Concentrate on the Maze

September 17th, 2006 , 21:27

Or why Joe hates Brussels parks.

Well, we did a lot of walking this weekend. And I do mean a lot of walking. We walked nearly everywhere. Except out to the Atomium but then we did quite a lot of walking around that. Including the park which is nearby. Well we thought we were walking in the park nearby. Turns out we were walking in some of the park nearby, which didn’t link up with the park that we wanted to walk in. In fact, there is apparently very few ways into this little park we found ourselves in and we aren’t entirely sure how we ended up in this park in the first place. We must have found one of those few entrances. Very few entrances. Because we couldn’t find our way out.

What did find however was, well, interesting. There was the bloke in the green grass area who very carefully stripped down to his jockeys. Very small jockeys. Very small blue jockeys. In fact they were very very small and very very blue. We blinked and decided to head the other way. Toward the UFOs. At least they weren’t blue. Or jockeys. They also didn’t do anything. Just sat there. White UFOs. That should have at least turned or something. That was going through the trees and wildlife gardens which then suddenly turned into formal gardens. Very formal gardens with very formal paths. That led, well, no where really. To dead ends. So we wandered around looking for a way out to the other gardens we wanted to see. Nope, no way out but we ended up looking out over a grassy area with a maze cut into it and a mostly naked man wearing nothing but small bright blue jockeys. This man was now lying on his back on a towel and doing, well, hip thrusts. I start sniggering. Then he starts wiggling from side to side (you really had to be there, or maybe not) and I have to bite my lip to stop from laughing and can hear Joe sniggering next to me. Then in a careful official sounding voice Joe says very clearly “just concentrate on the maze” and that was it. I lost it. I had to sit on a bench until I could stop laughing.

So we head for the maze, carefully avoiding the man in the small bright blue jockeys. I’m sure he’s quite nice really. We walk along the maze and see an exit – hooray. We head for the exit only to find the nice green lawn drops off. Really drops off. A two or three metre drop straight down. No warning either. Not sure how we stayed at the top. So we walk along this drop looking for a way down and finally find where there is an area we can scramble down the wall. By this time Joe is muttering about Belgians and being invaded and it not happening again if they can help it. I pointed out that they’d have to lead the invading armies into a Brussels park and Joe said “that would do it! They’d never escape!”

Well, we finally did. And then went into another park today. And the same thing. Loads of paths but they do like to end them at dead ends. Still it was a pretty day and I had fun.

No Cars were Belgian

September 17th, 2006 , 21:24

Bloggin in Brussels day two

Today was no car day, so the streets are full of cycles, skaters, skate boards, and anything that’s not a car. So the all important breakfast menu boiled egg, ham, salami, cheese, and gherkins with the obligatory coffee. [editor: yuck. bread and coffee for me. I don’t see how he does it. Though the cheese was nice.]

We decided to leave Kathleen’s luggage [editor: my one small day sack, he makes it sounds like I took loads!] at the hotel and stay close, then pick it up when time for her to go. We started with a slow walk to nowhere and gradually became aware of the lack of cars on the road, but lots of mad cyclists. So arrived at a park (one of those Belgian ones, you know “we were invaded once never again well not thorough a park any way” ones). [editor: Joe has something against the parks in Brussels. I’ll have to do a post!]

Stopping off at a little cafe in the park, we drank coffee (well I did) [editor: I had orange press and even got a little pantomime to go with it] and watch the cyclist crash in to the fountain. Then to the palaces which looked nice with formal gardens and gaping tourists peering in the windows. It’s had to remember what we did next and it was only a few hours ago! Mostly we walked coming across neat things all the time – shops or events related to the fetes. In front of the Palace of Justice there was a whole load of stalls from organic food to farm animals, a farrier, a greenpeace stand, and even a large pink tram out of which a fashion show was happening. We think the tram left soon after to probably do another show at the next stop!

Passing on the over crowed queue for the lift, we walked down a series of slopes (where we saw the second bike accident of the day) in to more little shops and restaurants, passing along we saw a Swiss restaurant (after getting on to the conversation of fondue yesterday) well guess what? Fondue it was, cheese and hot oil. The hot oil was for me to fry beef in and the cheese was for Kathleen to dip bread. I heroically gave up my salad of tomatoes and green stuff so she could have some thing else :). A slow lunch was held, (but the disaster was no hot chocolate and this purporting to be a Swiss restaurant) so a coffee and tea later we were of to the peeing boy (not even going to attempt (manikin Pis). [editor: Joe has the guide book so he can check the spelling!] The first thing you notice is the crowds and the next is its dressed in white, then just as we are leaving there are two blokes in there (dressed in the same sort of outfit as is on the statue) setting up beer barrels.

We then get to the Grand Place and I do my navigation test, can I get back to the hotel? The square is full of the bands and manikins from yesterday. The crowds were large and a bit of a push to get through, but we did. Then through food porn alley (according to Olly where all the restaurants have people outside trying to drag you in, and the bright light going). I got my rocket going looking for my next visual land mark, but I found it, a large multi-colour overpass. Then homing in on the little bar we drank at last night and then the church and finally the hotel.

Now its about getting ready for Kathleen to leave getting all the stuff together and panicking that she has everything. [editor: I did] So a little rest and then off. We decide to walk as there is still a lot of time before she could even check in a the Eurostar. So from the hotel, out to the boulevard where more entertainment is going on, kids in canoes in the fountain pools and singer in tents and it looked like some of the fish restaurants doing small out door servings; we pushed our way through that and came out on to the main street with a direct path to Gare de Midi and the Eurostar. As we walk down you see the culture change to more Arabic. Just outside the station with plenty of time we stop at a bar for a drink to kill some time. We people watch, the cycles and skates, and the people coming for drinks. Then time to move on into the concrete jungle which contains the station, straight through the entrance and to the Eurostar terminal. As luck would have it (well my luck) some thing is snarled the gates don’t open and every one queues. Some phone calls later the gates open a kiss good bye and Kathleen is over the barriers and in the queue for passport control. I wave good bye and leave to walk back to the hotel.

The fete is still in full swing as I move through the city, And back to the room. A check of the map and the address of the conference hotel says it is not where I think so I go for a look. Registration is open so I go into the main bar to start typing this entry in the hopes of free net access but too expensive beer. A chat to a few people but then dinner is called so most leave, a few die hard remain and so the blog goes on, as one of the people start on the piano which is very good.

Walking back to my hotel the cars are back, and the mood of the city shifts, the events are closing and there are no children in the fountains any more (with or without canoes) some still party on but the sense is that of tomorrow we work. So tomorrow I conference.

Bloggin’ in Brussels

September 16th, 2006 , 17:39

Written by Joe, edited by Kathleen

After arriving Friday night on Eurostar and successfully negotiating the mini metro system or underground trams to the hotel, we collapsed for the night. It is very warm and sticky at the moment so a shower and bed.

Today 🙂

Up and breakfast (coffee, juices and hotdogs, with boiled egg and mushrooms). [editor: that was Joe, I had coffee and bread, cause let’s face it, his was gross!] Left around tenish to get the metro to Heysel for the famous Brussels atom (Atomium). That’s the balls building you see on every thing, a representation off an iron atom. [editor: or as the guide book says “an iron atom on steroids”.] The digital camera is playing up again so I don’t know how the picture will look but we have some. After getting out and just following the crowds past the Art Nouveau buildings from the 1958 world fair the sun is bright and the newly refurbished atom is shining resplendent in the morning sun. [editor: Art Deco from 1935 were the ones I noticed but Joe saw the 1958 buildings which I missed until I was in the atom; but then I would note the Deco ones and ignore the Nouveau!]

The tour bus are starting to arrive but we pay 9 euros each and make our way in. First we walk around four of the balls with a few escalators then joined the queue for the top. Had a look around and you can see all the preparations for the next day which included rigging an aerial slide from the top of the atom to the ground. This we will learn later appears to all be part of a fete or celebration which is going on all weekend.

After leaving the atom we walk though some gardens and got a bit lost so cutting our losses head back to the metro. We ended up in a metro station we had passed on the way which had 3d reliefs of people on the walls. One we particularly liked looked like a woman being boiled in a large pot :). [editor: we got a photo. She looked surprisingly calm, though a bit worried, so they probably hadn’t lit the fire yet.]

To town and just a general wander the Brussels chocolate and biscuit shops being our main aims. [editor: well the chocolate one was my main aim. Can’t come to Brussels and not get chocolate!]

Close to the chocy shop we stopped for lunch at a small place called Cap Sablon [editor: we were in the expensive part of town. Yes I like expensive chocolate.] I had brain failure [editor: as did I, it was just good to sit down! We had done a lot of walking by that point in the sun during a rather sticky sort of day] and was totally unable to read the menu but managed to order spaghetti carbonara and a beer. Kathleen ended up with chicken liver salad and some fruit juice. It was very nice and very cheap with coffee and hot chocolate to finish. [editor: Guess who had the hot chocolate!]

The chocolate shop was full but we managed to sneak in our order and get out quickly. We then worked our way to the main square (Grand Place in English) where more of the fete was in full swing, loud bands and manikins [editor: puppets, masks, costumes, all sorts] all over the place coming from one direction going round the square then out again.

Got our biscuits and had an ice cream, watch more of the little bands and dances come through, then start our walk back to the hotel. To collapse and cool down before the evening meal.

[editor again: we’re going out to a really nice place that we went to the first time we were in Brussels so I’m looking forward to a good meal tonight! Shower and meal.]