Brussels

I was there. I drank beer. I went to the PARLIAMENTARIUM.

We arrived early, and our hotel wouldn’t let us check in. Who’s ever heard of a hotel not letting you check in early. Not even a little bit?

We hadn’t had any breakfast, so the only logical thing to do was go to the nearest restaurant and order an enormous steak. It was full of gristle, but for €17, you can’t really complain. At least the peppercorn sauce was delicious. Two Leffes started off the beerducation –  don’t hate, it was the only beer option available in the sole inviting-looking restaurant serving food at 11:30am in Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode, where our hotel was.

After checking in and having a wander, we ended up at the Delirium Café, where I finally got around to trying a Delirium Tremens. It’s available in London, albeit not widely, but I’d never tried it before. I figured the Delirium Café was as good a place as any.

Despite how this appears, I was not drunk. I wasn’t even a huge fan of the Delirium Tremens.

We did some more wandering and came across some truly awesome second-hand/antique shops.

Brussels – ur doin it rite

Oh, just playing naked tag with my goat…

The next day, we went to a place in Ixelles called Beer Mania. It was a beer shop with a bar at the back. This was perhaps my favourite place in Brussels.

I tried an XX Bitter followed by a Golden Dragon. The Golden Dragon was tasty, but lethal – at 10.5% ABV.

We ended up getting some frites from Maison Antoine. This is not because we wanted to get frites from Maison Antoine particularly, but because we both really needed to pee after having two beers at Beer Mania, and this meant we needed to go to another bar to drink more beer. Lots of bars in Brussels allow you to bring frites in from off the street. As we were looking for a bar, we saw the queue at Maison Antoine. So, being good Brits that we are, we joined it. And then we went to Chez Bernard and ate them with some Jupiler (standard lager sold in Brussels), after using the facilities, of course.

The next day, we went to the Grand Place.

We had lunch at La Roue d’Or, where I ate moules frites.

By and large, the coffee in Brussels did not impress me. This is unfortunate, since I need it. Usually, I rue the plethora of Starbucks – one on every street corner – here in London, but what I wouldn’t have done for those in Brussels… Not a single Starbucks was seen in that place. That said, cette double expresso était parfait, avec un peu de lait. It was certainly the best coffee I had in Brussels, and I’m glad I ordered it after my rather unimpressive moules frites at lunch.

My hip was hurting from all the walking; my left knee was hurting from the bruise I got by falling between the train and the platform at Westferry just before our trip; we were wandering around aimlessly looking for a place to sit down and have a drink. So after about 30 minutes of this, I finally got stroppy and told my husband that I was getting really annoyed and needed him to pick some place to stop and do it fast.

We found a sunny table just off the Grand Place. This is the place where I found my new favourite Belgian beer (Judas) and actually uttered the words ‘I feel much better now that I’ve had a beer.

Our final stop was A la Mort Subite, just enough time for a couple beers before heading back to Gare du Midi to catch our Eurostar train to London.

For the second round, I ordered the gueuze – supposedly a true Belgian lambic beer, not one of those fake sweet ones…

It. was. disgusting. So sour. Oh, so sour.

But I took it like a champ.

We walked to the train station and checked in. I didn’t want my last beer to be the gueuze, but there were no bars. I was hungry, but there weren’t many options. And let’s just say that the food in the Eurostar terminal was a bit dubious.

I love going away on holiday, but I love returning to London more.

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Weird foodstuffs

Despite living in London for nearly 4 years now, I still find quintessentially British stuff quite funny.

–What biscuits should I pick up from the shops, Diane?
–Oh, get those nice ones, Charles. I like those nice ones.

Someone once told me to avoid describing things as ‘nice’, because it’s an essentially empty adjective. And this is probably why.

They’re not great biscuits. Not luxury ones either. Just nice.

I bought the Rich Tea biscuits instead. Mostly because they contain nearly half the calories of the Nice ones, which probably means if they were renamed they’d be ‘OK biscuits’ or maybe ‘All Right biscuits’, but such is the power of branding. Rich Tea sounds much – ahem – nicer.

I suppose I’m not really one to be poking fun at other people’s dietary habits, though. A couple of hours later I popped out to the shop and purchased a packet of Pom Bears and a small tin of peas. Every single person I passed on the pavement gave me quite a stare.

Who would have thought carrying a tin of petit pois while shovelling one’s face full of reconstituted potato snack would be so attention-soliciting. Not me.

Possibly the weirdest thing I’ll have ever done in my life

Sing on a stage in front of 700 people – about Jesus, in Spanish.

Yes, I have done this.

I don’t know why it popped into my head just now, as this happened about 10 years ago – but it occurred to me just how bizarre it is that it did happen. Seeing as though:

a) my friends find it difficult to get me to even do karaoke;

b) I’m an atheist; and

c) I don’t speak Spanish.

People are boring

I know I shouldn’t be poking fun of new people at work, but when someone asks you to tell them a little about your hobbies and interests so as to compose an introductory email about you that will subsequently be sent out to the entire team, maybe you should come up with something a little more exciting than listening to music, watching movies, eating out and travelling.

I mean, even if you like all of these things (as people do), give me something a bit more interesting. Mitten collecting, working in pyjamas, writing pornographic Harry Potter fanfic, anything.

I like listening to music, watching movies, eating out and travelling as much as the next person, new colleague. But let’s just assume that – in fact – everyone likes listening to music, watching movies, eating out and travelling.

So next time, let’s be more specific.

For example, I describe myself as enjoying the following things:

  • grammar
  • swearing
  • medieval literature
  • feminism
  • ashtanga yoga
  • brutalist architecture
  • craft beer
  • fountain pens
  • cycling
  • electropop
  • whimsy
  • using semi-colons
  • not using semi-colons
  • coffee
  • coffee snobbery
  • teapots
  • G&Ts
  • G&Ts in teapots

I also like mitten collecting and working in my pyjamas, for the record.

No one wants to smell like poop

Kiehl’s musk oil is my favourite scent. I’ve worn it daily for pretty much 2 years now. It sits close to the skin in an alluring way – with notes of soap and flowers dancing sexily with something a little bit beastly. Like a husky mammal that’s just been bathed, its fur luxurious – you want to stroke it, bury your face in it.

The only thing I dislike about it is that, yes, it sits very close to the skin so only the very intimate even get a whiff. Also, it sometimes feels a bit linear: musk, floral, creamy tonka bean.

So – based on many, many reviews – I figured the famous niche perfumer Serge Lutens was the company to turn to, specifically its Muscs Koublai Khan at a whopping £98 a bottle, sold only out of the sole Serge Lutens boutique in Paris. Loads of people swooned on the internet, likening this fragrance to Kiehl’s musk – but better. Oh, so much better. I figured it would be a winner. It would be my beloved Kiehl’s musk exaggerated – the musk to end all musks – sophisticated on my skin. And for £98 a bottle, it damn well should be.

Granted, there are also people out there on the internet who have said it’s foul.

I bought a partial bottle off eBay and waited patiently. Finally, it arrived in the post. I opened the bottled tentatively. Took a sniff. Ooooooohh, I thought. I don’t smell any civet* in this. It smells lovely. All those Muscs Koublai Khan haters out there are definitely cray-cray.

Oh, how wrong I was.

It literally smelled like shit. Once applied, from beginning to end – top, middle and base notes – it was barnyard dung. I tried to convince myself otherwise. I think I detect some delightful rose, delicate and welcoming. But there was always the poop. The civet was so overwhelming that it shat all over the other notes that are supposedly in this perfume – once on my skin.

Even if the ass end of a civet were just sitting there quietly in the background**, no one wants to smell like poop.

No one.

Muscs Koublai Khan – underneath the essence of cat bottom – might remind you of an unwashed, sweaty man’s armpit. No one wants to smell like that either, in case you were wondering.

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*Civet: an animal that produces an odorous secretion for the purpose of marking its territory. A fragrance commonly used in perfume.

**Which is wasn’t. It was loud and clear and totally in my face.