Ilse has worked in Leuven for 25 years, the city that means so much to her. She loves to pass on that love for Leuven to grandson Milan. Barely 4 years old, he is already familiar with everything tasty and nice in the city. Ilse (or “mammie” as Milan calls her) sums it up like this: “Why Leuven? Leuven is hip and modern, with the atmosphere of yesteryear and the cosiness of today. That will always be the unique feature of our city.”
Two places in our hearts
“Usually we come by train, because Leuven is very easy to get to from all directions. And then Milan and I often go to two particular places, above all on special occasions. Then he gets spoiled. That’s what grandmothers are there for, after all! -We enjoy the sweet things at Quetzal chocolate bar. Like every child, Milan loves chocolate. But there is much more than just chocolate to be had: brownies, hot waffles... and crème fraîche! Classics interspersed with new innovations. There goes my diet, but once a week is allowed, surely? We like to shop for toys at The Grasshopper, a lovely toy shop full of surprising things and fun stuff that you don’t find elsewhere. You can browse there for hours! The Grasshopper always has something extra, compared to an ordinary toy shop. It’s a slightly fancier shop, a bit special.”
Little slices of ham at the market
“Once when Milan went with me to the market, he started nagging me all the time about going to the university library. He likes me to tell him about it. Probably because it is such an impressive building, especially for a 4-year-old. But he was quickly distracted because, at the market, he received lots of goodies such as a little slice of ham. He knows what’s good and always wants to try everything if we stop for something to eat on a terrace, for example. He already has his favourite addresses. Agora at the market, for something to drink. For Milan, that’s a Fristi and a snack. Dewerf is also really great, for the sandwiches with chocolate spread, and where you can press the oranges yourself. Children like that. He also enjoys shopping, for example in one of the cool kids’ shops on Jan Stasstraat.”
Our dream day in a child-friendly city
When we ask Ilse about her ideal day out with Milan, she doesn’t have to think for long. In no time at all, she has planned a full day’s agenda for anyone who has children or grandchildren. “I would start with breakfast at Dewerf. Then I would visit a few trendy children’s shops such as Greatat8, Doekjes en Broekjes and the Lego shop. We would probably be a little tired after that and so it’s time for lunch together at Leo Pancakes - they also have fantastic bagels there! Milan is probably still a little too young to then go to the cinema, but in a few years I will definitely be taking him to see a children’s film. And we would finish off the day with a drink on a terrace,” concludes Ilse, the “mammie” who clearly knows how to organise a day of pure indulgence.
Out and about with colleagues
Of course, little Milan isn’t around every day. And on those other days, Ilse always knows where to find something nice in Leuven. “I really love eating out. De Klimop has always been one of my favourites. For special occasions, I go regularly to Zarza. And when my colleagues and I really want to treat ourselves, it’s ice cream at Java. That’s pure nostalgia for us! Just like Corfou, a Greek restaurant on Bondgenotenlaan. But make no mistake: there are also many new things to try in Leuven. Elisa in Brusselsestraat is great for breakfast. Or La Stanza, an Italian restaurant run by chef Massimiliano, yum... The living room restaurant Le Chameau s’en fout is also very special. There’s a suggestion menu every month, and you can see the chef cooking. Very good wines too! Definitely recommended,” Ilse concludes.