Dinner at Carmen’s
On the flight from Dubai we had a medical emergency and were diverted to Vienna, which meant a three hour delay. I had missed my connection from Frankfurt to Brussels and they wanted Euro850.00 to put me on the next flight as there we no economy seats. Otherwise I would have to wait until the evening flight. They suggested the train, which I was in time for and so enjoyed the three hour ride through a grey-brown landscape, still very much in the grip of winter. A few patches of white from the last snow falls provided some relief.
The hotel is in the old European quarter of Brussels (Hence, I assume, the sounds that woke me were not shots!) very modern with a central art gallery. The current exhibition is photographs from a single light source, a bit like aura images. The restaurant is a circular structure, build a bit like a garden pavilion, with a small garden leading out to the surrounding buildings, which are a mix of textures. Bare concrete, wood, old exposed brick, stainless steel and ivy clad walls. Very restful.
My meetings, a ten minute walk under sunny, crisp skies, down to the EU centre next to the Leopald Park. Excited to see that there was a Kandinsky exhibition at the museum, unfortunately not on the dates I will be here.
As the evening was clear, I decided to walk down to Carmen’s house, taking note of the metro stops along the route in case I got too lost through the winding streets or the weather turned. About 5km, the first part of which was fairly uninteresting. Lots of people with luggage walking to and from the main station which was almost midway along the route, stopping under the street lights to consult maps before deciding on the lottery of which of the five or six streets to follow leading from the intersections. No simple four way blocks here! The last part of the walk, was downhill, the cobble streets well signposted with ceramic plaques high above any vandalism. Church bells rang out above the city and only one wrong turn took me to her apartment in the Moroccan section of the city.
In the very best, restless development life tradition, her loft apartment has interesting bits from her postings across the globe, reinforced by floors seemingly taken from a wooden sailing ship. The walls, a mix of satin finish and exposed brick and the central kitchen, a modern master piece. The table was all Italian, as was the food, with the exquisite old linen tablecloth begging for red wine stains. I was ultra careful, not to oblige!
Carmen cooked food from south-east Italy, the taste and textures exquisite. A first course of Orecchette pomodorini e acciughe (orecchiette si a pasta typical of the Apulia region in south-east Italy), followed by Mozzarella di Bufala affumicata e friarielli (smoked buffalo mozzarella cheese and special broccoli, both from the Campania region, which is her home).
Breakfast at the hotel, a feeding frenzy as a horde of business types, in a zillion shades of dark suits and jackets, descended for refueling before they get on with the important task of meetings. Think if I see a burnt orange jacket I will get it in protest! Escaped to the coffee shop for a cappuccino.
My day, done by mid afternoon; the sun, still out, I grabbed the chance to head out for a walk to some of the main sites of Brussels. The Jubilee park with its triumphal arch is close to where the hotel is, so went up there first, full of kids out enjoying the one of ten sunny days a year!
As with much of the city, there are bunches of beggars camping in doorways and protected overhangs. They aren’t aggressive and a few have dogs who are in excellent condition, even if the owners are seriously tatty.
I stopped and did the tourist thing of a beer overlooking the square before joining the commuter rush.
Back down across the city to the Grand-Place with its fabulous guild halls, glistening in the afternoon sunlight. The best part was stumbling across Mary’s chocolatier. They consider themselves to be the last artesian chocolate maker in Brussels, which doesn’t really matter, as the chocolate is scrumptious.