Herewith seven photographs of Brussels, with some remarks on the place. Three, no less, of the airport, and this from a jaded traveler.
I find that I like Brussels; it’s something of a European-Union company town these days, but that’s not entirely a bad thing; it’s a friendly and aggressively-multilingual place. I suspect you could get along here speaking only Croatian or Swahili if you really had to. Also, I enjoy exercising my (bad) French and the locals are used to syntax more fractured than mine, so it works better than it does in France.
Although my hotel was more or less across the street from block after block of monumental EU office buildings, turning the other way I found myself in a warren of narrow, colourful, African-flavored streets; here’s the window of a little fabric store.
Just around the corner was this, dig the cupid’s-bow:
The hotel had no useful Internet capability but directed me to a cool, hip local Internet café, which also had a row of phone booths with good deals on calls to points North, East, West, and especially South. It had a cool read-out of who was calling where; this shot of it is a little misleading since it only had one African call live, at various times I saw Congo and Ghana and Mali on the list. I was the only white face there, and on both evenings someone good-naturedly asked where I was from, and for these guys the West Coast of Canada was definitely a new idea and they wanted to hear all about it. Definitely better than your average Internet dive.
Poivre et Sel · This restaurant was so good on the first evening (it was the first one I came to in a trans-Atlantic haze) that I went back on the second evening and had the best shrimps I’ve had in years. There are a zillion of these good little neighborhood restaurants in Europe, we don’t do them as well our side of the pond. The formula isn’t that complicated: small room, open kitchen, pretty waitress, fresh seafood, lots of garlic.
I went out to the airport a little early to snag some WiFi, and I’m glad I did, because I found it oddly beautiful; just basic good architecture, big spaces with pleasing shapes and lots of glass to let light in.
It was a slick little Canadair jet (we Canadians do small planes really well) for the hop over to Hamburg so we got to walk down the stairs and across the tarmac, and the light over the airport was something special