The Marriott Grand Place in Brussels inadvertently became our home for seven weeks when Bryan got "stuck" there during a business trip in Asia. Initially I flew out to spend a month with him, thinking that the pandemic would quickly improve.
Before you knew it, the virus had spread to Europe, and then the US. Our original plans continued to evolve, twist, change, and eventually resulted in this 7-week stay in Brussels before we flew back to Hong Kong.
During this time, the Marriott Grand Place in Brussels became our temporary home. The staff were amazing, take really good care of us even when our plans continued to change and despite the older (historic!) building and rooms, which on occasion would have minor problems that needed to be fixed.
We chose it mostly because of its excellent location. It is right in the old part of town that includes many car-free cobblestone roads leading to a number of key tourist spots, museums, bars, restaurants, chocolate shops, beautiful buildings and the Grand Place itself.
I loved how so many great things were within walking distance, from the beautiful dirt running paths in the park and the great museums to the elegant chocolate shops and quaint cafes.
Interestingly, the American steakhouse in the hotel lobby, Midtown Grille, rated extremely well on Tripadvisor, maybe because Americans were nostalgic for their own food.
The food was solid, and they have a nice selection of steaks. For us, the highlight was the availability of Spain's famous Rubia Gallega steak, a steak that is typically quite difficult to find. The price was reasonable, and it was significantly better than the other, normal American steak that we ordered.
We had free breakfast included with our hotel room, so this dining room became a familiar spot for me every morning. I loved making my own waffles on their waffle griddle, and I typically balanced that out with a salad for breakfast, though sometimes I would order an omelet instead and then skip lunch.
Since I was working remotely, I sometimes spent a whole morning in the dining room, getting free refills on sparkling water, coffee, and waffles while working away on my computer (until my battery ran out!).
It was sad our last morning in Belgium when we saw the sign showing that, due to COVID-19, the dining room at the Marriott would be closed indefinitely. Belgium had just announced a mandatory lockdown, and shops were busily arranging various things to comply with the new orders.
The staff who had been so attentive to us during this 7-week stay handed us two take-away bags with breakfast sandwiches and fruit inside. So we carried our "picnic lunches" and took one last walk around this neighborhood we had grown to know in the past month and a half.
It was eerily quiet and empty on this otherwise bright and sunny Saturday morning.
Thank you Marriott! They took amazing care of us during our extended stay. The lounge where I had spent many-a-days working remotely was now closed, with just a coffee machine on a cart outside.
We feel fortunate that we had the opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of this hotel before everything closed down in Europe.
At the time we didn't know how badly the pandemic situation would continue to spiral, eventually affecting the entire world. Looking back, I am very thankful for our time in Brussels. Sometimes I wonder if that was my last taste (for a very, very long time) of a carefree world that no longer exists.
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