Le Chemin est aussi ici.

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.

Come on Poppy... Wake up!

Come on Poppy… Wake up!

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.

How lovely! Mike and I outside a Camino church in Brussels.

How lovely! Mike and I outside a Camino church in Brussels. Can you see the Camino shell next to the door?

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!

Oh la la! Regardez! The Camino scallop to the rescue!

Oh la la! Regardez! The Camino scallop to the rescue!

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!

Heaven is..... A quirky cafe and a Camino reminder!

Heaven is….. A quirky cafe and a Camino reminder!

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!


About Viking Queen

I am a sailor and I live on my boat 'Free'. I have no home but originate from Tyneside. I have no allegiance, just a desire to do no harm and live with courage and an open heart.
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37 Responses to Le Chemin est aussi ici.

  1. Christian says:

    have a coffee for me then while there, glad you found the link and we can people watch together soon when back here, camden market here we come and lots of coffee stops.
    glad that you had michael with you and found that church and had some time inside,

  2. Viking Queen says:

    Thanks Chris. Back next Sunday… Unless I get eaten by a gargoyle or something. Think of a day the following week if you can.

  3. Maggie says:

    Camino serendipity. Beautiful.

  4. Lucy says:

    Superbly readable post today, thank you. Much love, Lucyxx

  5. Sarah Noss says:


  6. finnhagan@yahoo.co.uk says:

    Rember. Everybody in brussels is a wierdo. Nice blog… XSent from Samsung Mobile

    “A Viking Saga: no one here gets out alive…” wrote:

    Viking Queen posted: “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 i”

  7. cornishtim says:

    I walk on a Cornish beach most days and have a fine collection of scallop shells. Each one brings a different memory and can erase the blues. Fine find in Brussels.

  8. It was meant to be, Poppy, just in the nick of time, before the tourist traps swallowed you. I am with you on the coffee shops/ cafe. I have this endless quest to find the cafe I see in my mind’s eye. Near the water, cosy village, somewhere in Scandinavia, outdoor and indoor tables, yep, still trying to find that place. (with a sprinkling of tourist spots as well). You have to remember some of us live in the culture/historical icon deprived antipodes. I do wonder what that church was doing in Brussels.

    • Viking Queen says:

      Hi Amanda… I’m not sure about all the synchronicity thing anymore. I used to govern my life by it; but these days I feel like some ‘force is playing a damn game with me. Certainly in every way this ‘sejours’ has been a whirlwind of passion, emotion and sailing extremely close to the edge! The city is a delightfully bohemian, relatively undiscovered mish-mash of all sorts of things with some amazing characters and a liberal sprinkling of dangerous boys. Strangely, The British generally consider Brussels to be boring! That just shows you how ignorance can starve one of the sheer bliss of experience.
      Coffee shops? I’m such a romantic, I almost expect Robespierre to suddenly drift in and start plotting! Wrong city I know, but Brussels has that wonderfully anarchic, conspiratorial atmosphere. My tummy flutters with excitement about what the day will bring…
      Scandinavia? There was a harbour front cafe in Valdemarsvik that you would have liked. It was there that I met Jonny Pettersson (the viking shaman)! It seems to fit your description, although for me it was a little expensive.

      • Perhaps I will add Brussels to my wishlist. I remember your post on Valdemarsvik. I think from your photos, it came pretty close to my utopia.

      • Viking Queen says:

        Yes Amanda, why not? It’s not spectacular and surprisingly chaotic, but it has that certain something! I have to add that Jonny couldn’t afford the cafe either! So it was back to Free and Aunty Poppy put the kettle on!!!

      • Most places in Scandi are expensive. Otherwise I would visit there every year! Anyway, sometimes it is nice to have the morning coffee at home.

      • Viking Queen says:

        It is beautiful in places and the Grote Markt is stunning. There are a lot of beggars and dirty streets though… it is a real place. The euro stuff seems curiously detached from the people. Non of the locals knew the location of the European Parliament!

      • mmm. That is interesting. Could it be the media coverage has other priorities?

      • Viking Queen says:

        Almost definitely. There seems to have been an attempt to make it interesting, but to me it just highlights the developing European inequality, excessive immigration and waste. Still at least we’re not killing each other any more…… yet.

      • Let us hope that doesn’t start. How about wars has been known to start from these things.

      • Viking Queen says:

        Could you clarify what you mean, Amanda?

      • So sorry, Poppy. Trying to type a quick reply on my phone without my glasses and auto correct stuffs it up. What I meant to say was “let’s hope that wars and fighting each other has sometimes sprung from these very things. ie: inequality, immigration, waste, etc.Seems that the concept of a united Europe is a long way off. Brussels and its atmosphere sounds intriguing.

      • Viking Queen says:

        No problem Amanda! I thought maybe you were tired! I suppose the very issues that are valid for a military response, rarely attract those in government. They seem to flourish when we (the people) are confused and targeting each other with tribalism, racism, homophobia etc. This keeps them in power and they can use propaganda to remain so. The concept is here, but the reality is definitely vacuous. Brussels is intriguing for sure!

      • Unfortunately our government atm is attempting to do just that (propaganda) . It is a worrying trend.

      • Viking Queen says:

        Hasn’t it been forever thus? I’m no pessimist, but I do believe that the human spirit needs to evolve and transcend these things. Governments are only a manifestation of substandard education, ignorance and apathy. In short, we get what we are (Generally of course)

      • Yes I agree. But I really doubt that will happen on a large scale. Many people are selfish, lack empathy, altruism and find it difficult to see the long term big picture. Perhaps I am more a pessimist than you. My ideals have been worn away through life experiences. And I don’t vote for this kind of government and cannot understand how a large proportion of the population are hoodwinked by empty promises. Then regret voting them in. It doesn’t take a genius to see through them.

      • Viking Queen says:

        We are very similar on this. I have only voted once in my life. That was for a party wanting to bring in proportional representation, thus replacing the ridiculous tribal, first past the post system we have in the UK. Surely one has to concern oneself with issues rather than party politics? Anyway, never since because I disagree too much. By voting, I feel one is sanctioning the continual circus of deceit and stupidity! In the end folk have to be angry enough and then you get crazy events like the French Revolution. I stand by ‘render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s; render unto God what is his’. My path is a spiritual one, the worldly is just that, to me. Personal evolution is really inner, for me.

      • Finally on a keyboard that is easier to type on!!! Voting: I do understand your feelings of the circle of deceit ….However, it is compulsory to vote in Australia,and there is a different attitude here. We don’t have the House of Lords, which is almost laughable in this day and age. I kind of like that people here accept that voting is something that has to be done, even though they may not be that interested in politics. I think, in most cases, they do think about their vote, even if that is on a pretty basic level. If voting wasn’t compulsory, you would not get the majority’s opinion, perhaps you would only get the passionate’s or activist’s or bigot’s opinions? I’m not sure. I myself, am pretty passionate about voting, because of the knowledge that for many years folk felt completely disempowered by the feudal/colonial systems, where they had no say at all in political matters. And I also think of the suffragettes and those people in many different countries, who died simply trying to achieve the “right” to vote. I have instilled in my kids that one must not waste that right and it is their right to choose. Recent elections here have shown that every vote does count. Some seats have been won by a mere 8 votes!!! However, I take your point about the first past the post system. There is a great debate on this and I am not sure yet which way is preferred! ( I won’t say “better” because each method has its flaws. We have proportional representation and while it is great that the minor parties get a look in, it does mean a lot of in-fighting and wheeling and dealing, and sometimes, the person/party that is most popular with the people is not successful. Conservative governments have led this country in the past even though they were not voted in by the majority of the people. In my state, we had a “gerrymander” for many years that saw country people have twice or three times the voting power of those in the cities, and this perpetuated a conservative government maintaining power for many years. Everyone’s vote should be equal. But then it means those with the most power and influence can launch the better campaign to woo voters and minor parties can no, therefore their voices are seldom heard ( except in the Senate). I hate that the big parties force their members of parliament to vote along party lines. One should vote with one’s conscience. Having said all of that, my cousin is an independent politician in New Zealand and I see the awful side of politics through her eyes. Pitiful in many ways.There was an excellent satirical TV program here years back, that amplified the way politician’s ditch their “principles” and “policies” and won’t take the hard decisions if they loose their seat… ‘selling out’ etc. A bit like an Australian “Yes Minister” but on a more egalitarian level. The spin doctors make me sick!!!! Well that is my rant for this morning. And you are so right about a personal evolutionary path. Sometimes politics is just like a bunch of winging kids who seem oblivious to the more important things in life. Thanks always for an engaging discussion, Poppy!!!

      • Viking Queen says:

        Your argument for being engaged is flawless, Amanda and in that respect you have been similar to many Australian friends who have visited England via the supply teaching circuit over the years. I believe you have a level of sophistication and responsibility that truly engages your citizens and makes them proud to be thus.
        I wish I could say the same for my country, which has been stolen by generations of manipulative freeloaders, who have played on our generosity and kindness. This subject is very sore to me, so I don’t really want to dwell, for this is not the place. I have an opinion that many would call right wing, and yet I am purely anarcho-syndicalist in my politics. I live in country which has been destroyed by a growing American economic mentality where the the working class has been emasculated and beaten into a pathetic prideless entity, forced to ‘play the system’.
        The political system feeds the status quo and is impossible to change; in short it makes no difference whether one votes or not unless you live in a ‘marginal’ seat. Some parts of England have remained the same political ‘colour’ since parliament began. It makes me sick. Rant over!
        I have given up on Mammon. This is just my take. I want nothing of this cruel modern world. My spiritual path is a very tough, crucial part of me and without it I would be finished. As I said Amanda, this is just my opinion and people might say that I have the luxury to indulge it? Well, I don’t personally care what replaces it… I would still feel the same and proceed inward with my meditation. Even if I was in prison… If enough people don’t like their system, they will change it in what ever way possible. I was active in protest politics throughout the Teacher’s and Miners strikes for most of my working life and we were sold out by both the Unions and the Employers.. No more.

      • Oh I am sorry to hear that, Poppy. I can imagine a little of the disillusionment you speak of. While I am all for social justice and egalitarianism, (and am incredulous that seseats have not changed colour ever in the UK!!) but at times I would like to grab the unions by the scruff of the neck as they continue to shoot themselves in the foot. I respect your journey Poppy and although I am happy to now change the subject of our discussion, I have thoroughly enjoyed our chat and I have learnt something. There is much to despise in the modern world and the Americanisation of cultures but at least the modern world’s facilities: I.e. the net, has meant that we could connect and chat.

      • Viking Queen says:

        Very balanced and sensible, Amanda. Thanks for your non judgmental and thoughtful input. You see, if most folk were discussing like us now, there would be a point to it. I love and always participate in the little community/ self sufficient group living by fair exchange and altruism (pure anarchy) but big is ugly… and big is what we have. I agree fully about your point on modern facilities if used properly; however I now sit next to a man who has spent 85% of my visit on Facebook. What to do, huh?

  9. Mmmm, yes, technology is a problem. I am still working out why this is happening in some groups/families. Some need is being fulfilled by social media. That finger shuffle we spoke of weeks ago. The paradox of being socially connected, the feeling of communicating with others, the companionship of friends, without real demands of the physical presence, and yet being insulated and isolated, with just your attention directed towards a machine – the phone/net! I wonder if people felt threatened at all by books in years gone by? Facebook hey? Meh! His life will pass him by! And his descendants will only have a partial “timeline feed” to measure his life by……. what will they think of that?

    • Viking Queen says:

      Very droll, but true. I think of it as a form of compulsive communication. Subjectively, it leaves me feeling quite alone in the modern world as nearly everyone I meet is the same. Ironically this whole concept pushes me further and further towards the spiritual path and away from Mammon.

      Maybe in future Amanda, you’ll have to contact me through a ‘Ouija board’!!!

      • Haha! That would be strange. Does it bother you? ( this feeling of being alone)? I suspect that it is not too much of a problem ATM or am I wrong?

      • Viking Queen says:

        Mostly, no; however if I let myself indulge in a little negative mind wandering/wondering, it is possible to start painting dramas… Oh poor little me, all alone etc.
        I am just very selective with who I spend time. Or should I say ‘quality’ time. My path determines that I never turn my back on one who needs help, but generally je suis seul.

      • To be content with one’s own company is a gift, as much as being social and gregarious can be likewise for others. One difference is how you get your energy and stimulation and recharge. Similarly, I find it difficult to ignore a request/cry for help but do understand keeping a handle on the endless mind chatter when one is alone. Sometimes solitude gives one too much time to think. On the other hand: (You mentioned teachers. My son is a person that needs a certain amount of solitude or else he feels exhausted and or claustrophobic. He struggles at times with teaching a class full of students. I guess we all need to strike a balance. The wonderful thing about blogs and the net is that you can choose to be involved ( metaphorically ‘with’ ) people, or not.

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