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Support our local  “Marchés”

As Belgium experiences stricter covid restrictions, never has it been more important to support the small local businesses which not only give our neighborhoods character, but nourish our communities. For this edition of our series on the our Top 5 tips for residents at Morton Place, we focus on the outdoor food markets which are steps from Morton Place. A few minutes from Morton Place Chatelain is the the Wednesday afternoon market on the Place du Chatelain. Morton Place Louise and Parvis are steps from the market on the Parvis de Saint Gilles. This market is open almost daily as of 7.30 am until about lunch time with the exception of Mondays when it is closed, and Thursdays when it is open from 12-10pm. Not only do these markets feature farm to table ingredients but food stalls as well. Enjoy the Top 5 tips shared by our favorite foodie Chloé of Brussels Kitchen picking out the best food for you to enjoy at home, please support our friends and neighbors while staying safe.

– Tanya, founder @Morton Place

 

Our top 5 favorite neighborhood market stalls

Time is a bit suspended at present in Brussels and nothing is quite the way it used to be with many of the restaurants which give our neighborhoods life having been closed. Many restaurants and bars are implementing creative solutions with take away or special, limited sized events. But the best place to still enjoy a bit of the atmosphere of our community is at our local markets, Morton Place Parvis and Chatelain are among the more vibrant  fresh food markets of Brussels.

Markets are open

Despite covid and the darker autumn skies, our markets are open, thriving and they need us! Brussels has one of the coolest outdoor markets scenes in Europe, with street food stalls that would rival those of any indoor food market in London or Madrid. You’d think we’d have more covered markets but no – in Belgium it’s outside rain or shine. And now more than ever, our local markets of the Chatelain and Parvis need our support.

If our stall holders have to adapt, we will adapt too. So for now forget enjoying an aperitif while lingering in front of the food stalls with our friends. Instead, we visit the markets with our tote bag in hand, ready to fill it with fantastic food but this time as take away. The market on the Place du Chatelain is on Wednesdays from 1-7pm. The market on the Parvis de Saint Gilles is daily as of 7.30 am until about lunch time with the exception of Mondays (closed) and Thursday when it is open from 12-10pm. Not only do they feature farm to table ingredients but food stands as well.

We have selected our favorite stands – food, but not only – from the Châtelain and Parvis de Saint-Gilles markets. Because even your meal can no longer to be enjoyed on the spot, it’s nice to look your chef in the eye, exchange a few words and say thank you before enjoying your meal at home Let’s go.

Favorite market stalls at the Marché de Chatelain

Market Vendor and flowers

Neighborhood Gem: florist Ben van Hoo

Ben Van Hoo

Our first stop is for flowers. If you like pretty things, and as a resident of MP this is very likely, you will surely appreciate beautiful and affordable flowers. Ben’s stand is a golden nugget, no more and no less. Every week, the stand can be found on Wednesdays at the Châtelain market (but also on Saturdays and Sundays at the Flagey market). Ben selects the prettiest seasonal, organic and local flowers. It gives bouquets a rustic air, light as a breeze, colored as a summer’s day, or enchanting as a winter’s snow fall. Our most recent bouquet included Pampas grass, red holly berry flowers, and huge gladioli. A wonder.

The bonus? The bouquets, pre-made and soberly wrapped in craft paper cost only € 15.

Another bonus: you can also compose your bouquet yourself.

Thai food at stall

Neighborhood Gem: Thai food stall

Thai Food (the apple green tent can’t be missed)

While this Thai street food stand doesn’t really have a name it can be recognized from afar thanks to its apple green tent. Impossible to go wrong with tent or to choose a wrong dish as the food is good. Olivier tells us that with his wife Jeab, they’ve been working market stalls for 11 years. After living 6 years together on Koh Samet, a small island below Bangkok, where they ran a guesthouse, they came to settle in Belgium and made it their mission to introduce authentic Thai cuisineto Brussels. They can be found every Wednesday at Le Châtelain, and the rest of the week at the Boitsfort, Saint Job and Vieux Tilleul markets.

Their specialty, ideal for this season: Thai chicken noodle soup. A cousin to the classic Vietnamese Pho, the base is close but its broth differs with wonderful flavors very specific to Thailand. A treat for the modest sum of € 7.

Bonus: Olivier and Jeab have adapted the recipe to make it ideal for take-out. The noodles are pre-cooked and packaged separately from the broth, to prevent overcooking. Once back home, just heat them up for a minute in the broth, and it’s ready!

Borek

Neighborhood Gem: Aslan Borek

 

Aslan Borek

This is our latest crush no more and no less. Before being convinced by the taste, we had already fallen in love with the gestures. A ball of dough that is bounced between the fingers, then twirls in the flour, before being flattened, garnished, ending up cooking to a nice crisp on the plancha. We had our eyes on this stand for a while before having the patience to wait in the long lines for their Borek. The first good news, for us, is that there are no more lines. The second is, it’s not only mesmerizing to watch, but their food is also delicious.

Damla, whose maiden name is Aslan, works as a team with her husband Arnaud. It’s been two years since they gave up everything – they were respectively a sports coach and a sales engineer – to pursue their dream to work  “les marchés”. First in Lille, then in Knokke, and finally in Brussels, where they have been for just over a year. They can also be found on the Flagey market every Sunday.

Tip: Try the spicy beef borek, or the mushroom one, or both. These are our two favorites, but they are all amazing.

 

Favorite food stalls at the Marché du Parvis

El Taco Mobil

It is thanks to El Taco Mobil that we discovered the Parvis market. When their stand disappeared from the Flagey market, we went looking for them – that’s how good their food is. If there’s one thing that doesn’t take to the streets in Brussels, it’s a good Mexican taqueria. Not a frozen wheat tortilla Tex-Mex chain, no, a real Mexican, where the corn tortillas are made by hand. El Taco Mobil is exactly that, but mobile version. In addition to the authentic tortillas, Selene makes her homemade salsa verde, and garnishes her tacos with pulled pork, grilled beef and organic and seasonal vegetables. The dream. Our only regret: only being able to taste their incredible cuisine on Thursdays.

Our tip: Enjoy your tacos with a horchata, a traditional Mexican drink made from rice milk and cinnamon, homemade by Selene.

 

Ty Penty

Ty Penty is one of the great classics of Brussels food trucks, turning out the unmistakable sweet and savory Breton galettes. The line, usually endless, has been synonymous with their success for many years now. People come for their buckwheat pancakes of impeccable quality and for the kindness and smile of the owners. Our favorite, the ham, cheese and egg “complete” has never disappointed. They can also be found in Flagey on Saturdays and Sundays, on Mondays at Place Van Meenen and on Tuesdays at Square Meeus.

 

The must: accompany your pancake with a traditional bowl of cider – or a bottle – Breton of course.

The must of the must: finish off  with a traditional sweet pancake (this time with wheat flour). The pear and chocolate one is to die for.

 

Marché du Chatelain: Place du Chatelain 1050 Ixelles

Wednesday 12:00- 19:00

Marché du Parvis de St Gilles: Parvis de St Gilles 1060 Saint Gilles

Monday closed

Tuesday 07:45–14:45

Wednesday 07:30–13:00

Thursday 12:00–22:00

Friday  07:30–13:00

Saturday  07:30–14:00

Sunday 07:30–14:00

 

5 Cafés to (really) get some work done

It’s back to school. And even if summer isn’t quite over, or never quite started, there’s something pretty uplifting in the air. With many of us working from home, we often need a change of scenery so here’s a look at cafés where we are able to get some real #wfh done and all within close distance to Morton Place.

When you’ve had enough of working from home

We self-employed are often hopping from client to client or in my case from House to House and I have some favorite spots in the Morton Place neighborhoods where I know I can concentrate and get things done. Surprisingly, I find it easier to stay focused when working in a café. But the key is knowing how to choose the right place and avoid the cafés with bad Wi-Fi connection, loud music or the incessant noise from the various machines.

 

Although my list evolves, in conjunction with Chloé from Brussels Kitchen we have selected for you the cafés which, in our opinion, combine all the elements necessary for a good productive working day, from the quality of their coffee, sturdiness of their tables – to their playlists and all within an easy stroll from Morton Place!

Cafés near Morton Place Chatelain

Matcha Coffee

Belga & Co Bailli

Belga & Co is our go-to when we want a café where we are guaranteed to get through the To Do list. The concentration that reigns there is exemplary; customers even go out to the garden to make a phone call, just to be sure not to disturb the others. The three adjoining rooms, the dark walls, the sober and warm decor make it feel a bit like home. But with better coffee.

 

Our Tips: the sunny garden for a break (or phone call!)

Our favorite drink: coconut milk cappuccino

The best time to go: around noon, to be sure to get a table easily and after the morning rush

 

Belga & Co – 7 rue du Bailli, 1050 Ixelles

 

Coffee and cookieKami

Kami is the new kid on the block, having opened after the others in the neighborhood, yet they have found their place and we love it. If you are lucky enough to nab a spot in the small conservatory, you can be even more secluded with a nice view of the garden and it’s song birds. Inside is comfy as well, with benches that allow several people to sit around a table, ideal for mini improvised meetings around a coffee.

 

Our Tips: the excellent home-made pastries, especially the “financiers” which are to die for, and the grilled cheese sandwich on soft sandwich bread.

Our favorite drink: Ethiopian filter coffee in batch brew

Best time to go: 9 a.m., as of opening

 

Kami – 355 chaussée de Waterloo, 1060 Saint-Gilles

 

 

 

 

Coffee shop with plants The Wild Lab

It’s our favorite address to start the day off right. They serve one of the best breakfasts in the capital. Too bad we can’t also start the week there: they only open as of Wednesday. But when Wednesday arrives, we tuck our computer in our bags and we rush there as soon as it opens for an indulgent breakfast: pancakes, banana toast and peanut butter, acai bowl or poached eggs and toast, they have it all. Everything to put us in a good mood and get us over the mid-week slump.

 

Our Tips: the fab menu from breakfast to brunch and snacks, which means that you can easily stay there all day

Our favorite drink: golden latte with coconut milk

Best time to go: Wednesday morning!

 

The Wild Lab – 44a rue Antoine Bréart, 1060 Saint Gilles

 

 

 

Cafés near Morton Place Louise & Parvis

 

Eggs and toastCafé Flora

With its enormous sunny yellow terrace, this place is hard to miss. At first glance, you might think it’s more of a bar – and we have enjoyed more than one drink there however, it is also a very good base camp to get some work done. In the morning, the atmosphere is still calm and we enjoy a buttery croissant while soaking in the first rays of sunshine. If outside is too distracting, inside we like to settle into the thick velvet benches, with a coffee at hand to catch up on our to-do list. And when it comes to happy hour – what better place to invite your friends to join you to finish up your day!

 

Our tips: best eggs and soldiers on the Parvis

Our favorite drink: homemade lemonade with yuzu

The best time to go: as of early morning, when it’s calm, until “apéritif” time to end the day in style.

 

Café Flora – 16A Parvis de Saint-Gilles, 1060 Saint-Gilles

 

 

Shopping caféPetit Mercado

 

This one is our latest gem – we have a huge crush on this place. Despite its popular weekend brunch and after work drinks, the Petit Mercado is a peaceful place at any other time of the day. We love the company of owners Mano and Pia, always there to make suggestions from the delicious croissants sourced from La Boule, the coffee from Velvet served in pretty Moroccan glasses, to the daily lunch and delicious cookies for an afternoon pick me up.

 

Our Tips: Le Petit Mercado is also a grocery store. Take this opportunity to leave with a few goodies. Our musts: the bouquets of dried flowers and the collection of canned goods straight from Portugal.

Our favorite drink: oat milk cappuccino

The best time to go: when it opens, around 10 a.m., or in the afternoon, around 3 p.m.

 

Petit Mercado – 82 rue de l’Hotel des Monnaies, 1060 Saint-Gilles

 

  • written in collaboration with Chloé of Brussels Kitchen @brusselskitchen 

 

What’s life like in Brussels right now?

Professionals moving to Brussels in the coming weeks will want to know what to expect with the reopening of the country. After a somewhat strict lockdown the deconfinement process started in May and is entering an increasingly relaxed status. Since the 15th of June, Belgium along with its European neighbors opened its borders to EU and Schengen passport holders. Life in Brussels is slowly going back to “normal”.

With the steady improvement of the pandemic numbers, the kingdom is entering Phase 4 of the relaxation of its rules, called “deconfinement” as of 1 July.

1 July: What to expect

People in Brussels today continue to wear masks when in public transport in accordance with the rules, mask wearing in the street is less frequent. The atmosphere is increasingly relaxed, but outdoor groups of more than 10 people are not allowed so some parks have seen an increase in oversight from park wardens. Safety distances in more crowded areas are enforced.

Restaurants

Restaurant terraces are full as are cafés and bars. Night life is active however all venues have to close at 1am. Night clubs remain closed. There are news reports of youth gathering to on the Place Flagey for spontaneous parties – so the confidence is back for the younger segment of the population.

 

Shopping Rules

Shops are relaxing rules and everything is open. Shopping times are no longer limited and you can shop with a friend. Safety measures are in place to ensure distancing can be respected within the shop. Masks are recommended but not obligatory inside shops.

Gyms

Wellness centers and gyms are open since the beginning of June with protocols in place for hygiene. Pools are also open which is handy as Brussels is experiencing a significant heatwave!

Entertainment

Cinemas and indoor events can host up to 200 people. Museums, galleries and music halls have gradually reopened. Outdoor festivals are allowed with a maximum attendance of 400 people. This means that most music festivals join the infamous Tomorrowland in rescheduling their festivals for 2021.

Administration

People moving to Belgium from abroad often need to register at the local town hall, called the Maison Communale/Gemeente Huis. There are also other administrative procedures for health care, registering for parking etc. New registrants can no longer walk in to take care of these services. They must make an appointment. To do this at the town hall for Morton Place residents you should follow this link: https://irisbox.irisnet.be/irisbox/appointment

 

Moving forward: long live bicycles!

The most exciting consequence of the pandemic has been the acceleration of the mobility plans in Brussels. Increasing the biking lanes and the go slow and no traffic areas is needed as traffic is congested and people are still cautious about taking public transport. Our neighborhoods in Saint Gilles and Chatelain will benefit from this plan, allowing our residents to bike easily  from home to the European Quarter on dedicated bike lanes.

 

What’s happening at Morton Place

Most of our residents have  gone back to their offices spending only a portion of their time working from home. Weekend trips have also started again. We continue to get requests from people outside of Belgium who are moving to Brussels for professional reasons. We are organising video tours and trying to make sure everyone gets to chat with one resident during the tour. There is enthusiasm and confidence in future residents’ voices and we feel confident that we will be able to host future Morton Place residents in comfort and security. We look forward to hosting new residents at Morton Place over the course of the summer!

What to Expect when moving to Brussels today

Many of our future residents are considering when to schedule their move to Brussels after weeks of lockdown or as we call it here “confinement”. We have gathered some of the information we have found the most relevant to help you understand the current situation.  The next udpate is scheduled for 3 June. We will publish again at that time to keep you aware of the rules.

 

Travelling to Brussels from Abroad

Before travelling to Brussels we recommend contacting the local representative of the Belgian government for details on what may be required, especially if you do not have a Belgian residency card. As of now and most likely until 3 June’s update, anyone arriving from abroad needs to self isolate for 14 days when arriving in the country.  Feedback from our residents who have returned to Brussels from France and Italy and who have Belgian residency cards has been positive, they had no questions asked and were handed a flyer. At the airport a representative requested they self-isolate for 14 days but that trips to buy essentials and daily exercise was allowed. This is of course anecdotal and each person may get a different reception.

 

State of the pandemic

The number of new cases is going down with an “R” rate for the week of 14-20 May of 0.89. (source Sciensano weekly update) If you want to know more about the spread of the virus and how the Brussels region has been effected we recommend  reading the Belgian Health Ministry’s Public Health website which has all of the official figures.

 

Easing of restrictions or “deconfinement”

The peak of illness was the week ending on 12 April 2020 and the government announced easing of lockdown restrictions as of 4 May 2020 when Belgium entered Phase 1 of deconfinement. As of 25 May we are in Phase 2 with the following situation:

  • Face masks are obligatory in all public transportation but not in shops
  • There are no public gatherings of more than 3 people and there is a police presence to discourage groups
  • Shops are open including retail and markets
  • Hairdressers and nail salons are open
  • Doctors (GP’s) are allowed to practice normally
  • Sports are allowed with a cap of 20 team mates
  • Weddings and funerals not to exceed 30 people
  • Schools are partially reopened

 

Phase 3 is expected as of 8 June. We are expecting news on the opening of restaurants, cafés and places of worship.

 

Life In Brussels: Cycling paths and “slow” streets

Brussels has quickly pivoted to improve cycling and walking paths in the city. The historical inner city of Brussels (500m from Morton Place) has a blanket “slow street” designation with all traffic limited to 20km an hour with a priority for walkers and cyclists. Within weeks 40km of new cycling paths have opened up with an additional 40km in the works for September. We were particularly excited to see that a large, comfortable path will be reinforced along the inner ring linking Morton Place Parvis and Louise to the European Quarter. For an updated cycling map: New Cycling Paths

 

Life at Morton Place

 

Along with the rest of Belgian households the confinement at Morton Place has also eased  and our activities are almost back to normal. We have a sanitation station at the entrance of each house for the proper disposing of masks and gloves as well as hand sanitizer for anyone walking into the house. We will be welcoming new residents  as of 8 June when we expect most rules regarding the confinement to be lifted.  Although there is some relief at this return to some freedoms, there is also nostalgia for what has been a time of real bonding and friendship among housemates. From celebrating Easter by preparing dishes representing their countries of origin, to a traditional South African braai, pizza nights playing Settlers of Catan and endless deliveries of disinfecting spray and hand soap… what’s not to miss?

 

Moving to Brussels?

We expect the rules  regarding the stay at home measures to be gradually eased as of beginning of May. This is a situation that is evolving rapidly so it is best for expats to stay informed. A vast majority of our residents move to Belgium from abroad and may not always know how to be informed about local news. Expats moving to Brussels maybe curious what the status is in Belgium with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic. In general Belgian hospitals have been coping well, without the overflow sadly witnessed in other parts of the world.

Rules of the Belgian “lockdown” otherwise known as “confinement”

Like it’s European counterparts, the Belgian government imposed a strict stay at home policy as of 18 March 2020. All non-essential workers were instructed to work from home and all offices, retail and non food or pharmaceutical spaces were closed. Residents were asked to stay home while taking one hour a day to exercise with maximum one other person from their household. Borders were closed as of 20 March 2020. We expect the current rules for confinement to be updated on 24 April 2020 with a gradual lifting of the rules anticipated as of 4 May 2020.

Staying Informed

Morton Place Coliving is actively following the guidelines of the Belgian government regarding the the confinement measures which have been put in place. If you are not in Brussels and would like ressources to keep yourself updated the following are good places to get informed.

Belgian Government

Official news and guidelines are published on the official government website of the Belgian Covid-19 Task Force.

Local News Sources

National newspapers are good sources of information and Le Soir seems to have access to most of the government leaks ahead of key announcements. In general the national papers are Le Soir (French), De Standaard (Dutch). Many articles in translation from the flemish papers appear in the  Brussels Times (English) and The Bulletin is a longstanding platform with reliable information relevant to expats.

International

Brussels has consulates from almost all major countries and their websites also feature information relevant to their nationals’ needs. There is a directory of all foreign consulates on the Belgian diplomatic website.

 

Home Office Morton Place Chatelain Coliving

Coliving means we are a Household

Morton Place coliving houses went into lockdown, or “confinement” as of the beginning of March. We follow the rules of Belgian Ministry of Health.  In Brussels, the rules are to limit social contact to one’s household, working from home if possible, with only one outing a day for shopping or exercise. The restrictions started mid-month. We quickly had to move in new residents to their rooms so they became part of the coliving household.  We then decided to suspend any new move ins until after the lifting of the confinement, to minimize the exposure.

Safety first

Our priority is ensuring our coliving communities stay safe. We have increased supplies of the essentials such as extra hand soap, disinfectants etc. In addition to following the official rules, our residents have elected to establish their own coliving house rules. Ideas include blocking the doors open of common areas to minimise contact points, and creating a disinfection rota to spray all frequently touched surfaces more frequently. We also have a protocol and medical supplies in case anyone falls ill, luckily we have not had to use them.

Wifi + Privacy = Community Happiness

Apart from the physical wellbeing of our residents we have also considered the general wellbeing of our coliving house members. With each of our residents having a private bathroom, one major source of cross contamination is eliminated. With 6-8 people in each house working from home, our investment in a corporate grade LAN ensures smooth wifi connections for all. The Netflix account is used for housewide movie and pizza nights. Our in-house copies of “Settlers of Catan” and “Cards against Humanity” are dusted off. You might expect international residents to quickly set off for “home” in such a situation. Almost all of our residents stayed in place, even the residents from Belgium, testifying to the strong community bonds in our coliving houses as well as the comfort. Our residents celebrated Easter together, with colivers sharing the traditions of their home countries. We celebrated a birthday with champagne and ice cream delivered via Deliveroo and have had countless bbq’s in our gardens.

 

Feedback from our coliving houses

We checked in with our coliving communities on a weekly basis. Our new residents who quickly moved in on the day of the lockdown told us “it was actually a good occasion to get to know everybody, in normal times we wouldn’t all be at the house so much.” Our coliving homes have fewer residents per house then your typical house share with a lot of space for hanging out while still allowing for some privacy. Our extra tv rooms with their soft carpets and large flat screen TV’s have been converted to exercise rooms. The home offices, libraries and gaming tables are providing a good space to hang out without being stuck in the bedroom. “We are having a lot of fun while leaving each other enough space.”

Next Steps for coliving at Morton Place

This has been an intense period for all of us, but the bonds of our coliving residents have never been stronger. We are now establishing what our protocols will be for the next phase of coliving life with Covid-19 and are happy we have the trust of our residents to ensure their safety and well being. We will be aiming for a phased move in of new residents, increased housekeeping and discontinuing the use of our guest rooms until we have a better understanding of the post lock down period. Meanwhile, it appears confinement in Belgium is set to be lifted in May and we look forward to welcoming new members of our coliving community at Morton Place. If you are coming to Brussels and would like to explore coliving,  check out our availability here.