The place to be in Brussels on a Friday evening, especially if you are an ex-pat, is Place Luxembourg. This is where the Eurocrats, the ex-pats and a few Belgians get drunk and eye each other up in front of the European Parliament. One side of the square is lined with bars; Ralph’s, The Grapevine, The Pullman, Coco, The London, Le Quartier Leopold and O’Farrell’s and their terraces are always packed after work when the sun is out. In the winter people crowd inside and the windows steam up with Eurocrat talk and beer fumes.
The place to be seen on Plc Lux is Ralph’s! Even if all the bars are popular, Ralph’s plays in a different division – this summer they have added an outside bar and people rather stand close to Ralph’s with a plastic beer glass in their hand, than to sit down on one of the other terraces. It is quite ridiculous to see how people are so desperate to be in the “cool bar” (or close by at least). I always wonder how the other bars’ staff feels about working in the shadow of Ralph’s, not that they are not also popular – most of the terraces are always full but not to the extent of the so-called coolest place…
Yesterday it was Plc Lux-time as the sun was out and some of my friends and I are back from holidays. My Swedish neighbours M & A, and I arrived at around 19.00 and the square was full of people – most of them had probably already been there for a few hours… We met up with I, my Flemish friend who is moving to Stockholm next year, and a French girl P at Coco’s. The white wine and beer were flowing and our group just became bigger and bigger; a Slovak guy, a Portugese girl, a few English girls etc joined us and an English guy ordered champagne for everybody! It was a great atmosphere, everbody was talking to everybody even if we didn’t know each other. As an ex-pat there are always things to discuss – where are you from, what do you do, how long have you been in Belgium, do you speak French, impressions of Brussels etc. I spoke to a really nice English girl (both her boyfriend and I’s boyfriend are working for a Swedish company which is relocating back to Sweden) and we discussed how difficult it would be to learn Swedish for a foreigner (English/Flemish) compared to learning French. Needless to say that I explained that Swedish so much easier to learn!!
My Swedish friends and I started to wonder where our friend R, who had taken the initiative to meet, had ended up… We found out that he was at Ralph’s so I volunteered to go and find him – I removed my sun glasses and put on my glasses to see properly (silly isn’t it!) and started my trek through the masses on the different terraces. It was obvious that I was looking for someone but the looks I got from guys… c’mon, I’m not looking for you! I finally found R and just said “Stureplan” and he caught my disapproval of the bar where he was… I managed to pull him and his two friends (Dutch and Flemish) from their plastic glasses back to our group – at least I thought that we had a much nicer atmosphere (and real glasses!).
Around 9 o’clock us Swedes started to feel hungry (well, we had actually been hungry for a while then…) and we had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant around the corner with R’s friends. It was a really nice evening and I think that A, M and I were quite happy when we walked back home at eleven.