All posts tagged: Brussels

My First (and Worst) Love Letter

It’s finally happened.  After a month of online dating, I’ve received my first message containing the words “gorgeous,” “love” and “darling.”  These three words, as far as I am concerned, should never, ever comprise an initial greeting unless you’re a teenaged Italian boy trying to coax an American tourist into your uncle’s restaurant. (And even then, I still prefer the words tossed my direction by a Belgian restaurateur earlier this summer: “Beautiful girls!  Come here!  I will give you my heart… on a stake.  To grill.  With chicken and potatoes.”  Now that’s a great line). If you’re a grown man, however, trawling the waters of Match.com, you should not—I repeat, you should NOT—use the words “gorgeous,” “love” and “darling” in your first communiqué.  Outside the context of an Italian restaurant (or say, a monogamous relationship of at least a few months) these words should never be spoken.  These words, in this context, comprise a veritable trifecta of doom. I really wish I could go through this man’s message line by ludicrous line, word by misspelled …

Bemused upon the Bus

Whilst schlepping from one time zone to another, there comes a time when you need to stop, take stock of your growing laundry pile and Do Something about It. For me, the moment in question coincided with my return to England: the land of upright showers and, more importantly, Primark.  I could wash my delicates but I would rather, for the sake of cultural immersion, just go shopping. Having survived my blitz through Europe and caught the 12 o’clock Oxford Express back to London, I am feeling quite accomplished (and therefore deserving of another treat).  Not that I have a proper job or a boyfriend of the happily-ever-after variety, not that I have a car or my own apartment or any of those things that normal people have to be proud of. Oh no. It’s better than all of that: I have reached a point where I can come to Europe and stay with friends.  No more youth hostels for this jetsetter-in-training.  No more guest houses in the middle of nowhere, or platform tents in …

Brussels 2010 058

Of Beer and Chocolate

Since when did urinating in public—in broad daylight—become okay?  If it seems that I’m a bit obsessed with the art of peeing in Belgium, it’s because the entire tourism industry hinges upon the Mannqen-Pis.  And because in Brussels, a public event (such as the free concert to celebrate Belgium’s assumption of the European Union’s rotating presidency) boasts not only portable toilets but portable urinals. Portable urinals. Who knew?  Unfortunately, there are some things in life that one should not photograph, and dozens of men gathered around miniature towers of gray plastic just outside of the European Parliament qualifies as one such thing. I don’t want to give the wrong impression.  Overall, Belgium is a very civilized country complete with buses, trams, a suitable metro and the Villo! (its answer to the Velo’V) although the last of these hasn’t really caught on yet.  Only in Brussels can you find a Neahaus, a Godiva and a Pierre Marcolini on the same corner (and only Marcolini would have a collection called “Ephemeral” and a line called “Conspiration” and …

How to Find the Best Ice Cream in Belgium

It’s nearly five o’clock in the Galeries Royales de St. Hubert, just a block from Brussels’ Grand Place.  Highly fashionable traveler that I am (having been reunited with the contents of my suitcase) I’ve taken a slight detour to explore a shop on the corner—a shop which boasts a new “Summer Collection 2010.” And what a Summer Collection it is: for starters, the entire shop is framed by an arcade of Doric columns: tall and gray, they mean business.  Surrounding the door are a series of marble pilasters, in three different colors, which would be more than enough to send me off into a fit of architectural ecstasy even without the gold leaf and glass paneled ceiling. Given the excessive trimmings, I’m nearly hyperventilating by the time I pull out my camera, and the contents of the Summer Collection 2010 are like nothing I’ve ever seen: rich chocolately browns, bright and summery “sorbet” hues in pomegranate and raspberry, a limited edition “fusion” of strawberry and banana and finally a delicate array of pearls in white, …