We had been in Brussels for a few days back in the autumn of 2006. A few surprisingly delightful days in the Belgian capital, a major city that turned out to be much more enchanting than we had anticipated it would be.
It was a pleasing change to arrive there after a few weeks in France. Pleasing because we found the Brussels folk to be pleasant and welcoming and not shits like the French can be. Oh, we loved France. The scenery and history and culture were all wonderful, and the food was superlative. But, the French. Well, they are French. What can I say. They don’t like people who cannot speak their lingo superlatively. I speak it rather pathetically. But, at least I fucking tried. Those good intentions seemed to matter little.
We had a teeny-weeny room in a ‘quaint’ little hotel. One that served, however, and included in the room tariff, superlative breakfasts.
And we did Brussels stuff. I had no idea what to expect even though I had been in plenty of European capitals like London, Amsterdam, Vienna and Rome. Brussels turned out to be a delightful surprise. The first glimpse of the Grande Place and you will lose your breath at a beauty more remarkable than any wonderful woman can offer. And we saw the cute little Mannikin Pis, and we ate mussels and truffles and at no time did we ever feel vaguely unsafe.
We linked up with a couple of friends from back home and spent a delightful day exploring the streets, roads and culs-de-sac of this capital of the European Union that holds more history in a single block than most other places I had visited. Even Waterloo, the site of Napoleon’s ignominious defeat is just a few miles from Brussels.
Like all good things our sojourn there had to come to an end, but I was also actively anticipating our departure because we were to leave for London via the famed Eurostar and would be using the ‘Chunnel’. That had to be cool. We booked the train trip a few days ahead, which is advised. And when we made our reservations we were told that we ‘must’ be at the departure area before a specific time. Even a minute later and we would be refused. Seemed strict, to me. But we acceded and got there in plenty of time.
Well, inside it wasn’t like a conventional railway station departure area. The customs part was easy. We had our papers and passports and though we did feel a bit like Lazlo and Ilsa fleeing that North African town in the film Casablanca we played along. Customs done, we then had to deal with some tough looking military guys who also wanted to see our documentation. Fortunately all was in order and there were no embarrassing questions revolving around any sort of neglect on our part.
Ultimately the hurdles were completed and we realized that in a European capital, security was not taken lightly. The Chunnel trip was a delight and was something I had wanted to do for years.
I always thought I’d like to do it again.
But, you know, in light of the tragic events in Brussels today I think I would be loath to take the trip what with saboteurs and all.
The world grows increasingly crappy, is all I can think.