Bianca, Brussels and lots of houses

The worst part about making new friends here is knowing that you’re only in the same town for a limited time. At some point either they leave or I leave or we both leave. I know it’s inevitable, but it doesn’t stop me from being sad that Bianca is moving back to Finland. We only got to explore two towns together! We were supposed to see so much more than Brussels and Bruges! To make sure that we would miss each other even more, we arranged a meet-up today to walk around in Brussels together and take photos. I thought it was going to be cloudy and rainy, so I left my Canon 600D home and took the tiny “soap box” instead. I regretted it dearly when the sun came out.

Palais de Justice / JustitiepaleisOur first stop was the Law Courts of Brussels (Palais de Justice / Justitiepaleis), but unfortunately the entire building was covered in scaffolding and didn’t really look that nice. The doors were open though, so we stepped inside to admire the view and check out the postcards. The prices were ridiculous and the salesperson was more interested in checking his texts than dealing with annoying customers. I still bought one though, because I haven’t sent my nephew and niece a card in ages.

the ceiling of the law courtsBiancaThe massive building stands on a hill, so we had a nice view of the town from there before descending to the lower parts in a glass elevator. There was a man playing the accordion in front of the elevator, though I didn’t even notice him at first. I have gotten so used to street musicians (though often the term “metro musician” would be more correct) that they are pretty much a normal part of town scenery to me. Most often I see them in metro trains and usually they play the accordion. I have also seen performances on flutes, violins, harmonicas and some other intruments though and the newest addition was today on my way back home when a guy walked in with speakers, put on some music and sang along.

BrusselsOur next destination was Place du Jeu de Balle / Vossenplein to lurk around at the flea market. Bianca was looking for a nice decorative glass bottle to take home with her and I wanted to find something special to get her as a present. In the end we decided on an interesting-looking hourglass that also had a compass on top of it. I hope that she will put it somewhere in her room when she is back in Finland and think of her funny little hobbit friend every now and then when she sees it.

hourglassThe golden paint is partly chipped, but that’s alright, gives it a bit more character. Bianca found a nice glass bottle as well and tried to haggle for it, as is common at a flea market. Seems like that salesman hadn’t heard of that tradition though, because his response was very snappy. I was hoping to find a nice Kriek glass from the market, but unfortunately we saw none of those. We did however see creepy skull culptures, piles of old clothes, a ton of random cups and silver spoons and some unexplainable items that we passed rather quickly.

Place du Jeu de Balle / VossenpleinPlace du Jeu de Balle / VossenpleinHappy with our findings, we continued our journey towards the south. We saw a lovely little castle and Bianca wanted a photo of me. Her request for a pose: “the most touristy pose you can think of!” I’d like to think I delivered what was asked for. I mean, I even have a bonus camera hanging from my wrist, what more can you ask for?


I have probably mentioned it before, but I love the houses in Brussels. There are some seriously ugly ones, but in general I really like the style here. It isn’t even just one style, it’s a colourful mixture of everything you can think of. The best one from today: a house that is a tree. Or a tree that is a house. Take your pick.

house / treeThe further we got, the more expensive the houses looked. Also, the trees started looking very strange. I hope they will look more normal once spring comes and everything is green again, but at the moment they are strange bumpy creatures. Close-up, they have camouflage pattern on them.



bumpy camouflage tree

To finish our lovely walk, we headed back to the centre and sat down at a cafe. Unfortunately I have no idea what the name was, perhaps Bianca can help me out with that later. The prices weren’t exactly the cheapest, but everything was oh-so-good. I had a lovely quiche, apple pie and a minty mocha. I don’t normally take food photos in cafes, but this looked too good not to document. Look, my drink has fresh mint on top! Heaven.

foooodWe hugged each other and promised to try to arrange a visit this summer when she is in Finland and I have moved back to Estonia. This isn’t the last time we are seeing before she leaves though, we are going to play some board games tomorrow evening. It was how we met and it’s how we are going to say our goodbyes for now. I’m going to miss her, she has been my best friend in Brussels and I hate to see her go.

Avenue de Tervuren / TervurenlaanBecause the weather was so nice, I didn’t want to spend the entire journey back home in a metro train. So I left the underground three stops too early and had a nice walk. Notice the lack of snow! I’m so happy about that, it was a nightmare to pick Minnie up from kindergarten with the pushchair wheels doing nothing but get stuck on the snowy roads. Plus I just hate snow. But now I can have walks outside again without feeling like my nose is going to abandon me because it’s too frozen to survive. Farewell snow, glad to see you go! Actually, this was the biggest amount of snow I saw on my way back home:

farewell, snow!

Some people have still not realised that January is almost over though. There is a house on my home street with one slightly annoying christmas decoration still hanging around. And literally hanging, as you can see:

santa is fallingLet the poor santa go, he needs to return to his people. But on a different topic: I took a photo today that for me symbolises Brussels. A beautiful old building next to a construction of glass and cement next to a house being renovated next to some random house next to… and of course there’s some random stone blocks on the ground, because everything needs renovating and reconstructing. Voilà, Brussels in one image!


au pair life

In Brussels, it’s still autumn. If you compare this to my other post with autum colours, there’s been quite a change. This photo was taken a bit more than a week ago, so now the colours have changed a bit yet again, leaves are mostly orange or red (with some trees remaining yellow) and some trees have nothing left. My health seems to be the same. It’s mostly in orange or red (meaning danger-danger, ill person coming!) and sometimes retreats to yellow. I’ll probably be without any problems somewhere in spring.

My host family has been joking that they should send me to “an old people’s home, because you would suit that so much better!”… thanks! Why? Well, I either hurt my back with carrying very tired Minnie back home (15 kg is a lot for a tiny woman like me!) or some cold damp air attacked it. Anyway, I was out of business for a few days, spent it mostly in bed and crying or nearly crying from pain. When I started with work again, I had to explain to the kids that I can’t lift them or play the airplane or carousel or anything like that because my back hurts. Fortunately they didn’t test my limits much, I didn’t even have to run after Minnie with a buggy as she was kind enough to actually walk next to me when I was bringing her home from kindergarten.

How to keep kids entertained when you can’t play their favourite games and run around with them? Invent something new! Today when I bring Minnie back from kindergarten, the house will be haunted. I drew some ghosts on paper and cut them out so I could hide them all over the place and have the kids hunt for them. I have done it once before as well, they absolutely loved it. Mickey preferred daylight hunts, but for Minnie things got especially exciting when I drew the blinds and handed her a flashlight to be a proper ghost hunter. Last time there were only ten ghosts, but this time there will be ten ghosts and ten tiny colourful monsters. Minnie saw me making those last night and this morning she said she can’t wait to get home from kindergarten and gave me a big hug and a kiss. It’s great to see her so excited!

Otherwise it’s all same old. Wiping bums, emptying the potty, reading the same T’choupi book for the 54th time, running around in circles and chasing each other, watching Barbapapa cartoons for the 23rd time, drawing and painting (and of course not only on the paper…), bathing the kids and later drying the floor, cooking and then watching kids refuse eating anything because they decided they saw some carrots in the food and decided they hate carrots that day, fighting with kids over getting them dressed for going outside and later fighting over taking the jackets and mittens off… But I’m used to all that by now and usually when things start turning towards a battle of wills, I just distract them in some way or turn it into a game.

By now I have some experience in taking care of kids while I’m quite ill as well. One of the best ideas I had was to lie down on the sofa and say I’m ill, so the kids have to be doctors. I then invented some funny-sounding diseases that I had and the kids used everything they found to take my temperature, give me a lot of injections (=bumping a chestnut on me and doing a funny sound) and tie me up in bandages. All I had to do was to explain where it hurt and take the injections like a grown-up (aka making funny welping noises to make the kids giggle). And I didn’t have to move at all! Magical game.

I’m not sharing any photos of the kids, so this post has just a few random photos of Brussels. When Matthijs was visiting for the weekend, we walked around a bit and I finally saw that one canal in Brussels. It was boring. At least we saw het Kleine Kasteeltje (on the right on the photo), which is now used as accommodation for asylum seekers until their fate is decided.

We also had a nice board game evening with some people from Couchsurfing. Since we had nine people, we split in two groups to play. I was in the leading position in my group’s game (Power Grid) until the very last turn… when I realised I had made some very bad moves and ended up being the last. I’m not sure whether others were more amused by all that or pitying me. Grrh, stupid coal plants, I should have replaced them with nuclear plants earlier! The other group played Elfenland and I snapped a photo of them:

autumn leaves and the military museum

Autumn has arrived. It has always been one of my favourite seasons. Everything is colourful, I get to wear an array of pretty tights and sweaters and scarves and hats… though to be honest, I wear most of these during summertime as well. Hooray for chilly Estonian summers! Anyway, autumn has conquered Brussels. I was rather miserable for a week when it rained nearly constantly, so I found myself hoping every day when I had to pick the older kid up from kindergarten that those dark clouds would have mercy on me and stop raining for that hour.

Most of the time the clouds were merciful and allowed me to do the kindergarten trip safely. There was one time though where I ended up thoroughly soaked. The kids didn’t have much of a problem, Mickey was sitting in the pram and Minnie was on the pram stand, so I had to push both of them uphill for the entire way. I was soaked with rain and sweat by the time we reached home and my cheeks had morphed into tomatoes. Hey, at least I got a free workout!

Last week was my busiest one here so far. I had Monday off (so I had an extended weekend that I spent in The Netherlands with Matthijs, hooray for some couple time!), but I was working all other days. On the weekend, FrenchDad and EstMum left for a little weekend trip and I was alone with the kids. It wasn’t as bad as I had feared it would be, the kids behaved surprisingly well. I did not appreciate the 7am wake-up-call from them on Sunday morning, but I could deal with it. In any way, it was more pleasant than was was to come that day: breakfast didn’t seem to agree with Mickey and he ended up vomiting. On everything. Twice. Even after my jacket got washed, it still smells like puke. Maybe after the next wash it will be okay again. My laptop seems to be non-smelly again though, that’s good.

I made the most of the free time I had on some random mornings/evenings last week, getting out of the house as much as possible. One morning I decided to visit The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History. The Dutch and French names aren’t much shorter: Koninklijk Museum van het Leger en de Krijgsgeschiedenis / Musée royal de l’Armée et d’Histoire militaire. Anyway, the museum was in the park you can see on the two photos above and the entrance was free. The latter was the main reason why I decided to visit that particular museum as I was running out of money.

The first areas of the museum were very interesting to me. Old uniforms, swords, funky-looking helmets… what’s there not to like? I mostly walked around just looking at things, since the exhibition notes were mainly in French/Dutch and the English texts were short, if they were even there. I was in no mood for brain-twisters, so I decided to be happy with just looking and no reading.

The museum looked too cluttered to me. It seemed to devalue every piece on show, because there were too many things to look at and you couldn’t really devote your attention to one outstanding piece. It was a huge collection of everything and anything army-related, but instead of feeling like a comprehensive showcase, it just resembled a messy warehouse of random items.

Some things were showcased a bit better than others, like this tricycle that belonged to King Leopold II. One of the most fascinating parts of the museum for me happened to be a bit further away though. I loved the display of old helmets. Most of them look a bit ridiculous now, but I guess they were stylish in their own time.

I enjoyed the areas of the museum that were dedicated to older times. I can’t stand guns and rockets and bombs etc, they seem cowardly and brutal to me. A good old swordfight feels more courageous and noble, it’s an honest face-to-face fight. Unless you stab someone from behind, of course. Taking what I just wrote into account, you can probably see why I didn’t enjoy the areas with newer war machines as much. Wars with swords and bows were in the distant past, but guns and tanks are too fresh and raw even for me, though I haven’t personally experienced war.

This gas mask reminded me of Sharon, my friend from Israel. She once told me that her earliest memory was being in a bomb shelter with her family, everyone wearing gas masks. This is no distant past, this is the first memory of a young woman from Israel. So this display was too close and scary for me.

There were also some actual big tanks on display, but I chose to take a photo of this small colourful machine. Even though I tried to get a photo of a big tank (it’s just outside this picture), I couldn’t bring myself to do it, besides it happened to be too big to properly fit in the frame. Having no personal experience with tanks, that display still managed to make me feel so anxious that I pretty much fled that room in hopes of finding a display that seems a bit more safe.

While wandering around between airplanes, I kept wondering how could some people stand in front of a tank to protect their country when I couldn’t even bear standing next to an unmanned and out of use war machine. Even my own father took part in a human chain protecting Tallinn’s TV tower when Soviet powers threatened it with tanks. I already had huge respect for my dad, but after seeing an actual tank with my own eyes, I respect his bravery even more.

I didn’t stay in the museum for long after reaching the areas dedicated to modern wars. It was all making me a bit too anxious, giving me vivid mental images of what war was and is like. So after just a short hour in the museum I fled, deciding to explore the town a bit more instead. As always, I returned from my expedition with a new photo of a graffiti in Brussels:

cloudy Brussels and finished room

I am beginning to understand why even people who whine about London being rainy say that Brussels is worse than London. I have been here for a bit more than two weeks and I have seen clear skies once or twice during that time. Usually it’s either dramatic clouds or dramatic clouds with bonus rain. Still, I’m not whining – I’d rather take a lot of rain than a lot of snow.

Every time I go out in Brussels, I find at least one graffiti I haven’t seen before. My latest catch:

This one actually looks so cool that I wouldn’t mind having it on canvas as my room decoration. Too bad I can’t take a proper photo of it though, the fences are so high that someone as short as me can’t get a photo without those. On a slightly related note, it’s rather difficult to find a proper raincoat for someone of my size without paying more than 100€ for it. I already got soaked today, going out with my non-rainproof coat. Thanks, surprise rainfall! I might go back to the skyscrapers district where I found some possible rain protection in stores. If those are too pricy… I guess I have to look through the kiddy stores again. I’m not short, I’m just vertically challenged!

I don’t have much to write about the latest city trip, I mainly went through stores to find stuff for my room. I do have a few photos though, so here you go:

The last photo is a short walk away from my home. It’s a very nice neighbourhood and I know that there should be a street with lots of art nouveau buildings close by. My mission for the next neighbourhood walk is to find that street.

In other news, my room does not look like a temporary crashing place anymore, it has furniture and lights and it looks really cosy now.


I want to try to visit at least one museum every week until I have gone through all museums I want to see. This week I went to The MIM (The Musical Instruments Museum), which gives a nice view from the rooftop in addition to showing a lot of old and newer musical instruments. To get to the museum, I first had to go through Warandepark / Parc de Bruxelles. It looked very different without the biofood stalls and massive crowds. I got a chance to take a proper look at the odd sculptures in the park. I’m not sure whether they were there for a week or these are a part of a permanent art collection in the park.

The Brussels sprout in the front is decorated with newspapers, the silver one looks like a hot air balloon… there were also colourful waffles and fries etc. (If you end up in Brussels, it’s better not to say French fries. Belgians are very proud of being the real inventors of fries and referring to the French on that topic might not end well. Nasty little fries-stealing Frenchies! Just frieten or frites is a safer option.) Anyway, after I had walked through the park, I got a nice view of the royal palace. The king doesn’t actually live there though and during summer months visitors are allowed to take a peek in the palace.

At Koningsplein / Place Royale I got a lovely dramatic view with old buildings and cloudy sky. That square is basically museum centre, nearly all houses around and near it contain a museum of some sorts.

The Musical Instruments Museum was right across the square, so I found the entrance, gave my coat and umbrella away (umbrella is basic equipment when visiting / living in Brussels), got a music machine for the visit and was ready to explore the museum. Of course touching any instrument was forbidden, so the problem of curiosity (“Oo, what sound does this instrument make?”) was solved by the mysterious machine. As soon as you got close to something, it showed the instrument on the screen and played a short clip of someone playing it.

Normally it would play music through headphones, but the ones I got with mine were a bit broken, so the machine either used its own speakers or only played music to my right ear. But that was a minor issue, so I didn’t go back to change my machine for a new one. I’m no musical expert, so I’ll just show a few photos of some interesting instruments I saw. If someone is more knowledgeable, feel free to share what you know in the comments section!

There were also some rather strange instruments like a barrel organ with scary-looking dolls. I had forgotten I had taken that photo and might have scared the kids with it a little bit when showing them my photos from the museum. I hope they don’t remember that photo anymore.

The rooftop offered a very nice view and you could also sit at a table there to enjoy food in the museum restaurant. I skipped that since I had spent a lot of money already and eating at home was a lot cheaper, but I did enjoy taking photos from there.

When I was on my way home after seeing everything in the museum, I noticed a random pencil graffiti. Again. I think I’ll start counting the pencils I see in Brussels and taking photos of all of them, they intrigue me for some reason.

Also, the poster on this photo reminded me that I haven’t eaten Brussels sprouts in ages. I should look up a good recipe and make dinner with them next week. Perhaps a nice soup. Or oven potatoes and steamed Brussels sprouts with sauce. I’ll have to think about it. And now I made myself hungry, so I’ll go and raid the kitchen. Au revoir!

Car Free Sunday

I’ve been a bit busy this week, exploring Brussels and getting used to taking care of kids and learning their quirks. On September 16th I was out for most of the day – first had a walk with the host family to enjoy the strange sight of no cars on roads (Car Free Sunday) and later went to meet up with strangers from CouchSurfing to get to know some locals. It was strangely exciting to walk in the middle of big roads that day and see only pedestrians/cyclists passing by.

There were a lot of outdoors events to celebrate Car Free Sunday, the closer I got to the centre the more activities I found. For example there were quite a few stretching/yoga/whatever else groups around.

Car Free Sunday has been celebrated in Tallinn as well, but there it’s “recommended to leave your car home and use public transport / bikes instead”. Brussels has gone some steps further, it’s actually forbidden to drive any motor vehicle in the city limits, except for a few streets that have been kept open for traffic. If someone really needs to use their own vehicle that day, they have to get a special permit that they have to show to the police if they are caught driving. And nearly everyone would get caught anyway, police is everywhere that day to ensure there would be no random cars driving around.

Tunnels were of course closed off – bikes don’t go there and cars had no business in town that day. Such a strange sight, at some points it seemed like I was walking in a ghost town and next moment there was a huge group of cyclists passing by. Everyone was on the bikes and even small kids were finally allowed on the big streets. Also, I saw a few horses. Later I saw piles of horse manure.

As I got closer to the centre, streets got more and more crowded. When I reached Jubelpark / Parc du Cinquantenaire, it was full of food stalls and different areas for dozens of different sports activities. I haven’t seen so many kids in one place for a long time, there were families everywhere. Of course there were activities for adults as well, some of them even looked really appealing to me… but the massive queues were not that appealing, so I walked on.

Later that day I went to the centre by metro (which was free that day, so of course rather full) to meet up with people from CouchSurfing in a park. The mini-picnic was great, I met some lovely people and hopefully I’ll have some time soon to meet up with them again and do something together. I showed up to the picnic without any food because I had just had lunch with my host family, but soon enough I felt a bit peckish and went to explore the park with one Belgian girl. Warandepark / Parc de Bruxelles was full of delicious bio food, there were stalls everywhere.

It was difficult to go through the crowd, most people were walking really slowly (which is appropriate for a slow food area, I guess), but I was in a bit of a hurry to get back to the others. Eventually I just got a nice raspberry sorbet and rejoined the picnic. Too bad we were sitting on the other side of the park, there was a nice lounging area created near the slow food stalls. It was already very crowded though.

After the picnic (and gathering contact information from some people who said they would like to join a board game and cake night if I manage to organise one), it was time to move to another meet-up. I had signed up for a Dutch conversation table, but unfortunately I found there that the conversation moved a bit too fast for me. I could understand most things that were said, but by the time I had a nice Dutch sentence formulated in my head to join in, the topic had already changed. I made a promise to revise a bit on my own and return to a later meet-up either this or next month to try again.

On the photo above you can see the European Commission. A rather massive building, I wonder how often do the employees get lost in there? It would probably take me months to get to know the building properly. The metro station right at the Commission building was quite a shock to me. I already knew that Brussels doesn’t have the nicest-looking metro in the world, but the Schuman metro stop looks quite scary. Hopefully this is just being renovated at the moment and it will look normal again soon.

After navigating the system of stairs and tunnels down the the metro stop, I noticed a strange mirror on the wall. It seemed to be a mirror, but I could barely see myself in it. I looked like a ghost, strangely fitting for that location. So, have a nice ghost portrait of me to finish this post:

Brussels in photos

Brace yourselves, this is going to be a photo-heavy post. I had my first visit to the centre of Brussels and of course I took my camera with me. I popped out of the metro in Saint-Cathérine/Sint-Katelijne station. My only source of amusement on the metro was to say the names of the stops in my head in both languages. Most signs and advertisements in Brussels are in both French and Dutch and occasionally there’s German and English added to the mix, especially in the centre.

The first thing that happened outside the metro was not too pleasant, I do not enjoy getting dirty comments from random men. And it was just because I was wearing yellow shorts with (thick and grey!) tights. I will probably make a separate blog post about street harrassment some time later, it’s shocking how common it is in some areas. Anyway, continuing with more pleasant things: the following photo was the view just after stepping out of the metro station.

I already know that there is a special ice-cream parlour on that street, Comus & Gasterea has flavours like carrots, wasabi, basil, caviar… and for those who don’t feel quite as adventurous there’s also normal flavours like caramel, coffee, speculoos and apples. Next time I’m in the area, I’ll definitely pop in and give it a go, picking some of the craziest flavours. This time I was hurrying to a youthful information centre named Use-It to get a free map of Brussels. The lovely young lady behind the counter gave me some nice tips and even drew me a route for a nice walking tour in the centre. The first stop was at Place du Beguinage to take a look at Èglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste:

The next step on the suggested route was a parking house, because it was possible to get a nice view from the rooftop. Since I don’t know Brussels that well yet, I can’t comment on the buildings seen from there. So, photos without any comments:

And no, the last photo is not crooked – the buildings are upright. To finish off the parking house mini-series, have a photo of the roof where I was walking around:

The walk continued through an area that had a lot of eastern influences. There was a Japanese restaurant named The Ninja House, a lot of other restaurants with all kinds of foreign cuisine, supermarkets with all kinds of awesome foods from far east… in one of those supermarkets I got my bags searched because the security guard thought it was suspicious I didn’t buy anything. He did send me off with a smile though when he realised I had only a bag with maps and a camera bag with me.

As some of you may already know, there is a fountain with a peeing boy in Brussels. Manneken Pis is the symbol and mascot of the city. Before seeing the famous boy, I saw another peeing statue: Zinneke the dog.

Every street I saw in Brussels was completely different from the previous one, at least as far as buildings go. I don’t think I have seen two buildings next to each other that look the same, it’s as if everyone looked at their neighbour’s house before building theirs and thought “how can I make mine look nothing like that house?”. No two buildings have exactly the same height, colour, style, roof, windows… I could continue the list but you get my point.

Another thing I have noticed in Brussels: lots of graffiti. Some of it just scribbles, some as proper art installations. I am yet to find the proper gold mine of awesome graffiti, so have this while I’m still searching:

The route continued towards the centre of Brussels, past Beurs / Bourse, the Brussels Stock Exchange. It was built there after the river Senne had been covered up. There used to be a river in the centre of Brussels, but it got heavily polluted as the city grew and in the end the river got directed underground with big boulevards and fancy buildings standing where the river once was. The river got covered up in 1865 and a few years after that the grand stock exchange building was erected in its place.

On my way to Grote Markt / Grand Place (the central square of Brussels) I spotted a guy sitting on the street and making jewellery. Some tourists were taking a photo with his hat that he gladly gave to them for that purpose. (They did return the hat later.) I ended up having a nice conversation with him and found out he has a friend in Estonia. We both agreed that Estonian winters are insane and I left after buying two dragonfly earrings from him. I’m sure I’ll check his jewellery out again when I go through that street.

The big square was not as impressive as it had seemed from photos. Perhaps it was because there were some stalls around that blocked the view to the impressive houses around the square, perhaps it was the weird weather… but I was left underwhelmed. Better luck next time.

After Grote Markt / Grand Place, I had to go through a street full of the amazing smell of chocolate and fresh waffles. Fighting my way through hordes of tourists, I managed to see Manneken Pis and have an awesome waffle for just 1€. Since I had tips from the Use-It tourism office, I went for a Liege waffle to get the proper experience. It had sugar inside and despite being nearly disgustingly sweet, it was delicious. Most people took the extreme tourist version with whipped cream, strawberries, bananas, chocolate sauce etc. I decided not to be a silly tourist and took a plain waffle, which was a good choice.

As the waffle and all the walking had made me thirsty, I headed to a nice cafe pointed out by the tourism office girl. I had a delicious fresh mint tea there and rested my legs a bit before taking on the last bit of the walking tour. The cafe was situated on a fancy shopping street that had a glass roof covering.

Next stop was Beenhouwerstraat / Rue des Bouchers. It’s a narrow street, full of restaurants and waiters who try to lure you to their place to eat. I said no to all the waiters, eavesdropped on random Estonian businessmen having lunch / early dinner at one of the terraces and took a look at another peeing statue: Jeanneke Pis. The peeing girl was locked up behind bars for some reason and I didn’t bother taking a photo of her, it was too dark.

Last stop before heading back to the metro station was the chocolate heaven. There’s a lot of fancy chocolate stores gathered around one square a little bit south of the centre, so of course I had to take a look there. I got three nice-looking ones from Marcolini, peeked in some other chocolate stores and accidentally crashed a mini-movie-shoot in one of them, got recommendations from the store owner in Godiva and I think he pointed out a place where I should be able to get amazing minty chocolate. But exploring that was left for the next trip to the centre as it was getting late, so I took a photo of the Godiva store with a random tourist in green and left for the metro station.

There’s not much to say about the metro. It’s not overly impressive and occasionally it can look a bit scary, but it’s nowhere near the dystopian-looking one in Milan. I end this post with two random shots from the metro:

flight planned and bought

I bought my flight ticket! Not straight to Brussels though – I’m going to Nijmegen on August 31st so I could spend a week in the hometown of my Dutchie Matthijs. (The photo is from my first trip to Nijmegen in June 2011.) After pretending that I’m finally living with him for a little bit, I’ll grab my suitcase(s) and take a train to Brussels where my small apartment should already be waiting for me.

Since one of my fears (that has not been added to the hopes&fears list yet) is that I’ll be lonely in Brussels, I’ll have to do my best to find friends there. Otherwise my life would mainly consist of taking care of kids, skyping with my family and visiting Matthijs on weekends. I made an account on where it’s possible to find accommodation on someone’s couch, offer yours to a fellow traveller or just meet up with people in your town or somewhere on travels. I’ll try to find friends through that and of course find the local Estonian community as well – there’s a lot of Estonians living in Brussels.

The List

I like planning. I like taking a piece of paper and writing down things I need to pack, things I need to do next week, books I want to read, places I want to visit (and exact opening times and prices so I could make a vague day plan and an approximate budget) and of course bus times for next morning so I wouldn’t be late for work / meeting up with someone.

Knowing this, it’s probably not surprising that I have written down a list of things I want to do during my time in Brussels. I like having clear goals and I definitely do not want to go there to kill time. I want to go there to experience as much as possible and know in a year’s time that I have had an amazing year and I’m wiser and happier than before.

This list is not complete in any way, I’ll be adding things during my time there as well.

  1. Write down everything I spend. (So I’d learn not to spend so much money on ridiculously expensive cake and sweets.)
  2. Go to a French-speaking town and use only French to get by, no English allowed.
  3. Make a blog post in French. (Preferably without grammar mistakes…)
  4. Spend a weekend in London. (Just because I love London.)
  5. Take a cheap flight with just hand luggage to a random location. (Open, close your eyes, point to a random destination.)
  6. Try ridiculously expensive chocolate of five different chocolatiers. (I know, this slightly clashes with #1.)
  7. Hop on a random train to take a trip to a random location. Try to get by in the local language, be it French or Dutch.
  8. Have a computer-free weekend. Not even a sneaky peek to check e-mails or Facebook!
  9. Find the local Estonians’ community and attend at least one event.
  10. Learn how to properly ride a bike. (I know, “You’re 22 and still can’t ride a bike!?”, no need to say it…)
  11. Learn how to swim properly. (I nearly drowned as a kid, okay? I’ll learn not to fear deeper water one day.)
  12. Write the dystopian story I’ve had in my head for three years by now. Or at least a few chapters!
  13. Go to at least three gigs. (Now this should be an easy one.)
  14. Go to the centre to have coffee during sunrise and enjoy the view. (Or tea, since my body doesn’t handle coffee all too well.)
  15. Take a tour in the European Parliament. Or two.
  16. Visit Waterloo. (It’s really close, would be silly not to go.)
  17. Party in Brussels’ “Gay Village”. (Brussels is supposed to be the gay capital of Europe and the parties are amazing, as I’ve heard.)
  18. Learn a new skill. (Or at least join a choir to develop an old skill.)
  19. Read more history books. Perhaps even in French.
  20. Learn enough about architecture to be able to properly admire the amazing historical buildings in Brussels and distinguish between different styles.
  21. Visit Willemijn in Gent.
  22. Visit Antwerpen and take a walk in the Diamond Quartier.
  23. Visit Brugge. (And perhaps do a boat tour on the canals.)

This is the beginning

It’s official. From September 2012 I’ll be living in Brussels. Initial plans are for about 10 months, I have an arrangement with a lovely family in Brussels to be their au pair for that period. As I’m not sure yet how much time I’ll have for catching up with friends and family, I decided to set up this blog so they could at least check from time to time that I’m still around and what have I been up to. Also, I like to process things through writing, so I wanted to get this started even before I move there – I can do some research on Brussels and Belgium in general and mark things down for myself here.

Belgium has three official languages and I speak all of them quite badly. My German skills are nearly gone, Dutch is slowly improving and French needs serious revising. I’ll mostly need the latter two in Brussels: French is the most used language there and Dutch is second. All street names are in both languages. Of course it should be possible to get by with just English as well in most places, but it’s always better if you speak local languages, so I’m planning to take French lessons and start reading French literature. It’s difficult to find books in English there anyway, if you don’t want to buy books all the time. Considering my reading speed (usually it doesn’t take more than a day or two to finish a book), I’ll steer clear of bookstores there.

As much as I’ve heard from friends and read so far, most seem to think Brussels is ugly, expensive and boring. I’ll try to prove all of this wrong during my time in Brussels. I don’t care if it rains a lot, it will probably still be better than 4-6 months of snow that I usually see in Estonia. (“I don’t like snow much” would be an understatement.) I don’t care if it’s expensive – it’s probably mainly expensive in the touristy areas anyway and I plan to discover a different side of Brussels as well. And boring? Perhaps people haven’t looked in the right places. Perhaps they’re right. I’ll see in a few months.