Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Belgium: Part 3

My brother and I spent Christmas Eve in Brussels. Tildonk is a little out of the way, so we had to take the train to Leuven, and then another into Brussels.

View over the city

Brussels was... frustrating. There were street signs on the corners pointing towards the various attractions, but we never had much luck. We followed one that pointed down a road to "the Golden Lion", but we never found any golden lions. After failing on that front, we followed another sign towards "the Flower Market". It lead us to a sexual leathergoods shop. We looked amongst the ball gags in the window, but there didn't seem to be any flowers.

Trompe l'oeil facade on a building

Reverse of the building

We had lunch at a restaurant on the Rue des Bouchers. Lonely Planet pretty much calls us mugs for eating there, but we thought it was decent. The waiter gave us a free Belgian beer each for dining there. I faced a bit of a dilemma: I loathe beer - it's revolting, but I'm a New Zealander paying European prices and it was free. I think I can safely say it was the most delicious beer I've ever gagged back.

Shopping arcade

From free beers to three bears

I came to England for several reasons, but one of the main ones was to be able to see more of the world. I'm not very well travelled. But having said that, I'm travelled enough to know a crappy tourist attraction when I see one. Cue the Manekin Pis:

Manekin Pis

To be honest, I don't think it needed the Santa suit. There was no risk of dignity sneaking in anyway. Still, there was a waffle hut a few doors away that sold the best food. If you ever get a chance to see the Manekin Pis, sieze it, then walk straight past the lame statue and order the large waffle with banana, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. THAT is one of the great sights of the world.

Brussels church

Tower in a Brussels square

La Rotonde, apparently

Brussels street at dusk

Belgium is a country with a wide split between its two main ethnic groups: The Flemish and the Walloons. The Flemish speak a variant of Dutch, and the Walloons speak French. I enjoyed both the languages in Belgium. The Flemish was close enough to German that I could understand the basics, and I held a successful conversation in French (although I had to mime pulling a Christmas cracker, because the people in the shop didn't know them). And if the language was ever a problem, everyone spoke English anyway, with an adorable accent. I think it would be a fun place to live.

Because of the conflict between the groups, everything needs to be labelled in both languages. Take, for instance, the shop we walked past on our evening stroll around Brugge: "Hoorhuis / Spermarie". Don't know what either of those mean - probably a post office or something.

Christmas Day was a good day. Our hosts went all out with the catering:
Flambe!

When I travel to a new country, I tend to judge it with the question: "Would I like to live here?" Our hosts in Belgium seem to have encountered some of the same frustrations that I've encountered in England, but I would have to say "Yes, from what I saw of Belgium, it was really cool". The trip was legen...wait for it....dary.

Okay that's it. Oh, except for this one, the most important:
Tintin! Woot!

1 comment:

Anirak said...

Hi James.

Happy Birthday...!!!Hamish told me it was your birthday! tomorrow in england...

Hope you have an excellent day!

Hey- love your photos... I just want to go to Europe now, hamish is not too keen on it yet, it may require a little bit of convincing! And well, a little but of saving now given that we are going to Chile next March!

Anyway, enjoy your day!

Karina