Am writing this from our hotel in Brussels. Ian has gone off to work so I have the day to play and shop, although the grey drizzle makes it a little less than inviting. We arrived yesterday. Eurostar arrives at Brussels Midi, which is just outside the centre and the home of a very large ethnic market on Sunday morning that was reminiscent of Whitechappel market in London. Orientating ourselves out of the station is always the most difficult job and it took us 20 minutes to work out what direction we needed to go to get to the town centre. We decided to walk as it is usually the best way to orientate yourself to a city. As we approached the city the buildings got a little bit smarter and by this time we were both really hungry so we went into the first available restuaruant that looked half decent! It seemed quite reasonable and the food was OK and when we looked closer we saw that the customers were either tourists or gay men out for breakfast!
After lunch we walked briefly around the town centre and then we decided to walk out to the hotel ('not much further than we have already walked' according to Ian). The route out of town took us through the Arab quarter of town with little shops selling all sorts of exotic vegetables and lots of 'cafes' that were men only places involving mint tea and backgammon (and a space away from the family). We witnessed Brussels driving first hand when we saw a Passat collide into the back of another car and then hit a parked van (he had seemingly failed to notice the wet roads and the slow traffic in front of him). The road was definately quite long and mostly up hill! My feet were aching and we were in need of a drink and with some relief we reached the hotel; basic but clean and with internet access in all the rooms but other than that not much going for it!
We reflected that all big cities, no matter how glossy on the surface, have their run down ends where a lot of the imigrant populations tend to live and in many ways we could have been anywhere, in London, Paris, Zurich etc.