Music Festival Belgium

European summers are famous for their music festivals. From the classical in Salzburg and Bayreuth to the techno in Sziget there is a festival  for everyone. Belgium punches above its weight in this regard with several festivals including the world famous Tomorrowland.  The season kicks off in Brussels and spreads out through Flanders and Wallonia some within day trip distance from Morton Place, others a bit further away.

Couleur Café  Brussels 29 June through 2 July

Beautifully located under the Atomium, Couleur Café is originally an African music festival begun 29 years ago and has morphed into a World Music festival. It’s Brussels’ biggest music event attracting over 70’000 festival goers. The artist selection is true to its roots with a line-up that includes Malian star Sidiki Diabate but broadens to include Leon Bridges and Gregory Porter, a Dub step stage and dance workshops for Afro Caribbean dances from salsa to afro house. The world food stands are infamous and worth visiting for the flavors alone. This is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the multicultural qualities of Brussels, and still make it home in time to sleep in your own bed at night.

https://www.couleurcafe.be/en/

Rock Werchter Leuven, 5 July through 8 July

“Werchter” takes place on the outskirts of Leuven, the pretty student town. One of Belgium’s oldest festivals all the old rock bands have played there from The Ramones and Lou Reed to Oasis. The festival has mushroomed and is a well organized affair while remaining casual. A short ride from Brussels on the train you can grab a day ticket and catch The Chainsmokers, Alt-J or Radiohead and still be home in time to catch up with your housemates!

 

https://www.rockwerchter.be/en/tickets

Tomorrowland, Boom 20-22 July and 27-29 July

A bucket list destination with tickets that sell in the blink of an eye, Tomorrowland is arguably the world’s most famous techno festival. Entire planes are chartered for ticket holders with DJ’s on deck as from take off. Located beside the  small town of Boom the festival area is transformed into an Alice in Wonderland type setting with sumptuous decors and a music village called “Dreamville” which includes Michelin star restaurants and a hair salon for perfecting your festival look. We are a long way from Woodstock here. As beautiful as Morton Place is a night at  Dreamville is worth staying away for.

 

https://www.tomorrowland.com/en/festival/welcome

Brussels Grand Place

Visitors in town: where to go both on and off the beaten path?

The month of May boasts at least two long weekends thanks to national holidays. Many of our residents take advantage of our in-house guest rooms to host their own friends and family so we have a round up of Brussels’ must sees, some on and some off the beaten track.

The Classics

First stop is the Atomium, a weird and wonderful landmark which sports fantastic views and a great photo op.  The rolling carpet leading to the uppermost silver globes is worth it for the experience alone. The quintessential Brussels experience.  Just go – and check it off your list.

 

Nearby the Atomium and only during the month of May the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken are open to the public for a very short period each year, and this year the period has been extended. They are located in the Royal Park which also houses the residence of the Royal family.

Glass masterpiece the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

Hip and happening in the Dansaert neighborhood

After this more traditional visit of tourist highlights, it can be fun to head down to what is called “the Dansaert area” which is home to trendy shops and vintage stores. The rue Antoine Dansaert is a major artery running from the Bourse to the canal. This is the more hip of Brussels’ fashion districts. The doyenne of the neighborhood is Sonja Noel with her infamous shop Stijl, located 74 rue Antoine Dansaert. Here you will find all the major Belgian creators from the Antwerp 6 to more avant garde designers and their capsule collections. There are still a few independent shops who have survived and thrived in the side streets, alongside the heavy hitters such as Prada on the main thoroughfares… this could be a very fruitful afternoon.

 

Stijl

Shopping rue Antoine Dansaert @ Stijl

 

And now for some lunch

The rue de Flandre is a great place for a lunch break. San is one of our lunch favorites. The food is oh so fresh, very colorful and presented all in one bowl, all healthy and all delicious. If you want a more traditional Brussels experience, have some oysters and fresh seafood tapas standing at the infamous Mer du Nord outdoor seafood bar.

Restaurant La Mer du Nord

Old school Brussels: Vintage finds

Once the shopping and lunch are finished, you can gradually start to walk from this the lower part of town, up towards the Sablon. On your way up stop by the vintage stores in the rue des Chartreux, don’t forget to stop by the wonderful Gabriele Vintage, or for the vinyl lovers the infamous Caroline record store. Finish off with some chocolates at Wittamer and then it’s a few stops on the tram back to Morton Place.

Sablon Brussels off the beaten track

Chocolate stop @ Wittamer

Morton Place Neighborhood Walks
Example of a Home office space at Morton Place
Morton Place Coliving

Thanksgiving back in the 1980’s

I love Thanksgiving. When I was a girl we lived in Ann Arbor Michigan, a university town just outside Detroit and each year on the third Thursday of November, there was an exodus as all the students went home and the entire town shut down. Even though ours was a first generation American family, we always celebrated the holiday albeit with our own flavor: mostly related to a high volume of wine and a generous cheese platter. Although we included the traditional turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes, my French mother could not bring herself to include anything as American as pumpkin let alone marshmallows.

Don’t be afraid!

Like many families around the US, our guests included strangers, often graduate students, who had nowhere to go for the holiday and could not afford the flight home. For these students, this was often their very first Thanksgiving. They would show up apprehensively, clutching a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates, wondering how a holiday could be based on eating turkey of all things. A few hours later, with the glasses empty and the plates cleared apprehensions had been laid to rest and we were all fast friends. To this day, my parents receive an annual thank you note from Michel, a graduate student they hosted over 50 years ago.

Thanksgiving in Paris

I hosted thanksgiving for the first time  at the age of 21 when I was relatively new to Paris, living alone in a tiny flat and working at Christie’s. I had just graduated from university and was trying to juggle a new job while finding my way as an adult in the city. For those of you who haven’t lived in Paris, it’s not known for it’s spacious apartments or kitchens especially on the budget of a young professional. Let’s just say my “kitchen” consisted of two hot plates, a toaster oven, a sink and a mini fridge. Luckily my best friend lived upstairs and could share the burden of preparing the meal! I did have an expandable dinner table that could seat 10 people at a squeeze, so 12 we were.

It’s not about the food

I don’t have many memories of what the food was like, probably for the best, but it did transform my apartment into a home. My American friends were thrilled to be able to bring their own favorite dishes, and my Parisian friends were curious to partake in this most American of traditions. Over the years that kitchen got a lot of use as hosting dinner parties became an important part of my social life; there is something about a home cooked meal, a bottle of wine and a long evening ahead that can’t be replicated in a restaurant. It also proved a great way to make friends in what felt to me like a huge, expensive city.

“Family dinners” at Morton Place

When designing Morton Place, I knew the kitchen and the dining area would be the heart of the house. This is where the stories are shared at the end of the day, where people reveal their own culinary heritage and bring a bit of their traditions to the group. We often see notes written on the kitchen blackboard announcing a housewide “family” meal being hosted by one or the other residents, and when I see those announcements I know the group is going to be alright.

Thanksgiving in London and Amsterdam

This year, I am new to London and am hosting my first Thanksgiving here in this big, some times daunting city. My dinner table will include my family and like my parents before me, some “orphans” who aren’t able to fly back home for the holiday. But far away in Amsterdam my 22 year old daughter Julia, pictured above, will be hosting her first Thanksgiving with her brother. They will be preparing it partly in his kitchen and partly in hers, some of their friends will be discovering the holiday for the first time while others will be reminiscing about Thanksgiving back  home.

 

 

Sarah and Chloé at the Opening of House Louise

New to town?  The best Expats in Brussels blogs

Blogs are a great way for newly arrived expats in Brussels to get the inside track on what is hot and happening. At the opening of MP Louise, we were excited to meet some of the bloggers who have their ear to the ground for all that is new and trendy and thought we would share with you some of our favorite blogs. We have compiled a list of essential blogs for expats and Bruxellois alike.

The best blogs for Expats in Brussels:

  • Brussels’ Kitchen: living in Brussels means outstanding restaurants at affordable prices. Sarah and Chloé of BK write one of the most respected blogs on good grub in Brussels.
  • On Food and Wine: Andrea’s blog reflects the wit and affection of a good natured expat, out to find the best to be had in Brussels while acknowledging the occasional chaos. A kindred spirit for those who choose to celebrate the opportunity to be here.
  • See you there:  the best weekly round up of what to do in Brussels be it food, fashion or fun.
  • French Connect:  this blog is geared at French expats in Brussels, of which there are quite a few! Very well researched, there is a lot of detailed info on settling in Brussels. Check out the membership perks, including a free drop in clinic for legal and fiscal advice.
  • Mode In Belgium: francophone blog with a local perspective. Lovely interface, nice mix of fashion and cultural events.

 

Outside sitting area of a café in the Parvis Saint Gilles Neighborhood in Brussels
  • “From the front door to your morning espresso bar, never more than 100 m” – Joris B., entrepreneur and friend. So in honor of Joris, herewith our tips on where to get coffee in one of the best Saint Gilles café.
  • Brasserie de l’Union: this café has withstood the “hipster” invasion of Saint Gilles and remains true to it’s working class roots. Named after the local football team l’Union Saint Gilloise, life long customers are greeted by name by the no nonsense staff. Drinks your espresso straight up at the bar with a buttery croissant, while reading the local papers at this Saint Gilles café.
  • Le Dillens: overlooking a small tree filled square, this is a happy hangout from early morning to late at night serving whatever you fancy throughout the day. Fresh organic juices, homemade dish of the day served in generous portions and local independent brews on tap, all served in a casual, plant filled space. Excellent wifi should you need to check-in while hanging out.
  • Au Pays des Merveilles: APDM is the go-to for fresh bagels in Brussels. Satisfy your bagel fix or indulge in a full brunch of eggs or pancakes. Try and snag a seat outside at this Saint Gilles café to enjoy the view of the gorgeous rue Jean Volders, one of the prettiest Art Deco streets in Brussels.
Picture of a table at Forcado Pasteileria and a selection of their sweet Portuguese specialties
  • “From the front door to your morning espresso bar, never more than 100 m” – Joris B., entrepreneur and friend. So in honor of Joris, herewith our tips on where to get coffee in the Chatelain Area in Brussels.
  • Hinterland: our neighbors on the corner, were just starting out when we were renovating MP Chatelain. We spent many a meeting huddled around their tables while sipping the smoothie of the day. Three years later and they have hit their stride attracting a young, fashionable crowd hungry for Hinterland’s healthy fare. With the tram stop just outside their door this is a very good option  for those who grab breakfast on the go in the Chatelain area in Brussels. http://hntrlnd.be/en
  • Forcado: Our neighborhood has a significant Portuguese population, which you can definitely appreciate during Euro or World cup football season. The rest of the time, you can enjoy traditional pasteis and strong coffee at Forcado. A family run Pasteileria they only serve sweet Portuguese specialties in their beautifully renovated interior. http://forcado.be/en
  • Parlor Coffee Roasters: is nirvana for coffee connoisseurs, as well as the rest of us who love a great coffee shop as well as a decent sandwich to pick up for lunch. They roast their own beans, have heaps of knowledge about what you’re drinking… but it’s the lovely coffee smell and charming staff which will keep you coming back in the Chatelain Area in Brussels. https://www.parlorcoffee.eu/
Fabric swatches in green and grey

MP Louise is our most challenging project to date: a dramatic house with loads of personality, we wanted to respect the space while meeting the needs of our residents for convenience, community and, when needed, some privacy.

What were the design elements you wanted to accentuate when doing the interiors for the house?

This is a very traditional bourgeois home from the turn of the century with marble fireplaces, 5 meter high ceilings and lovely period details. We really wanted to accentuate the original architecture and atmosphere of the house while keeping it modern and light. The wallpapers are a humorous nod to the house’s bourgeois past while the eclectic furniture makes it feel like a true home  where you could put your feet up and stay a while.

How did you incorporate the needs of a demanding co-living community?

Rule number one: invest in the wifi. We learned this the hard way so now we have the best provider in Brussels. Feedback from our other houses is that residents want to be able to get out of their rooms without having to face their housemates’ dinner party in the common space. So we have created different areas to curl up with a book or do some work from home. Storage is also big concern, as is keeping your stuff separate in the kitchen because there is always that one person…

How did you manage to make each room individual?

Isabelle sourced most of our furniture from vintage markets here in Belgium and in Scandinavia, so there isn’t one look but a happy mix. We wanted it to feel like the house had been in the same family for generations, relaxed and lived in. No two rooms are alike, just like our residents!

What are some of the surprises residents will find about the house?

Afternoon sunlight in the upstairs reading nook, the piano in the living room… just some of the surprises that await.