Brussels—Act like a local
Poor John objects to buying a city map wherever we go. Pay for a tourist map? No way! So unless the map is free, we blunder around until we find our bearings.
We were in Brussels to catch up with Jean-Mi, our very first exchange student in 2000. Although I know the city fairly well, I had only a vague idea how to find his and Sali’s new flat. I had an address and I’d checked Google maps, but it’s still nice to have a printed map in hand. The tourist office wanted a blackmailing price of 50 cents for one of their maps. But then Poor John spied a ‘discarded’ map. I didn’t see him pick it up, but he swears he didn’t haul it out of the poubelle (French for rubbish bin). However, I got the impression it might have been left unattended for a moment, and he grabbed it. At least no one chased us for it.
But it’s turned out to be one of the funnest (I have wanted to use that non-word for a long time) maps we’ve ever had. The cover says it is a ‘Free Map for Young Travellers Made by Locals’. It’s a treasure chest of information. It has excellent and legible (even I can read the street names) maps of the inner city as well as the surrounding city (yep, Jean Mi’s flat was easy to find). It shows the underground Metro lines and describes various touristic walks. It makes you want to spend months in Brussels just exploring the city. Here are some of the explanations.
‘Exotic Street—Each year up to 800 sea containers full of olives, olive oil, dried fruit and vegetables, spices and rare ingredients arrive in this street.’
‘Crossroads Station—When you arrive in Brussels North, your idea of Brussels will depend on the exit you take out of the station.’ One direction takes you to the red light district, another to a huge shopping area.
‘Old-fashioned Brussels—In the middle ages, the Marolle neighbourhood was a leprosy colony, where sick people were sent to die outside of the city walls.’
There’s plenty of other detail about trains, taxis, buses, trams, bike rentals, restaurants, bikes and a whole bunch of tips on how to ‘act like a local’.
Beer gets several entries—advice to drink the real sour gueuze beer, a reminder to choose the right beer for the right occasion, where to buy beer (the supermarket because it is cheaper) and a plea to ‘stop stealing our beer glasses’.
I understand their concern about the beer glasses. Every beer has its own special glass which I assume is produced by the brewer. They are truly amazing and supposed to bring out the best in each beer. I’ll write more about beer soon, but here’s a look at three beers in their respective glasses. And no, they weren’t all for me.