Saturday, November 02, 2002

Brussels, day two

I wake up and have a good look at our hotel, the Royal Embassy on Rue Anspach. It's one of those places that is fairly expensive (190 euros a night!) but smacks of being done up in the 80s - all flowery prints and faux brass. We haven't paid even close to that thanks to an Air Miles offer, but the breakfast is generous, the staff are nice and hey! It's actually next door to Juke Box, *the* record store everyone said we had to visit.

It doesn't end up being our first event of the day though, as shops don't seem to open until 11 AM, so we have a wander to see the Mannekin Pis, preparing ourselves to be disappointed. Yup, it's basically just a tiny fountain nestled into a street corner. We stop for about 30 seconds to watch tourists pose next to it then wander up the hill. At the top is the Jacques Brel Foundation, hurrah! But that's for later.

Onto Grand Place, which is indeed an elegant and impressive square. The flower market there inspires me to persuade the bf we should check out the daily puces (flea market) in Jeu de Balle, so we buy a metro day ticket (a bargain at 3,60 euros) and get off at Hal de Port. The market is bustling - there must be over 100 sellers with knick knacks and junk on blankets and card tables. Prices are high though, and I don't think I can cart a huge 60s light fitting I fall in love with back home so we don't buy much. I do find a fantastic space age Carpenters picture sleeve single for "Close to You" for one euro, and the bf buys a cool old russian badge for one euro as well so we're both happy.

Back to Juke Box. I practically tingle with excitement as we walk in - boxes and boxes of singles on shelves and a friendly old dog at the door. Unfortunately, it doesn't start well. There is a gang of blokes at the front counter (probably the owner's cronies) so I make a beeline for the LPs and some other singles stuffed away in the back. We find an absolutely gorgeous Francoise Hardy 10" mini LP that has the loveliest artwork I've ever seen, but it's nearly £50. Ouch. But eventually a space clears at the counter so I go up to try and get the owner's attention. He's busy though, so one of his friends starts to interrogate me. "What are you looking for?" I tell him - sixties girlgroups, french german, brits... He sniffs. "Don't you have any names?" OK, how about the German girl, Marion (Maerz)? He get the owners attention to ask, but it feels more like a power trip than assistance. No, no Marion. Well how about Chantal Kelly? Mr. "I'm friends with the owner" sniffs again. "As far as I know, Chantal Kelly is not German." Duh! I feel like strangling him. What a jerk! I turn away from him and move a small box of singles to look through some other French singles, but they're modern so I have a quick flip and move aside. He gives me a scathing look and pointedly puts the box of records back where they were before. As if it matters! I'm this close to walking out, but I haven't put up with a nightmare BA flight and travelled this far to walk away empty handed, so I storm off to the very back to go through some boxes of singles in peace.

The owner appears, and I get the impression he's noticed that the other guy pissed me off. He gruffly points out a few boxes which might be of interest and I calm down a bit. No Gitte or Manuela, but I find a single by Maria Duval that looks interesting - it's a Hatch/Trent song in German.

Things quiet down out front and the rude friend disappears, so I decide to have another go at asking for things. Eventually the owner seems to decide that I am the real deal and lets me look through some boxes behind the counter. He also starts playing things I might not know but like - that's how I pick up a nice little single by Marianne Mille - a french cover of "where did our love go?" A few other things and I cash out. I've made some finds but I've had enough! He gruffly shoves a card at me. "You can email me your wants list." I can tell it's his way of being nice so I take it as a compliment.

Verdict: this shop is best approached if you march in with a printed list! And you'll need plenty of attitude to deal with the professional counter cronies.

More later, absolutely in need of a latte!


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