Mussels in Brussels
Trip Start Oct 16, 2007
70Trip End Dec 16, 2007
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Welcome back to the city.
The truth be told, I would have loved a beer or two but it was too early and my stomach was too empty to take on the hefty alcohol content of Belgium beer which I feared would bring an early end to my day.
And so soggy and bedraggled, I headed to my next programed location - the temple of mussels and chips - Chez Leon. Although way too public and famous like most tourista places I figured there would be a good turnover (translating "fresh") and a busy and bustling atmosphere. They were and it was. Probably some of the best mussels I've had in years. Not one of those buckets where you are eating with vigor and suddenly come upon one that is "not so good" and then have to decide whether to try another right away or give up on the rest. The frites were awesome - as was the French bread that I used to soak up the savory broth. The haricorts verts flavored with lardons that I ordered on the side were perfect with my midrange Belgium Beer. I jested with the waiter in French both of us laughing as he tutored me and I left sated but still a little damp.
I weaved around the streets and was approached by sales people, fingered some of the most beautiful lace I've ever seen, scored some of my favorite cosmetics and then stopped at a lovely cafe in the arcade where I ordered a waffle which set the bar for any waffle I might cross paths with in the future - light, with a mildly crunchy exterior and tinged with a wonderful vanilla flavor. I was hard core and ordered it with fresh strawberries instead of whipped cream, chocolate sauce, syrup or ice cream. A lovely retired couple from the city who were seated next to me, stretched themselves to communicate in our native languages and we discussed tipping, food, retirement and their recent trip to the Congo to participate in the women's march. Exciting but also disturbing as my new friend tried to explain in our broken English and French. I cringe when I hear an American who suggests the world should speak English. As someone who stretches herself and takes the risk to communicate in another language I understand the embarrassment and frustration it takes to attempt to understand another person when the words are strange to ones ear, tongue, and brain. I salute to all of you who have reached out to me in an effort to make contact with someone whose words are both difficult to articulate or to fully comprehend. You have made my journey special.
Well, I'll sit back and you can see the Atom submitted by Belgium for the 1958 World Exhibition. I'll take you by the Royal Palace where by the flying flag we could see that King Albert the II, monarch of Belgium, was in the city for the week end.
Although Belgium is small it is multicultural with 118 nationalities being represented. It is a commercial center and home of the European Union where the leaders meet to discuss the financial stability of their countries. It's close to Waterloo where Napoleon lost his last battle. It is also next to Antwerp known for it's Harbor, diamonds and as the birthplace of Rubens.
As I sat across from St Michael's Cathedral, the rains off to the east, and listened to the bells sound in a 10 minute concert, I was pleased to think I had once again made the effort to experience a new venue. I thought I might just come back someday and tour the Palace - at no cost, try a few more varieties of Belgium Beer, wander the museums and antique markets, and eat some more mussels and waffles. Oh yes, I found that Belgians love their milk chocolate but I decided to wait for the dark, rich French favorite.
Looking forward to talking to you personally in a couple of weeks. FYI Daylight Savings arrived in Europe early this morning. For the next week I'm only 5 hours ahead of you in the Eastern Time Zone.