My Aunt Rosa was from Belgium, and I remember as a child loving to listen to her talk and being fascinated with her preoccupation for giving, at some point or another, the gift of wooden shoes. During my stint at the University of London, one of my professors, Roger, a self-proclaimed life-long bachelor/barrister/sexagenarian with a black leather jacket, and who taught us media law, mentioned that he made almost weekly trips to Brussels for European Union duties. Wooden shoes and the seat of the “kingdom of Europe” (Roger’s joke, not mine)? I had to go!
My trip to Bruxelles (the French spelling; otherwise “Brussel” in Dutch – Brussels is 80% French-speaking… and it’d be good to know some French here) unfolded as the EuroStar pulled into the main train station, and instead of walking straight for the Manneken Pis or Grand Place-Grot Markt, I went the other way. I didn’t go to Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique – Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België or any other museum. True, I accidentally found myself at the Galeries Saint Hubert-Sint Hubertusgalerijen, billed as “the world’s first shopping mall” but I only stopped there to use the bathroom (one Euro, by the way). Instead, my trip to Brussels involved a great deal of roaming around one of the most charming and quintessential “European” cities I’ve ever been to; I loved that road signs were often in three languages (Flemmish, Dutch, and French – which language should be the “national one” is still a hot topic in Belgium) and that there were flowers everywhere. Great pedestrianized walkways allowed me to stop and people-watch, along with the random conversation and street-side waffle. I met a friendly butcher on Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat, who I believe showed me how to properly handle the neck of a deer, or he might have just been telling me to go away. I met a man from Africa who pointed me toward a (closed) Irish pub, but I generally just stared at Bruxsellls’ beautiful architecture. Brussels might not be your first pick for a European retreat, but it’s calm, austere nature makes it a lovely stop along your journey.
Filed under: Europe | Tagged: architecture, Brussels, Bruxelles, Dutch, European Union, Flemmish, flowers, French, Galeries Saint Hubert-Sint Hubertusgalerijen, Grand Place-Grot MarktBelgium, Manneken Pis, Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique - Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België, Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat, waffle, walking, wooden shoes | Leave a Comment »