Friday, December 13, 2013
The plan of attack for our last half day in Brussels is to have lunch at the Chinese restaurant that specializes in serving fresh hand-pulled noodles. Another agenda item is to go to the Thai Market so Sister #3 can pick up a stone crab pot she saw yesterday-she talked about it all last night so we persuaded her to just go back and buy it. Otherwise, we’ll have to hear about for years to come, how she liked it and should have purchased it, blah, blah, blah.
We get a late morning start and check out of the hotel around 11 AM, again they let us leave our luggage in their holding area for a later pick up. This allows us about 3 hours to have lunch, shop and get back to the hotel by 2 PM’ish to call a taxi and get to the train station for a 3PM departure.
The noodle place opens at 12 PM for lunch, which gives us an hour to leisurely walk there. We head west on Hooikaai/Quai au Foin, this street goes pass the Ecole Saint-Jean Baptiste; a free denominational public kindergarten school run by the Infant Jesus School Committee. It’s interesting that this school is located around the corner from the alley frequently used by the “ladies and men of the night”.
The street is divided by a empty square with a fountain, some grassy and gravel areas with benches. Smack dab in the middle stands a full-size “Cement Truck” made of ornamental wrought iron. This Gothic Revival cement mixer is the work of Flemish artist Wim Delvoye. The street continues through a residential neighborhood with a large fruit and produce market.
Quai de la Chaux runs along the east side of the Plaine de Jeaux Quai A la Houille; a city park. We stop inside Use-it; a tourist information center for young people where you can hang out and get lots of free guides on things to do in Brussels. As long as you’re young at heart, anyone can use this service. Check out Use it-Europe, they have locations around other cities.
Our walk continues towards the Ferris wheel at the sound end of the park. Here you’ll see a lot of street art plastered on the walls and doorways.
The Lotto Ferris wheel is located at a Christmas market at the Monument des Blinds Square. There’s a huge blow up Ice Monster bouncer, a winter themed outdoor scene with trees, sheep and people, wooden chalets with lots of vendors selling more holiday treats. It seems like there’s a Christmas market popping up at every open square and pedestrian alley of this city!
We walk south along Rue de Marche aux Porcs to Rue de Flandre; the narrow street takes us through little shops, street cafes and restaurants topped with residential apartment homes.
On Rue de Flandre, there are colorful abstract murals on the brick walls of some alleyways and on some roll up doors. At Cyclo bike shop, you can see a beautiful old tandem hanging from the front window. Further on down the street at Btb Eatery, you can get bagels, pancakes, smoothies and sweets! We peeked inside and it was very quiet with no customers.
At Place Sainte-Catherine, hungry people are all lined up outdoors eating freshly steamed escargots at Mer du Nord. The local market across the way has a variety of fresh local mushrooms-so delectable!
It’s about noon when we walk into Au Bon Bol; we decide to sit downstairs next to the noodle station to watch the woman make strands of noodles by constantly stretching and twisting the dough. It’s beautiful to watch!
The hand pulled noodles are absolutely delicious with a good bite and great texture. We ordered all things noodles; Singapore curry rice noodle, Ja-Jan noodle with meat sauce, pork shop soup noodle, stir fried combo noodle and Shanghai dumplings. Next time around, I’ll organize a foodie tour and eat my way around Europe!
Our stop at the Thai Super Market for the crab pot goes awry, the four pots they had in stock were all cracked. So of course, whenever someone has it in their mind to purchase a specific item, the thought lingers; the person is inevitably going to buy something else.
Sitting two shelves above the crab pots are classic rooster bowls; I remember eating out of them when I was a little kid. Next to the smaller bowls are three larger ones; each about 18″ in diameter with a very heavy base. You can probably use it as on old fashion wash basin or as a fruit bowl. This is it; the replacement purchase, it’s much larger and more expensive.
Now Sister #2 jumps on the bandwagon and wants one too-of course! She proceeds to haggle with the clerk and manages to reduce the price by 5 euros for buying two. But guess what, the store doesn’t accept credit cards-CASH ONLY! After some scrambling inside our bags, Sister #10 and I give them all our money and it’s just enough to cover the cost. All in all, they purchase 2 large rooster bowls and a few of the smaller ones.
But the drama continues; now they’re fussing over how the bowls should be packed-good lord! The store does not have the perfect sized box for the bowls-no kidding! The best they can do is put it in a short box and wrap tape around the top. Mind you the large bowls have a heavy base and are placed sideways in the box. The weight is not evenly distributed and it’s heavy on one side. So finally this whole purchase and packing of the bowls is over!
It’s already about 2:25 PM and we have a 3:10 PM train to catch! The walk back to the hotel is less than mile and we have to walk FAST! The older sisters are lagging behind as they each try to take a turn carrying the box. At their pace, we’re not going to get back in time, so I tell Sister #10 to walk ahead and call for a taxi at the hotel.
As I turn around to check on Sisters #2 & #3, they have stopped to tie a scarf around the makeshift handle of the box, They even try to carry the box together with each one holding a handle-no go, the box is weighted on one side. After watching them struggle for a while, I decide to intervene and carry the box. Good grief-the box weighs about 15lbs! This whole drama of buying and carrying the rooster bowls can be written into a comedy skit!
We got back just in time to catch a taxi and arrive at the train station with about 10 minutes to spare! From Paris, we take the Eurostar into London for another train ride to Stratford-upon-Avon. For dinner, we ate pasties and chips aboard the train.
Today was another fun filled day with plenty of comic relief and good noodles!