“I met a man from Brussels…”

By: bienesrobados

Jul 10 2010

Category: Uncategorized

1 Comment

We arrived in London reasonably well rested and wandered about for a while before finding an Italian delicatessen and gassing up with cappuccinos and sandwiches. We grabbed a beer at a pub, the air thick with the reek of drunk englishmen stumbling about and cheering on the world cup game playing on massive twin flatscreen TVs. After another snack and a metro ride to the Eurostar trainstation we got on our way, 50 quid poorer from just a few hours in London but relieved to be taking the two hour high speed rail to Brussels rather than the 8 and half hour bus ride. Sleek, silent, and air conditioned, the train rocketed through the tunnel. I nodded off in the darkness, headphones filling my ears with the melancholy blues of Townes Van Zandt. After an hour of intermittent sleep I opened my eyes to a broad expanse of green fields, farmhouses, and the occasional block of a row house or apartment complex. We disembarked in Brussels and took the metro into town. It was July 3rd and for some reason having nothing to do with American independence day, fireworks were bursting over the skyscrapers, filling the sky with rumbling thunder. We checked into our hotel, left our packs, and wandered out in search of food. All the restaurants were closed but there were pubs aplenty and we chose one at random, had a beer, and then continued on. Completely by accident we came across a bar we’d read about, James Joyce, and stopped in for another drink. A man approached Paige as she ordered at the bar and introduced himself as the owner. He was short, 50 something, with silver-grey hair swept back and the broad gut, chubby face, and bulbous nose of a seasoned beer drinker. We chatted for a while about beer (Belgian = best), travel (he’d been to San Francisco once), and Obama (a socialist). A banker, he frequently crisscrossed Europe and spoke rhapsodically about speeding on the Autobahn in his Porsche. We chatted amicably as he bought us round after round of strong Belgian beers. Many of the Belgian brews are too sweet for my taste with a strong allspice flavor but the trappist ales (Chimay and others) are pleasantly crisp, with a drier, faint bitterness and rich body. As the hours passed we began to nurse our pints cautiously, feeling a heavy buzz develop as the beer took effect. Captain Big’s speech slurred and slowed and finally came to a halt. After a pause, Paige asked, “So, you said you own this bar?” Big leaned close to me and spoke in slurred stage whisper, like a drunk Mexican in a John Wayne western, “Well, I ought to be at least, all the money I spend here.” Later he introduced us to the actual owner, a cheery and drunk man who asked us how we’d found his bar. Paige pulled out her small notebook, where she’d written James Joyce under a list of places to see in Brussels. Big and the owner ogled the book, holding it inches from their eyes to read the tiny letters and then roaring with laughter. “This” Big assured us “is the best bar in Brussels. You’re very lucky to have found it.” He paused and then continued, “AAAND, to have found me! I will be your tour guide in Brussels the next two days. My wife is out of town. I will take you to see the Tour de France.” We thanked him but declined the tour. He assumed an air of injured dignity, turned his head away and polished off a pint of Chimay before speaking to us again, his face flushed and ruddy, all insults forgotten.  The next morning we woke, heads pounding with a vicious hangover, and went out in search of coffee.

One comment on ““I met a man from Brussels…””

  1. Thanks for the window into your adventures


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