I have not spent any real time in Brussels, which is one reason why I decided to spend a few days here before the start of the Maison &Objet trade fair in Paris. I arrived from Minneapolis (via Amsterdam) before 10:00 this morning and taxied to the hotel I had reserved—a Sofitel that turned out to be too remote for trend work. I quickly changed gears and relocated to another property just a block off of the Grand Place.
I only needed a couple of hours of sleep to refresh, after which I ventured out along the Rue Neuve, an area recommended for shopping by both my luncheon waitress and a brochure I picked up in the hotel. Very little in the areas I perused today seemed to have much to offer. In a single building I shopped through a half-dozen or more leather goods stores, each looking much like the other and all of them carrying the same six or ten styles. I also stopped into Zara and Mexx, two favorite apparel stores that I see in other cities. Both were not as well stocked or merchandised as their sister stores in, say, London.
I knew that part of the problem was that I was too tired to work. That point was emphasized with I let my guard down and found myself the target of a pickpocket, who first grabbed the back pocket of my jeans looking for who-knows-what, then tried to yank my camera off of my shoulder. When I yelled NO! and held tight to my things, he swore at me and backed off. This incident made me realize just how lucky I have been over the years. No matter where I have traveled, I have never before had any sort of trouble like this. It also made me realize that I needed to go back to the hotel and deal with my fatigue.
In a few minutes my adrenalin returned to normal levels and I returned to my search for interesting shops and products—while also walking back to the hotel. Rue au Beurre is a street heavily peppered with sweets shops (filled with Belgian chocolate, of course!). At number 38, La Cure Gourmande stood out for its lighthearted and colorful approach. At number 28, just a couple of doors down, olive oil was the focal point of Oliviers & Co.’s assortment.
Here are a few pictures of my adventures today, including one taken in front of Maison Antoine, a lace shop in half of the former 1852 home of Victor Hugo.