It can be disorientating, finding your way around a new city, especially one as large as Brussels. I find myself alone in this task due to Christian’s dislike of Cafe culture. We have finished with the main tourist features in which he presumed I had an interest. Those who know me better, will understand my dislike of tourism and the plastic frippery of history book reference points to locally agreed upon ‘must see’ items.
No, I am always seeking the offbeat and authentic, and to do this must be alone, or with a like- minded soul. Christian’s ‘Tarzan/ Indiana Jones’ persona really doesn’t lend itself to my own peculiar sense of the bizarre, unusual and ethereal aspects of a location. While he favours deeds of daring-do, and wrestles with snakes and giant Amazonian creatures, my penchant is for brooding cafes and the melancholic, peripheral otherworldly.
Enter my old friend Michael Murphy, he of the Amsterdam winter visit previously documented, exactly the companion I favour in my quest. Mike visited Chez Christian for a few days and we have enjoyed wonderful conversation in genuine Brusselois, cafes.
He has rescued me from my sense of living with a figure from out of a Che Guevara movie, whose existence facilitated an unusual foray into Marks and Spencer’s for a matching lilac handbag and trendy, ultra feminine sweater. Get a grip poppy, who are you trying to impress? A man with a string of Miss World- like girl friends carved onto his bedpost? Get over yourself and climb back into those jeans and sea boots! Do what you do best.
As the clouds of ‘what the f…. am I doing in this City? threatened to engulf me, a piece of pure serendipity rescued me from a piece of gross self pity and useless introspection. There on the pavement in the middle of Brussels was a bronze Camino shell!
All my memories came flooding back from Spain: my friends, the Meseta, the songs, the laughter, the tears, the silence, the chaos, the rain…
So I followed the shell and turned a corner and found an old church of the way. Entering, I was soon among Camino artefacts and idolatry. I never thought I’d be so happy to see a Camino church again! I sat in the silence and allowed the happiness to infuse me, washing away all fanciful notions that I could ever lead a ‘normal’ life. How lovely to be a small part of the Camino tradition and to see its significance throughout Europe. I had no idea that Brussels had such a link!
And to seal the perfect day… A lovely old cafe just opposite in which to indulge my nostalgia and reconnect with all that is quintessentially me. The visit of Mike and the detachment from Christian and his various issues is like a good fortress anchor in a sheltered anchorage…
You just know that there will be some sleep tonight!