Second day in Brussels

By: | Post date: June 16, 2008 | Comments: 4 Comments
Posted in categories: Countries

Euh, one of the results of growing old is that one gets bored of doing tourism fairly quickly; I ran out of steam soon after Grand Place. The highlights of the peremptory tour of Brussels were:

  • The Lonely Planet guide got ignored fairly soon, as I got disoriented.
  • Brussels is tatty and pleasant.
  • A disordinate number of comics shops, and art books in bookstores.
  • It’s still a French town (though nice to note the occasional Flemish, verdammt, bookstore next to all the French bookstores).
  • I think I heard more Arabic than Flemish in the street.
  • I lose my bearings easier than I’d have liked, but the mediaeval maze of the city centre does not help.
Because I lost interest after say three hours, I spent another two wandering west of the city centre, until I negotiated a rather confused retreat through the Moroccan quarter back onto the pre-metro. The pre-metro confused me. Yes, I know it’s an underground tram that takes me back to my underground metro station; but I couldn’t work out whether it counted as a separate journey or not, so I just walked back from Anneessens (E) to De Brouckère (G), after losing a 1.5€ ticket at Anneessens. It went something like this:
(And Google Maps, will you STOP BEING SO FLEMISH: I can’t find anything in French.)
The foregoing is not what actually happened; it’s just as close to piecing it together as I can remember.
So, I started from my non-descript Euroflat hotel:

heading out to some boring EU building or hotel or whatnot, next to Schuman metro station:

On the way, halfway down Charlemagne Boulevard, an Only In Brussels juxtaposition: Greek cafe, Sushi place, Irish pub. (And the Greek place didn’t look that Greek to me — it was serving breakfast.)

Heading out of Central Station (A), I *think* I’m heading towards Grand Place (D), and instead stumble on Sts Michael & Gudula Cathedral (B), peeking around the corner from some building site. The Cathedral wasn’t even on my Lonely Planet guide map (though it got a page of its own in the guide itself); so I gave up on the map.

Being now lost, I come across the Royal Galleries of St Hubert shopping arcade (C):

In said arcade, I get some emergency chocolate truffles, and then end up at Mokafe coffee joint, which Amanda had recommended to me. Not that I had any intention of finding it, but there I was. So I got some of the highly recommended coffee — and the au lait I got (lait russe, according to my receipt) was utterly unimpressive. But the gueuze was life-changing stuff. A lambic, but not sickly sweet like kriek; yet its taste was transcendental.

I decided to stick around for lunch (surrendering my chair to a group of old German tourists, who were too close to home to look that confused), and got stoemp sausice. Or as the English call it, banger and mash. I at least got my banger down…

Banger not quite digested, I avoided Rue de Bouchers per the guide book’s instructions — it looked the part of a tourist trap;

And I finally made it to Grand Place (D). Town Hall from Baroque Outer Space

and similarly riotous guildhouses

including the uh, very postmodern *simulacra* of guildhouses currently under repair
Then I wandered west of Grand Place for an hour or so

… until I got bored, and went home. The End.

My colleague Nigel is also Derailed by Bush, and won’t be here until 9 or something. I should now stop compiling my travel diary, and do some homework…


  • opoudjis says:

    Gnädige Frau Doktorantin Jana! Good to hear from you — in fact, now that I have enabled my Facebook friend feed in Google Reader, I was wondering what you were procrastinating with before discovering it was Yr Humble Servant! Many more adventures to come, it looks like…

  • Jana says:

    Guten Tag, Herr Doktor Nicholas! Glad to hear you made it over there safely and are enjoying the adventures that are a European’s everyday life-blood! (such as being derailed, lost and cooped up in a waiting crowd but also chocolate truffles, hmmm…well, the latter not that everyday tho) Also, you definitely made my procrastinating break worthwhile with your delightful tales! Looking forward to hearing more.

  • opoudjis says:

    Meh. My French was limited to “euh… café au lait”, and that’s what I got…

    But as I confirmed with this morning’s coffee (thanks to Nigel for pointing this out), I’m used to bitter coffee à la Melbournienne, and the coffee here is anything but.

  • Amanda Parker says:

    You had no intention of taking my fine recommendation?? You are a disappointment to me Nikolai.

    Now, if you’d ordered a long black instead of some pathetically insipid milkshake-type beverage, you might have been better positioned to appreciate the wonderful Mokafe.

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