I have traveled the world and the 7 seas, but I don’t know my own country : I don’t know my own capital city. How bad is that?
Pretty bad I would say! I sometimes go there for a particular shop (the only Apple store in the country to name just one), to a particular restaurant or to meet up within local friends -who then guide us to their favourite restaurants. But that’s about it.
I am pretty embarrassed to admit this, I must say!
But thanks to Covid-19, Europe (and the world) changes into colour zones. Orange zones (test and quarantine advised), red zones (forbidden to go), and a rare amount of green zones (free travel), ánd the colour of a zone can easily switch from orange to red, which means you have to get tested and go into quarantine when you get back. So traveling becomes complicated. One has to be creative if he wants to get away.
So here we are, being creative! We’re spending the weekend in Ste Catherine neighbourhood in our own capital city of Brussels. Less than an hour drive from my home. The car in the parking lot ; we have only our feet to move around town this weekend. We now behave like tourists in our own country. How cool is that?
Ste Catherine is a vibrant part of the city, the middle of the historical center, inside the ‘pentagon’ (inner city) of Brussels. Restaurants, bars, and terraces. Nicely crowded without being overwhelming (in these COVID times), people wear facemasks everywhere, as it is mandatory. But alive nevertheless, alive and kicking.
But not so much alive early in the morning. Before the stores open, Brussels is ours, and ours alone. We walk over the Grand Place, through the Galleries de Saint Hubert as is if we are the only people on the planet. Have a coffee here and there, only accompanied by some locals.
Bit by bit the city comes to life, and before we know it, it’s vibrant again. The terraces fill up. Moms with little kids, older couples getting together. No, or just a few tourists.
The virus is flaring up again, in the whole of Europe, in Belgium, but particularly in Brussels, so I am guessing people stay away.
Still, the area is multinational and multicultural. This is the capital of Europe anyway. I just love it! Different languages, different types of people, many different styles of clothing and hair do’s.
We have lunch at De Noordzee, a fast-food-like fish restaurant, the best place in town, or so we are told. Order at ‘the bar’, and wait at your high table until your name is called or rather shouted, like fish sellers do. It is delicious. The fish is served in a carton bowl. The whole place smells like authenticity.
I think I am liking Brussels, a lot. It is not Buenos Aires, it is not Paris or New York. It is small and walkable, but that is good in these Covid times.