My oldest best friend is living in Brussels. We’ve known each other since we were eleven, and we’ve done everything together: waxed each other’s pubes preempting virginity loosing, got drunk on cooking wine and sung ‘what shall we do with the drunken sailor’ outside my parent’s room, and (of course) snogged to get drinks off men. We’ve also travelled South America together; chugging very slowly up the Amazon with black bras over our heads (we were pretending to be pirates).
Anyway, you get the picture – we really like each other.
I finally got round to getting myself a ticket to visit her in April. Boarding the Eurostar on a Friday night is definitely one of my new favourite things to do. St Pancras is always near work (much to your dismay on a standard day) and the second you walk through the barriers everyone is chatting in French. You go from stressful rush hour on the Tube to strolling through Customs, glass of red wine in hand, and a man called Pierre carrying your suitcase.
I really didn’t know what to expect from Brussels – no one really talks about it, or goes to live there unless they are going to do something in politics. It’s not like Paris or Barcelona, which you orgasm over way before penetration. (I hope that particular choice of words made you feel a little sick – I like to test your tummies) I didn’t really imagine Brussells to have a huge life beyond the expats. I always thought it was quite a transitional city.
I arrived at 9 and as we were walking through an area called Midi, my friend announced that this was the DODGY part of town. It was beautiful – wide roads snd pretty buildings. This was a city I was going to love…
That night we went to an Euro soirée, which was basically an office party. Everyone was wasted, listening to Shakira and trying to get it on with each other – in quite a gross way. Lots of bad dancing – shit loads of drunken grinding, and no Beyonces. We left and hit some bars where we knocked back some very strong beer. I’ve never liked beer, but this stuff was delicious. The bars are open until 5 in the morning. They don’t shut until the customers are done. Oh, if only England was like that… Actually if England was like that, the bar staff would be zombies. The Brits are not likely to stop boozing/call their night over on their own. They need to be chucked out.
The next day we munched on a vast bagel and walked around the city. It is beautiful – like an incy, wincy Paris mixed with Berlin. The vibe is quite unlike anywhere I’ve been. Everyone is just chilling. There is no rushing about, no frantic beeping, shouting etc. Everyone is just taking their time. There are apparently only about 6 cash points in Brussels, consequesntially the queue outside one was gigantic, but no one seemed to mind spending the majority of their weekend in the queue. They just got on with it, chatted to each other, got out their ghetto blasters. I, however, was too impatient and scarpered.
Apparently buying a nice phone is absurdly expensive so few people have iPhones or Blackberrys. s a result, everyone seems to be enjoying each other. They are not fiddling with iapps, bbming, checking the football. They’re just doing what they’re doing. They might make a call, but that’s all it is going to be – a call. Their nokia brick can’t offer more than that.
On Saturday night we cooked a delicious meal in the flat (eating out is very expensive in Brussels, whereas boozing is considerably cheaper than London) and then headed to this amazing electro night in a museum. It was this huge open space, and a great place for making friends. One man even had a dog in the joint – I couldn’t have asked for a better friend. Everyone was so welcoming, interesting and hysterical. I had a whale of a time – I did dance offs, played pogs with drink tokens and hung out in unisex loos. I definitely did a lot of drunken shouting across the music ‘I LOVE BRUSSELS – IT’S AMAZING’ to people. To which, they nodded their heads and continued dancing. They didn’t need my cocky, classic English ‘wow I can’t believe there is a place outside England’ attitude confirming that their city is great. They just know it.
The following day, we took bikes out (like the Boris ones but better) and rode into the forest. That is another amazing thing about the city, it has the most enormous forest in Belgium just chilling in it. Apparently the further in you go, the more live animals you see! Certainly more Attenborough than Hyde Park.
I went to bed exhausted, and woke up at the crack for my Eurostar back in time for work. That journey was much less enjoyable. I wonder why?
Brussels I ain’t done with you – what was that you said? PHEW?