are your favourite weekend traditions after a hectic week? And do share any favourite London gems that we should visit next!

Love, Miss B xx

Photos by Amber-Rose