The Midwife of Brussels

Upside down

It’s been a while since I last hitched a ride anywhere. A combination of boredom and desperation dictated that I take a chance in Leuven and find a ride. Despite writing out six different couchsurfing requests to people in Antwerp, for various reasons no one was able to host me. So I stood by the side of the road outside of Leuven and waited for fate to deliver me into the benevolent hands of a passing stranger.

Long story short, fate delivered. A woman driving a blue Citroen pulled over and let me in. The first thing I noticed was that the interior of the car was as hot as a blasting furnace–the heat was turned all the way up. When you hitch-hike, comfort is really the last order of business, so I started talking to my benevolent driver to divert my attention from the noxious heat. Anne was her name, and she was returning to Brussels after an appointment in Leuven. Somewhere along the way she asked me if I would like to stay with her and her family, and I acquiesced, knowing that if I had tried continuing to Antwerp I would probably settle for sleeping in a hostel instead.

Subway ETA Board

After Anne gave me her address and dropped me off in the city center, I found a bike station and hired a bike for the day. Unfortunately the weather was rather ugly, so I ended up spending most of the day in a cafe to escape the of cold sheets of intermittent rain. As evening fell I took a bike to the nearest metro station I could find and took a subway train to Ribaucourt, a mostly Arab neighborhood slightly detached from the city center. After bumbling around for a few minutes I finally found the cozy street where Anne and her family live.

Fan Club Orchestra promo "An Insane Portrait" soundtrack

Once I was situated, Anne introduced me to her boyfriend Laurent. Laurent is a pretty laid-back guy who writes and plays music for various groups, among them the Fan Club Orchestra. When Anne isn’t delivering babies and teaching new mothers how to properly nourish their children, she plays bass with Laurent–this is what they both look like in action. Jamming was not really on the order of business when I showed up, but we talked for a while over dinner and then I went to sleep.

Angsty Brick Sculpture

The next morning I woke up to sunny clear skies and decided to cruise around the city by bike. After a quick breakfast I wandered into the old city center. There was an exhibition called The Art of the Brick being held just around the corner from a Christmas market (endemic to Europe this time of year–I don’t think I will ever get tired of all the greasy delicious food purveyed by Christmas markets). Growing up, I was a huge fan of Lego, so the idea of sculpture made entirely from those tiny studded bricks was quite intriguing. When I found out that the entry price was a ridiculous 11 Euro–to put it in perspective, the Louvre costs 12–I did what any determined backpacker would do: I snuck in.

Munch's Scream

Trust me when I say that the price of admission was worth closer to 5 Euro. Not that the sculptures weren’t incredible–this 3D replica of “The Scream” was really cool–but the entire exhibition took about thirty minutes to see, no more. I’m a big fan of art, but it shouldn’t be at a price that gouges the onlooker. Luckily for me, there was more to see in Brussels besides this place, so I walked back out into the chilly sunshine and wandered about some more.

Brussels Town Hall

Not too far away from the Lego sculpture exhibition was the Town Hall, a monumental work of Gothic architecture not too different from the one in Leuven. It was covered from cellar to spire in sculptures, and below were crowds of tourists milling about like ants on a sugar high–stopping suddenly to snap photos, pointing in all directions, then scurrying along to the next destination.

Cat2

Cat3

THIS BLOG POST INTERRUPTED BY CAT.

Cat mind own business in apartment. Cat like fish. Cat like butter. Cat like small crumbs of chocolate. Then strange smelly human come into apartment. Family of cat like human. Cat feel betrayed. Cat sit under fireplace and mope. Cat not happy with stranger in apartment. Other stranger cook delicious smelling food, cat no get food. Humans talk around table, ignoring cat. Cat feeling very annoyed, cat scratches at door so humans let cat out. Cat chase bird. Cat jump on top of boxes. Cat see piece of cheese in trash. Cat eat cheese. Cat returns to apartment. Humans still talking. Cat meows. Humans get up from table. Strange smelly human leaves apartment, goes across hall to other apartment and sleeps there. Cat sits on couch. Cat falls asleep.

My hosts!

Thank you cat for giving us your perspective on things. Anyways, this morning I left Brussels for Antwerp. Before I went, I took this picture of Anne, Laurent and their two lovely daughters. The cat was nowhere to be seen. Anne dropped me off about halfway between Brussels and Antwerp and I hitched a ride into the city from there. With New Year’s Eve just around the corner it promises to be a crazy few days, so if the blog doesn’t get updated til after January 1st just assume I’m having a good time. Happy New Year to all of you!

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