Ramblin’ Man 2

Fetes de Ilot Sacre.

Fetes de Ilot Sacre. “And there go the Belgians…”

Things to know when you travel in Brussels.

Firstly, the suburban and Metro trains all smell of stale sweat. Clean, but smelly. Secondly, don’t trust the tourist maps or the tourist signs. Having decided to walk from the Grand Place to Parc de Bruxelles, I couldn’t find the Metro station, so decided to walk back to Schuman. Not the longest walk I’ve ever done, but it is a very warm and humid day today. And it’s Car-Free Day, so for every car I saw there were several hundred cyclists, not one of whom offered me a lift anywhere. Not to mention the roller-bladers, skateboarders, etc. Cyclists. Thousands of ’em!

It’s also Fetes de l’Ilot Sacre this weekend. I’m not quite sure what this means, but it seems to involve banging the drum a lot. There were small drums, and people with large heads dancing (you can see where they got the ideas from for Jeux Sans Frontieres). There were larger drums with bagpipes wandering around the streets. And there were big drums and a brass section accompanying some men with rotund outfits and pom-pom hats who were throwing oranges at the crowd.

Of course, me being a tourist, I didn’t know that the Car-Free Day meant that travel on the Metro was free. I only discovered this after I paid my €3 (£2) for a return ticket (and then, as I said, I walked back) – all the ticket stamping machines were covered up. But it’s a great idea to ban traffic from the centre between 9am and 7pm, but make public transport free. It would never happen in Leeds.

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