Last night we decided to treat ourselves and have dinner out. It’s actually been a while since we did this, mainly because of the Game of Thrones addiction, but now we’re up-to-date, it’s time to venture out of the apartment in search for food!
We also realised that the Ommegang celebrations were taking place, so the plan was to eat, drink, be merry and race back to the Grand Place to have a peek at what was going on.
As you know, Mike isn’t vegan but he loves vegan food and is super supportive and respectful of my lifestyle, especially when it comes to finding vegan-friendly places in Brussels. I’d heard whispers about Fin de Siècle offering a vegan moussaka, and as there would be plenty of traditional Belgian options for Mike, it seemed the perfect place.
Now then, Fin de Siècle is an extremely popular Belgian resto, and as such probably one of the last places you’d expect to offer a vegetarian option, never mind something vegan.
I was pleasantly surprised when I asked the very friendly waiter whether they offered a meat-free moussaka, and to be honest, I was expecting it to be just vegetarian, and to then have to ask them to veganise it. When he said that they did offer this, and it was vegan, without me having to even ask – I knew this was exactly where I needed to be.
The meal was delicious, a great portion size and it came with a lovely side salad. Yum, yum and thrice yum.
I must also add, that I’ve often found staff in restaurants in Brussels to be quite rude, indifferent at best, but everyone at Fin de Siècle was helpful, friendly and made it an absolute pleasure to dine there. Merci beacoup! NB – there are, of course, lots of places that have great service in the city too!
We decided to meander back up to the Grand Place to get into the Ommegang spirit. Here’s a little history for you:
The word ‘Ommegang’ means ‘walkabout’ in old Flemish and the Ommegang of Brussels is celebrated on the first Thursday of July, and the previous Tuesday, each year. It’s a religious festival which celebrates a symbol, saint or statue, by parading it around the city with a suitable procession.
The Brussels Ommegang goes back to 1348 and a lady called Béatrice Soetkens who heard voices telling her that the Virgin Mary wanted her to go to Antwerp and bring the statue called Our Lady of the Branch to Brussels. Off Béatrice and her husband went, travelling by rowing boat to Antwerp, where she took the statue and made the journey back to Brussels.
En route back to the big B, the elements took against them, the wind, the waves and one very tired Mr Soetkens were making the journey pretty dire, until a Holy Wind carried the couple back into the heart of Brussels, surrounded by a blazing light.
To celebrate this holy incident, each year the statue was paraded around Brussels, and the celebrations eventually incorporated the city, the seven great families along with the guilds, crossbowmen and civil authorities.
Fast-forward to 1549 and Emperor Charles V visited Brussels to present his son, who would become Philip II. The wealthy and mighty of the city showed the best of Brussels with an Ommegang to remember, as a tribute to the royal guests. In 1930, the year that celebrated Belgium’s centenary, the Ommegang returned, and has been enjoyed every year since.
Mike and I were just in time to see the parade come down from the royal park to the historical heart of Brussels. The horses you see are all police horses by day, and I made friends with one called Lille, who was so sweet and gentle – I didn’t want to leave him!
Until next time, bisous!