“it’s not today quel le ciel me tombera sur la tete”

7/20/10   –   20:21

Brussels Day! Brussels is the capital of Belgium and here’s my opinion on it in a nutshell: It may not be the most aesthetically pleasing city with its reckless juxtaposition of old and new architectural styles, but it more than makes up for it with the amount of things there are to do as well as the food [you knew I was gonna say that, though]. It’s a modern city, with the skies above criss-crossed by the trails of the planes from nearby Brussels International, but it still maintains that European sense of ancientness.

 But first of all, the Fanta flavor of the day? Red-berry. Otherwise known as Raspberry. And I’ve already gushed to you about how much I like raspberry. This has got to be in the top three fanta flavors [yes. Even up there with maracujá from Portugal] Today was a special day for Fanta because I got a second flavor to try later on in the day but we’ll save that for its rightful place. Later on. And by later on I mean next.

After wandering on Rue de Midi for a bit while looking for lunch, I stumbled across Brussels’ Asiatown. It had dozens of thai, vietnamese, chinese, and japanese restaurants and supermarkets and I was in the area sooo…. I had cha siu bao and daan taat for lunch. It was delicious and you can judge me all you want for doing such non-european things while in Europe. However, Brussels is a very international city. It’s all part of the city’s flavor. Y’know what I mean? [>_>;;] Also, I stopped by the supermarket to get a beverage and came out with South African Fanta. Yes. It’s fanta made especially for the world cup and it’s a mix of orange, passion fruit, but mostly peach. I think that one might be aiming for a close third in my Fanta ranking. Kudos, Belgium.

May I take this moment to say that I’m liking the French. Despite Belgium being bilingual, and Brussels lying in the Dutch-speaking Flanders region. I’ve only ever heard people speak French in the capital. At least French is a language I’ve had some schooling in. Mr. what’s-your-face BCC french teacher, don’t fail me now. As I recall, your parents were from Belgium. This also means there’s no stupid quatre-vingt business. You just go straight to octante. I leave here tomorrow for Paris, though, where that won’t fly. So I guess I can’t get used to it.

Further wanderings down Rue de Midi brought me to a series of stamp and postcard stores. I bought a pack of a hundred world stamps because I just can’t ignore the call of another useless collecting hobby. The store clerk was a very helpful young guy and after leaving with my purchases, I got to thinking. I wonder if he ever wanted to be a stamp salesman. Was that his dream in life? Maybe it might have been something he loved? Or not. Who knows. I suppose there’s a place in this world for everybody. Even the people whose role in my life is to sell me the useless old things I like so much.

Nearby was the ultimate symbol of Brussels [and Belgium?], the Manneken-Pis. It is a statue. A statue of a peeing boy. -_-. For it to be the symbol of a city, you’d think it would be at least life size. Unfortunately not. It’s about the size of my forearm and the only distinguishing feature it has is that it changes clothes every day. Today was some sort of boy-scout-ish type thing but apparently yesterday was a beekeeper outfit. Hah.

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More random sights included Grand Place, the main square of Brussels with its gilded guild halls [oh, they had a sense of word humour those Belgians], and large gothic spires. The other sight was the Galeries Royales St. Hubert, which is pretty much one of the oldest shopping malls in Europe. It’s just like a normal street with a bunch of stores, except the top is covered in glass. Ingenious!

About midday it started getting very hot and I also noticed that tomorrow, July 21, is the Belgian national holiday. I logically concluded that since all the stores were closing, maybe all the museums were too. This meant I had to kick it into uber-sight-seeing mode and get down both of the museums I wanted to see before they closed at 5.

The first was the Musée Royeaux des Beaux Arts. It consists of a museum of ancient [and by ancient they mean 17th century onward] art, modern art [18th century to present] and the museum dedicated to René Magritte, one of the most famous Belgian surrealists. I got in [all for 3 euro] and I had to start with the Magritte museum. He was an interesting character. Probably his most famous work is a picture of a pipe saying “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” which means “this is not a pipe.” He did a lot of speculation on the role words play in our minds and how they represent objects. Or that’s what I could get from the captions, which were only in French and Dutch -_-. He’s also the guy who did the men in bowler hats with apples in front of their faces, if you’ve seen them before.

The museum of modern art had a modest collection, but I really liked this one painting, Nocturnes by Paul Delvaux. I wonder if skeletons decompose, would it be called recomposition? Hm. And in the ‘Ancient’ Art section, my favorite was La chute des Anges Rebelles by Bruegel, who made works very similar to Hieronymus Bosch. That piece is pretty crazy, though. Especially for a religious work from the 1500s.

I also stopped by the Musical Instrument Museum because I’m a nerd like that and because it houses the largest collection of musical instruments in the world, I believe. The museum is housed in an art noveau building and it has this spiffy headphone system that plays a song using the instrument you’re viewing when you stand in front of it.

Afterwards, I got hungry again and went searching for the nearest frites stand. I tried a new sauce today called Samurai [yes, with an umlaut] sauce. Why the Belgians associate spicy mayonnaise with noble japanese warriors? I do not know. But I do know that it tasted pretty great. I talked with a woman from Michigan who was travelling with her two young children while I munched on the frites.

Speaking of strange taste/name associations, the Belgians apparently think that Andalucia tastes like ketchup and pepper. Or at least that’s what I got from my container of Salade de Poulet andalouse that I got from the carrefour express.

As the sun set, I set out to go be a nerd and take night pictures. Cities by day and cities by night are completely different, and you have to capture both sides. I went to the Grand Place and I was minding my own business when I was met with a strange surprise. You know how people do light shows with their christmas decorations? Yeah. The city of Brussels did that. Except with the GRAND PLACE. Lol. It was kind of amazing. I have video of it, but I’m too lazy to convert and upload it from my crappy ipod video camera. It was pretty epic, though. I’d have to tell you.

My last stop before heading back to the hostel was the Delirium Café. On recommendation by Dawson, I stopped by this establishment which is basically three floors [with separate opening hours] of beer paradise. I’m a weenie and I only got one drink [mostly because they were expensive as fuhhh] but I did get some pictures of the beer-related decor in there. 27 beers on tap and over 2000 in bottles? Yeah. Pretty crazy.

But yes. Apparently Brussels is the capital of Europe? And they’re celebrating Belgium Day tomorrow? As such, they’re going to close all of the stores so I don’t know what the itinerary is. We’ll see, but come 18:00, I have to get ready to catch a bus to the City of Lights. This may mean a no-blog day tomorrow [because nothing’s going to happen] but we’ll see. You never know what might pop up.

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