One of the things that is really different about Brussels compared to Britain is the fact that Sunday still has a different feel here. The big factor here is that all the shops are closed. I don’t know if this is down to the influence of the Church, which is apparently on the decline, or the fact that there is a big culture of days off and not working here: just look at the number of public holidays.
Whatever the reason, there are very few shops open at all. Only the odd convenience store, and the chocolate and beer shops in the areas frequented by tourists, are doing business. Today being a beautiful, fine sunny day, most pleasant open areas were filled with people bicycling, sunbathing, juggling, picnicking, or generally mooching around. After a tough two days of hospitality work, which left me tired and a bit crotchety, it was really nice to head out for a walk with my flatmate, another friend, and her daughter. Even the 45-minute phone call I had to make to o2 to ask why my phone hasn’t been unblocked for use in Belgium didn’t manage to get me too riled. There’s a nice word in French for this kind of aimless wandering – flâner, meaning to amble, potter, or wander, especially around a city. This we did, making us flâneurs (or flâneuses, or both?), sauntering gently out from the elegant Art Nouveau square I’m lucky enough to live on, pausing in a playground here, a coffee shop there, a park there, and eventually ending up on the Place du GrandL Sablon, where we bought some chocolate truffles and shared them in a bar over more coffee. Eventually we came back to the flat and discovered my other flatmate, who completed the Berlin Marathon a fortnight ago and has run the Brussels version today, lying on the sofa nursing chafed skin and sore knees.
Me? I prefer life at a slower pace. Good company, good coffee, good climes, and good chocolate. A most satisfactory afternoon. Next time I’ll remember to take my camera.