We have a train to catch. Eight fifty five from Kings Cross St Pancras. A long queue awaits us at the station. After security and immigration we find our guide. She looks as if she needs more help than us. As I wait for the train I realise that I’ve forgotten to check out platform 9 3/4 again. Maybe I should remember to do so on my way back.
We board the Eurostar and take our seats. Things have changed since my last trip. Before we know it we reach our destination. Brussels, the city and reason for all our woes. We are not here to dwell on that. We join our fellow travellers, who are all here for the same purpose and await further instructions from our guide. The hotel is only five minutes walk from the station and after checking in we have the whole day to ourselves.
We’ve been here a few times and have done the tours. It is a charming city. We walk around the Grand Place, the main city square which has imposing and elegant 14th century buildings around it. We find a cosy little Greek restaurant. The food is mediocre, but the service friendly which made up for its shortcomings. As always we get asked the same question ‘Where are you from?’ I reply ‘London’. He loses interest. I must try a different reply next time.
Chocolate, beer, waffles and mussels. Things to indulge while in Belgium. Even the cheapest chocolates taste divine. I buy a small bag of expensive mixed chocolate to experience my mindful moments later. The jazz band playing in the square is enough for now.
We do more walking and reach the city cathedral. The Cathedral of St Michael’s and St Gudula, the patron saints of the city. A church built in the 11th century, but given the cathedral status in 1962. Inside we sit down for a moment. I’m encased in this moment of serenity and feel my eyelids getting heavy. It could well be down to the beer I had with my calamari meal. I look up to see the statues of the twelve apostles. Six on either side looking down from above their columns. Each made in the 17th century by well known sculptors from that period. I just adore stone and marble carvings when they are this beautifully and lovingly created. There are more such wonderful carvings dotted around the Cathedral. The stained mirrors all tell a different story. The paintings another. We walk around and light a candle.
In the evening we try the hotel recommended local restaurant. The food is delicious, but the portions too large. Just seeing it is enough to fill you up. Once again we get asked. ‘Namaste, where are you from?’ ‘India’ Murali replies. I can’t contain myself. ‘No, actually we are from London’. The guy loses interest….