Edit Blog Post
Published: April 17th 2006
Once the program was over, before I could head back to Seattle, I had one day to kill. A classmate from mine was going to visit family outside of Brussels, invited me to stay with him, and thus solved the problem of what to do with the extra day. We shared a taxi with Aphrodite and Niccoleta (both from the Masters program in Portsmouth) and then took the train into North Brussels from the airport. After dropping off our bags, we headed into town and I was able to get the idea of the flavour for the capital of Europe. It perhaps would have been nice to have done this sometime before the day of my departure from the continent, but I was thankful to have made a brief pass through before flying back to North America.
First impression of the downtown core was less than promising. The women who was hired to sit in the tourist information booth and ‘welcome’ people was out to get coffee and a newspaper. Upon her return, she read the newspaper while interacting with people. Never looked up, didn’t say a word more than she had to. It was then obvious: Brussels was too
close to Paris for its own good. Less than obvious, due to poor signing, was the best way to get to the number one tourist place. The Grand Place was such a popular destination for visitors, one would have hoped for a better signing system. Not that I really needed one. Alex had grown up there, and I didn’t need to navigate at all.
Grand Place was a nice square, but nothing great considering that it was the landmark highlight of the country. Elegant square, far more tourists in the off season than I expected to encounter. Makes one wonder how bad it is during the summer. Oddly enough, most of the tourists were Asian. From the Grand Place, a hundred yards walk brought us to the world famous Manneken Pis, little statue of a boy pissing. Truly charming. Only fitting that the capital of the EU would also be famous for a peeing boy statue. On the other hand, if one just imagines that the boy is pissing away their tax €€€, it would make perfect sense. And not to let a great marketing idea go by, the advertisement for the chocolate version is just behind the real
thing. Perhaps one of the tackiest souvenir promos ever.
Further toward the Grand Place, another tourist trap played out in the form of a horizontal statue that nobody seemed to fully understand. This did not stop the general visitor population from going up to it and rubbing the leg for good luck. Since I can not complain about the level of divine providence I have enjoyed over the last few years, the leg was not rubbed by me.
Good luck or bad, we were both getting hungry. Alex, being Greek, took me to a great little Greek place for some Gyros. Supposedly, if one asks for tap water at restaurants in Brussels, they bring it to you but charge you as much as bottled water in a ‘service’ fee. Instead of putting that theory to the test, we just ordered the regular water and paid the gouging fee for it. Such is the life of constant country change. Either risk rocking the boat or go with all the theories.
Since I was going to be flying all of the next day, we went back in time for some decent sleep. The next morning, I took the train
The great little boy pissing. Don't miss the chocolate version on sale right next to him.
out to Brussels National (Zeventum). I purchased my ticket on the train from a Flemish conductor. The difference between him and the Parisian minded Francophone women at the tourist information booth was total. He spoke good English, looked me in the eye, worked quickly and had a pleasant attitude. I am not bashing French people here, just noting what I encountered on the trip. Being what it was though, it did affirm my decision to move back to the states to write my thesis. A fitting end to a life chapter in Europe.
Tot: 0.035s; Tpl: 0.019s; cc: 10; qc: 25; dbt: 0.008s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb