This one was the first time I was visiting a city without a map in hand. There was no need to. It was just me and her, free to explore a whole new city and this was more than enough! Strange to me yet so invigorating, we just let the city flow carry us away.
Time was very short; less than 3 days of stay and the choices unlimited. The Botanical Garden that was just a 3 minute walk from the hotel seemed very appealing for an afternoon stroll, so we didn’t miss the chance to pay a visit and take the first pictures of the city. The view of the skyscrapers surrounding a piece of nature brought back memories of the Central Park in New York, on a smaller scale, of course. I guess that we, the city people, struggle to combine our superficial relationship with nature on one hand, feel it close, have some green areas, breathe fresh oxygen from the trees, along with our need to expand in place and build our concrete giants over it on the other. Such a strange feeling when you sit on a bench while at a park and close your eyes to let the birds’ chirp surround you and yet, after a few moments, you get dragged back to city reality by the cars’ horns.
It was about time we headed for the most significant square of the city, a true ornament, the Grand-Place! The whole place was ablaze, but, as it was past midnight already and a weekday, there was hardly anyone at the area. “Did we enter a time machine without noticing it?”, I wondered. Where to start from? The Town Hall? The Maison du Roi (King’s House)? The guildhalls? It felt like taking part in a historical film. Looking for a place to eat, we just crossed the square from side to side, took a turning to the first street we saw and, to our amazement, we discovered a whole Greek restaurant neighbourhood! Dimitris, the half Greek/half Belgian owner of Plaka restaurant, treated us the pittas we ordered. He was kindly opening a window to his life and choices, letting us in, talking with serenity and certainty in his father’s tongue, Greek, without any accent at all. To our look of amazement, he simply answered that his father was austere when it came to him learning the language.
It was pretty ironic the fact that we were in Belgium eating something very typical Greek. So next day we decided to try something closer to the Belgian cuisine because, you know, culinary tourism is always in mind when visiting a country, and ended up devouring delicious spaghetti with carbonara sauce! Oh come on, subconsciously we just wanted to avoid mussels! What came next was a quest for a coffee shop that would serve us decent hot Belgian chocolate… to be finally bewitched by a storefront full of handmade appetizing chocolate goodies! Belgian craftsmen, you surely know how to treat chocolate!