Spring is in the air. I can smell her sweet fragrant flowers and hear her winged companions serenading melodies through my doorway. The pale shades of grey that accompany winter are being replaced with vibrant colors competing for attention. Everything is blossoming, including Mons, Belgium!
On a recent family outing to downtown Mons, I was showered with rose petals that fell from the sky, as our family accidentally walked into a Moroccan wedding procession. On the steps outside the Hotel de Ville we witnessed a bride, groom, their family and friends break into a lively celebration dance. We were enchanted by the exotic music and merriment. We could have easily continued to ride the coat tails of this happy event, but our stomach rumbles rivaled those of the Moroccan drums. We were there to eat!
Over the Christmas break our family found ourselves cold and hungry while roaming around the back streets of Mons. As we headed back up a side street from the Grand Place, there was a narrow alley with a soft glow from a window. Over the door was a sign, Le Tivoli. As we opened the door, we were greeted by the warmth of the pizza ovens and the smell of rising dough. The bar is the focal point, not because of liquid libations, but because of the two pizza ovens. The space feels like a familiar friend’s dining room. We quickly made ourselves at home and ordered a carafe of house red wine and soft drinks for our girls. To my delight, I watched a woman roll up her sleeves and begin rolling our pizza dough. After adding our toppings, they were quickly popped into the oven. Mere minutes later they’re done and ready to be consumed. And to our delight our pizzas were delivered to our table with a genuine smile, were just as delicious as the aroma drifting overhead, and when the bill came I think I heard my wallet say thank you.
Now, for a little sweet talk. If you’re looking to bribe the kids to behave or possibly reward yourself for all the money you saved eating at Le Tivoli, I have a candy shop I would like to introduce you to. Our girls know a visit to Mons isn’t complete unless they fill up a few coned shaped bags with sweets from Le Bonbon Frivole. What the store lacks in chocolate, they make up for in their rainbow assortment of sugar coated goodness. This place is especially rewarding on a rainy day (The colors inside practically spill onto the streets), as it exudes one word, happy.
Whether you’re in Mons morning, noon, or early evening, you should know there is a place to refuel your energy in the form of coffee. Le Pain Quotidien (The Daily Bread). Walking in your nose is greeted by the aroma of fresh roasted coffee and banquettes. Dare I say, it feels like a Parisian café! Beautiful pastries are waiting behind sparkling glass cases. Behind the pastries you’ll find a wall lined with multiple shelves of fresh baked bread and apron clad employees. Truly, this place deserves to be noticed, one of the few cafes I’ve found where you can either sit and sip for hours or grab a coffee and pastry to go. It’s not unusual to see tortoise rimmed spectacles peering behind newspapers, writers typing behind their laptops, or university students taking a break from class. This place exudes rustic charm. And it just so happens they have really good coffee too!