25 September 2010

Solo Day in Bruxelles

Merlin and I spent a day in Brussels apart. It was about 4 hours total, but was still the longest amount of alone time either of us have had in about a month. We were pretty excited about it, simply because our dinner conversation had started to sound like this:

One of us: Did you know (insert some information about something)...?
The other one of us: Yep, I was there when that guy told us that, too.

I decided to spend my "apart" time doing some walks outlined by our nifty "feel like a local" city map, given to us by the hostel in Mechelan. We had used a map by the same company in Ghent and then in Mechelan and they both seemed to work out well.
Naturally, the first thing I did was have some ice cream. (Banana). The cones are thinner and longer here which I prefer for two reasons 1) the scoop set atop can't be as enormous, which helps a girl out if she's planning on having two or three a day 2) it takes much longer for the ice cream drippings to reach your hand. After that business was taken care of, I started on the prescribed journey.
First up was this park or garden, as it was called.
My favorite park in New York had always been Bryant Park, because I felt like it was this bit of peace right there squished between 5th Avenue and the madness of Times Square. Well, Bryant Park has nothing on this place. It is literally in the middle of the busiest highway in the city. As you walk around you can hear the traffic whizzing by, but somehow it only made it seem more like an oasis.
I really wanted to sit and read the book I had bought at an English bookstore earlier in the day (when on a search for the Mad Men issue of Rolling Stone), but knew that it would be best to keep on trucking.
The next stop on my tour was "the last remaining original frite stand in Brussels." Here it is with geraniums in the window and no customers. It was strange to see this sad little stand, holding on strong to its little spot, with the city built up all around it.
A lot of my walk was pretty seedy - bringing me through the red light district and the street prostitute district. In both neighborhoods, I was the only female with no goods to sell on the street and the men I passed by were less than charming. Nothing like a good stroll like that to make you miss your boyfriend.

I was pretty hungry and wanted to feel safe enough to take out my camera again when I stumbled upon this square, which I like to call "The Lobster District."
If you look closely, almost every single one of those restaurants lining the streets have a fluorescent lobster sign - the sort of red light I appreciate.
Last time I was in Brussels, this square was filled with a Christmas market. I wouldn't have recognized it at all if not for the crustacean signage.Around the corner was St- Catherine Square, which instantly became my very favorite place in Brussels.
There was a market just closing up, which I was sad to have missed, but a cheese van lingered.
As well as the moules man.
This spot on the corner sure was hopping.
On closer inspection, I could see that it was a combination fish shop/tapas restaurant.
While a big part of me wanted to cozy up next to the In Crowd, a bigger part of me wanted to sit down for the first time that day. It was basically an enormous new herring wrapped around a fistful of pickled onions.I grabbed a quick bite at the fish store, a rollmop which was even bigger and better than the one I had in the Netherlands.
After I threw that down the hatchet, I went to sit down at a cafe table under some trees, have a drink and consult my map for the route home.
I decided to make one more map-stop on my way to the hotel. This bridge separates the Moroccan part of Brussels from the rest of the city. There were bright pinwheels lining the entire border and you could smell the Moroccan spices wafting in the air.
The next day, I took Merlin out for some rollmops, then drinks at that same outdoor cafe. Naturally, we started the whole day out, though, by sharing an ice cream cone. (Rum raisin).

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