Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Brussels: A Grande Old Dame

Brussels reminded me of a grand older lady, with fine but worn clothes and lipstick on her teeth. The type with a fantastic rent controlled apartment filled with old photographs of her in her prime atop dusty antique furniture and priceless paintings carelessly leaning against the walls. Who has fine perfume and lipstick that she uses every last drop of. Ok, I'm getting carried away with this metaphor/glimpse of my future.

Since we were only in Belgium for one day, we naturally tried to see as much of the city as we could. Or, rather, to cram as much Belgian food into our mouths as we could.... Crepes, chocolate (there is an entire street dedicated to chocolateries), fries and, most importantly, waffles.

I cannot stress this enough: the waffles are all you could dream of and more.

Aside from the waffles, three things stood out to me in Brussels.

1) There is a deep love of graphic art in all forms. There are more comic book stores than I've seen in any U.S. city, Tin Tin is a national hero, and even the graffiti is beautiful and character driven. If I'd had more time there, I would have loved to check out the Brussels underground scene. Something tells me it would be spectacular.

2) The city was nearly destroyed during WWII, and in many ways it's still recovering. There are memorials everywhere, and both the buildings and the population still feel the loss very deeply. Perhaps as a result, there is a sentimental attachment to the style and aesthetic of the 40s and it shows in cafes, hotels and even in the way people dress.

3) Their relationship to France is very complicated. On the one hand, Belgian pride runs deep and most Brussels citizens feel their city is vastly superior to Paris. On the other hand, their histories are inextricably linked, and everywhere things are advertized as being "Parisian" or "Direct from France". It's something I'd love to learn more about.

All of this comes together to create a surreal vibe throughout the city. I felt as though I walked into a graphic novel, and at any moment a man in a fedora would impart devastating information. Definitely a place I hope to return to.

Clothing Purchased: a fantastic vintage dress, bought in a store run by a woman who embodied all things Belgium.

It reminded me of the dresses from the Miu Miu and Prada resort collections, but only cost 10 Euros.


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