Friday, August 19, 2011

August 20, 2011 -- Brussels, Belgium

Just 10 more days until I'm back in Phoenix.

The ground is wet outside, and it is very chilly, but the sky is clear blue, and it promises to be a good day. I'm beginning to believe that the weather forecast for Brussels is worthless, so I haven't checked it.

It was a very chilly day yesterday after the rainstorms of the evening before. I stayed bundled up all day and still felt the cold. It's incredible that August, normally the hottest month of the year, should be so cold this year. It's more like November than August. I later realized that another reason that I probably felt the chill more is that I have a cold coming on. The symptoms are still mild, but a cold usually hits me hardest the second or third day.

One of the features that one still finds in Brussels, although they seem to be disappearing from other French-speaking European cities, is the open-air pissoir or urinal. This one is located just below the youth hostel where I am staying (that's the youth hostel building behind it.) They give men an opportunity to relieve themselves, not very privately in semi-public view. They are however very convenient, since almost all public toilets, including those in shopping centers and restaurants, charge for using them. The pissoirs make life easier for men, but  they don't solve the problem for the ladies. I have no idea what women do in case of  a urinary emergency.

While I'm on the subject of public urination, one of the sights that all tourists must see when they come to Brussels is the statue of Manneken Pis, pictured below. Manneken Pis is located in the old section of Brussels. Manneken means "little man" in the sense that one would call a boy a "little man," and…well, I allow you to translate the rest on your own. As I was standing there taking this photo with my cell phone camera, I heard a woman's voice behind me say, "I had no idea it was that small!" I assume that she was referring to the statue as a whole and not to any of its individual components.

Brussels is full of beautiful buildings whose construction dates from medieval times to the present. Here are a few examples without comment. 

 The high point of my day yesterday was lunch, which was pure junk food. I bought a paper cone full of fries with mayonnaise. In the U.S., we call potatoes fried in the Belgian style "French fries," but they should properly be called "Belgian fries," because they originated here, and Belgium is still the country where one can buy the best fries. The fries I had today were thicker than the ones typically served in the USA and were golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside with a great flavor. They were definitely not purchased pre-cut and frozen as is the case with most U.S. restaurants. 

The traditional way to eat them is with mayonnaise, not with ketchup. The man who served me, while speaking perfect English, but a big glob of yellowish mayonnaise on top of the potatoes, and it hit the spot. It had a much better flavor than the mayonnaise sold in glass jars in supermarkets in the USA.

Finally, a sad note. The number of people killed by the storm at the rock concert the night before last was not two as previously reported but five. Several others are in critical condition and could die.

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