The weather in Brussels has been great ever since we arrived last Sunday, a perfect spring weather with lots of sunshine and t-shirt friendly when in the sun! Yesterday we sat on a friend’s terrace and had a simple brunch while catching up, when we left I told him that this was exactly what we had missed from Belgium! The simple get-togethers; meeting up on a Sunday afternoon or having dinner in a restaurant which doesn’t end up costing too much (or being an uncharming chain-restaurant)…
O and I have also had quite a few opportunities to do “fika”, before or after having visited a house, and I had almost forgotten the integral parts of café / restaurant / bar life in Belgium:
- The small piece of chocolate or cookie (Speculoos, a ginger-flavoured cookie eaten in Belgium and the Netherlands (there called Speculaas) served with your coffee
- “Madame Pi-pi” – the woman who cleans the toilets in many cafés and restaurants (and even cinemas!), and who you need to pay (0.30-0.35 EUR). A French friend of mine has told me that the first time she visited Brussels and encountered a Madame Pi-pi, there was a woman who refused to pay and actually peed on the floor to make her point!?
- The Belgian “cappuccino” which is made with chantilly (whipped cream, usually the ready-whipped sort that I hate) instead of milk. In some places you can choose, but if you go to a very traditional Belgian café you risk getting this version without any warning!
- The Russian milk (lait russe) which is the Wallon (Belgian French) way of saying caffe latte. In Dutch and Flemish it is called koffie verkeerd* (incorrect coffee!?). O had forgotten the lait russe and ordered a café au lait and got a cup of coffee and cold milk in a jug…
- Another mistake: when having a late lunch at Le Pain Quotidien (last time we went to a Le Pain Quotidien was with Ing in Los Angeles!) O chose between boeuf and rosbeef for his tartine (open sandwich) but finally settled for “beef” while I ordered the roastbeef sandwich. Opps, the beef was actually raw minced meat, which usually is called “filet americain”…
- Speaking of Le Pain Quotidien, the first time I went to Antwerpen with some friends we tried to find the LPQ that we had seen mentioned in the guide book. We asked a few persons on the street but nobody had heard of it… Afterwards I realised that we should have used the Flemish name: Het Dagelijks Brood (The daily bread, same meaning as in French)!!
- BYOS/F** or Bring Your Own Sandwich / Fries to a bar and order something to drink! Of course you have to make sure that the bar / café doesn’t serve food, because then it wouldn’t be very popular to bring your own.
- A plate of cheese cubes, salami slices, mustard and herb salt (I think, I can’t remember right now what it is, some kind of salt) + tooth picks = a apéro (short for apéritif) snack that you can order with your beer in most bars
- My favourite beer – Hoegaarden blanche (white beer, i.e wheat beer) with a slice of lemon, is the most refreshing on a terrace in the sunshine!
Cappuccino, the normal version and not the Belgian one which is made with Chantilly (disgusting!!!)
Le Pain Quotidien-chain is Belgian!
And finally a true spring photo, taken in the garden of one of the houses we saw on Saturday. Too bad that the house was out of our price range because having these flowers in the backyard would make me so happy every spring:
Blåsippan ute i backarna står
niger och säger: ”Nu är det vår!”
Barnen de plocka små sipporna glatt,
rusa sen hem under rop och skratt…
I hadn’t seen the flowers nor heard the song (about the blue version of the flower) in many years.
*) And in Switzerland they call it “renversé” (upside down). In Puerto Rico the cafe con leche is such the norm that if you order a cafe you automatically get it with hot milk…
**) It is not really called BYOS/F, I made that one up!