A weekend in…
Growing up in a village in the far north of Flanders, I hardly ever visited Brussels as a child. Like most Flemish people, we did our shopping, dining and strolling in Flemish cities like Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges, so there was never any real reason for me to head to the capital. It was only when I was 21 years old and decided to study cinema that I had no choice but to rent a room in the scary, big metropole.
On my very first day at college, the headmistress said: “Brussels is not a city that will try its best to be loved. You have to learn to love it yourself.” I don’t think I fully understood what those words meant back then, but having lived in the city for two years – both in the stunning Rue de Flandre (see page 38) and in the run-down red-light district – I now feel there is no better way to describe the city.
Behind the corners of the charming, cobbled alleys and the impressive, neo-Gothic palaces awaits a pure and interesting city that can be a bit rough around the edges, but that never fails to amaze. It is a city of bizarre contradictions, of unconventional beauty and multicultural unity. Its long and rich history has shaped the city, for better and for worse. But now that I’m a Bruxellois myself, I probably love the spots that seem unsightly at first, most of all.
And that is why A weekend in Brussels is such an important book to me. It first rushes you past the obvious hotspots and then helps you to escape the herd of photo-craving tourists. In a little over 70 pages, I share with you two years’ worth of local finds. The book takes you to distant metro stops, far beyond the hop-on-hop-off bus territory, and brings you eye to eye with the locals. Because the real beauty of Brussels has little to do with golden façades, peeing boys or iron spheres.