This weekend I went to Brussels to stay with my friend Isabelle and her family.
We saw the old part of town and I took photos of it with my pinhole camera. Très belle!
Isabelle went riding and I wandered around chatting to these horses.
We visited the EU district. Here is two bright umbrellas near to the Council building.
This is the Cinquantenaire arch, a monument to Belgian national unity. With a van selling waffles in front of it!
More waffles. I'm not a big fan.
Here is the national symbol of Belgium which is........ wait for it........ a small boy peeing. There is a TINY statue of this, called the Mannekin Pis, and the souvenir shops around are filled with trinkets based on this bizarre image. The funniest one I saw was a life size bronze statue of the Mannekin Pis, for a mere 50 euros. Quite who this is meant to appeal to is beyond me - Belgian nationalists? Extreme souvenir collectors?
A good time was had by all. I think.
I would like to thank Isabelle's family for their hospitality, not least two lovely dinners. On the first night I had my first galette. It's a puff-pastry pie filled with almond paste that is traditional to eat during January for Epiphany. I had a vague idea of what it was before coming to France, but had never eaten one before. Baked inside the pie is a fève - the word literally means "broad bean" but it is more often now a small trinket or figurine. Our galette was Narnia-themed, which I found quite adorable. There was a tiny Reepicheep baked inside! I kept it, but unfortunately I think it fell out of my pocked and I can't find it anymore. Anyway, the person who finds the fève in their slice of galette gets to wear a paper crown and be the King or Queen for the rest of the evening. I'm pretty sure the tradition has its roots in Saturnalia, the Roman festival during which servants and masters swapped roles for a limited amount of time, and one of the servants became the Lord of Misrule (this is also the plot of Twelfth Night, which also refers to the 6th January - the 12th night after Christmas and official end of the festivities).
When I returned to Paris, there was discarded Christmas trees all over the streets. I have started two new babysitting jobs, and the incongruous pines on the streets of Vincennes particularly delighted the 3 year old Victor that I escorted to nursery on Monday.
And as for the city? It's not Spring, it's not even nearly Spring, but at least the snows are over. It's exciting to think that deep in the branches of trees, and deep in the soil of flowerbeds all over the city lie the potential for blossom. In a few weeks time Paris will burst into flower - my camera can't wait.
A tout ailleurs