“‘Belgium’ is the rudest word in the universe, which is completely banned in all parts of the Galaxy, except in one part, where they could not possibly know what it means.” – (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 1979)
Friday May 6, 2011. Brussels Day 5
Peacock feathers. Yes I met a peacock…in Brussels.
I’m up with the alarm at 7:30. Then, I literally spend 2 hours on the net researching what to do today. It’s warm out but no sun just yet. I don’t feel like museums so I Google simple walking OR chocolate tours but cannot find any (affordable ones) to join. This is nuts! I suppose I’ll need to stop at the tourist office again…
After much deliberation, I decide to just shop and sight see. Likely on Rue Neuve, it seems to be near a good many things to see.
I look into late breakfast/lunch at Cafe Metropole at Hotel Metropole, but after reading a few bad reviews I’m weary and not that adventurous to find out for myself. I Google some other recommendations from my iWitness guide, ponder ponder, and decide on Brasserie Horta at the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée (Comic Strip museum). The have Escargot de Bourgogne so I’m sold. Then I can probably find my way to the animal farm (yes, there is an animal farm in the city center). Only problem with that is that my map cuts off half way to museum….so I print the rest of the way from Google.
The entire Comic Strip Museum, I think, was designed by Victor Horta in 1906. If not, then definitely the brasserie. Victor Horta is pretty famous when it comes to Art Nouveau, which is the type of architecture that is mostly prevalent in Brussels. Sometimes he is referred to as the father of Art Nouveau.
Hate all my clothes again. Change 2 or 3 times… I will leave my Lacoste bag at home and just carry a big red one I brought (much easier to carry all my purchases home!).
When I finally stop obsessing (you’re going shopping anyway, Margaux, you’ll have new stuff to wear tomorrow!), the sun is out (but the sky is white, blech) and it is not sweltering hot or chilly – just perfect.
Anyways, long intro but I’m out by 11:45 (and I had such a good head-start this morning being up so early). On the way to the brasserie I come upon Place des Martyrs totally by accident and quite like it. Seems like it’s probably mostly locals here enjoying their lunch breaks.
It’s done in the neo-classical style, and is a memorial for the Belgian Revolution of 1830.
So by carrying a shoulder bag instead of my messenger bag, I feel vulnerable and am holding it tight to my chest (and…glaring at everyone who may be a potential threat. My “Bitchface” is in full force).
I’m in a different area of Brussels that I have been the past few days and I’m liking it. I find the museum and take some pictures in the foyer. It’s pretty cute, and I can see the Art Nouveau in the decor. I’m not too interested in the exhibits themselves, even though Tin Tin is pretty prevalent here (Hergé, real name George Remi, the creator of Tin Tin, was born in Brussels). The exhibits are probably very interesting, but I’m just not in the mood right now.
Citroën! Random – did you know the Eiffel Tower was used to advertise Citroën between 1925 and 1934? I just found this out, and the picture of it is garish, tacky and uber-wonderful (wow, I missed a lot of cool things back in olden days….this saddens me).
So inside I go. The waitress, a bit surly, won’t let me sit near the window because it is a table of 4 and I am just 1. The restaurant is essentially empty but for a few tables…and I give her a look like ‘so?’. She puts my menu at a table for 2 in the middle of the restaurant (ex-POSED. Again! What is with these Belgian servers?), away from the window, and that’s that.
Fine. Moving on with life…. (off topic: why does the muscle in my left leg feel like it is wrapped around the bone, yech! It’s like a strange charlie horse with absolutely no relief, no matter how I stretch out my leg! Is this my body breaking down with age?). I order a raspberry beer (Mort Subite?), the Escargot de Bourgogne and meatballs in tomato sauce. Good escargots, my craving was satisfied. Not as good as Le Grand Colbert in Paris, of course!, but good. Ha, but I struggled with my snail tongs a bit (should have whipped a shell at the waitress, “Oops! Desole, Madame!”).
I was told the meatballs were beef….but that’s a really light coloured beef, no? I ask the waiter that brings it over and he checks with Surly. She says it is indeed beef. Ok. But really, it doesn’t look like it…does it taste like it? I can’t tell.
Turkey? Chicken? Chicken and turkey? Pork?
Human?Whatever, it’s a tasty delight! The flavour of the sauce reminded me of Zoodles, but I quite enjoyed this (I miss Zoodles. I’m kind of embarrassed to buy them now at 36…well, they’re full of bad carbs so I should’t anyway). The fries are ai’ight, not salted…
Every now and then I hear a doorbell. What is that? Food’s up?
When Surly comes over again she asks if I want a coffee and I take a cafe au lait. Regret it soon after she goes away. It’s very good, I drink only some: I can’t bare being bloated right now. Interesting: Surly warmed up to me. Now she’s super sweet. Hmm.
I pay €35 and head upstairs to the w/c. Also, I have a headache (why?).
Garfield looking down at the restaurant in the pic above (my table is the one with the black book on top). I think I hopped around the w/c too: my left leg’s still so tight :\, maybe swollen even, and I thought getting the circulation going again would help…well, at least it’s just uncomfortable instead of painful <shrugs>.
I set off for Ferme du Parc Maximilien (so excited for animawwwwwls!).
Crossing Rue Neuve, I come upon a small church in the midst of all the shopping and department stores (I don’t even see it on my map?). I go in and ask an old lady at a desk if pictures are allowed and she says what likely meant after translation that ‘when the priest is not in, photos are fine to take’. Perhaps this means as long as no service is going on, then snap away.
It’s called Église Notre-Dame du Finistère. It’s a pretty church (something about it reminded me of Gaga’s video for Judas that came out yesterday) and a nice quiet refuge from the busy pedestrian street outside. A 360 view here.
I lit a candle by the Virgin Mary (that one below) and took a copy of the prayer for maman.
Outside the church – view to my left (the department store, INNO, is at right in photo).
I’ve gotten a bit lost…I’m somewhere on Rue de Laeken (I think). Neighbourhood is starting to look sketchy. Well, actually it’s the people that are starting to get sketchy (‘see this bitchface? Don’t even look at me’). Also, Olympus is glued to my body.
And for however sketch the area is, this building (I think a concert venue?) is pretty gorgeous.
Now (possibly? I’m not good with my map right now) at Blvd D’Avers, I think I’m going in the direction of the farm. Not as sketchy around here, actually feels like St. Laurent, Montreal.
I pass these cute animal sculptures. Aw. I take a pic and keep walking….(no, it didn’t dawn on me that this might have something to do with the farm…like, a sign that I was close. Or, at my destination already. Duh).
I keep going. I knew Brussels had a canal, and here I’ve found it.
I’m now aware that I’ve overshot the park, so I begin re-tracing my steps back. The first thing I notice, that I passed the first time, is a long fenced area with lots of green on the other side (we’ll call this, Missed Hint #2). I have a suspicion now, so I peek in. I can’t see much for all the trees, but I think I see horns. I *do* see horns! There is a WILD RAM afoot in there! No….this is obviously part of the farm (and it’s probably not really a ram….).
And yes, I did pass the little animal statues again on the way in…
And the inhabitants appear very happy with life too, I might add. Here, this bird is having a good back scratch (note the blurry tail as it was in motion!).
I kid, I kid. I really love this zoom lens, bet you thought I was actually *that* close to the animals.
Ah look, sheep! (I heard the strange bleating before I noticed them. It’s quite an interesting noise they make…maybe they were up there in years…).
All the animals are fenced in and I make the rounds, chatting with them (mostly being ignored – so, chatting to myself).
Mr. Peacock making sure the child in that stroller knows who’s boss too. He almost needs a sound effect with that huge plumage super halo.
Around this time I see an old lady come out with a big basket and toss bits or bread and carrots to the animals. Oh My God! Why didn’t I think to bring food too? Thus making all these animals my best friend? The behaviour of the animals just kills me – they see food and you’re the only one in the world to them. When the food is gone, you no longer exist..!
I ask the lady if I can take a piece to feed the birds and she let’s me. My bread piece lasted 0.025 seconds (oh I exaggerate! I broke off little bits and all the birds swarmed me because now I was interesting. So, each bite I threw to them lasted 0.025 seconds…).
Now the snack is all gone, and the hens and ducks scatter (Margaux who?).
On the ground I spot another piece of bread that must have escaped the lady’s basket earlier. When I stand back up again that sheep is already walking towards me.
Now it’s a party (love the face of that goat at left – his direct eye contact says “and where’s my treat?”). This happened in just a few seconds. No one else was around to laugh at this fuckery – they converged on me like I was 115 pounds of pure feed. Animals fighting for
my love the bread. I was dying, it was too comical, like something from a movie…but it actually happened…!
And it’s really obvious too – they make no bones: once the food was gone so where they. One minute I have a thousand pleading animals faces in mine, the next minute it is their aloof bums. They soooo don’t care about *me* anymore. So I stand there, watching them waddle off. I laugh (and as the sheep left I mimicked their strange nasally bleating back at them – bleeeeeeeehhh! BLEEEEH!!!!! Fine).
The old lady comes over again and we joke about the fickleness of the animals. She has a middle eastern looking kid with her, he must be a volunteer. The lady comments on my Olympus camera, calling it, in french ’a real apparatus’. I suppose meaning it looked uber complicated to her. This is a cue for me not to ask her to take my pic right now, so I ask the kid.
Weeeeell..the pic turned out lame. Sooooo…I’m not posting it. But I’m sure he meant well, he was very kind.
I head to where the ‘rams’ are (I still don’t know what they are. Big Goats? Well, I’m going to call them ‘goat/rams’). They are seated far far away from the fence by a shed, totally uninterested in me (of course, I have *no* food!).
A father and daughter stop by. Maybe Lebanese, spoke nice French. They take some leaves from nearby foliage and hold it out. The goat/rams’ interest is piqued and he stalks over with heavy hoofs. He hooks them into the fence to raise himself up and cranes his head over to get to the tasty treat. It was pretty cute and alarming at the same time – he’s such a burly animal, and those horns…fearsome.
The littler ‘goat/ram’ is coming this way too, but I decide to try and feed the beast. The man offered to take my pic – it’s scarier than I thought, big goat/ram’s chompy jaws are snappy (and I like all 10 of my fingers, thanks). It was fun though, we had a connection (until the last bite). I remind myself of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman – except my fingers would have been trapped in iron animal jaws instead of a jewellery box.
They’re eyes are so unique (rectangular pupils! Creepy/fascinating all in one).
I dont’ think beast was too pleased I was leaving – he likely wanted more shrubbery to eat! I kept looking back as I walked away (and…saying bye…in french) and he stayed like that, watching me. I kind of felt bad leaving him, but he’s well cared for and is probably very lucky where he is instead of a petting zoo or something worse. I wonder what he was thinking? (perhaps *I* looked tasty).
I take a bridge over a big pond: lily pads and swampish. I can hear little frogs, and now and then the sound of them jumping in and out of the water. I pass more young boys working (ok, probably teenagers). One asks me if I’m a photographer (“Yes”, I lie). Model too? (Oh good God…they are so young…).
I now come upon some bunnies! But they are locked up in a coop, behind cages. That kid from before (that took my picture) comes over and we chat about the bunnies. The door to the coop is locked, and they are all caged up because they’re hard to control and monitor if left to hop around (they are clever escape artists!). I’m a bit bothered to see them all cooped up, not feeling sunlight or enjoying fresh grass….this can’t be right. He offered to get the keys to the coop so I can visit them. Twice. I really had to be persistent, repeatedly saying no it’s ok, and finally because “if you open the door I’ll take them all home!”.
I can’t say they looked happy in there – this one below was hoping and jumping about his cage like he was stir crazy. What do I do? (get the keys and set them all free! “Run for your lives!” …then, I’m envisioning all the terrible scenes in Watership Down, with my luck that would be these rabbits fates too! Ugh, I still can’t watch that movie….).
I chat with the kid for a bit. He hears my accent as asks me where I’m from, how I like Brussels….
Swarms of kids here (I’m leaving at the right time). Well, two moms and 6 kids (that’s a ‘swarm’ in my book). Ugh, go away! They are in the faces of all the animals, the animals want food. I can’t recall if the kids have food. Probably not, they were just annoyingly poking and pulling their coats (those faces are pleading for me to let them escape the little menaces…kid you not). Actually, I think one kid got bitten (I laughed out loud).
I’m still going to try to do some shopping on Rue Neuve, so I head off on Blvd D’Anvers the way I came. At some point things seemed to start getting familiar from my bus tour, and I’m pretty sure I’m close to the EU Headquarters.
View of the start of Rue Neuve from Boulevard du Jardin Botaniques. On left is the City 2 Mall.
I decide to go in. It’s full of teens (just like a regular mall! Meh, there all the same wherever you go. If there’s a mall in The Svalbard, its full of teenagers)…!. I find a cool store called Art Shop with all sorts of neat things like those old lady grocery buggies with a big lady bug on it (want it!), Hello Kitty everything (yay!), charming prints, inappropriatly funny t-shirst, pretty dinner wear, funny cell phone cases…I spent a long time in here browsing, but I didn’t want to carry anything heavy home. Boo.
My feet are hurting, and so is my left leg now (*what* is going on with it? I bet I’ve royally messed it up this time…thanks to my innapropriate footwear? Probably!). I stop into some stores and try stuff on but it’s all just meh and nothing fits right. I end up getting a leopard print scarf with a corchet border for €10 and some Hello Kitty bandaids at the pharmacy because I’ll likely need to bandage up by feet and toes during the remaining days of my trip (wow – forget my one good pair of shoes and immensly fuck myself over!).
After about a 1/2 hour I head out and walk down Rue Neuve. Alot of the same stores I’d see at home, stop in H&M and Zara, pick stuff up but don’t end up buying – decide to wait (because…I’ll probably find the same thing at the H&M and Zara back home, for $CDN anyway!!). If I *really* want it (because sometimes they *don’t* have the same stuff back home that I find overseas…argh so conflicted), I’ll come back for it – nothing was really special…
I do go into the INNO department store. Buy some really cool DIM tights, some perforated even, and (because I think I’m getting back up to a B from shrinking to an A last year) a DKNY bra (when all else fails, buy underwear!). Otherwise, this place felt like The Bay and the clothes didn’t really impress either…
My feet are killing me now, stores are closing. I stop at the Carrefour grocery store for snacks but hate it in there (feels like Food Basics…), and leave. I return to what I know, the Dalhaize grocery store on Rue Aspache and buy Hoogarten Rose, a frozen pizza, two La Vache Qui Rit spreadable cheese wheels for maman (flavours I’ve never seen back home! I love those kids of discoveries) and, ou, gum.
My. Feet. Hurt. So. Bad. I feel like a mule lugging the heavy grocery bag home with the constant pain in my feet with every step. I’m sure my face is screwed up into a mess, I’m probably wincing too. When I get home I literally dump everything. I snack (fatty food will help, right?). I eat a whole entire half baguette, fuck this pain! I’m noticing it’s cold in the apartment again too…ugh, not now!
I get on email for a bit then Skype with Mom for a while. Decide to run a bath for my feet…..but all I’m getting is tepid water. This is awesome! No relief for me! No heat, no hot water! I have no idea what this means, but I can’t even find the strength to care right now so I’ll see wtf this is about in the morning…
I flip through some channels, some French, some English. Staying on the couch again tonight, easier to put my throbbbing screaming feet up (hopefully this will help! How else will I get around if my feet are out of commission? This could turn out very very very bad bad bad).
Around midnight it’s lights out (my feet are going to be so effed in the morning (and the rest of my @#!* life!).