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Second day in Brussels
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.