On the Pis

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On the Pis
Brussels, Belgium

Brussels, Belgium


My mother always taught me that before you judge a person, you should walk a mile in their shoes. Accordingly, I am sitting in judgement of my mother whose shoes I have been wearing all day. After talking her into the barefoot vivos that have given her blisters, I have agreed to break them in for her, so convinced am I of their virtues (and to appease my guilt at making mum walk all day – she wants to run, but I insist she walks!). I will go on wearing them until they have softened and are as comfortable as an old pair of slippers.

Judgemental footwear on, I led us on an Art Nouveau walking tour of Brussels as indicated on our map by a pink line and an occasional marker but with no actual explanation. We managed to spot the points of interest, at one stage even inadvertently found ourselves sitting in one during a mid-tour coffee stop, and guessed at what they might be. At any rate, it was better than the Art Not-veau tour I once did in Ljubljana, Slovenia which consisted mostly of things that weren’t there or the guides imaginings of what might have been had the architect used an Art Nouveau style.

Our tour led us to, though strictly did not include, Manneken Pis – a small bronze statue and fountain of a boy peeing. He’s been doing it since 1619 and no one actually knows why though many legends abound. None the less, the city and it’s residents seem happy to have him as the enduring and ubiquitous image of their city adorning everything from postcards to chocolate boxes and of course bottle openers with corkscrews coming out where the water should be! Throughout the year he is dressed up in various costumes and today he even had a rain poncho on, just in case.

Our tour neared it’s end back at the Grand Place where it merged with our gastronomy tour of local delicacies starting with frites (chips) with mayonnaise. Mum was suitably impressed by the crazy choice of condiment and use of a chip-fork.

Our cross over stop led up back to the gorgeously Art Nouveau Galleries St Hubert where we indulged in Belgian waffles, or as they call them, just waffles! They were delicious, unfortunately, the same could not be said for the coffee. To get the taste out of our mouths, and for no other reason you understand, we stopped into another chocolate shop to sample some nougat – ginger for mum and speculaas for me (my favourite kind of spiced biscuit which I choose to pronounce as ‘speckle ****’, this in addition to being able to say ‘****’ all day with reference to the statue means that mum hasn’t been able to hit me once for swearing because I’m just speaking another language! Oh yeah, who’s wearing the shoes now!!!).

Our next stop was to be the Cantillon Brewery but a combination of bad timing, worse map reading and worst taxi drivers put paid to that idea so instead we headed to the Delirium Cafe for the Belgian beer section of the tour, or as they call it, just beer! This stop serendipitously also led us to the home of Manneken’s sister, Janneke Pis, a peeing girl with far more recent and cynical origins (put in place by a hotel owner to drum up business) and far more disturbing in her stance. If mum didn’t like Manneken Pis, she really didn’t approve of Janneke’s unlady-like behaviour! I took my photos and accidentally got statue wee all over my camera case!

The Delirium Cafe boasts over 2000 beers with over 120 on tap but what I like most about it is the Delirium Tremens beer itself and it’s logo – a pink elephant which always reminds me of ‘Pink Elephants on Parade’ from Dumbo – with 9% alcohol content, I’m sure the concepts are interrelated. While I waited for the DT’s to kick in (or perhaps stop), Mum sipped on Cactus beer – not bad going for someone who only drinks beer after mowing the lawns on a hot summer’s day!

Now that Mum was developing a taste for beer, we continued on to A la Becasse, serving patrons since 1877 and offering a broad range of beers (specialising in Lambic beers) and a slender range of food. Mum had a Maes Pils while I opted for Kwak for it’s funny name and even sillier glass. Being a very traditional kind of establishment, the food offering was basic – Mum had a ham and cheese number while my query about vegetarian options were met with distain and I was given a plate of cheese cubes with celery salt. Mum got cutlery, I was toothpicks. Undeterred, we stayed on for a pitcher of sweet lambic beer before rolling on to our final destination.

This time is was an impromptu taste of home as we both clamped eyes on the Australian Ice Creamery. Mum had pistachio and I, keeping in theme, had speckle-****, I mean, speculaas. So ended our tour and our time in Brussels.

Mum’s Message:
At last I’m awake enough at night time to give some notes on our adventures. I haven’t walked this far in bloody years and the muscles in my legs are developing again – Popeye eat your heart out!

Brussels cannot make coffee, its worse than instant coffee – the worst I’ve had in my entire life. As for that boy that keeps on ******* as a national emblem – what what what? what’s it all about?

What made me smile today: Nomi’s dinner!


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