Back To Brussels

In Brussels it was, amazingly enough, raining. Had been all day, from the looks of things. At least it wasn't as cold as it had been, though, and the wind wasn't blowing.

They were having some kind of marathon that day. Thereby confirming a suspicion I had long held: marathon runners are people without enough sense to come in out of the rain.

Near the Grand Place I suddenly recognized a sight from a couple of years ago. Nice to know it was still around; nice to know that at least one bunch of loonies was keeping the faith.

We walked down to La Vielle Lanterne with growing anxiety. I had supposedly reserved a room, when we were there the previous week, for our return visit; but I hadn't given any sort of deposit, and I didn't have anything on paper, so there was nothing to stop them from letting the room out to someone else - and for that matter they had only my word for it that we'd be back. And with the marathon on, rooms would certainly be at a premium, particularly here so close to the finish....

When we reached the hotel my heart sank; the dreaded "COMPLET" sign hung in the window. But I opened the door, and the lovely young lady appeared immediately, smiling and holding out a key.

We settled into our room - our fine warm room, with the fine comfortable warm bed - and watched the tourists standing in the rain to look at the Mannekin-Pis. By now we were almost too tired to laugh.

In the morning, as we left the hotel to go back to London, we saw with huge and utter disgust that the sky was blue and the sun was shining. It wasn't even cold.

"Just when we have to leave," Phyllis said bitterly, "the weather turns nice."

"Someone," I agreed, "is having entirely too much fun at our expense."

We shouldered our packs and trudged out of the old quarter, past the Mannekin-Pis and the less famous Mannekin-Puke.

On our way toward the station, we passed a remarkable piece of art; a mural, I suppose you'd call it. Some worthless punk had defaced it with a spray can, reinforcing my lifelong conviction that graffitists should be publicly garrotted.

The area around the Gare Midi looked even shabbier in the sunlight. We went in and, after a long wait, went through the "security" nonsense attendant on boarding the Eurostar. (The Belgians, being a civilized and logical people, were quite perfunctory about the whole thing, nothing at all like the officious jackasses at the London end.)

As the train pulled out of Brussels we had the mean-spirited pleasure of seeing that the sky was once again clouding over, getting ready to rain again....