WALES AWAY – BELGIUM 2022: Day Seven and Eight – trip ends with a whimper (23+24/09/22)

The day after a game is always a day to wind down and not rush home. Today was a particularly chilled and uneventful day – so I’m merging two days into one.

For me it was another lie in. That 12% beer on Tuesday couldn’t possibly still be responsible for how knackered I am could it? (As I write this a few days down the line, from the comfort of my home, with the benefit of hindsight, I know the answer. The hangover I had tried to cure with more 12% beer wasn’t a hangover at all. It was Coronavirus)

We get up and search for breakfast.  Not a continental breakfast, a proper uk style breakfast is what is needed. They seem thin on the ground though, so we bite the bullet and set foot inside O’Riley’s for the first time and order a ‘full Irish’. It does exactly what we needed, but we still decide to go back to bed.

Whilst we had headed straight back to town after the game, Posh and Becks had hung around, caught a later train and gone for a drink near the square. Lots of drunk welsh fans in the area, most of them leaving the country in the morning.  Prime targets for local low life thieves operating in packs on bicycles. A risky game, given the potential for a kicking from ‘lads’ that don’t take any nonsense, but I’m sure they are well practiced

And so it was, Posh was liberated of her two-week-old mobile phone.

Brussels is a strange place. My initial impression was that it is a shithole with some bits that used to be nice and some bits that might be nice in the future. You can add to that the fact that there are a lot of drunks, beggars, thieves and low lifes on the streets.

I hasten to add, many of them are victims of circumstances.  Like the guy that asked us to buy him a sandwich, then went straight into the cafe and bought a sandwich with the money we gave him. Or the numerous people sleeping rough on the street. But there is no excuse for hunting in packs to steal in an organised way.

The police did not seem that interested in stopping them. They seemed more interested in driving around at high speed with their sirens on. They didn’t even have any hooliganism to worry about, in fact the police praised Welsh fans for cleaning up the square behind themselves.

It would be wrong to let these scum represent Brussels though. On the whole, the locals we met, from shop keepers to waitresses, from taxi drivers to museum security, everyone was incredibly friendly.  But top of the list has to be the waitress that served us in PastaMadre, the pizza restaurant where Posh was told to stop messing with the recipes for their pizzas. So impressed were we by her service, and the food, that we returned for more on our last night. And once again the food was excellent. The fact that the waitress remembered us only confirmed our high regard for her.

After our meal, we are not inclined to head back into town. Exhaustion and rain combine to prompt another early night. Not before we check out the rooftop bar hidden on the 8th floor of our hotel. It prompts a reevaluation of the hotel. The bar is chilled, modern and sophisticated, but no more expensive than any of the pubs we had visited in the last week. We are presented with a view over the nighttime city, the most spectacular bits tastefully illuminated, the drab looking bits hidden by darkness. It’s no Manhattan, but it presents the perfect backdrop for a quiet drink at the end of our trip.

It was inevitable Brussels would be an anti-climax. Bruges was definitely something special. Somewhere I would definitely visit again. Despite my first impression of Brussels, it does have a lot of redeeming features. The food, the welcome and when they have finished cleaning up the old buildings, it will look very nice. I’m not in a rush to go back though.

We might pass through again though, as it is one of the main stops for Eurostar. And we definitely liked Eurostar. Far less tiring, much more comfortable and significantly greener than flying.

Our journey home was pleasantly unremarkable and stress free.  The only talking point would be the chef in front of us at security who was shocked at having a set of extremely sharp looking knives confiscated.

We cruised home in comfort (and un stabbed), and with only a few changes I found myself walking the 85m from the station to my door.

Then I did a test and finally worked out why I had felt so rough. If I had known i would have obviously isolated, but Belgian beer and food is not a bad way for treating any illness.

*No, I know, the photographs don’t really bare any relationship to this blog