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Brussels, famous for chocolate, beer and frites has been home to the European Union’s institutions since the late nineteen-fifties, making it the best place to gain experience of European and competition law (and also to gain weight!).
I am currently in the middle of a six month stay here in Brussels as part of my training contract with BLP. The team here is part of the EU and Competition team who work alongside our colleagues in London. We advise multi-national companies on matters of European and competition law in complex transactions and cases at both EU and national level.
Our office has a fantastic location situated in the heart of the European quarter amongst the European institutions and by a busy street of cafes and supermarkets. It is only a short walk from the impressive European Parliament and Place du Luxembourg, a square of bars and restaurants where you will find most institution workers, lawyers and the like, post-work on a Thursday and Friday evening.
My flat is in the Etterbeek Borough which is within a five minute walk of everything I need. There is also a metro station close by from where I can take a cheap ten minute metro ride into work. However, whenever I do manage to resist the snooze button on my alarm clock, I like to walk, which is a gentle 30 minute stroll through the picturesque Cinquantenaire and Leopold parks.
For a relatively small European city, Brussels has a wide variety of places to eat and drink mainly around the various squares such as Place Jourdan, Grand Placeand Place Saint Boniface. Whether you fancy traditional Stoemp (mashed potato with added vegetables, cream and/or bacon), Moules Frites (mussels and chips) or an Indian, Chinese, Indonesian or Ethiopian dish, good quality food is not hard to find. Likewise, it almost goes without saying, that good beer is aplenty here and comes in all kinds of weird and wonderful flavours. I have to admit before I came out to Brussels, I thought beer was pretty disgusting but the Belgian beers especially the fruit beers such as Kriek (sour cherry beer) have now changed my opinion.
One of my favourite ways to start the weekend is buffet brunch at the top floor restaurant in the MIM -Musée des Instruments de Musique (Musical Instrument Museum). Not only is the food delicious but the views of the city are the best. From here, all the main attractions and shops are really close, which is the great thing about Brussels, nothing is ever that far away. Another great aspect of living in Brussels is that it is brilliantly located for visits to other European countries on day trips and weekend adventures. Amsterdam, Paris, London and Cologne are all within easy reach by train.
The downside of living in Brussels in comparison to London, is my French, which as a complete novice, is not very good at all. But I am working on it at evening group lessons and really enjoy trying to get to grips with the language. Because Belgium itself is a multi-lingual and multi-cultural country and approximately a quarter of the population is foreign, it is very easy to get to know people and do a bit of networking, whether it be with other trainees from London/American-based firms or those working at one of the European institutions or a multi-national company. The quality of work and the vast experience I am gaining from my time in Brussels is great. It is fair to say, I am really enjoying the city and all it has to offer.