I want my time with you : 24 hours in Brussels

My husband and I suffered a bout of food poisoning this week, but off he went to his conference in Brussels and off I went to join him for the weekend.  Since completing the Six Items Challenge for Labour Behind the Label I have been conscious to wear more of my wardrobe more often – but also conscious that Brussels is home to some incredible vintage shops, I packed super light to save space for some new old treasures.

“I want my time with you” reads the new artwork of Tracey Emin lighting up the London station that welcomes everyone arriving from mainland Europe via the Eurostar.  It’s said to be a love letter to Europe over Brexit madness, but the words are a fitting memo to oneself before you go shopping, and before I share my favourite places to shop in Brussels.

Sustainably speaking, “I want my time with you” is kinda like Livia Firth’s advice, every time you shop, always ask yourself “will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?”  In other words, make sure it’s love.

Shop Local

The navy jacket I’m wearing above is by Natacha Cadonici.  I was rerouted dropping my bag at the hotel when I found Natacha’s studio and shop and fell for the bomber made in Brussels using fabrics from a couture house in Paris.

Shop Vintage

The Sablon Area has some gorgeous boutiques and on the weekends The Sablon Antiques Market is a must.  Find the stripey tents before the 15th-century Catholic church, Église Notre-Dame au Sablon and you’re in the right place for antiques including high jewellery and fashion jewellery like this bakelite ring I found from Caroline Michils’ stand.  Complete with a portrait of someone’s loved one, I didn’t need convincing… this ring will definitely be loved.

On my second visit to Gabriele Vintage, I actually made it to the back of the shop to see vintage shoe heaven (the first was a fly-by on route to Bruges).  I don’t often buy vintage shoes, partly because my feet are a size 38-39, so I usually avoid the embarrassment of seeing if they will squeeze into pretty teeny-tiny shoes with no clearly marked size.  The shoes are handily displayed by size at Gabriele Vintage and include a good selection of 38, 39 and 40s dating from the ’40s to the ’70s.  These suede block heels are from the ’60s – worn with shiny ’90s trousers I got on Brick Lane in London.

Whilst in the area, check-out the beautifully curated edit of designer vintage and preloved pieces next door to Gabriele Vintage at Isabelle Bajart.

And the window styling at Ramon & Valy on Rue des Teinturiers gives better outfit game than Instagram.

Eat

As you can imagine, traditional moules weren’t what the doctor ordered in our case, so we went for Ethiopian where it is customary to eat with your hands. We tried the intimate exchange called gursha – where you scoop up the first taste of stew from the sharing platter and feed each other.

We got carried away with the first food we’d eaten in two days and kept feeding each other for half the meal. *no food positioning necessary, this over-share is permission to puke now*

Seriously though, even with a sensitive stomach this restaurant was too good to skip dinner.   Fashion aside, I would go back to Brussels just for the food at Toukoul.  We loved this restaurant.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

Greek green living in Athens

I just visited Athens, city of marble for the first time.  The Greek side of my husband’s family visited us in London before we all headed to a big fat Greek wedding in Athens.

I’ll keep references to that film brief, but it’s been a running joke since my first dinner with them. “What do you mean she don’t eat no meat?” A good excuse for me to share some good Greek spots for vegetarians visiting Athens.

Teasing over the Elgin Marbles was also inevitable.   Stereotypically English, I neatly queued up their banter, as my eyes started tearing up in the heat as we queued for the Acropolis.   “Awww she’s crying at the sight of the other marble they could have taken.”  Elgin marbles aside, Athens is a city with marble in abundance.   I walked on pavements, staircases and curbs made of the stuff.

I wore vintage Zandra Rhodes (above) from Circa Vintage and gladiator sandals I bought from a local London based brand IRIS.

Outside the Acropolis museum, running as a tour guide uses my shirt dress to describe the meaning of the colours in the Greek flag, blue sky, white ocean waves.  Accessorising my Greek flag with Castañer espadilles and a vintage cork backpack from People of 2morrow.

Stay

We chose an Airbnb with views of the Acropolis, solar thermal energy and homemade wine in the southeast neighbourhood, Koukaki.

I packed Bentley Organic shampoo and conditioner and Aloe Pura Organic Aloe Vera sun lotion with pomegranate, protecting echinacea, nourishing Jojoba and avocado oil.

Eat & Drink

Greece has a cornucopia of natural products that promote wellbeing. Vegetarians visiting Athens can’t go far wrong with the salads.  Vegans should check out both Mama Tierra and Avocado.  As a pescatarian, I feasted on vegetarian starting plates in more meaty Greek restaurants, which shouldn’t be skipped for the traditional live music.

I loved the salads at Skoubri (above) Σκουμπρί, Drakou 14, Athina and the floral vintage wallpaper, old Athens style decor and dishes at Cherchez La Femme (below) Σερσέ λα φάμ, Mitropoleos 46, Athina.

In local Lotte Cafe – Bistrot (below) Tsami Karatasou 2, Athina and Birds & Booze in Plaka you could feel like you are in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  Both are fun day and night.

Shop

Athens is painted in graffiti, so I couldn’t resist sharing this.  There is some great guilt-free shopping to be had in the independent shops amongst the touristy traps in Plaka and Monastiraki .  Check out repurposed accessories made in Greece at 3Quarters with bags made from leftover balcony awnings.

I couldn’t leave Monastiraki without handmade sandals from The Poet Sandal-Maker of Athens. Good enough for John Lennon and Jackie O. Good enough for me.

The store opened in 1920 and remains a family business today, run by the grandson of the founding artisan.  The makers know your sandal size just by looking at you.  You choose a style and they fit and cut the leather to your foot.  I chose Aeolian No. 2.  

©photographs Reclaimed Woman