The Third Time Wasn’t a Charm

I’ve just returned from my third business trip to Brussels – one of my favorite cities in the world. Each time I go, I sit or stand in the Grand Place for hours, eating waffles and watching people go by. I think it’s become my ‘happy place.’

But on this trip to Brussels, I did not travel alone. I went with my boss and another colleague, and my beloved Brussels lost some of its magic. No, that’s not true. Brussels was as magnificent as ever; I just didn’t get to savor the ambiance the way that I have before. This time, it was all business.


I took my companions to the Grand Place since this was their first time there. We looked at it briefly, snapped a few pictures, and then walked on to see Manneken Pis and all the waffle stands. They liked the architecture and the romantic allure of the square, but this was business, and we moved on.

But at night, after we returned to our hotel from dinner, I ditched my crew and ran back to the Grand Place, where I had a few magical moments to myself again. Not nearly enough, though. Not nearly enough.


22 responses to “The Third Time Wasn’t a Charm

  1. Oh, yes, business travel. It’s amazing how much that constrains what you see and do. It sure isn’t like going with a backpack or exploring the side streets. But you do get to know the airport terminals.

  2. I don’t know what business travel feels like but I could imagine the constraints. Then again, traveling with friends who aren’t into the same things you are or traveling on limited time can be just as a killer and I’ve experienced both. I’ve only been to Brussels once two years ago, and my most memorable experience: stuffing myself with waffles and chocolates and ice cream, and washing it all down with a giant mug of Hoegaarden.

    • You’re right — traveling with the wrong friends can be limiting, too. Luckily, I have great travel companions: my husband, kids and mother. They visited Brussels with me the first time and that’s when I fell in love with the city…waffle in hand. 🙂

    • You hit the nail right on the head. When I travel alone, I have plenty of time to wander. But when there are group dinners every night, there’s just not enough “me time.” I’m hoping my next trip is solo again.

  3. I love town squares like these and this one is beautiful! Reminds me of Old Town Square in Prague, which I was fortunate enough to visit when I was in high school. Looks like I need to put Brussels on my ever-expanding list of places to travel to. 😉

    • I agree; town squares are beautiful. I think I like the Grand Place in Brussels because it is four-sided and closed in. You can stand in the middle and spin in circles and be awed by every angle.

  4. Juliann, sorry to hear the third time wasn’t a charm for you. I suppose it goes without saying that your business associates probably weren’t keen on touring the city museum where Manneken Pis’ wardrobe is housed? That was a treat for us!

  5. I would so, so love to visit your “happy place”. It’s exotic, yes, but just the way it seems things still for you to eat waffles for hours, watching fellow humans pass on by. Meditative, really.

    I love photos of where I am not. And those cobbled streets are something so, so else.

    • Thank you. It is meditative for me.
      And I’m like you — I love to see pictures of life going on in places I’m not. It lets me escape, knowing that people are living their lives in other parts of the world that I’m not even thinking about.

  6. Nice to see an appreciation of Belgium. It’s usually overlooked as a country that’s just sort of ‘there’ without much going for it 🙂 Good pics of Grande Place.

    • Thanks, Maddie. I was glad to slip away by myself for a little while, too. I’m an introvert by nature and need some downtime away from my colleagues whether I’m in the States or travelling. You’d think they’d know that about me by now.

  7. I dream of getting a job that will let me travel. Obviously mixing work and pleasure is not that great an idea 🙂 Glad you could squeeze a few moments to yourself.

    • I am thrilled to have job that lets me travel, and don’t mind mixing business and pleasure. But I guess I’ve gotten spoiled on previous trips by traveling alone. I didn’t know how much I relished my time to myself.

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