OK, so where were we ? Playing chess in a pub in Brussels, I think.
A couple of things about that pub – I said it was 1920's style, which wasn't necessarily apparent from the main pub section (although I must admit I found it weird to have such a huge and cavernous room), but really the toilets gave it all away. Marble, black & white tiles, ironwork – it was truly the bog that time forgot. There wasn't really a good angle to photograph it from, and in honesty taking photos in conveniences isn't my natural habitat.
But we managed a surreal moment when Waz & I were sitting there happily playing Shogi, and Waz had a cigarette on the go. The somewhat surly barmaid started stalking over, at which point Waz noticed the No Smoking sign behind us. He moved to apologise and stub his durrie, and she waved her hands and said no, that wasn't it. Apparently we were playing chess in a non-chess section of the pub. When quizzed about the no-smoking sign, she shrugged her shoulders and said “It's the law to have the stickers, but we don't mind”, however she was dead serious about us not playing chess in that area of the pub ! We elected to finish our game and go off in search of some tucker.
Given that neither of us were particularly expert on the matter of restaurants, it was slightly amazing that we managed to stumble on Rue des Boucheres – it is to restaurants what Brick Lane is to curry places, or Hindley Street is to vacant shops. Armed with no prior knowledge we picked La Belle Epoque, where I had a fairly expensive but nonetheless reasonably good steak. It was certainly no Vlado's, of course. Warren had what seems to be the national dish of Belgium – Moules (Mussels, to the rest of us). It caught me somewhat off guard that mussels are so popular in Belgium, as I understood them to be primarily a salt water animal, and Belgium isn't exactly oversupplied in the coastline dept. I realise that a mussel doesn't require a lot of real estate to cultivate itself upon, however even if they did nothing else with that coastal area, I still reckon they'd need to be bussing them in from someplace. (As it turns out, apparently they are – I'm reliably informed that a lot of them are imported from Holland… a lot like the rest of Belgium, really)
There was a really shabby bar which lured us in with the prospect of half-decent music, however as soon as we'd bought our beers & set up they started playing shite. I've only really included this photo so we don't accidentally go back to the same place again.
The place we went after that, even with a photo, I couldn't find again. It was what Warren referred to as a “brown cafe”, which turned out to be a cosy little pub set off behind the building frontages, with wood panelling inside and mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… Lambic Beer on tap. As my French wasn't up to conversing with random people, we stuck with the already provenly winning plan of playing Shogi (much to the bemusement of people sitting nearby). It makes sense though – an Irish bloke and an Australian bloke playing Japanese chess in a Belgian pub.
After getting kicked out of there we managed to track down another brown cafe (although with far grimmer barmaids than the last ones). Recollection of wham happened next are sketchy, although it definitely involved stopping off for… une durum poulet, avec pili-pili, mais pas des tomates, s'il vous plait !
The next day we didn't have to deal with the challenge of finding something interesting to do on a Sunday in Brussels, because I spent pretty much the whole day in bed with a raging hangover. Still, it was worth it I reckon. We must've had about 2000 different types of beer, and I think we only repeated one or 2 of them all up.
5 o'clock rolled around, so it was time to make our way back to the train station, but as I hadn't eaten anything all day it seemed appropriate to stop off for… une durum poulet, avec pili-pili, mais pas des tomates, s'il vous plait!
Right, so that was Belgium. Can't wait to go back.