Brussels: the capital of Europe and of weird old dancing men (Laura)
Mike and I spent three days in Brussels, each one with diminishing returns yet all still enjoyable. It’s not Brussels’ fault that nothing could top our first day. The first blue skies and t-shirt weather for almost three weeks would have made even Scranton an enjoyable city, and we know from Biden that place is a hell hole. Brussels is by no means Scranton, but it seems to share the same reputation among its own citizens as an ugly city that they like in spite of that. It’s not actually ugly, but compared to other European capitals, it’s kind of a hodgepodge of ornate government buildings, ugly concrete high rises, and some gritty areas with some God-forbidden “diversity” that the rest of Belgium doesn’t seem to like very much but that seems to suit American big cities quite well.
The first thing we learned about Brussels is that it LOVES comic books. They consider them the ninth form of art and thus have every free sidewall painted with scenes from many different comic strips. Their favorite is Tin Tin, Belgium’s own famous comic character + canine companion. Our city map handily provided a comic art route that was a fun excuse to walk through the city. Pretty cool.
The second thing we noticed was that their most famous touristic draw was more surprisingly diminutive than the Mona Lisa. Maneken Pis, the little statue of a boy peeing into a fountain, with more mythical lore attached to it than Stonehenge, and more custom-made outfits than a Beverly Hills lap dog, is no more than twelve inches tall. Wow, wasn’t that a let-down. That day he was dressed in a Brussels football uniform.
The third thing we noticed is that Brussels really is a bunch of villages, which reminded me of San Francisco. You can be in the ritzy Art Nouveaux neighborhood with gorgeous ironwork and peaceful lagoons, and then in one block be in the poorest neighborhood of Brussels, and in another couple blocks you’re in African town. I personally like it, but that’s also why I like San Francisco too.
Highlights from Brussels include the following, most of which happened on the first day (hence diminishing returns):
– Delicious beer at an outdoor terrace along with a third of Brussels’ population, who all seemed to leave work early on this first day of sunshine.
– Incredible live (FREE!) Jazz by a group from Madagascar at a very old, historic jazz bar.
– Befriending two men next two us at said jazz cafe and only later realizing that we had intruded on their blind-date-gone-wrong. It worked out well because the lame one went home early, and the nice one stayed with us all night, even when things got weird…which bring brings me to…
– The weirdest old dancing men (henceforth referred to as WODM) I’ve ever seen. Yes, we had the fortune of having TWO unrelated WODM in front of us. WODM1 was pushing 70 and was doing this weird dance involving running his hands all over his own face, reaching out and touching everyone, handing $100 bills to the guitarist in the middle of a song multiple times and, eventually, making out with a lady half his age who probably saw how loose he was with his $100 bills. WODM2 was probably around 60, and had only one move: to dance in front of our table and constantly reach out his arms to us and beckon us to come dance with him, male or female. We thought he’d get the point after shaking our heads “no” at least ten times, but this went on for about an hour before he took it to the next level and literally started grabbing Mike by the arm. When Mike said,”no, no, I don’t want to dance” WODM2 put his hand on his shoulder and said, “We must succeed!” Who could say no to that sort of spirit and determination? Well, Mike could. But after a few more minutes we both gave in and went to dance in the front. I should explain that this was a jazz club, not a dance club, so we looked pretty weird dancing with this dude directly in front of the band, literally blocking them from the view of the rest of the audience. I think the 12 percent Bush beers may have helped us not to care. I think I have a clip of WODM1 I’ll try and post.
Weird Old Dancing Men
– The Musical Instrument Museum, in a beautiful art nouveaux building with hundreds of rare instruments from around the world. The audioguide automatically triggered clips of songs featuring each instrument when you walked up to it so you could hear how they sound. Awesome.
– Brussels’ National Library, not for the books, but for the amazingly cheap cafe up top. We enjoyed our highest value meal of the trip, including two bazooka-sized sandwiches heaped with delicious ingredients, cappuccinos, cookies, and Fantas, all for $10.
– A rainy afternoon sending us indoors to watch The Great Gatsby 3D. Great decision, especially because it was our first time watching a movie in an empty theater…
Part One of our trip is officially coming to a close, as tomorrow morning we fly to Madrid. We’re both very anxious to actually get to Spain, the whole purpose of the trip, but we have had a great time of drawing out the process of getting there. Stay tuned for Part II!