Monday, September 17, 2007


This is off-topic, meaning it has nothing to do with my career, but I thought you might enjoy hearing about my travels anyway.

Thursday, M and I flew to Brussels for the weekend. We stayed in the swank hotel Crowne Plaza for a night and then stayed with friends, Andrea C and his girlfriend, Silvia. Andrea picked us up at the hotel on Thursday night, where we had a drink - my first Kriek (bier fermented with cherries) of the weekend! Andrea took us to a Lebanese restaurant which was quite tasty.

M had a business meeting on Friday (which was the main purpose of our visit) and I wandered around the heart of Brussels. I took the subway to Centraal and visited the beautiful cathedral nearby. There is a spectacular oak pulpit which depicts events from the fall of Adam and Eve to the Redemption. It was the highlight, in my opinion. I then walked into town, following my nose, more than anything. I had nothing particular in mind to see, since I've been in Brussels several times already, but it was a nice day, so I walked past all the familiar sites. I found a table at a cafe where I had a long lingering lunch with my book (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein) and was entertained by a tap dancer as well. Unfortunately, lunch was nothing to write home about. I continued to explore, this time with the vague objective of finding a "drug store". I found millions of Pharmacies and a few so-called "Bandagistes" (whatever that is!), but no pharmacies... Shrug. I did find a popular cafe with tables outside in the sun and I sat there for what seemed like ages while I waited for M to get out of his meeting and meet me in town. Made good headway on my book though! :-)

When M arrived we went to view the Mannekin Pis - the fountain of a little boy peeing into a large shell. I have always found it a bit disappointing - there are statues sold around town which are bigger than the real thing. But it's a symbol of the city. We wandered around some more, having a look at a medieval tower, St. Catherine's Church and the Begijnhof and eventually made our way back to the hotel where Andrea was to pick us up. We went back to Andrea and Silvia's place and had a lovely Porcini Risotto!

The next day we had a lazy breakfast and then went into town. Eventually we went to the Rubens exhibition at the Musee des Beaux Arts. It was very well done. I actually prefer many of the sketches and models he made before the actual painting was executed, often by others working in his studio. Ice cream afterwards was divine - a special banana split with Dark Chocolate, Speculatius and Honey/Ginger flavored ice cream. AFter that we passed by a Chocolaterie, where we bought some designer chocolate. Dinner that night was a the Spanish Center, where we met several of their friends, some of whom we'd met in Paris last year. We waited an eternity for the tapas, but it was wonderful. And Jose had brought a tray of baclavá(or whatever the Moroccans call it) for dessert. It was fun, but the place was unbelievably smoky and loud. Really makes me appreciate the smoking bans in the 3 places I spend most of my time (UK, US and Italy)!

Sunday saw us sleeping in and going to Patisserie Pierre for a breakfast of Tartes. Then we went to the Musical Instruments Museum, which is fabulous. If memory serves me, I had been there many years ago, when it was housed in a different building. Now it's in a beautiful Art Deco building called, of all things, "Old England". We had lunch with Andrea at another Tarte cafe, this time savory AND sweet. I don't know what was wrong that day but in both Tarte cafes the service was TERRIBLE. But we did eat eventually.

Our flight to Vienna was uneventful and I'll be going on a boat cruise on the Danube shortly!

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