Discovering the ‘Hood

By - June 6, 2008 (Updated: November 27, 2014)

It’s been a few weeks now, since we’ve moved into La Loft, and already so much has happened. This week alone, I’ve had: my terrace railing installed (finally), a computer virus (or two) that Andrew seems to have rid me of, a trip to the market (three years overdue), a new neighbourhood restaurant, and a new BBQ for Andrew.

Yesterday the builders were here for most of the morning installing the railing. It looks great and I should be able to hang my plants from it. I’ll take some pictures if it ever stops raining. Also new on the terrace is Andrew’s birthday present. A new Webber BBQ – and it’s gas! No more messing with charcoal. Unfortunately we bought it last weekend and still haven’t been able to use it because of all the rain. We’re hoping to grill up some goodness on the weekend though.

Last weekend we were finally able to have some adventures in the city (although until the 23rd our weekends are mostly taken up with going over to the old house and trying to get it clean enough for the inspection.) On Saturday, after a cleaning and errand marathon, we arrived back at the loft hungry and too tired to cook. We decided to see what we could find to eat in our ‘hood.

Just down around the corner we spied a Thai spot with tables outside. From its unassuming exterior, I thought it would be a tiny take-away with maybe a couple of tables inside. When we entered Saigon – Bangkok, it turned out to be a lovely little restaurant. The décor was simple but tasteful and the menu was extensive and reasonable for Thai food. And the meal – well it was exactly what we wanted – fresh and delicious. Even the staff was pleasant and helpful – not something that is taken for granted in Brussels. All in all it was a very enjoyable meal and I’m sure we will go back.

Sunday was the most interesting experience of the past week. After three years in Belgium, we finally made it to the South Station Market (Marché du Midi). South Station (Midi in French, although I have no idea way) is the largest of the train stations here in Brussels, and every Sunday morning there is a huge market on the streets surrounding the station. I had heard it was big, rumour has it as the second largest in Europe, but I wasn’t ready for the actual size.

Andrew and I took the metro directly to Midi and emerged from the underground at one end of the market. Although, by calling it an end you assume it’s one long street, when in reality it is more like a spider or maze of streets that seem unending. We would emerge at one side and then see four more streets of market stalls surrounding us. I’m sure we only actually saw a small portion of the market.

I had read somewhere that a visit to Midi Market was like going to a foreign country, and it’s true in a way. The vast majority of stall holders are from Morocco, with others from Turkey, Spain, Italy and of course Belgium. The languages of the shoppers at the market are as varied as the stall holders. In one moment I heard English with British and American accents, French, Dutch, Arabic, and a host of others that I couldn’t identify. The quantity of goods is endless. You can purchase anything from clothes and shoes, to toiletries, to house plants, to meats and produce and literally everything in between.

So armed with our shopping bags Andrew and I headed into the fray. Let me say that I am not good with crowds. There were a few times that I had to go to my “happy place.” Like when the woman ran over my foot with her wheelie bag and when I said ‘ow’ she looked right at me and ran over it again. Thank God I thought ahead and wore sneakers instead of sandals.

There are some incredible deals on food to be found. Most of them unfortunately are not so practical for only two people. In our search for food to grill on the new BBQ, Andrew spotted so enormous mushrooms. They were 2€ for a big crate. Andrew asked if he could have half for 1€ but it was all or nothing. They filled an entire large shopping bag. We’ve been eating the things all week and it is safe to say I am sick of mushroom right now.

Aside from the ‘shrooms, we found bok choi (which I have been searching for), asparagus, peppers, garlic, cheese stuffed hot peppers (a favourite of mine), bread, sliced meats, sausages, two potted herb plants, and I’m sure countless other items I can’t remember. It all cost us about 30€. Verdict – I am so going to the market as often as I can.

So far city life is good – sure there are some things that will take some getting used to and I discovered that living right by the EU can be noisy, especially with police helicopters flying
overhead and SWAT teams blocking traffic… But hey, it’s definitely more exciting than Everberg…

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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+
- 1 day ago

1 comment

  1. Comment by Helen

    Helen June 10, 2008 at 01:04

    Hey there girlie, I think that market sounds amazing. The bigger the better, I say. Perhaps you could find a friend to share the goodies, so you could buy in more reasonable quantities. Perhaps someone in your own building needs mushrooms? You can also freeze them. Not sure how long they last, but I have seen them frozen for stews and soups.
    Send pix of new balcony. Lucky Andrew to get a gas bbq. I guess when you are as old as him you get to have a grown up BBQ.
    I wouldn’t know…
    Talk soon
    Love me

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