Anouar Brahem

It was Tuesday, so it was time to return the car to Belgium, a seven-hour drive to Brussels. We were only very slightly rear-ended 800 meters from the Sixt office, and the guy didn’t notice when we returned it. Whew!

We had a wonderful dinner the first night at L’Idiot du Village, a place mentioned on (which is somewhat of a foodie forum; it’s a lot more reliable than Yelp or TripAdvisor, but doesn’t have nearly as much data). It was a slow night, and we had a lot of attention from our host Leo. Foie gras, fish soup, osso bucco, sole muniere, two half-bottles of wine, and some dessert. All delicious.

Our airbnb was very centrally located, a three-minute walk from the central train station. We didn’t get any metro passes or anything, we only did sightseeing by walking. We saw Mannekin Pis walking from the Sixt office, and then the next day saw Jeanneke Pis (a girl pissing) and a statue of a dog pissing (this one wasn’t a fountain). We saw the incredible Grand Place, a square surrounded on all sides by buildings with gold plating, and by the imposing Town Hall with detailed statuary on the sides and an immense tower. We had a very nice waffle (made with leeks, served with salmon on top), and some good cookies and hot chocolate. At Halles Saint-Géry, there was an exhibit of photos and artifacts concerning Belgium’s occupation of the Congo, and the failure of the contemporary media to report what was going on. You can look it up: along with the Atomium, the World’s Fair in 1958 featured a human zoo, where you could see caged Congolese natives simulating the lives that had been stolen from them. We spent a couple hours at the Magritte Museum, which was fascinating, though the exit sequence at closing time was convoluted. They don’t even let you spend an extra half-hour at the shop.

But the reason we’d ended up in Brussels was to see another concert featuring oud, piano, bass, and drums. Doug and Hind also went to this concert, but they went two days earlier in Lisbon. It was sold out there by the time we got around to getting tickets, so we chose Brussels. Leo had suggested places to eat before the show, including the BOZAR restaurant at the venue itself. It has one Michelin star, but has a €44 pre-theater “2-course” menu. For us it was white asparagus with a sabayon based on vin jaune, a wine from Jura which tastes like sherry; and perfectly cooked flank steak with vegetables. It was all delightful.

The concert featured Anouar Brahem on oud, with Dave Holland, Jack de Johnette, and Django Bates on piano. It was fine, but nothing like what we had seen in Paris. The first clue it would be different was that Anouar Brouhem was seated. Most of the show was very soothing. (Like the earlier show, I did all of my post-wine sleeping during the first half hour.) Dhafer Youssef had been walking around the whole time, and his young bandmates contributed to a high-energy show. This concert was pretty much “elder statesmen”, and while it was all exceptionally beautiful, it didn’t lend itself to much foot-tapping.

At the train station the next morning, we tried to buy tickets in the machine, but our efforts were foiled. Fortunately a window was open, and we could buy them from a person. It was a quick, direct ride. We checked in. Once again, Aer Lingus was not able to find our Expedia-bought tickets without a great deal of fuss, but ultimately our bag got tagged through to Orlando.