The Belgians and the Bacon in disguise(Para ler este post em português: Quem nunca comeu melado, quando come se lambuza)
I went to Belgium more because of a bug on my plans than any other reason. I had booked a hotel in the Netherlands starting on May 1st while my lodging in London would finish on April 30th. It was only on Apr 29th that I realized there was a one-night gap on my schedule. So, one day before my departure I still wasn’t sure (a) Where I was going to sleep the next night and (b) How I was going to get to Bergen Op Zoom in the Netherlands – being a rookie at it, on the web I couldn’t find a train connecting these two cities. After a lot of research I concluded that Brussels would be the best option, being conveniently located and very beautiful, and last minute I found a place to stay and bought a train ticket.
Thus at 4pm of April 30 I arrived Brussels Train Station, traced a route with Google Maps, took the subway and next I began pushing up my bag cheerfully and bouncy through the half-dozen blocks indicated by the GPS… when I realized I was in a black neighborhood.
That brought a chill down my spine. I thought about the violent American ghettos, and there I was, a brainless stupid white girl wandering alone the streets of an unfamiliar neighborhood of an unknown country where the official languages are Dutch and French! Je ne parle pas français! <- I don’t even know how to pronounce this! Far less Dutch! Ouch!!
Then I recalled my dear friend Big Paul who long time ago told me: “.Whenever you get in trouble abroad, don’t panic and start singing a Brazilian song – everyone will notice you’re a foreigner, and everyone loves Brazilians…”
And so I did.
But my singing skills were useless (thought I believe I did quite well). Happens that things are different in Europe: what I’ve found were folks with a wide and sincere smile, kind and friendly, they were all so nice I felt like if I was in northeastern Brazil. They helped me to find the address I was looking for, and while I was waiting for the landlord outside the building two persons stopped to ask if I needed help. And the flat? OMG the flat was awesome! It was spacious and well-equipped with a giant bed, there was a fiberglass shower cabin in the bathroom with so many buttons that seemed more like a spaceship, to be able to operate it properly I would have to read its manual! And it was also very close to all main touristic attractions!!
I had only 24 hours in Brussels so unfortunately I couldn’t waste my time having an astronaut bath… I went out for a walk, crossed the wide Marnix Ave, bought a city map, and less than ten min walk later I was at the Real Palace (Palais Royal). In front of it lies the pleasant Brussels Park, and a few more hundred meters ahead walking over medieval cobbled streets I came across the wonderful Cathédrale Saint Michel. I also went through the famous Grand Place, said to be the most beautiful square in the world. It may well be true…
For dinner I chose randomly a restaurant called Au Boeuf Qui Rit (mom told me it means “the laughing steak”), located in the charming Beenhouwersstraat, an alley full of cool canteens. I asked for a typical dish and they served me some super soft and tasty meat cooked in red wine with salad and fries. Through my cousin Cleci I learned that the fries globally known as “french fries” were actually invented here, not in France.
Credit where credit is due: I’m quite ignorant in general culture, but I have the best friends, highly educated and well traveled: all I have to do is post a photo on Facebook or Instagram and wait a few minutes for their comments to discover things in real time…
In Brussels there are chocolate stores everywhere, including the worldwide famous Godiva. Expensive but delightful, I paid €8 for a measly 100g little box (in some fancy store that I don’t know the name), and it worth every calorie. There are times when it’s good not being able to carry more stuff – otherwise I would had bought fifty pounds…
With a full tummy I went to visit the renowned Manneken Pis (that famous tiny bronze fountain of a pissing boy, suggestion of my cousin Renata), sculpted by Hieronimus Duquesnoy the Elder in 1619. My uncle Edu told me his clothes are changed daily, but when I got there he was naked. I’ve read that this statue is just a replica cause it’s often stolen, the original is kept safe in the Maison du Roi at the Grand Place.
‘Saint Longinus, Saint Longinus, help me to find a pub and I’ll I give you three little hops…’
- With Craig and Danielle
Wow! Saint Longinus is a close friend of mine and he never fails. There was a pub just in front of the statue! I got a seat at the counter and started chatting with a lovely couple from South Carolina, USA,, Danielle and Craig Thomas. They were just passing by Brussels, on an expedition to provide voluntary service in Africa as dentists. I’m blessed cause there are always formidable people along my way!
The staff, a good-nature guy who I can’t remember the name and the Portuguese Guida, who surprisingly had recently married a Brazilian guy, were extraordinary. They masterfully guided me on my noble quest to taste beers: Duvel, Vedett Extra Blond, Vedett Extra White, Maredsous, Delirium Tremens, XX Bitter, Zinnebir etc etc etc … I drank one, I drank two, drank three, four, and when the pub closed doors Guida took me to a few other bars. We met her husband at the Grand Place square and from there we set off together for the “Via Crucis” of Belgian nightlife. I had so many beers I had to take a cab back to the flat despite not being far away…
Of course the next day I woke up with a huge hangover and a headache…
I’ve read bacon is good as a hangover cure.
Salmon healed my hangover.
And just as 2 + 2 = 4, another mystery was unraveled: that was not fish, that was bacon. Case closed.