23 June 2014
Coming into Brussels was quite a strange experience. I had been in Paris for long that suddenly arriving into another city was little bit of a shock. Where I arrived near the main train station is quite modern. Concrete and steel do battle with the asphalt just a stone throw’s away. A far cry from France’s low rise surburbs. I did not have my bearings at all and had to ask a fellow passenger who had also gotten off to use his phone’s GPS.
My hostel was located a little bit of a walk away from the train station but right in the centre of the action in a little laneway that shoots off the Grote Markt (Grand Place central plaza). What’s great for all the world cup that I am watching is a little Irish Bar close to my hostel which has happy hour from between 1pm and midnight where most beers are 1 or 2 Euros! I made a brief stop here before the supermarket and I was immediately hit on by a group of slightly tipsy and VERY friendly Peruvians with whom I really had to set down some boundaries early on!
They aren’t kidding when they say that Belgium is filled with (good?) chocolate. Within a 1km radius of centre, the touristy areas naturally, it does feel like every second shop sells chocolate. I did try a little bag on my way from my check-in/admin hostel to where I was actually staying, and it was good, but not so good that I would renounce every other type of chocolate in the world. Nonetheless, all the shops have very cute and sweet little football motifs in their creations at the moment. Belgium have done quite well in the world cup this time round, so I hope that the chocolate shops keep having something to celebrate.
The architecture in the Grote Markt is really beautiful with intricate details rising high into the towers, a real feat given that they were built 300 years ago. I ate a simple dinner of baguette, pesto, cheery tomato and cheese here, admiring the buildings and watching the tourists stumble over themselves to try to fit the tall buildings into one frame. I did come back after midnight to see all the buildings lit up like Disneyland and lots of young people just sitting about drinking in the square like they had always been here.
Before heading back to the same multi-TV screen Irish bar to watch the Brazil game (who eventually won over Cameroon), I stood and listened to a quite beautiful busking band that were just two men, one guitar and one cello. A combination that I think should be used more often! They drew quite a large crowd and I was more than happy purchase a CD as a souvenir.
The football game went long into the night and the large number of Brazil (or Brazilian) supporters around me cheered louder and louder. This was really just the start of the night as I ended up having some long conversations with some people who were also chilling in the downstairs lounge as I tried to finish watching the Godzilla movie which I had started on the bus this morning. Shit movie, but cool people in my hostel - always far more important. And as I stumbled into my top bunk, the skylight directly above me was showing glimpses of sunlight. Better crash now to be fresh for the walking tour!