Brussels: centre of the EU and scourge of UK market stall holders (when is a pound not a pound? When it’s a kilo). It’s the word on everyone’s lips after our Prime Minister, David Cameron, went there at half term and returned waving a bit of paper
saying peace in our time saying “here’s a few things I’ve agreed so please can we stay together”.
Alternatively it’s the rather lovely Belgian town I also visited at half term, whilst completely failing to notice major world events taking place just down the street. I have no real view yet on how I will vote in the upcoming Brexit referendum but I do quite like Brussels!
I really didn’t know much about the place before I went there and I certainly had no idea that it is such a treasure trove of Art Nouveau architecture and art. After some speed reading on arrival, a visit to the Horta Museum was swiftly identified as a must see and I can honestly say it is one of the most magnificent buildings I have ever been in. From the entrance hall to the glassed over stairwell roof it is a symphony of sycamore and lyrical curves in every room. Unfortunately photography is not permitted inside so here’s some exterior shots to whet your appetites!
I kept tripping over and falling off pavements whilst I was there – not, I might add, from too much beer (which was plentiful and delicious) but because so much beauty was above our heads. Even on the most ordinary street there were surprises in store. A particular favourite was the sweeping tiled shop front for a haberdashery store which still remains above the rather garish casino below; #lookup never felt more pertinent.
When I brought my gaze back down to street level there was also plenty to amuse. I deliberately set out to find the Mannekin Pis, a few blocks from the central Grand Place but who knew there was a Zinneke Pis too?
I did learn one major difference between the UK and Brussels. Arriving at the admittedly rather confusing national art gallery complex I tried to discover which parts were free. The elegantly coiffed Madame on the desk stared at me. I tried again, “You know, the free collection”? She dismissed this plaintive request with an eloquent shrug. As I stood there feeling rather foolish the penny slowly dropped. Across the UK and especially in London, major galleries are free and we typically only pay to see special exhibitions. Here the whole gallery is ticketed. I guess we already get to do some things differently from the EU anyway, Brexit or not!
What else? Churches, chocolate and more chocolate, walking at night in the magnificently illuminated Grand Place, tracking down the cat cafe only to discover it was closed for repairs, watching a film in 3 languages simultaneously, eating some of the most delicious frites and crêpes around…after 3 packed days the decision to miss out the EU district (and therefore maybe witness one of the major summit meetings of our time) didn’t feel so silly after all!
©Chez l’abeille 2016