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Michael’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 28 Aug 2007

Location: Brussels, Belgium

MapTake 3…

Sunday in Brussels, and again we woke up late; this time later than on Saturday. By the time we had made it out of the hotel, and enjoyed a nutritious Mc Donald’s meal for breakfast (don’t ever try the Chicken Mythic if you get a chance, definitely not worth it) some time in the afternoon, it was getting too late in the day to really consider going to Antwerp for a day-trip. Instead we decided to wander around Brussels and see what it had to offer – aside from beer, waffles and chocolate.

Frankly, we could still be wandering right now if we hadn’t decided that perhaps there isn’t a lot on offer in this capital city. By no means a Bankfurt, where everything is a concrete high-rise building built since the war, this town has some nice old buildings to look at, but that was about it. As far as tourist attractions, I can’t see that it has a lot going for it.

The city’s most well known tourist attraction is Manekin Pis. Call me dumb, but I consider myself reasonably worldly now, and I had no idea what this thing was. Even when someone translated it to quite literally mean “Pissing Boy” I was still none the wiser as to what I had been missing out on all this time in Brussels. Finally we made our way down a couple narrow alleys off of the Grand Place, and came across a large group of Japanese tourists happily bumping up Kodak share prices – with all of the flashes going off, it was either some sort of traffic accident (at an intersection between two pedestrian roads), a minor celebrity (can’t think of any major ones wanting to wander around the city of Brussels) or the infamous Manekin Pis.

Safe to say I was a little bit disappointed when I realised there was no traffic accident, and no celebrity waiting at the corner. I was even more disappointed when I realised just how crappy and insignificant the statue actually is. Maybe a foot high, made of brass or copper (didn’t really pay that much attention), and sitting atop a bird bath type concrete structure, you could hardly say that the statue dominated the little street corner. A fire hydrant on the opposite corner looked like it deserved to command more attention. And of course, being that this small thoroughfare was so well used by tourists, all of the crappy tourist souvenirs were on sale within easy reach too.

Having left pretty quickly, and unsurprisingly disappointed, we headed off wandering around town rather aimlessly. One thing I have to say though, the people of Brussels like giving away stuff for free. Whilst wandering aimlessly, we scored ice-creams, and our second bottle of Coke for the day – now I can’t figure why coke would have to stoop to giving away bottles of Coke to every person that walked past the street corner, all in the name of advertising. Surely everyone knows what Coke is? Who am I to ask, it was just what I needed at the time, so thank-you Mr. Coke.

Eventually we ended up at the Old English Building (dunno why they call it that, so don’t ask) which houses the musical instrument museum. Sounds like a pretty fair way to spend the day, wandering around the halls of a museum, looking at the largest collection of musical instruments in the world. Well, at the price of just €5, I shouldn’t have expected all that much. I wasn’t as disappointed as Pottsy who quickly decided he’d had enough after spending all of 2 minutes looking at the ground floor and sat down in a corner to moan about how crap it was. Now, I should mention, it was also young Pottsy’s idea to go to the museum in the first place. I don’t know if he was expecting a giant Hard Rock Café with signed guitars and drum kits, though the thought had crossed my mind, but whatever he was looking for, he didn’t find it. Everything in the museum looked to be pre-1900’s and the head sets they gave you to listen to the music the instruments made were very touch and go with the infra-red signals, causing the sounds to come and go, often with two-adjacent displays overlapping each other. So, with the second disappointing tourist attraction of the day down, we left and simply wandered around town, getting lost, and finding other impressive buildings here and there.

Eventually we made it back to the hotel for our customary early evening kip and then headed out to town for a bite to eat. We tried to find some place selling the local fare, but with prices through the roof, we headed outside of the town square and settled on a small Italian place. With some pasta in my belly, we headed back to one of the bars near the Grand Place, listened to the live music from there, and the music inside the bar, whilst sitting back in the big comfy chairs just shooting the shit with each other. The night was progressing at an incredible lazy pace, especially compared to the previous two evenings, and around midnight we decided to head off in search of Delirium – the bar with 2000 beers.

After some wandering, asking coppers for directions, and some more random wandering, we finally came across the place and headed inside. The cover band, with chick singer, were rocking hard at 1230am Monday morning, and the place was rammed. Upon getting to the bar, we realised that they actually had 2004 beers, according to the work shirts, and some of them were home brewed on site – and quite delicious, including the banana beer funnily enough.

We sat down and enjoyed the band, and the though of what beer to try next for a while, and after the bands last break, the lead singers boyfriend climbed up on stage and proposed to the girlfriend – she said yes. Safe to say the next song (Beautiful by Christina Aguilera) sounded pretty similar to a blubbering effort after someone is kicked off Australian Idol, but she held it together for the rest of the set… pretty entertaining all in all. Eventually, around 3am, the band packed up, and we headed across the road to the Green Fairy, and Absinth bar owned by the same people that owned Delirium – well at least it looked that way.

A couple of Absinth’s there, and by 430 it was time to head home. Once again, Pottsy was first out the door, and having not seen Robbie I assumed he’d soon followed. When I got home however, having taken my first cab for the weekend, I found the room empty and messaged Robbie – turns out he was just in a different part of the bar the whole time. Never the less, having an 11 am check out time, I was happy to be in bed before 5 am for the first time all trip.

Monday morning, once again we were all slow to rise. Unfortunately, having to be out of bed by 11 am meant that we didn't get to snooze as long as we all needed, or at least wanted to. Out just on 11 am, we headed into town and again found ourselves heading to Maccas for a feed. Asking Pottsy what time the train home left, he said 423 pm and we wondered what the hell we could do to pass the time. It also happened to be the first day that we encountered solid rain. Having killed an horu walking into town from the hotel, we sat in Maccas watching the rain hit the window before deciding to head to the train station and see if we could get an earlier train back to London.

Arriving there at 2 pm, the line was huge, so we sat and rested whilst waiting for the line to quiet down. All three of us fell asleep, and at 230 pm I woke up and saw there was no line. We grabbed our bags and started making out way to see if we could get the earlier train that was being advertised. I asked Pottsy what seat he had and grabbed my ticket to see what my seat was - well, that was a stroke of luck. Turns out we had seats for the 259 pm train, and the 423 pm was the arrival time, not the departure time. Nice work Pottsy. We run through the security checks and jumped on the train, all trying to get a bit of shut-eye on the not so comfortable train.

Back in London, we missioned through the check-in, ran into the foyer at Waterloo and bolted for the South West train back to Southampton. I was the last person allowed on the platform and we arrive 30 seconds before the train left - certainly beat another half hour wait. By just on 6 pm we were back in Southampton, and I managed a solid sleep for the first time since the previous week.

Work the next day was surprisingly managable and I got through the week pretty well. And with a long weekend, that was all the motivation I needed!

Coming up tomorrow, details of the weekend, including the incredible Notting Hill Carnival.