Brussels

I returned from Paris, just had time to empty and re-pack my suitcase, and then it was off to Brussels for a trade show. It was a rather strange trip as I saw no daylight the whole time we were there. We would leave the hotel very early in the morning when it was still dark, go to the trade show and spend the day there in what is basically a giant warehouse with zero windows or natural daylight, and then when it was time to go outside, it was dark again. So the upshot of this is that my brain thought it was night time from four o’clock on Tuesday afternoon until I was back at home in London on Friday morning. You can perhaps imagine what this did to my mental capacity and alertness, which in any case are still recovering from the “not addictive” happy pills. I feel like passing out every four hours at the best of times, so what with the unrelenting darkness in Brussels, I was perpetually on the brink of unconsciousness.

Anyway, enough moaning. It looks like an absolutely gorgeous city from the little I saw of it and I definitely would consider it as an alternative to Paris for a weekend away. I did go out and have dinner with my business partner, on whom I can always rely to find nice restaurants, so here is where we went and what we saw.

We stayed at the extremely fancy Hotel Amigo. There was Tintin art in my room, if you don’t know Tintin, he is this cartoon boy hero of the 1930s who was created by Belgian artist Hergé. Here’s what I had on my wall, I had to angle the camera a bit strangely because I only had artificial light to work with (of course), but you can perhaps see that Tintin and his friends are in the jungle and have discovered a large wooden statue.

tintin art

The thoughtful interior design of my room went so far as to include a three-dimensional version of that very statue, placed immediately below. Look!

wooden fetish

Outside the hotel, the streets were pretty and looked like this.

brussels streets

brussels street

Aside from Tintin, Belgium’s major exports are beer, chocolate and lace, so there are many shops selling these desirable items. This particular shop sold lace and also a bunch of other interesting things such as Christmas decorations and luggage, arranged in very complex window displays. Here’s the lace.

lace

Look at that spectacular collar. I’ve only now realised that it was a mere 20 Euros, which seems like under-charging.

lace collar

Luggage.

luggage

Homewares. Look at the lovely cushions, glassware and ceramics. SUCH NICE THINGS.

homewares

Toys.

toys

Dolls.

dolls

Men’s toiletries.

men's toiletries

That was all just one shop, isn’t that amazing, I could have done all my Christmas shopping in there and decorated my house, and I wish I had. But we were famished, so we went to this restaurant. My colleague chose it especially because it has a reputation for excellent mussels and frites. It was early and the kitchen must have been just barely open but they cooked for us anyway.

la moule ext

la moule int

Here’s what we had, and also the reason why I am still gaining weight and my clothes don’t fit.

Strong Belgian beer, thick enough to stand a spoon in, like alcoholic soup, really fortifying. I wish I had some right now. I am planning to get some in for Christmas.

beer

Normally when I eat out with my business partner, we never have starters because we prefer desserts. But on this occasion, dessert didn’t even get a look in because we wanted these home-made cheese croquettes. OMG. By far the most delicious cheese croquettes I have ever tasted, European countries really know how to make fine quality, flavoursome, rich cheese. Note the size of these things, they are like house bricks and are served not with a lemon wedge, as one would expect in Britain, but with half a lemon. We almost couldn’t move after this, but the main course was still to come.

croquettes

I had salmon with home-made tartare sauce. Yes, that’s another half a lemon. I wonder how many lemons this restaurant goes through. A lot.

salmon

And here is the giant bucket of mussels that they served to my colleague. I wouldn’t have known where to start with those things, but he enjoyed them. He valiantly tried to eat the whole bucket, but failed. I have never seen him fail at eating before.

mussels

We had to sit still for a while after that big meal but handily I was able to get some nice photos of the bar across the street through the window without having to move from our table. You will note that it is still not yet 6pm, also it is cold, yet there are enough people sitting outside getting drunk.

au brasseur

degustation

corn

This chap in blue is the owner of the bar and what a happy man he must be. He is a healthy, shiny-faced, smiling Belgian and he knows all his customers. Every few minutes he would come outside to chat, wave at people and give directions. He looked utterly contented. I wonder if he is married. I bet he is a nice husband.

landlord 1

landlord 2

And that is all the Belgian news. I cannot claim any Achievement Points whatsoever for this trip, as all I did was work and eat food.

When I came home from Brussels, I broke up with Charlie, of which more in the next post.

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