Interrail day twenty-three – Brussels

20 May

This was supposed to be the final day of my trip but, of course, now it is not. Instead I will be attempting to travel home on Sunday, which gives me two extra days in Belgium.

This is a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’. I was thinking yesterday that I was tired of spending all day on a train but at the same time I didn’t want the trip to be over yet. Eurostar obliged by making me stay put in Brussels. It will probably be good for my health (physical and mental), after the less-than-smooth travel of the last few days.

Fortunately the hotel I’m staying in was able to extend my stay for the extra two nights, so that makes things less complicated. It also meant I could do some much-needed washing! It was expensive to extend my stay, but everything round here is expensive at the last minute. It’s a big conference centre hotel, not the nicest I’ve stayed in on this trip, but not the worst either – not even bottom three. And being on the seventh floor with double glazing, I am not likely to be bothered by drunks outside my window.

My friend Susan had suggested some things to do in Brussels, and my friend Ann also suggested a castle in Ghent (an easy day trip from here) but my personal itinerary for the morning was lie in, breakfast and laundry. There’s plenty of time in the afternoon to be cultural.

Look, here’s a theatre I passed. That’s pretty cultural.

It was a dull, rainy day when I emerged from the hotel. I went to Kaffabar for lunch, which is just round the corner and had excellent reviews. I ordered in French and I know my French is not great, but I didn’t deserve the look of disdain and the question in English, “Lunch?” Everyone else seems able to understand me, mostly. Maybe she was just having a bad day but I felt that I was inconveniencing her by coming into her cafe and ordering (very expensive, as it turned out) food. The other waiter was perfectly nice, but I don’t think I’ll rush back.

Then I went to the comic museum, which was a much more positive experience. I learnt a lot! Did you know that the ‘grammar’ of comics (the rules about what they do and how they work) was laid down by manuscript illuminators in the Middle Ages? Or that Hokusai, who made ‘The Great Wave’, was an early cartoonist? I also found out how much comics have in common with films in terms of framing, close-ups etc. In fact I saw one panel that looked like a German expressionist film, and it was in fact an example of the expressionist style of comics.

Look how Goliath breaks out of the frame to show how unusually big he is.

The comic museum took longer than I expected, so I was hungry when I came out. I tried to get a waffle (gaufre) and coffee but it was cash only, and by now I was pretty short, as too many places recently have been either cash only or cash under a certain threshold. I found the distributeur (they don’t call ATMs bankomats here, which I think is the best name for them) but the queue was ridiculous. This is why you should accept cards, Brussels!

I didn’t do the cartoon mural trail, but I have passed a few on my walks around town anyway.

The deux/du problem reared its head again tonight when ordering dinner (I’ll have to work on that – tips welcome) but fortunately it was clarified in English before it could go wrong. And then I spent the evening eating falafel, chilling and watching rubbish on YouTube. Ah, culture!


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