I’d say the day started early, but having been up at 5:30 the morning before, sleeping till 7:30 when Zascha stumbled in wearing a Stairway To Heaven tee (ZEPS RULE!) felt like a major relief.. Not that I was really awake when I took to stumbling around, clearing up from the night before and doing some dishes.. But hey, I like to pretend. Even Tina stirred, too, at some point and emerged looking slightly under the weather.. But then, she’s not really much of a morning person and was coming down with some sort of virus apparently, so I can’t say I blame her.
We all sorta just stumbled around for a while before Zascha had to leave for work. Apparently she has only one set of keys so it was my chore to let her out the front door so that Tina and I might use her keys and leave the house at our leisure.. Good point! So I did, and it went pretty well.. Let her out, got instructions as to which key worked in which door, said goodbye, instantly forgot what Zascha had told me and spent a good five minutes getting back inside.. Which I finally did, and then ran into an old lady who was apparently Zascha’s land lady and looked quite shocked to see a young, long haired, groggy man stumbling around on her stairway.. She moved to say something, too, but not understanding more than like ten words of French, I just beamingly told her good morning and hurried back upstairs.. Zascha, if your land lady hates you now, I’m sorry.
While Tina showered and did whatever it is women do to make them even more pretty, I listened to some music and ate a bit of breakfast. I then showered myself and got ready, pausing along the way to be scolded by Tina for taking too damn long.. Seeing as she’d only taken about twice the time I had, and hadn’t stopped to tell me that our parking meter was about to expire 😉 Anyways, I clearly didn’t make it on time so the little one had to rush down herself and move the car which, in a town like Brussels, takes about a half to a whole hour, depending on various factors, as you not only have to first find a suitable place to park – but also find your way back to the place you were in in the first place.. Poor Tina.
When Tina came back and I’d finished taking oh so long getting ready for the day, we sat around for a bit, deciding what to do, Tina had planned on doing some work and me on spreading some good vibes and moods as she did, but that plan was pretty quickly abandoned seeing as, well, I guess we hadn’t driven all that way just to spend our time working – Well, I know I hadn’t. Instead we decided on spending some time seeing the sights and sounds. Tina had already been to Brussels once, so she kinda left it to me.. And me, well, I’m a bad tourist. I’m not really too interested in museums and odd must see buildings and squares.. I’m more of a walking around and taking in the sights and sounds kinda guy.. So we spent a good deal of time contemplating before we decided that hey, seeing as Belgium in our world is mostly known for its beer.. Maybe we should go beer hunting!
Which turned out to be a grand idea, thank you very much, as it turned out that Brussels has one of the world’s premiere beer stores that was definitely worth checking out since we were there anyways.. So we grabbed a tourist map, some money, our shoes and headed out in search of the illusive and appropriately named “Beer Mania” store.. And maybe a bite to eat and a beer to drink along the way.
Scouring the streets of Brussels turned out to be a lot of fun. As it turns out, Tina works in much the same way as I usually do (no big surprise there by now), so when she’s looking for something and knows she’s on the right track, she’ll just push on and keep going, thinking she can always adjust her path later and wind up in the right place.. Which is a tactic that works great when, like us, you’re stuck with a map that for some reason only has half of the city’s streets on it. I usually work in the same way, but for some reason my radar and sense of direction had been blown completely by the trip down there, so I let Tina do most of the pointing about which turned out to be a lot of fun as we got to see a lot of things we would not have seen, had we just taken a direct path.
Instead, our indirect path led us down a lot of small streets, past a lot of interesting little shops, through some roundabouts and past various museums and about a hundred little car wash places – Brussels is apparently big on those! We even stopped to help a little, lost, old lady looking for a particular museum whom I, interestingly enough, actually managed to help out as I pointed her in a direction where I’d seen a building that kinda looked like a museum.. It turned out not to be, but the museum, instead, turned out to be on the way to said building.. Hah! Score – Johan and sheer dumb luck: 1, Brussels and logic: 0!
After some random stumbling around, we finally reached our goal.. Beer Mania! Which, coincidentally, was about as crazy as the name suggests: 400+ Belgian beers in their selection, 100+ custom beer glasses plus a cafe and tasting room.. I remember walking through the door, loudly exclaiming “This is definitely where I parked my car!!” and then everything just sorta went black for a while from sensory overload. I remember just walking along the shelves, brightly beaming to myself, checking out the selection and going “I want this, and this, and this, and..” after a while, Tina caught up with me and asked “found anything you want to get?” to which I just replied something along the lines of “Eh.. Meh..” – the stone cold truth is I probably could’ve bought most of the store and felt quite happy about it. The sad reality is that I had very little money and was limited by what I was able to carry.. So I limited myself to a sampler pack of Flemish bottle fermented beers and a large bottle of the house’s own brew “Mea Culpa” there were other bottles I wanted to get, even some I regretted not getting – such as a 12 year old vintage Chimay Grande Reserve(!!).. But such is life. In all it was a mind-numbingly good experience for someone like me and Tina, too, found a few interesting brews to take home.
Leaving Beer Mania, we were starting to feel mighty hungry.. Oh, who are we kidding, we’d felt mighty hungry since like an hour before we actually wandered into Beer Mania. So we decided to head back to Zascha’s to drop off our fine new beers and then head to a small pub we’d discovered in the general area which bragged about burger platters and fine beers.. Hey, what can I say? They spoke our language! And English! Which is another cool thing about Brussels.. See, they speak French down there, but English, too.. So you get this general feeling about being in France.. Except people speak English and aren’t well.. Fucking French! Anyways, back to the pub.. Which was apparently an Irish pub.. Meaning that they served American burgers, steak sammiches, chili.. And Belgian beer.. Yes, decidedly Irish.. Not that I was complaining anyways.. The food was cheap and good, if a bit on the fatty side, and they served Belgian Trappiste beer at 3 euro a bottle.. Which was remarkably cheaper than their selection of say.. Heineken and Bud. In other words, it was pretty much heaven to a carnivorous beer-lover such as myself!
Having had our fill of Irish culture in the form of burgers and beer, we made a detour by Zascha’s apartment to pick up our passports that we apparently needed for identification purposes when we met up with Zascha at her work.. Which just so happened to be the European Parliament. We then, getting a hang of the city at this point, trotted off in the general direction of the Parliament which we found just minutes before a huge rain shower found us.. It was an epic sight for sore eyes, really. I’m sure a fair share of people have been seen rushing towards Parliament for many obvious reasons: excitement, running late for meetings, what have you.. Now, the sight of Tina and I, sprinting across squares and open spaces towards the huge buildings.. In a simple effort just to find shelter from the rain.. That’s new! Especially seeing as the buildings are quite impressive and landmark-like.. And here I am getting my first view of them, huddled against the side of the secondary building, shivering and sheltering myself from the rain.. We drew some looks to say the least! From Zascha, too, when she came down to pick us up.. At a totally different entrance than the one we were waiting for her at.. But that’s another story.
Our entrance into the Parliament itself was as graceful as our arrival. We managed to set off not one but two sets of metal detectors and get stopped not once, but thrice.. Twice because we didn’t really think to empty our pockets of things like, say, mobile phones and cameras before going through the metal detectors.. And once when I got run down by a security guard and had just enough time to think “Holy fuck, I’m going to die” before he stopped and gave me a 5 Euro bill I’d apparently left behind at one of the checks.. But after those little setbacks, we were quite fired up and ready for our tour of Parliament.
Which was interesting, by the way, because we were there, not a s a tour group, but as guests of Zascha and, as such, Dan Jørgensen, the Member of Parliament she works for.. So we got to skip most of the boring shit I couldn’t give two shits about (not being a fan of the EU) and got full access to the more interesting parts such as the MEP offices and what not, including one of a certain Poul who I spent an embarrassingly long time wondering about who the hell might have been.. Until I suddenly realized I’d been in the private office of Mr Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark and a huge player in the Social Democratic movement in the EU.. Duh! We also got to see where Zascha worked where I treated myself to a small peak at her boss’ office to see how a Member of Parliament worked, figuring that if I’d asked first, people might have said no.. Anyways, that’s what you get for leaving the door open. Last but not least, we checked out some smaller meeting rooms and the Parliament chamber itself.. Yea, we actually got onto the main floor of the chamber itself, which I hear is apparently not a very common place to be allowed in.. But then again, it was another case of “if you ask, they may say no.. And hey, the door is open!” – so we went for it.. Quickly.. And with no harm done, I might add.. And we weren’t chased down by security I might add, so I guess it was okay.. Well, we weren’t chased down by security until we tried to leave anyways, and apparently broke some rule by letting Zascha lead us out, rather than asking the nice security officer to do so. At any rate, he was super pissed and told us off. So we apologized and traveled on, cussing under our breaths.
Having thusly checked several different security instances at the EU Parliament, we headed on our merry (long) way to do some shopping for the last few items for dinner before returning to Zascha’s where I pretty immediately got cooking on what was to be a shared birthday dinner for Zascha and Tina, as I’d promised them both that I’d cook up a little something for their respective birthdays.. And I’d like to think I did my best. Well.. If people not being able to walk after dinner is any measure of success, I certainly did. I’d wondered a lot about what to cook, even going so far as to call my mother’s boyfriend, Klaus, and get his input and guidance on what to do and whether I was doing things correctly.. Which he seemed to think I was, but having the backing of a trained French chef is always a good thing.
I ended up doing French onion soup topped with Gruyere and Emmentaler cheese and fresh baguettes for starters, paired with a 2005 Bourgogne Chardonnay.
Then, following a short delay, a sauce-related mishap and a lot of smoke, I came up with beef tenderloin steaks with a small helping of concentrated Bordelaise sauce (which admittedly didn’t come out quite as good as I’d hoped, given all the work), creamed potatoes and Belgian spring carrots with fresh thyme braised in butter and left-over Chardonnay. This I paired with a 2004 Barbera d’Alba that I’d gotten from Klaus, a rather expensive and insanely good wine that he’d brought home from the source himself.. Oh and there was some bread, too, but I don’t think anybody bothered touching that.
We were supposed to have had cake for dessert, but only Zascha and I managed to put down a slice.. And not a very big one at that.. Apparently dinner had somewhat broken people as we pretty much had to drag ourselves to the couch and after that we pretty much just died.. Not even the after dinner Amarone that I’d popped (as you do) served to revive people and I think we actually managed to leave most of the bottle un-drunk.. Which seems like a carnal sin, but really.. We were really tired.. Tina wasn’t feeling well and was hurting from walking.. And Zascha was sporting a headache.. So what were we to do? My only comfort was that it wasn’t much of an Amarone to write home about and that I read on Facebook that Zascha apparently put it to good use in the days to come.
As an end result, we ended up heading to bed just shortly after midnight after a long and exhausting day for all of us. It was a good day, though, and a lovely dinner if I dare say so myself. I hope the girls liked it, too, since I’m apparently now banned from ever cooking for them again after nearly killing them with said birthday dinner.. I spent the last few minutes of the evening laying around, listening to drunken people rummaging through the street and then, much like the night before, blacking out completely.. Zascha apparently has a comfy couch.