I've been a bit radio silent on the blog lately, haven't I? First I was busy writing up my third thesis chapter and for the last weekish Tim and I were off in the Low Countries. Expect trip posts, Chapter Three and thesis-writing posts, and a couple book reviews in the coming days. I can think of many things to blog about but today I want to talk about the two days we spent in Brussels.
We took the train to London and the Eurostar to Brussels, which I think took just over two hours. Not bad at all. Just about that first thing we saw at Brussel's Midi/Zuid Station was this rendering of Tin-Tin. Tin-Tin seems to be Belgium's favourite fictional son. We saw those books everywhere, in many languages. The next thing we did was get lost on the metro (my fault - I sent us in the wrong direction!)
We stayed just outside the main tourist zone on a residential street near the EU area. Walking around Brussels felt a bit like being in Ottawa. We constantly saw the offices of international organizations. Plus, all the signs were bilingual, something we have a great familiarity with in Canada, where a lot of labelling and, in some places, signage appears in English and French. Pictured below is Tim with some street signs in French and Flemish, languages which are so different from each other that street names often don't resemble themselves when translated from one language to the next.
Another couple notes on language. I thought I might need to exercise my French a bit more on this trip and maybe learn some Dutch. Nope. Everyone had fantastic English, ranging from slightly strained and accented to near-perfect fluency. (I include in that category the train manager on the way to Amsterdam who referred to his portable debit/credit machine as "invidious", a word that really deserves to be used more often). Also, at most of the museums, explanations were given in four languages! French, Dutch/Flemish, German, and English.
We discovered some interesting statues on our way through the parc which boasts the Palais de la Nation at one end and the Palais Royale at the other.
On a Bronte-related note, apparently one of the buildings that houses the Musee des Beaux Arts is currently located on (maybe above?) the site where the Pensionnat Heger was located. Charlotte Bronte and her sister Emily came to Brussels in 1842 to improve their knowledge of French, with the ultimate goal of setting up their own school with Anne (still governessing in England). Charlotte stayed for almost two years and probably fell madly in love with her French teacher, M. Constantin Heger. It was nice to be able to walk about the lower city and the area about the royal palace, which is about all that's left of the Brussels Charlotte Bronte knew. The area has sadly been modernised since, so that even street levels are often different than they were in the mid-nineteenth century.
And then it was off to Antwerp and a long-awaited concert...