An expat's guide to Brussels

An expat's guide to Brussels - student project

Assignment 1 : Hand-drawn map

The past week has gotten completely and semi-expectedly out of hand and as such, I am being a horrible student and posting the assignment before I have actually finished watching the lectures! But its all rather fitting with my project at the same time.

As an American living in Brussels, one of the aspects I don't think I will ever get over is how far away my family lives (Washington State). My mom flew across the globe to visit me here this week and as a good daughter does, I decided to take her to London for the weekend. Immediately upon arrival, my poor trusty MacAir decided to go into cardiac arrest.

So I decided to pull out the trusty Moleskin, a pencil and a few colored pens on our Eurostar trip to start plotting my favorite neighborhoods in Brussels. These are the places I've taken my family and friends to over the years when they have visited me. Here is the result:

An expat's guide to Brussels - image 1 - student project

An expat's guide to Brussels - image 2 - student project

An expat's guide to Brussels - image 3 - student project

An expat's guide to Brussels - image 4 - student project

Obvious eraser marks aside, it was a really fun and useful exercise in terms of selecting my favorite neighborhoods, characterising them with one redeeming reason to visit (though more realistically there were about five reasons) and then try to make it all legible. 

{Bonus points go to any French speakers who note that I spelled "frites" wrong. I will be lucky if the Belgians do not kick me out of their country...} 

Now off to do some learning, look at other projects and watch the lessons! 

PS - I took the quiz and came out with 75%. One of those cats has some serious abstract art talent. 

PPS - Pinning maps here: 


Project background

Why? I have lived in Brussels for nine years (a record in expat years I am informed) and if all that time has taught me one thing, it is that this city is much more than what first meets the eye for a tourist. Brussels suffers from multiple personality disorder. It can't seem to decide if it is decidedly Belgian, a haven for bureaucratic expats or a purgatory for a slew of migrant populations. Truth be told, it is probably a bit of all three. But its that quirkiness that has kept me here for so long - the fact that I never feel I really have it "pegged" and that I can always learn more about it. And so this project is meant to be a fun map to share of my favorite places around town. Hopefully those visiting Brussels for the first time - or those moving here - will get a little taste of what it is like to settle in here.

Expert? Does nine years make you an expert? 

Audience? Travellers, blog readers, anyone visiting town, looking for a new haunt or planning a trip to Brussels. 

Printed or digital? I still don't know at this stage. I have very little experience on the digital side but my drawings may also be offensive to the eyes... so we will have to see! But I do hope to display the map on my blog so finding the best, cleanest format will be a top priority. 

Level of detail? I LOVE detail so I can already tell that a challenge will be to hold myself back with this project. I would love to include as many details as possible, however my gut tells me that I may have to start off slow and build up over time as my skills improve. 

Dear class, I need your help/expertise/guidance above all on tools! But I would also love to hear about city guides you love! What has made them special?

Jessica Henderson

Map project link: