DAY FOUR: We have been ‘in country’, as they used to say back in The ‘Nam, four days now. Time to head for the city where the game is actually being played, Brussels.
Bruges, or as the locals say, Brugge, has been wonderful. Ralph Fiennes was right, it’s like a fucking fairytale. More history than you can shake a stick at, protected from crass modernisation, and an Instagram shot around every corner. The local beer is very drinkable and on times super strong. Wine strong. Every meal we have had out has been stunning, although not cheap. This is not Eastern Europe. It feels like it is very expensive, but I don’t think it is really much more expensive than any UK city. We are visiting at the tail end of September, it might be different in the middle of September, but the place seems to be free of Brits on the piss, Hen Dos and Stag parties. Very civilised.
A change of pace today though. Off to Brussels, where there will be thousands of Welsh football fans lowering the tone of the neighbourhood for the rest of the week.
The journey didn’t have the most auspicious of starts. The taxi took forever to arrive, and when it did, Becks almost instantly fell out with the driver over how to get all our cases in the boot. But it was all smiles and handshakes when we were dropped off at the station.
This time we sat on the lower deck and the journey flew by. We knew we were in Brussels, because the station is still a shit hole.
It was clear from the taxi ride to the hotel that Brussels is nothing like Bruges. Just like London is nothing like Bath.
The hotel is large and was probably nice in the 1970s. It is looking a little tired now though. But hey, it was less than half the price of anything else around, in fact a third of the price of most. And we weren’t planning on spending a lot of time in it.
After a quick freshen up we are on our way into town. We walk past the bondage shop, turn by the kebab shop, turn again by the Mannequin Pis and we are soon in the Grand Place.
Despite being the centre of the European Union, the city is really rather tatty and often tacky. The one pride and glory though is the magnificent Grand Place. A square dating back to the 11th century. It truly is a magnificent sight. Or at least it usually is. Today we find it’s beauty being masked by staging going up for an open air gig. And the gig is not even till next week, so we dont get the compensation of a gig.
We wander up from the square and check out some palaces and a court. They are splendid examples of ar architecture, they dont build them like that any more. Unfortunately, they are either filthy dirty, of covered in scaffolding as they clean them. So basically, Brussels is a shithole, but has some magnificent architecture dotted around, but that’s a bit shit as well.
Sorry Brussels, but that’s my first impression.
We go for a ride on s big fuck off Ferris Wheen to get a view of the rest of the city. We spy some interesting looking things to visit, like the Atomium, but on the whole, it just looks like any modern western European city.
One redeeming feature though is the food and beer. We find a middle eastern restaurant and enjoy a meal on par with anything we found in Bruges, then head for home. We pop in a quirky little pub next to the Mannequin Pis for a swift half before going back to the hotel.
The pub is like a junk shop. It has puppets, dolls and bizarre sculptures all over the place. They have several dozen different beers available and we decided to try the 12% rocket fuel..just the one of course.
Six hours later we have drunk them dry of the 12% beer and made a serious dent in the 10% alternative.
I feel quite sober in my head, but don’t have total control of my limbs. I have enough control to help The Purley Queen though, who has lost control of almost everything.
We eventually collapse in a heep in the Hotel looking forward to our first full day in the city.