A Christmas trip to Brussels, part deux

We went to Brussels for the weekend recently, but I only got as far as Saturday lunchtime in part 1.

The Atomium was the main pavilion of the Brussels World Fair of 1958 up on the Heysel plateau, a space-age icon that outlasted everything else. I’d been to it before, on one or other of my two previous visits to Brussels; I just hadn’t gone into it. Or had I? I couldn’t remember. You wouldn’t think you’d forget something like that, but that’s what happens as you get older and accumulate more and more experiences, and it’s shocking. I mean, how many crystals of iron had I seen enlarged 165 billion times, never mind actually been in? (As an aside, the word ‘atomium’ itself comes from ‘atom’ + ‘aluminium’, the metal they switched to mid-construction.)

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C’est l’Atomium!

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In Brussels for the Christmas markets

Ruben was in a restaurant one night in October when he got a notification on his phone of a Couchsurfing request – two adults, two kids – for the beginning of December. “A family with two young boys: that could be really cool or it could be a real disaster”, he thought. “I’ll take my chances.” He accepted the request.

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Considering that by Christmas we’d be bang in the middle of our European project it seemed only natural to make a pilgrimage to the centre of the European project – Brussels – to do some Christmas shopping. So we organised flights and went on couchsurfing.com to find somewhere to stay. That’s what we tend to do if we’re just going somewhere for a quick weekend. And lo, we quickly found a fellow called Ruben living in Anderlecht who was willing to host us (and in fact we got another offer from a guy in Saint-Gilles to fall back on should we need it).

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Grand Place, Bruxelles

I only knew the name Anderlecht from when I was 8 and into soccer like everyone else my age. But just like almost all of those other European soccer team names, like Ajax, Porto, Lazio, etc., Anderlecht meant nothing to me as an actual geographical place, a place people lived in. I mean, where would you actually go to meet an Ajaxian? Whither a Portian? Who cared? They were cool football team names. So I never found out what that word Anderlecht meant until we checked Ruben’s profile. Turns out it’s a suburb south-west of Brussels city centre, catered for by a stop called Bizet on the metro. Nice. And, we were going to be staying on a street called Claude Debussy. Extra nice. Continue reading