Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Before I post a thing about Slow Fizz, I just wanted to post a few bits and pieces to tidy up the Brussels report. It was not dull, as Kevin wondered in the comments below - just bad timing!


Jukebox Shop, 165 Boulevard Anspach

Legendary, but remember to print off your wants list before you go so you can hand it over at the counter!

The Collector, Rue de la Bourse, 26 Beurstraat (across from the Museum of Brussels)

Friendly shop selling all vinyl - plenty of Motown and European issue singles here to delight any 60s collector.

Arlequin (across from the Mannequin Pis)

I can't remember what the road called and I didn't get a bag. However, I did find an Enchanted Forest 45 there! Not a massive vinyl selection, but worth a rummage.


Unfortunately, I bought a load of chocolate at Neuhaus in Bruges before being told off by a local we met for a drink later that night. "Too sweet!" he admonished me, "Go to Wittamer in Sablon and you'll see what I mean." We got home and ate all our chocolate, and he was right. There was nothing wrong with Neuhaus, but it was cloyingly sweet and uninspired next to Wittamer's creations, like the earl grey ganache encased in dark, dark chocolate. Mmmmmm. I will be ordering some online when I need to treat myself.


There are no shortage of bars in Brussels, and I doubt you'd go far wrong by wandering into one at random. The main difference is price, with the posh pubs in Grand Place or The Mannequin Pis (yes, it's across from it) charging a pretty penny. However, Belgium's idea of "tourist trap" is much nicer than say, Paris or London, and I would certainly recommend going to at least one of the flashier places for the ambience.

For slightly mellower and more local surroundings, St. Gery has loads including one huge place that's housed in a former market. But we ended up at Le Greenwich (67, rue des Chartreux) drawn by the no-music policy and the fact that chess superstars Kasparov and Karpov used to go there for a quiet game and a drink. The Duval was cheap (2,50 euros!) and the faded art nouveau decor charmed us both.

Another approach is to just wander onto one of the tiny sidestreets and find one of Brussels' many little holes-in-the-wall. These types of bars didn't seem to make any guidebook we saw - but although it might feel a bit intimidating to crash what is clearly a locals' bar with about 10 tables, I think so few people actually end up at these places that you'll be received with more friendly curiousity than anything else.

Things to do

The Atomium

It's a bit of a journey out of the city centre (get off at Heysel metro), with a slightly confusing walk once you leave the metro, but a definite must-see. Built for the 1958 Expo, this slightly dilapidated building shaped like an atom was one of my favourite places we saw. Entry is cheap and although the initial ride up and the view from the top is nothing special, it's what comes afterwards that's truly cool. Your next stop is 6 or so floors of 50s furniture and original souvenirs, posters and exhibits from the 1958 Expo, all crammed in each "ball" - a dream come true for someone like me!

Fondation Jacques Brel (place de la Vieille Halle aux Bles 11)

A quick stroll directly up the hill from the Mannequin Pis, and worth a trip even if you're not a fan of Belgium's chain smoking chanteur. It only cost 5 euros to get in, and for that you get a "night with Jacques", including a fake elevator ride, a visit to his dressing room, a concert, interviews, a quiz to test your Jacques knowledge ("What did Jacques love to do at his house parties? Answer: throw the cream pies!") and a free massive jukebox in a vintage "bar" where you can hear whatever Jacques song takes your fancy. Brilliant! There's a great little co-operative cafe across the road that serves delicious, cheap food as well.


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