It all sounded so romantic!  A new overnight train service from Brussels to Berlin.  One of us had visions of restaurant cars, a full bar, and comfortable compartments.  Lets just say he was wrong.

More like a second class couchette with a hard bed and a minuscule menu topping out at hangover-inducing beer that even a college kid would scoff at.  Oh well.

Lessons learned: listen to romey (check), bring your own food (check), bring your own booze (check).  Just fly…

With a name like the “European Sleeper” how could it go wrong?

This guy had a faster trip with better beer and he had to steer.

Yes, of course we drank the dang beer.

Anyway, we did it so you don’t have to!

And we arrived in Berlin.  At the wrong station.  Late.

After the relaxing visit to Lichtervelde for the 3rd Great Belgian Rum Tasting it was a quick train ride to Brussels to await Romey’s arrival.  The Hotel Manos Premier is a bit off the beaten track between touristland and the train station.  It is an easy walk to everywhere.

The room I requested was occupied by someone who had changed rooms.  I was assigned the same category suite connected to the bee garden.  Predictably, the HVAC was unable to handle the heat (something that seems to be pervasive in Europe these years what with massive climate change) which made for a less comfortable stay than it could have been stay.  Minus ten for the room swap.

The hotel is well appointed in an old Europe kind of way.  Very nice breakfast room.  Cosy grounds with nice outside greenery.

The room itself had plenty of space and was comfortable but was not well put together into a coherent design.  Euro-bathroom.  Not plastic.  But not a real shower either.

The water closet.  LOL.

The bedroom had room for the bed.

By far the nicest part 0f the suite was the sitting room.  This is where working AC would have been helpful.

Romey arrived! Every visit to Brussels must include the main gothic square.  Have a beer.

And visit the little pisser too!

A stop in at the Musical Instrument Museum usually includes a very nice visit to the rooftop bar.  Sadly, the rooftop is under renovation.  The museum itself is remarkable with a great collection of very weird instruments from all over the world.

La Pharmacie Anglaise is a very good bar indeed, right next to the MIM.  Handcrafted nicely-designed cocktails are abundant, and they know most of the classics.

A cocktail and some finger food at Vertigo was OK.  The service could be easily improved,

Make time for a walk in the park.  We spent a few hours just following our noses around the city which was very nice.  Brussels is reasonably walkable.

Street fun and frites clothing.

The highlight of the visit was lunch with Yo and Caroline at restaurant Albert, on the top floor of the national library.  Great food, but more importantly, great company.

Finally, before our train trip to Berlin, we stopped by for a rooftop cocktail at some completely forgettable rooftop bar (maybe JAM Brussels) with our London companions.   And then it was time to catch the train…

Three showerheads for the Hotel Manos Premier.  Best to have working HVAC and give people the room you promised them.

Located in the heart of Brussels, very close indeed to the Grand Place, the Amigo Hotel is nicely tucked into an old school building. This is a formidable hotel where the demographic is not the hip and young but rather the old and moneyed.

The staff at the front desk is old school too, a bit stuffy and with varying levels of obsequiousness that don’t quite ring true. This is not your California front desk staff of happy kids. OK then.

Overnight, the staff swap led to some people who knew how to relax a notch, and that was nice.

The lobby is beige and marble. Come to think of it, there is lots of beige here in this room as well. I think the olds like beige.

We were upgraded from an expensive junior suite to an even more expensive classic suite. They did email and attempt to upsell the bigger suite, and we just responded that a complementary upgrade would be great. That seems to have worked. So thanks for the free upgrade!

We were assigned suite 237. This looks like the example room from this suite category. Plenty of room to hang out, a great bathroom, etc. “Pretty not bad” as my friend Sammy would say.

237 couch and desk room

The desk has a bluetooth speaker (bonus points)

The extra touches make all of the difference. Like a bluetooth speaker that you can pair a streaming phone with, and water by the bedside that is free (as it should be), and hangers that are real and solid.

Bedroom (mostly bed)

Through the French doors

Of course you should always get water (sparkling)

The room overlooks a classic Brussels street and into a set of offices.

Example view

The hall has lots of closet space, but it is not very well designed.

Closets could use some modernization

The bathroom is palatial. And there is a separate glass shower. “One of the better showers ever,” says ms NPS. Lots of marble.

Bathtub, toilet and bidet

Chair in the bathroom


Glass shower cube

The art is very nice and Tin Tin oriented.

An amenity with a personal note arrived while we were orienting. Belgian chocolates. Of course.


The bar downstairs is very good, with professional and knowledgeable bartenders who make a mean Negroni with Napue gin (from Helsinki).

A proper Negroni (up)

Napue gin from Helsinki

Local Belgian gins

Look who else has been here

Dinner at Comme Chez Soi was, like the hotel, on the old school side. Excellent food, especially if you like cream, butter, butter, and some caviar. Very heavy but outstanding. Plan to be full for two days.

Some Pomerol

Sauce! There is a cod under there somewhere.

Incredible tartine

Chocolates, because Belgium

With extra dipping sauce (lol)

The walk home helped to make up for the butter and the butter and the sauce and the cream. Kinda.

When in Brussels

Breakfast included a Belgian waffle (this was a mandatory item before we would be allowed to leave the country).

Bottom line: the Amigo is a five showerhead location, but is a bit old school for NPS. So four showerheads and an appointment to update the decor a notch for the Amigo. I imagine we will be back.

Beauty is only skin deep, and sometimes it is even less deep than that. Deceptively pretty and wired looking from afar, the Made in Louise hotel has aspirations beyond its class. The setting is quaint and pretty, and the gardens have lots of birds and trees, but ultimately too many corners have been cut in the Ikea-inspired design for this hotel to reach boutique class.

It seems to be designed for pensioners on vacation who would like to stay in “one of those hip new places” but who are not really sure what that means. The construction of room 31 provides a good example. The style is not bad, but its implementation is cheap. And in some cases the facade gives way entirely and the Ptompkin reality settles in.

The garden is very pretty

The garden is very pretty

Room 31 has nice windows

Room 31 has nice windows

But whoever attached this TV crooked to the wall just blew it

But whoever attached this TV crooked to the wall just blew it

Seems stylish in a Marriott kind of way

Seems stylish in a Marriott kind of way

But the fabrics are artificial and the furniture is hollow and plastic

But the fabrics are artificial and the furniture is hollow and plastic

Of course we’re looking into the shower situation every time we try a new property.

Not a bad shower, but the shower pan is noisy

Not a bad shower, but the shower pan is noisy

This is just not good

This is just not good

Plastic cup?  really?

Plastic cup? really?

The main problem with the cheap construction is the noise in the morning when the building wakes up. You can hear every shower’s water hit the floor and each toilet flush. And those great birds from the afternoon become a serious nuisance around 5:30am. Also the window shades may look cool, but they fail to block the light. Sleep? Who needs it?!

Breakfast? Forgettable. Utterly. We can’t even remember what we had and our plate is still sitting beside us.

So all told, three very low showerheads for this place. It’s not bad, but it is really no better than a Marriott in many ways.

We will not be back.

In town for an event, we were pleased to visit Madou’s Provence whose food continues to live up to its reputation. Here is a little gem that punches way above its weight class.

Sadly the only craft cocktail bar in town (Hortense) is closed Monday through Wednesday. So we slummed it at Floris bar which has an insane collection of absinthe (hundreds of bottles) but is also a super seedy dive often hit with a wash of humanity seeking beer and thumping music. Our server Alice was great, but no.

We did find this fantastic product

We did find this fantastic product

1/3 of the wall of absinthe at Floris

1/3 of the wall of absinthe at Floris

Anyway, there is better to be discovered in Brussels, and we definitely need to visit again.

The problem with the hotelBloom is that they are slightly too hip for their britches. The hotel itself is decent, especially if you’re travelling for business. It sure beats a Sheraton or the phenomenally-ugly Hilton that dominates the skyline near the King’s palace (yes, they still have a King in Belgium?!). But the staff at the front seems to have forgotten that the guests are essential for running a hotel. Time to listen to your customers guys. My bet is they’ll learn.

Anyway, this is the second time I have stayed at hotel Bloom. The first time I had a huge palace of a room. (That was pre-blog but only in the Fall of 2009.) This time I was travelling with my son and my dad again. It took us multiple room switches to get into one that we could fit in. Ultimately the room was nice but pretty generic. The shower says it all of course…

As you can see in the classic “backwards mirror” shot, there’s not much here to write home about. Just a Euro-shower that will soak the floor if you use it wrong. Here’s another shot for good measure.

Anyway, hotel Bloom has a great bar with a budding mixologist and some very interesting drinks on the menu. They need to add a reasonable top shelf to the bar and thus improve the bourbon selection in order to be an outstanding bar. But Marco knows what he’s doing so that is likely to happen.

If hotel Bloom were not so hip that it trips over its own fancy tail, it would get a nice high rating. There’s some work to do, though, so we’ll give it a four showerheads rating.