This is Le Pain Quotidien at St Pancras Station where we stopped for breakfast before committing ourselves to the care of Eurostar.
This photo by Tigger shows the view from where we are sitting in the Eurostar departure lounge waiting for our train to be announced.
To reach this point, we had to pass the ticket barriers then pack everything – baggage, hats, coats, cameras, etc – onto trays to pass through the X-ray machines and, finally, show our passports to both UK and French passport control. You are advised to allow 45 minutes for these processes but in fact they took a lot less.
As the title suggests, we are off to Brussels today, returning on Sunday evening. This will be something of a sentimental journey as the next time we make this journey, if we do, it will no longer be as members of the European Union that has done so much for this country economically, culturally and in terms of civil rights.
The mean-spirited, jingoistic attitude that always lurks like a dark ghost in the British psyche has, with the encouragement of mendacious self-seeking politicians, once more gained the upper hand in the UK. We will have a long and painful road to travel before happier times restore us to our rightful European heritage.
Brussels in one of my favourite cities and I am looking forward to exploring its treasures once again, albeit briefly.
At 12:08 our train pulled into Bruxelles Midi station. We went out by the back way into a road we knew from before.
This is not a very prepossessing photo of Brussels. It was a first quick grab and better ones will follow, I hope.
The above mentioned street behind the station is lined with restaurants. We chose the Europa as we had been there before.
We could have sat outside but the temperature here is higher than in London (24 deg C vs 19) and the sun is warm, so we went inside.
We usually drink Lipton Ice Tea in Belgium but it wasn’t on the menu in this restaurant so we tried this alternative called Fuzetea. (Photo by Tigger.) It’s similar but I prefer Lipton.
From the restaurant we walked to the apartment where we will be staying until Sunday.
Here we are “at home”, resting before going out again to start enjoying being in Belgium.
When I step off the train, by reflex I snap into “French mode” but then I have to adjust. Here in Brussels it is not like being in France, despite the language. It is more relaxed and friendly somehow. Later, when we visit another town, outside the Brussels region, it will be interesting to see whether it feels the same or becomes more “French”.
Brussels lies entirely within the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, Flanders. Originally, it was itself Flemish-speaking like the rest of the region. Since the 19th century, however, it has gradually evolved into a French-speaking city. As it is the capital of Belgium, it is technically bi-lingual but the majority now speak French. Brussels and the surrounding area, called the Brussels Capital Region, forms part of the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, also known as the Francophone Community. (Wallonia is the southern, French-speaking region of Belgium.)
Administratively, there are three regions, the Flemish Region in the north, the Walloon Region in the south and the Brussels Capital Region. Linguistically, there are three communities, the Flemish-speaking, French-speaking and the German-speaking communities, respectively. English is spoken widely and competently and is increasingly used in business and advertising, perhaps to avoid drafting all signs and slogans into three languages.