Books, Food, and Art, in Brussels, Beligium

By - October 18, 2007 (Updated: January 5, 2016)

It’s been a busy week here at Casa Cornford-Matheson and I apologise for my lack of blogginess this week. Since last Friday I’ve hardly had a moment here at the computer.

Friday night we tried out a new restaurant, well new to us anyway. The fact is we drive by this place every single day and always say we should go try it out. Well, we finally did and it was quite lovely. It’s called Nostra, and is close to the Zaventem IKEA for anyone who happens to be out this way. The restaurant is in a converted barn and the first thing you notice is that the décor is lovely – all muted earth tones with great lighting and lovely exposed wood beams. The food and service were also excellent, with large portions (I think my chateaubriand was half of the cow!) and nice presentation. We will definitely go back.

Andrew’s pile is on the left, mine is on the right.

Saturday is typically our errand day but I had been tipped off by a friend of a book sale out at the expo centre. The words ‘Book’ and ‘Sale’ tend to illicit the same euphoric response in Andrew and me, so we went to see what it was all about.

Well, first off let me say that I didn’t have high expectations. I figured most of the books would be in French or Dutch and the prices would be high. I was wrong on both counts. Picture an area the size of a football field… now fill that with books. The company organising the sale is from the Netherlands so the books were in English (about 30-40%) and Dutch. The prices? For new books, less than I normally pay for second hand English books in Brussels.

Needless to say we were there for hours and we both had a huge haul by the time we were finished. I’m rather thankful that not all of the books were in my language because frankly I never would have made it through. So the bookcase is full to overflowing again but we were very happy campers.

To refuel after our day of hauling books around, we went to an old favourite of ours, Kasbah. I love this place and we often take people there. The Moroccan Tajines are excellent and the atmosphere is really fun. It’s pretty affordable too, which is good when you just purchased a truckload of books.

Sunday we decided to broaden our cultural horizons and check out th Leonardo Da Vinci show at the Basilica. Again, although I thought it would be an interesting show, I didn’t have particularly high expectations. I thought we would go to some obscure part of the church, look at a few sketches, learn a bit and go home. Boy was I wrong again! (Twice in one weekend has got to be a record).

Inside the basilica, looking up at the huge dome.

First of all the line to get in was long and got much longer as we waited. We were quite glad we got there when we did. As it was, we waited for close to an hour to get in. The exhibition took up most of the main floor of the basilica (which is enormous, one of the largest in the world apparently).

It was 10€ each to get in plus another 2.50€ each for audio guides. This is pretty steep for most exhibitions, but it was so worth it. It was very well presented, with enough information but not so much that you were overwhelmed.

There were scale models of many of Leonardo’s inventions (some that we still use today) and many of his original sketches. Including some used for the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. Also amazing to see in person was his drawing of Vitruvian Man.

What was most interesting to me however, were his tiny little notebooks, filled with drawings and his tiny, bizarre writing. He wrote backwards with his left hand so that you can only read it in a mirror. No one is entirely sure why he did this.

After we finished with the exhibition we headed to the roof for some great views of the city. I know some people think this basilica is ugly but I love it. I love the simplicity of its lines and how it dominates the neighbourhood with its sheer size.

Andrew also took Monday off and we had hoped to get a few things done. Instead we ended up at IKEA… for over 5 hours. I can’t even get into how this happened, but needless to say we left with more than we intended. We had gone to by a new chair for Andrew. We left with the chair and matching footstool, a desk for Andrew, a sofa table, and various odds and ends for the kitchen. And sadly, there are still more things we would like to get. IKEA will be the death of us.

On Tuesday I tried to catch up on some work here. I have an exciting new photo commission I’m working on and I’m currently putting together a couple of the calendars you so kindly voted on. The winners seem to be Europe and Flowers so I hope to have those ready for you soon.

Yesterday, I spent the day with a Canadian friend who has just arrived in Brussels. Her boyfriend is here on contract with Andrew’s company so we got to swap stories over coffee and lunch.

Tomorrow we have something else to look forward to. In the evening we are going to see a fellow Nova Scotian, Feist performing here in Brussels. Rumour has it she’s living in Paris these days and the Europeans seem to love her music. I hear it constantly over here. I’ll leave you with Mushaboom (which is the name of a tiny town in NS).

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
It's after Halloween so I can officially share Christmas Markets now right...? 🎄🎅 - 1 week ago

1 comment

  1. Comment by Mirka

    Mirka October 19, 2007 at 15:46

    Glad you enjoyed the Book Fair. We also brought home a box full of books. I think we could eventually start some library or something! 🙂

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