Brussels, with the sun shining, the wind a tad on the bone chilling side, full of the sweet smells of waffles. We walked through the Grand-place, the gilt on the buildings showing off in the last of the afternoon sun. Excellent music from buskers meant that we had an afternoon music festival as we wondered around. Not too lost.
For our lunchtime meeting, Carmen took us to La Fattoria Del Chianti, where we were happy to follow her suggestion of a home made linguini with artichoke and bacon bits. Scrumptious.
Dodgy wine from the dive around the corner, where they sell anything you have money enough to pay for. My Douglas Green, bottom of the barrel, wine at R100.00, only made reasonable by the fact that in the hotel it’s that per glass, or an equivalent for a coffee. Beer, is half the price.
One of Terry’s excellent decisions was to get us a couple of Reidel travel glasses. Every traveller should have these in their suitcase, as they improve anything you put into them. Fortunately, we have found better wine, along with excellent food. By chance we ended up at Mamy Louise in the Louise district. The food was tasty and elegant, the service good and the apple tart exceptional. In fact, I wouldn’t even bother with food next time, as the apple tart needs more than one serving (already generous) to be truly appreciated.
Tough meetings looking at funding priorities and what, if anything, makes sense, against the backdrop of ongoing chaos in South Sudan. Increasing reports of the mass killing of civilians and destruction of property not making it any easier. Our strategy of moving offices around, changing peoples jobs, and places to stay, to drive home the fact that Juba, and South Sudan have changed was well received, and something the EU will consider for their own return to South Sudan. The focus on ensuring that we control risks through adequate planning and documentation that does not rely on the individual was seen as a strength.
The early evening commute through the darkening city. Trees, black sculptures, shadows thrown by street lamps, dark shapes of beggars huddled in dark doorways, hands outstretched. The welcome warmth of a coffee shop. The endless divestiture of coat, scarves, gloves, bag. Exhausting.
Dinner at Carmen’s loft apartment, with far too much food, great wine and conversation that traversed the world, cultures and time.
The Iceberg, an interactive art installation that changes sound as you move through the space. The blue light on a cold winter night alive and vibrant.
François in Sainte Catherine, chosen for the menu which had fresh coquilles Saint-Jacques, on Terry’s ‘must have’ list. I had Skrei, a seasonal Norwegian cod from the Barents Sea, which we enjoyed with an excellent French Chardonnay. Guess I didn’t need the Belgium chocolate mousse, but it was every bit as good as anticipated. The tart wild berries amazing.
The cards of my South Sudan paintings were well received, and were a great way of acknowledging the support we have received from the various parts of the EU. My bag is packed with new canvases for the next adventures.