Wednesday, October 28, 2009


My girlfriend and I went to Brussels last weekend for a short break. It's not an obvious holiday destination for a hip young couple, but it was discounted, and there is a recession on.

If you consider that the things Belgium is famous for are waffles, beer, and chips with mayonnaise, then it starts to make a bit more sense!

The bad stuff was that the exchange rate is almost painfully bad, the weather was positively Welsh, and lots of places open apparently when and if they feel like it, especially at weekends. That aside, we had a good time!

Ellen and I are veteran mini-breakers. You learn quickly that whatever you plan to do, you won't get to do most of it in just two days, so the only planned cultural visits were to a music museum and a chocolate museum. The former was obviously much more for me. I love seeing the weird, dead evolutionary branches of various intruments, and this place had eight floors filled with them. Seeing violinophones and things that look like a cello having sex with a piano reminds me of dinosaurs and dodos and all things stuffed in natural history museums.

The chocoate museum had a bunch of information about the origins of cocoa beans, preparation of chocolate, principal exporters, traditional methods and suchlike stuck all over the walls, but everyone was ignoring all that to watch the live demonstration of how posh chocolate is made, complete with free samples, by an elderly Belgian chocolatier. Win.

I wouldn't want to mislead anyone into thinking that we spent a great deal of time absorbing Belgian culture, because we spent a lot more time drinking it. It's not an exaggeration to say that nowhere around the centre had fewer than 50 kinds of beer available, and that most of those were delicious. I'm a born-again beer drinker, blond beers are ace. Ellen is a vodka/wine drinker by disposition, but jumped right in at the deep end with a Bush Tripel, weighing in at 10.5%. It was good, and now my girlfriend drinks beer! In fairness, she mostly drank girly fruit beers after that, but kudos to her, nonetheless!

It was an expensive weekend. However, once we realised that Belgians do not check tickets for anything, we were able to save money by not buying any. I used the Belgian metro for free for 48 hours!

Another cultural difference is that Belgians don't know how to queue. This is angering, and surprisingly shocking to a Brit. It was nothing that muttered curses weren't able to solve, though.

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