THE BELGIAN DIARIES: THE MARKETS AT BRUSSELS-MIDI
Brussels is one of those cities that still hold on to their traditional roots of closing all shops on a Sunday. This doesn’t mean that there’s no where to buy food and stock up however. The answer to all your shopping problems lies in the wonderfully placed markets at Brussels-Midi station.
I’d been warned beforehand about how massive and busy the markets would be, but landing in and catching my first glimpses of it, I still found myself overwhelmed. Stalls stretched for far longer than I could see (not that this would be particularly hard, I usually wear glasses for these sort of things) and I was informed by my Belgian friend Elise that the markets were the largest in Belgium. Wandering around the stalls, I didn’t doubt her. It seemed like there was something for every need you might possibly have – make-up, fruit and veg, clothes, DIY, plants, linen and materials… I was in awe.
Better yet, if you weren’t sure about purchasing something, they’d let you try a small sample. That’s the kinda thing I’d probably exploit given a whole day and a lot of time there. See the photo to the left? All olives. I never realised how much could be done with them. And the photo at the top of this post? All Moroccan food. We ventured over to a popular crepe stall that Elise insisted was worth the trip out to Brussels-Midi alone. She warned us about how incredibly in-demand the savoury crepes were and how a person needs to get to the markets early in order to get their hands on one. Basically the crepe stall expertly mixes all kinds of spiced vegetables and cheese (optional) from their stall into the crepe and then serves it up with honey and sugared tea. The crepes were absolutely huge too.
Crepes aside, the biggest pull of the markets was the price of everything. I have never before been in a position where I could buy all my fruit and veg by the kilo for a euro. I kid you not. It seemed like too good an offer to refuse, so for €5 I got myself 5 kilos worth of antioxidants for the week. A kilo of grapes, a kilo of strawberries, a kilo of mushrooms, a kilo of plums and bananas. The downside to this of course meant that I had to carry around 5 kilos worth of food with me for the rest of the market trip until we got home. I had also conveniently forgotten that all these foods are perishable, so I’ve been eating them all incessantly since Sunday. I’m actually just finished cooking a huge pot of mushroom soup, and Elise made us all mushroom pate yesterday. Oh and I’ve had a very large smoothie of bananas, strawberries, orange juice and grapes every day this week. So yum.
We’re heading back again this Sunday coming, and I’m going to be significantly more prepared for the trip. I’ll bring twice as many bags and buy less perishables. Or at least I’ll attempt to.