15 October 2014
Our own Travis Monk, holiday and travel writer extraordinaire, takes a tour of Brussels with a helpful buddy who helps him get a taste of the area.
There is no way I would have discovered this sumptuous view of St. Catherine’s Square were it not for my ‘Brussels Buddy’, a short, energetic lady by the name of Terrine, who accompanied me on the next leg of my tour for international shipping company, Seven Seas Worldwide. The ‘Brussels Buddy’ programme was introduced by the Belgium Tourist Board in 2004 as a way of increasing the number of visitors to the capital and to give Belgians something to do. In fact, by 2006, the programme was so popular with the Belgian public that each tourist was assigned to three ‘Brussels Buddies’ each, whether they wanted them or not.
Terrine had guided me several floors up inside a particular building from where I could take in the beauty of St. Catherine’s Square – a square named after a saint called Catherine - without losing myself in the throng of aimless sightseers. Unfortunately, the vantage point in question was a single man’s apartment who didn’t know we were there. ‘You’re fine. He always has a long bath about now. He’s obsessed with hygiene. That’s why we broke up.’
Terrine offered a side of Brussels I’d not seen before. That’s mainly because it was Picardy. Soon however, Terrine bought a map and we were back in the capital. The most attractive thing about Brussels is how walkable it is. You can walk anywhere. Unlike most European cities, there are pavements virtually everywhere you go in Brussels, allowing you to put one foot in front of the other and get to places you want to go. Of course, in some cases, the places you want to go could be miles away, so get a cab.
The locals are friendly too. As Terrine and I were partaking in the classic Brussels café brunch of ‘flaming waffles’ (waffles brought by a waiter who sets your table on fire), we were approached by one of the resident Smurfs. Smurfs make up about 2% of the population here and regrettably the number continues to dwindle due to Smurfette’s decision in the late 1990s to become a nun. Our little blue friend was adamant that we should swing by the Belgian Comic Strip Center and check out the Smurf memorabilia on display which we agreed to do but only if he ceased his rant about how Avatar was ‘essentially Dances with Wolves - with Smurfs’.
Later, Terrine took me to an area near St Catherine’s that used to be a series of boutique shops and trendy eateries but was bulldozed to make way for an old fish market. The fish is fresh and cheap but I think I rather would have perused the shops and experienced some fine dining at the hands of celebrated Belgian artisans - instead of buying 200 pounds-worth of halibut. They confiscated it at Customs anyway.
7/10, Brussels Buddy.
If you need a hand with excess baggage or you've decided to move to Brussels on the strength of this blog (and who can blame you) then take a look at our international shipping services for some help moving your possessions. Only not your fish, please. It makes our vans and containers smell funny.