Moin moin meine Lieben!
I hope all’s well wherever in the world you happen to be reading this! For my 8th flight in March I was destined for the Belgian capital to meet Lauren, Kath, Fay and Sarah (otherwise known as Loz/D, Kegz, Fay (the most inventive of all) and Saz). All of us are spread out across Europe, three in Germany, one in France and one in Spain, so it made sense for all of us to have to travel at least a little to meet up.
Speaking of travel, Brussels airport is an absolute disaster. It took about 20 minutes of nonstop walking and frowning to navigate the poorly-signed airport to try and find baggage reclaim. Once Sarah and I found each other there we caught the train straight into Brussel-Noord where we found Fay and then Lauren.
Having made our way to Verboekhoven (past a street full of naked women in shop windows. Brussels in a nutshell) in the Schaerbeek district with the 55 tram from Noord, we managed to find the flat we were renting for the weekend. The lady who handed over the keys told us that there were lots of Moroccan immigrants in the ‘bourgeois’ area, but not to worry, they ‘won’t attack you’. Always comforting to know that.
A little later Kath arrived at the flat, which I should probably tell you a little about. It was small and open plan, with a rickety and twisty staircase you’d imagine would be right at home in the loft apartment of a penniless writer with a tortured soul. Not one to tackle while you’re drunk, wearing slippery socks or carrying suitcases. Unfortunately all of the above happened at one point or another. There was even a slightly scary Tintin statue. It is Belgium, after all.
The first impressions of the city, although very cold and blustery, were good. Tintin all round really. The language situation isn’t all that easy as both Flemish and French are spoken there, but most people do speak English, so if you’re not proficient in the first two then you’ve got something to lean on in the English language!
Brussels is full of a mix of different styles of architecture and there’s a remarkable building wherever you turn, which of course presents the perfect opportunity for a selfie or three. However, selfie-ing was one of the greatest challenges we faced as a fivesome, because people just kept offering to take the photos for us. A lovely gesture, yes, but it also thwarted some of our plans to demonstrate our closeness and the fact we were having a great time through the medium of Instagram selfies.
We persevered, however. That evening we headed to none other than Drug Opera for dinner. Much more wholesome than it sounds though, trust me, but with awful wifi, as was the trend throughout the capital. From here we headed to Delirium, which is where we then spent every night we had in Brussels.
Unimaginative, you might say, but Delirium fills almost an entire street and has different bars and café sections, which in total serve over 3000 different types of beer! I didn’t make too much of a contribution to the list of different beers we tried as a group, but all together we managed over 40, which isn’t bad going if you ask me!
Delirium was full of all sorts of people, from Brits on stag dos to Hungarian women sharing a cheese plate (as you do), yet it was the locals who we had the most amount of interaction with, albeit unintentionally.
A small-ish bald man in a red tie and glasses staggered over to us proclaiming his love for England and beautiful, smiley girls. As it turns out, he also had a love (although I’d argue probably more of a fetish…) for smelling hair… Our hair. Yes, really. He went round the table trying to judge who had the best-smelling hair. Yep. That happened. He left once we’d given him fake Facebook names, but peace was short-lived before another group came over to us.
I don’t really know why I did what I did, but a certain number of little lies got us out of what could have been a sticky situation. I may or may not have told them I was married. I may or may not have told them I was 24. I may or may not have told them I was pregnant.
May or may not have.
But who’s going to argue with you when you say you need to leave because your pregnant friend is tired? No one.
Anyway, on our only full day all together in Belgium we headed over to Bruges by train, which was just as pretty as people say!
My Dad met us there for lunch and we had a Richard Hammond-lookalike as our waiter in a restaurant on the main town square. After filling up on Flemish stew we had a wander around the streets and along the canals, which are lined with chocolate shops and lace boutiques. The place really is like one giant postcard image.
We had even more of a wander the following day, but back in Brussels this time. At 11 o’clock, carrying waffles for breakfast, we began a free 3-hour walking tour of the city with Sandemans, who offer these for free every day. PJ was our tour guide, and he’s probably one of my favourite people I’ve ever met. His English was phenomenal, and with his knowledge we were able to see some of the capital’s most famous attractions, including the Manneken Pis, which, to quote PJ, was a ‘world champion’ in overrated monuments.
From the Royal Palace to the city’s cathedral and its pilgrim history, to the opera house and the capital’s gay clubs and bars, I’d definitely recommend taking one of these tours, it’s probably the best way to get around without getting lost!
Oh yes, I forgot to say that PJ went down in my estimation slightly when he said he didn’t like chocolate. But I’m sure I can get over that in time.
That’s it for now, Brussels in a nutshell or two.
Photo credit goes to all the lovely ladies I travelled with! 🙂