Brussels Travel Guide – A Blast from the Past*
One of the great things about Brussels is that you can get there by Eurostar train from London. This means you can get somewhere quite far away without so much as a sniff of aviation fuel. I used to be a bit of a nervous flyer, so I’ve always had a soft spot for this direct train service to Europe. God bless Eurostar, and all those that may one day crash in her at high speed…but thankfully low altitude.
Brussels is where the EEC lives. For those of you not familiar with the concept of Europe, the EEC is like an uber-government lording it over the continent’s separate governments. The EEC makes a lot of the more frivolous laws that impact upon every aspect of Europe’s daily life. For instance it defines how wide a sardine’s lips should be, how much a kilogram of beer should weigh and the maximum height a Frenchman can grow to before being classed as Danish.
Later Note: We in the UK used to be part of the EEC, and we had to obey their laws. For instance I remember being told off by a policeman for whistling in German. He was as embarrassed as I was, but rules is rules.
However, we decided that enough was enough, and we voted to leave and go it alone. So far, it has been a bit of a disappointment. Nobody in Europe wants to deal with us anymore because of all the paperwork we require, we can’t get cheap labour to do the jobs we don’t want to do and my garden is full of is full of midges because the migrating swifts and swallows are stuck in customs queues at Heathrow.
I met some of the EEC’s law-makers on Waterloo Station once, whilst waiting for the train to Brussels. By the way, this wasn’t the famous Waterloo Station where the Eurostar went from. This was ‘Waterloo East’, the less famous half-cousin of the main station. I was at this ‘lesser’ Waterloo because there had been a bomb scare in London and half of the city had been closed, including the real Waterloo station.
This inevitably happens when there is a terrorist threat in the UK. The first reaction is to close every means of escape. This includes roads, stations, airports and Cleethorpes pier.
Now you would think that any self-respecting terrorist, who has been meticulously planning his little operation, would have worked everything out to the last detail. All that sourcing of explosives, the careful assembly of the device, the sneaky planting and the running like buggery when it goes BANG might just have been thought about in advance, don’t you think?
Somehow I don’t believe the bomber is then going to turn up at the Air Libya or Saudia check-in desk with soot all over his face.
So all the trains from Waterloo had been cancelled, and the only alternative was to get a local train from Waterloo East to Ashford, and then pick up the Eurostar from there. No doubt MI5 thought that Waterloo East was okay to keep open as nobody knew about its existence, including me at the time. Hence I found myself waiting for a cattle-truck on a crowded platform with hundreds of Brussels-bound Eurocrats chattering away like excited squirrels. And that’s when I worked out what the EEC was really all about.
If you’ve ever visited London and been disappointed at not seeing the bowler-hatted, ex-public school, city gents that the guidebooks to London promised you, then you might be interested to know that they were all in Belgium instead. They got the gravy-train to Brussels on a Monday morning and worked for the EEC all week, returning home at the weekend to play golf, polish their monocles or wash their Masonic aprons down after a busy week of ritual sacrifices.
That’s the real reason the EEC was invented. It enabled all the European countries to get rid of its upper-class plonkers and put them all in one place so they wouldn’t annoy the rest of us from Monday to Friday. They were kept busy making nonsensical rules, so they thought they were being useful. The rest of us grudgingly accepted whatever they came up with, but it was a small price to pay.
It was the quietest social revolution ever, and not a shot fired in anger.
Unfortunately, since we left the EEC, we’ve got all ours back now, so they’ll be dabbling around in finance, politics or Whitehall. If you thought Brexit had been a complete disaster so far, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
The first time I went to Brussels I was a child of thirteen years. It was my first trip abroad. This was around the time that the UK actually joined the EEC, so I may well have been one of the first Brits to be warmly hugged and kissed by the Belgians. That’s how the man in the public toilets explained it anyway.
I was on a school trip, and having got all the way to Brussels on a coach it came as a bit of a disappointment to find out that the teacher had left all the Belgian Francs in her desk, so we couldn’t actually go see anything whilst we were there. I think the teacher regretted it more than anyone else, trying to keep sixty bored teenagers from running amok in a foreign country is the sort of punishment that gets reserved for Hell.
On my later visit to Brussels I was determined to see something, so among other places, I went to the Musee de Beaux Arts which is the city’s main art gallery. They have a large number of works by the famous surrealist painter Rene Magritte. He is also famous for being the only famous Belgian. It tends to be Belgian things, rather than people, that are famous…like chocolates and sprouts.
As the population don’t excel at anything other than making chocolates and growing sprouts, I think this was one of the main reasons for putting the EEC capital in Brussels, just to give them something else to do.
To see my other attempts at upsetting the Belgians please click here.
*Blast from the Past – This is somewhere I’ve not visited recently, however I must have written about it at some point as I’ve just found it in my archive. So, now its getting an airing on this website. My apologies if any of the facilities or attractions I’ve mentioned no longer exist. Indeed, due to rising sea levels, bush fires or military invasion by one of our crazier world leaders, the place itself may no longer exist. In which case I wouldn’t bother going there.