First night in Brussels

By: | Post date: June 16, 2008 | Comments: 2 Comments
Posted in categories: Countries

Of course, the flight was delayed a further 1.5 hrs — by the time I got to the hotel, it was 10 pm. Crashed at 11, woke up at 3, crashed at 6 again, woke up at 9. Hope that’s not a promise of things to come.

Massive noise outside my room around 11 pm; presumably related to the soccer. Turns out it was Switzerland–Turkey. Reasonable guess that wasn’t the vocal Swiss contingent of Brussels whooping it up.

EDIT: Czech Republic–Turkey, rather. Like I care… 🙂

What little I’ve seen of Brussels on the drive from the airport (Zaventem) looked cute enough; I will be getting in what little tourism I can this late morning.

I’ve already worked out a conversational gambit for les Bruxellois:

  • Start speaking in bad French
  • Apologise in French for not speaking in Flemish
  • Hope for an opening to switch to English
I don’t know if this is the best thought through of plans; it probably offends the French and the Flemish equally. Then again, I probably got away with the Flamandic Apology with the cab driver (3o€—there’s no way I was going to try and tame the Brussels metro at 9:30 pm of a Sunday). I hear French even slower than I speak it, so I missed every second sentence, but it was something like:

Oh, that’s alright sir, as long as I get you to your destination, I don’t care if you speak to me in French, Flemish, or even English.

Ahah. I think my Grenoble gambit is working for me again. Last time I was in a Francophone country, I was across the border from Italy, and didn’t nasalise anything. So everyone I spoke French to assumed I was Italian. Which is probably better than assuming I was English.

I’m trying to pick up hints of linguistic affiliation from the locals. 
  • GPS Navigator has street names in French; check. 
  • Hotelier responds to fluent French query without flinching; possible check. 
  • Hotelier chats to other hotelier in French; check. 
  • Sign outside airport welcomes you to *VLANDERS*, verdaamt, *VLANDERS*; check. (Please tell that’s not why Brussels has two airports, Zaventem in Flanders and Charleroi in Wallonia. That would be so… predictable.) 
  • The phone sex ads on Flemish TV pinpoint the sample Hot Babes Waiting for Your Call in Northern Belgium; check. 
  • The Crazy Wacky Kids from French-language TV do a Reality TV tour of Wallonia, just Wallonia, sacré; check.
  • French language channels on TV come before Spanish TV, which comes before Flemish language channels; check.
  • Blogger welcomes me and invites me to aanmelden in Dutch; check.
  • Google has the streetnames in Dutch not French; check. (You say Karel de Grootelaan, I say boulevard Charlemagne, let’s call the whole thing post-Carolingian Europe.)
OK. I’ll vaguely wander in the direction of Grand Place; should not be a big deal:


  • pne says:

    (Please tell that’s not why Brussels has two airports, Zaventem in Flanders and Charleroi in Wallonia. That would be so… predictable.)

    Brussels has one airport: the one in Flanders.

    The other one is Charleroi, and is only called Brussels for marketing reasons, so that passengers on low-cost airlines such as Ryanair who fly to those more-out-of-the-way-but-cheaper-for-the-airline airports know where they’re going to.

    Charleroi is as much a Brussels airport as Hahn is a Frankfurt one, or Lübeck a Hamburg one.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Doc,
    Amit n Manish here. keep us posted . Just to let u know that we are following ur blog!!

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