Karen Henrich spends her time between Paris and Vancouver,
running a female-friendly
tour company and constantly scouting shopping values that
she passes onto her visitors. She shares this great Paris
to Brussels day trip shopping find. Karen writes:
a fast, easy and fun shopping experience outside of Paris?
I recently went on a great weekend excursion to Brussels
with a friend, and we discovered a magnificent shopping
treasure: the department store HEMA
(pronounced Hey-Ma). Travelers could also do this trip in
a day. I promise 'fun finds' for just one and two euro.
of all, our weekend started out with a super cheap rail
ticket to Brussels. We chose a two nights stay at a lovely
and centrally located hotel called Comfort
Art Hotel Siru at 1 Place Rogier http://www.brusselsarthotelsiru.com/.
Two buffet breakfasts were included -- their hot and cold
selection was the best we’ve ever had in Europe. Although
we only chose that hotel because it was part of the SNCF
train deal (SNCF is the National Railway of France providing
high speed train travel to Europe), it turns out it was
their website the Comfort Art Hotel Siru describes itself
as 'a unique, first-class hotel located near Brussels longest
pedestrian shopping street. This hotel itself is a beautiful
art-deco building with 101 unique pieces of art. The interior
includes the work of 130 Belgium artists. As a result, no
two guestrooms are alike. The Comfort Art Hotel Siru is
only two minutes walk from the central train station, ten
minutes from the Grand'Place and a twenty-minute cab ride
from the Airport'.
One euro heaven...
our first day we set out for the main pedestrian shopping
street, Rue Neuve.
This street has mainly European and international chain
stores but we decided to poke our heads into a store we’d
never heard of before, HEMA. And are we ever glad we found
this gem! Shelves of cosmetics, hair, body and skin products
boasted prices averaging around 1,00 euro each. At first,
we thought we were seeing the pricing wrong, how could this
be? The products were mostly private label, smelled great
and were simply but wonderfully packaged. We loaded up on
shampoo, conditioner, hair spray, body and skin creams,
face masks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bath products and
a myriad of other products. There were even Miss Helen and
Paris Chic products for less than half the price than I
have seen at Monoprix and other stores in Paris.
forced ourselves to leave this department and scour the
rest of the store where we met with amazement rows of Belgium
chocolate, biscuits and other gourmet delights for mostly
under two euros. On the second floor, we discovered that
the clothing sections can largely be skipped because the
fashions are quite conservative in nature, but worth checking
out for basics like socks and underwear. On this floor,
however, we found great candles, towels, sheets, curtains
and all manner of dishes and other housewares. We did a
quick pit stop in the HEMA cafe where tasty drinks, sandwiches,
soups and baking could be had. I figured out that this chain
is a smaller, more manageable IKEA-clone, with the addition
of the beauty products. If it opened in Paris, people would
go absolutely nuts. Oh, and how do the 'pas cher' (inexpensive)
products rate in terms of quality, you ask? The best, we’ve
tried them and love them all, especially the hand cream!
Stock up, ladies...
those Journeywomen living in Europe, our advise is to scout
out cheap tics to Brussels, take your largest shopping cart
on wheels (or two) and head directly to HEMA to bulk-buy
a few months worth of all your necessary everyday products.
will be worth it, even with the cost of the train tickets.
This trip can even be done in a day and it is not necessary
to change currency as all prices are in euros in Brussels.
HEMA presently has stores in Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium
and Germany. Visit the HEMA
site for more information.
you are a Journeywoman heading for Brussels from much farther
away, we think this is a great place to pick up little gifts
for all the folks back home.
Want to know what a euro is worth in your country's currency?
Just click here and
by train from Paris...
known as the red train, Thalys links Paris to Amsterdam,
Brussels, Cologne and Dusseldorf. There are 18 Thalys trains
per day that take you from Paris to Brussels in under 90
minutes. You can buy tickets online through RailEurope.
They have interesting hotel deals (http://www.raileurope.com/us/hotels/index.htm)