"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Grand Place Snippets of Brussels.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

September 2007- June 2009.

Cover photo courtesy of Francisco Conde Sánchez. 

It is almost inexplicable that I have so few photos of Brussels. I lived there for nearly two years, you see. There are some defences I can put forward for this. First and foremost, it was an exceptionally busy period of my life. S and I were planning our wedding, which took up much of our free time.

Moreover, I had recently left my shit call centre job in Diegem to move back into English teaching as a freelancer. As such, many of my days were spent running from class to class at the various EU institutions I gave lessons at.

Justus Lipsius Building Snippets of Brussels

The Justus Lipsius Building, where I used to teach at the Council of The European Union.

Photo courtesy of JLogan.

This was definitely one of the most challenging periods of my teaching career. Many of my group classes were made up of lawyers, department heads and diplomats. They could be demanding at the best of times, so I often went home exhausted, physically and mentally.

European Union flag.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

One of my private students was a big cheese called Aldo Longo. An Italian from Naples, he was (and still is) Director General for Agriculture and Rural Development at the European Commission. Our grammar lessons together always took place in his office, where his secretary would usually pop in halfway through to serve coffee.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Berlaymont Building HQ of the European Commission in Brussels

The Berlaymont Building, HQ of the European Commission in Brussels.

Photo courtesy of EmDee. 

Softly spoken and thoughtful, I really liked Aldo, even if I was also petrified of the man. In fact, I felt certain that somehow he couldn’t possibly be satisfied with my teaching. Until, that is, the day he invited me to dinner at his home! He and his wife were gracious hosts, I’ll always remember their kindness.

Aldo Longo Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development at the European Commission

Aldo Longo.

I must have taught hundreds of classes during my stay in Brussels. And yet I only have one photo to show for it. That’s Laurence (from France), Vito (Italian) and Manuel (Portuguese) pictured below, three of my elementary students at The European Council.

They were lovely people who always took it easy on me. Because, I reckon, our classes together were so horribly early (08:00 sharp!) that they were barely awake! My photo captures the day they brought in some snacks so that we could munch together while tackling a tricky present simple text about commuting to work. A warm memory.

Teaching English at the European Council

Laurence (left), Vito (centre) & Manuel. Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

With work and wedding planning as hectic as it was, it isn’t surprising that I dialled back the amount of time I spent exploring Brussels.

While living in Leuven I’d had lots of free time to get to know a city that I truly loved, right from the first few weeks. Brussels though, I was generally less enamoured with. I think the city and I just didn’t click. Hence much of my free time played out in the apartment being a home bird. We lived in a cosy one-bedroom unit on the 4th floor of a massive block on Avenue des Eperviers in the city’s leafy Woluwe neighbourhood.

Avenue des Eperviers.

Avenues des Eperviers Brussels.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

I really liked that apartment, which played host to so many memorable evenings. Pretty much all my friends from The UK came to visit, as well as my mum, dad, brother and sister. Even Goldblum made it over from Nashville. Captured below is one of his legendary afternoon naps, which I had become so accustomed to back in our Bratislava days. 

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Goldblum in Brussels.

That apartment witnessed some epic house parties. Steve C (back) had flown over from England, while our good friends and former neighbours Vicky (left) and Steven (right) took the train over from Leuven. Chris (England shirt) I met during my short stint working as a customer service rep for the coffee giant Nespresso. 

Brussels Nostalgia.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

From time to time I held private English classes at home. Over the course of six months or so, I saved all the cash from those lessons, which I put towards my spending money for an amazing U.S. trip.

Snippets of Brussels.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

That epic holiday played out across the state of Tennessee with my friends Steve C and Steve P. A few months prior to flying, they came over to Brussels for a weekend of planning. It was a great couple of days, the three of us gorging on takeout and beers as we thrashed out the details of our stays in Washington D.C., Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Planning a U.S. trip to Washington D.C. Nashville Memphis and Chattanooga

A trip in the planning.

But of course I didn’t hide away from Brussels altogether. I was lucky enough, for example, to have the pretty Woluwe Park right on my doorstep. At 71 hectares, this is one of the city’s largest green spaces. Home to Japanese Cherry Trees, ponds, rock formations, swans, herons and even a few Egyptian geese!

Woluwe Park Snippets of Brussels.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

I used to go jogging around the park two to three times a week. I always got a kick out of how it had been landscaped as an English-style park. Hilly and with a big pond, being the defining English features, apparently. King Leopold II ordered the park’s creation in the mid 1890s before its grand opening during the Brussels International Exposition of 1897.

Woluwe Park Snippets of Brussels.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Even for those with a stubborn case of Brussels apathy, there’s no doubting the splendour of the Grand Place. Surely one of Europe’s most impressive city squares.

Nevertheless, there were many times when I actively avoided The Grand Place due to the awful crowds. Especially if there was a market or event of some kind on. In contrast, on a quiet day it could be an absolute delight. The most atmospheric place in the city to enjoy baroque architecture over a beer, coffee or hot chocolate.

The Grand Place in Brussels.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Photo courtesy of Celluici

Nearby, stands the kitschy but smile-inducing sight of Manneken Pis. Or the Pissing Boy, as some overseas tourists like to say. Made as a drinking fountain sometime in the late 1300s, Belgium’s most famous statue depicts a young naked boy peeing. Yes, the water comes right out of his dongle into a basin of water below. Classy.

Manneken Pis.

Manneken Pis, Snippets of Brussels.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Over the centuries, the statue has been damaged, beheaded and stolen on dozens of occasions. The oldest surviving statue dates back to the early 1600s and now sits safely in Brussels City Museum. Its current incarnation is a replica made in 1965. Throughout each year, local authorities dress Pissing Boy in various custom-made costumes. There are around 1000 in total!

Manneken Pis Once Upon a Time in Brussels

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Scraping through the bare bones of what photos I have from central Brussels, I did find a capture of the highly pretty but ultimately soulless Rue Des Bouchers. With a history stretching back to The Middle Ages, the street’s name translates roughly as Butcher’s Street. Indeed it began life as a rough-and-ready market lane packed with meat sellers and sausage makers. Until, that is, the Great Plague of 1667 wiped them all out.

Butcher's Street Brussels.

Rue Des Bouchers.

Photo courtesy of Rex.

Later, the street re-emerged as an area for restaurants, taverns and townhouses. Today’s narrow lane is picture perfect and well worth a stroll. You’ll just have to deal with annoying touts doing everything they can to badger you into their restaurants.

I once made the mistake of dining here. It was a big disappointment, with average food, overpriced dishes and indifferent service. More often than not, once a customer has placed their order the waiter’s charms die out faster than you can say “plague!” That’s me taking a wander through Butcher’s Street with my brother-in-law Thomas. 

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Rue des Bouchers. Butcher Street in Brussels.

Butcher’s Street.

One memorable Brussels sight that certainly didn’t disappoint was The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken. They lie attached to the delightful Laeken Castle and its Royal Gardens in northern Brussels, built by the Dutch Governors of Hapsburg between 1782 and 1784. 

Palace of Laeken Snippets of Brussels.

Laeken Castle: Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

The castle and its spectacular grounds have been home to royalty since Belgian independence and Leopold I’s ascension to the throne. Today’s green spaces are another bounty of his son, Leopold II’s legacy. In addition to enjoying English style gardens, he became fascinated with Oriental architecture. Hence the grounds contain a Chinese pavilion, a Japanese pagoda and a Museum of Japanese Art.

Japanese Pagoda Once Upon a Time in Brussels

Royal Gardens of Laeken.

Unfortunately, much of the gardens remain closed to the public. Royalty still live onsite you see, while many of the ancient buildings seem to be in a near-permanent state of renovation. Still, I managed to snatch a few shots from across the lake at The Greenhouses, which open to visitors for just three weeks a year. As a result, there’s usually a mad rush to grab a time slot online before tickets sell out.

Royal Greenhouses of Laeken Once Upon a Time in Brussels

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Leopold wanted the greenhouses to serve as a grand statement of royal beauty, wealth and power. And to showcase one of the finest collections of plants, flowers and trees in Europe. In order to realise his lofty ambitions, he brought in the renowned architect Alphonse Balat to oversee the first phase of construction between 1874 and 1893.

The Greenhouses of Laeken.

Inside the Greenhouses of Laeken.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Today’s metal and glass domed pavilions are celebrated as one of the most important and well-preserved sites of 19th century Belgium. Inside stands a stunning display of flora and vegetation, including roses, orchids, camellias, orange trees and Congolese palms. Watch out for some of the hanging plants, they might just swallow you up.

Greenhouses of Laeken Once Upon a Time in Brussels

Lost in the plants at The Greenhouses of Laeken.

Well away form the Brussels tourist trail, I enjoyed some very cool experiences at two historic football stadiums. The first came when my mate England Chris (seen in the house photo earlier) invited me to join him for an afternoon watching Royale Union Saint-Gilloise.

Also known as Union SG, or simply USG, Chris had been supporting them for a few years. He was attracted by the fact that historically they are one of Belgium’s most successful clubs, but one that had sadly fallen on hard times. 

Union SG Football Club Once Upon a Time in Brussels

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Founded in 1897, Union dominated Belgian football for years, winning no less than eleven Belgian championships between 1904 and 1935. But by the 40s and 50s their grip on silverware had considerably loosened.

Next, their fortunes began flailing altogether, culminating in relegation to the Belgian Second Division in 1963. By 1980, meanwhile, they had sunk as low as the fourth tier of Belgian football!

The Supporter Shop at Royale Union Saint-Gilloise 2009

The brick box that was the Union SG Club shop.

When I went to see them play in March 2009 they were treading water in the Third Division. Chris had promised me a proper “spit and sawdust” experience and that’s exactly what I got at Union’s modest 10.000 capacity home, the Joseph Marien Stadium.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Joseph Marien Stadium Snippets of Brussels

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

Photo courtesy of MM1912.

I found myself stood in a terraced section of the stadium among a small but hardcore group of Union SG fans. For the most part they were no-nonsense working class men who had zero reservations about calling a spade a spade.

Cheering, jeering, jibing and cackling among themselves in throaty French, there were several particularly colourful ringleaders who one might describe as characters.

Watching Royale Union Saint-Gilloise in 2009

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

As for the football itself, it wasn’t amazing. Just patches of genuine quality in evidence throughout a game that saw Union receive a royal walloping from Boussu Dour 5-1.

This did not go down well with the home faithful, who shook their heads, rolled their eyes and began labelling certain players… um… spades. There may even have been a “sacré bleu” or two thrown in along the way. Recently, while writing this article, I had a catchup call with Chris who reminded me that we actually went to two Union games together. And that in the other match Union won the game 5-1.

Union SG 1 Boussu Dour 5 March 8th 2009

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

But the real story here is what happened in the years that followed. In 2015, after such a long period of toil and trouble, Union SG got promoted back up to the Belgian Pro League, the country’s top division. They were also bought out by the English millionaire entrepreneur Tony Bloom.

In the 2021-2022 season they nearly won the championship (!), narrowly missing out with a second place finish. At the time of writing, in the midst of the 2022-2023 campaign, Union SG lie second again and are fighting for their first major league championship since 1935. No spades here, methinks.

Joseph Marien Stadium.

Royale Union Saint-Gilloise Once Upon a Time in Brussels

Union SG: On the verge of greatness once more.

I’ll sign this piece off with a brief look at my visit to Belgium’s national football arena, the King Baudouin Stadium. Opened in 1930, it takes its name after Leopold III’s son, Baudouin, king of Belgium from 1951 until his death in 1993.

Funnily enough, I didn’t visit the stadium to see a football match! Rather, this was the venue for Randstad’s annual company party. S worked for Randstad at the time, so along I went full of curiosity.

King Baudouin Stadium Brussels.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

What a strangely enjoyable afternoon it turned out to be. There was juggling, balloon making, bongo drum performances and, of course, much consumption of Belgian beer, herring and waffles. Security was incredibly lax, so much so that a bunch of us were able to waltz onto the pitch for a kickabout! 

Leighton Travels travel reports short stories.

Below is a treasured shot of my efforts to save a penalty on Belgium’s hallowed turf. The guy who took the penalty made an absolute mess of it, note how the actual ball is nowhere to be seen. But hey, I reckon I’d have saved it anyway. And if not, I had a little friend who’d have taken care of the left hand corner. 

Penalty dive at King Baudouin Stadium.

Once Upon a Time in Brussels.

For more on my time in Belgium have a look at my article on Leuven.

I’ve also written a short story series called Based In Belgium.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.


  • Stan

    another excellent article leighton. ok so brussels wasn’t your cup of tea but it seems this was a great period of your life and that you still did a bit of exploring when you could and wanted to. i hadn’t been aware of the manneken pis story so thanks for that. the greenhouses also look splendid and then union sg, isn’t tony bloom the owner of brighton too?

    April 5, 2023 - 1:17 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks so much Stan. While writing this I was thinking that I would like to take Sladja to Brussels one day and see the place through the eyes of a visitor. I know the city has much to offer, I think that particular year was just so hectic. Getting to know the city intimately, like I did with Leuven, just wasn’t meant to be with everything that was going on. But as you say, I still came away with good memories from my nearly two years in the Belgian capital.

      April 5, 2023 - 2:45 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Oops… I forgot to say that you are spot on re Tony Bloom! Brighton and Union… the guy clearly knows what he’s doing!

      April 5, 2023 - 11:44 pm Reply
  • pedmar10

    Lovely story indeed I guess I agree Brussels is catchy lots of memories there too Thanks for sharing, cheers

    April 5, 2023 - 2:44 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for dropping by!

      April 5, 2023 - 4:39 pm Reply
      • pedmar10

        You are welcome

        April 5, 2023 - 6:24 pm
  • WanderingCanadians

    It’s too bad that you don’t have more pictures from your time in Brussels. It’s kind of funny how we tend to take where we live for granted sometimes. But hey, of the pictures you did take, it sounds like there’s a great story there and some fond memories. That is some drinking fountain! The Royal Gardens of Laeken look lovely as do those greenhouses.

    April 5, 2023 - 2:54 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yeah, sometimes life gets in the way ha ha. I know people who have lived in London all their lives and not yet seen around half of its major sights and attractions. Brussels was just one of those cities that passed me by a little, at least by my standards of usually trying to get under the skin of a place. A return is definitely needed. Thanks for reading!

      April 5, 2023 - 4:41 pm Reply
  • qprgary

    Great piece Leighton makes me think of when I was living in Europe. Might even pop over for a Union match as got to be better than what we’re going through, can’t wait to be in the loft this Friday.

    April 5, 2023 - 3:06 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks, Gary. I’ve heard that Union tickets are tough to get hold of but you should definitely try. They’ve got quarter final matches in the Europa League coming up against Leverksuen and host them in Belgium on April 20th. As for QPR… I’ve just looked at our run-in for the last 7 games. Norwich… Burnley… West Brom… oh dear.

      April 5, 2023 - 4:46 pm Reply
  • Travels Through My Lens

    It looks to me like you have captured the heart of Brussels with the photos you have. I particularly love the gardens, my favorite place in most cities is a garden. I enjoyed reading about your experiences, memories, and the people you met along the way. Another enjoyable read; thanks Leighton!

    April 5, 2023 - 3:18 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Tricia, all that’s left is to go back one day and dig a little deeper as a tourist. I’m with you on the gardens. Thanks for reading about my Brussels years 🙂

      April 5, 2023 - 4:48 pm Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    I can’t imagine teaching lawyers and diplomats and other sophisticated people, that sounds very intimidating! The main square reminds me of Munich. Sounds like some great memories were had and I’m sure a return trip when you aren’t so busy would be incredible.

    April 5, 2023 - 3:22 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I was pretty nervy teaching those guys, especially in the first few months. But I found that if they liked you then you’re halfway there, they can forgive a lot in terms of having an off-day or shaky knowledge of certain grammar intricacies ha ha. Cheers for looking at my Brussels years, Lyssy.

      April 5, 2023 - 4:51 pm Reply
  • Sheree

    Happy Days!

    April 5, 2023 - 3:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      For the most part, absolutely.

      April 5, 2023 - 4:52 pm Reply
  • kagould17

    Another great post Leighton. Amazing how silly we were in the early days to not better document with photos. I think that is what can make a place more nostalgic. Poor little Manneken Pis with a hose up his butt and a pipe for a todger, a true exhibitionist who does not give a flying F about the passers-by. I regret that we only spent a day in the city center in 1984 and a bounce out of the airport in 2017. I need to come back. Thanks for showing us what we missed. Allan

    April 5, 2023 - 3:59 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It is weird to compare how many photographs I have from Leuven to Brussels ha ha. Yes, it is something of an undignified existence for Pissing Boy. But hey, at least he can’t claim to be unpopular. Happy Wednesday Allan.

      April 5, 2023 - 4:54 pm Reply
      • kagould17

        I think they need to give him a frosty mug of Blanche De Bruxelles to explain why he can’t stop peeing. Cheers.

        April 5, 2023 - 10:43 pm
  • NattyTravels

    Another great story Leighton  Belgium looks like a great place, but it’s understandable why you didn’t take many pictures. Places are a little different when you live there, and life is happening. Maybe when you visit again as a visitor, it will feel different.

    April 5, 2023 - 6:14 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Natty, totally agree. Appreciate you reading about my Brussels years and taking the time to comment 🙂

      April 5, 2023 - 6:16 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Admittedly, we didn’t spend more than a few days in Brussels, but the city never felt very warm to me. Many cities have a personality, Brussels seemed corporate. Even the botanical garden lacked soul. Maybe I just didn’t give it a chance but I much preferred Leuven and Bruges. Even the Pissing Boy seemed tiny compared to his reputation. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to look back at my picture archives.

    April 5, 2023 - 7:13 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Corporate rings true to me. A little stiff and impersonal. Or maybe it’s just that I spent so much of my time in the various EU institution neighbourhoods. Some places you have to dig around a little in order to unearth the best spots. If I get a second chance with Brussels, that’s just what I’ll do.

      April 5, 2023 - 9:08 pm Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    Interesting article as I’ve only visited the Belgian capital once and that was a very long time ago. The photo across the lake in the glasshouse looks amazing.

    April 5, 2023 - 7:18 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Marion. While I’m always reticent about going back to places, Brussels would be a bit of a no-brainer as I could easily tie it in with the long-awaited Leuven return and a few other of those tightly-knitted Flemish cities and towns.

      April 5, 2023 - 9:10 pm Reply
      • Little Miss Traveller

        We adored visiting Leuven, Mechelen and Ghent but only had time to change trains in Brussels!

        April 5, 2023 - 9:57 pm
  • Juliette

    Aaah but you taught English at what is now my workplace!! How crazy is that? 😁 even though you weren’t so fond of Brussels it does seem like you had an amazing time here, with lots of people coming to visit you! I went to the Royal Greenhouses last year and absolutely loved it! It was quite crowded but still beautiful! 😊

    April 5, 2023 - 7:58 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Aaaaah, it’s a small world and all that. Are you based at The Commission? I think you really like Brussels right? If I do go back I’d like to do some much deeper exploring and soak up some art and history in a few museums I never got round to all this years ago.

      April 5, 2023 - 9:14 pm Reply
      • Juliette

        No, at the Council! I don’t work in the Justus Lipsius as I am in a separate building but I go there quite often! I do like Brussels because I find that living here is very enjoyable, but I’d rather live in a sunnier place! I hope you get to go back soon – and if you do, don’t hesitate to reach out!

        April 7, 2023 - 12:43 pm
      • Leighton

        Aw, that’s kind of you to say Juliette, thanks!

        April 7, 2023 - 12:51 pm
  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    Okay, so I’m tearing up over the “Henderson” post, while trying to smile at how much you loved living in Belgium. You might not have loved Brussels so much, but your joy comes through in your writing. I would pay a huge amount of money to feast my eyes on those greenhouses – if I had huge amounts of money, that is. Visits to the Grand Palace and Laeken Castle would be at the top of my list too. My trip would have to be in the fall so I could see exactly what you photographed in Woluwe Park. How awesome to jog there every week! Heck I would even want to find some mediocre dining on the Rue Des Bouchers just because it looks so pretty at night in your photo! Another great post, Leighton, plus the wonderful tribute to “Henderson” was a nice bonus.

    April 5, 2023 - 10:32 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ah, so you read Henderson. Well, I usually tear up whenever I re-read it so you’re not alone. I’m glad that Brussels appeals to you and no wonder, it is so pretty in parts. And yes, a meal on Butcher’s Street probably has to be done at least once. The greenhouses are unmissable I’d say, though one has to be organised to grab one of the golden tickets. Thanks Kellye, your comments always make me smile.

      April 5, 2023 - 11:33 pm Reply
  • Lookoom

    I think Brussels has changed a lot in recent years, there is a real effort to make the city pleasant and convenient for visitors, which also benefits the inhabitants. Whether it’s the pedestrian zones, the cleaned and refurbished buildings, they are all pleasant places to be. There are still some derelict areas that are deteriorating while waiting to be demolished for office buildings, but the city has to evolve, not everything can be preserved as it was in the past. It’s interesting to read the impressions of a local outsider with a critical eye.

    April 5, 2023 - 11:27 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for the update, it’s good to hear and further encourages me to consider a return one day. I should reiterate that my indifference to Brussels was as much about myself I think and the nature of my life at that time as much as the city itself. I’d love to just go visit and soak it all up in a way I didn’t quite manage to all those years ago. Thanks for reading and for your contribution!

      April 5, 2023 - 11:40 pm Reply
  • Monkey's Tale

    Glad to hear you went to the greenhouses at least, since you are a lover of botanical gardens. I wonder how you’d feel about Brussels if you went back now. I have heard of and seen pictures of the Pissing Boy, but I didn’t realize it was a drinking fountain! That’s very awkward!! Maggie

    April 6, 2023 - 3:58 am Reply
    • Leighton

      I suspect, and I’m just guessing here, that I would quite like Brussels if I were to go and visit for 3-4 days. Though it’s interesting to read that others on this thread were also left a bit cold by the Belgian capital. Back in the days when I lived there people across Europe called it “boring Brussels” and right enough it felt like a place that was perhaps a touch indistinct. Still, things change and 14 years is a chunk of time. Thanks for reading Maggie!

      April 6, 2023 - 9:57 am Reply

    Yes we found Brussels just a bit less than enthralling…perfectly OK but it didn’t top the city break list, for sure. Apart from, as you say, Grand Place which is a majestic square. The beer bar culture is amusingly strong too, as we all know. You often give the impression that you prefer small, characterful provincial towns to the larger cities, and it’s coming through loud and clear in this article again. You do have a lot of good memories from your years as a nomad!

    April 6, 2023 - 4:27 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Phil, sounds like we have similar feelings about Brussels, How recent was your visit? Yeah, on the whole I’m more of a small town and village guy. Unless, that is, the city happens to be NYC or Tokyo!

      April 6, 2023 - 9:59 am Reply

        It was 2017. I have a whole list of great cities but there’s no doubt about the appeal of smaller places.

        April 6, 2023 - 1:29 pm
  • bronlima

    Know how you feel about the photos (or rather lack of photos). I had my bag nicked on the final days of this particular trip I am writing about now, with all my undeveloped rolls of film. Got some from the first part of the trip…. then …… zilch!

    April 6, 2023 - 4:54 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Oh no! What a nightmare Geoff, how did the theft occur? Aside from the loss of the actual images, the photo issue is also a problem for blogging of course. I am currently working on a series of short stories about my first cross-country trip around China. Back in 2009 I ran out of memory on my SD card, so transferred all the photos onto a hard drive for “safekeeping”. Of course said hard drive then got knocked onto the floor and broke. Eventually, some IT dudes “recovered” the 800+ photos but only to a highly reduced quality. And that’s what I’ve been dealing with as I try to edit shots for my next series Sigh.

      April 6, 2023 - 10:06 am Reply
      • bronlima

        I had a hard disc tragedy too. I backed up my files on a separate hard drive when they were doing some work on my computer. However this was damaged and I lost more than half my files. Most of the lost files didn’t matter, but I lost years and years of poetry which I had written. Had handwritten back up of about 5% only. So it goes!

        April 6, 2023 - 3:29 pm
  • Rebecca

    It’s incredible that you used to teach English to lawyers, even diplomats! These are some of the most-important people in their respective countries, and I’m sure it must’ve been a true honor to have taught them English. Like you mentioned, Brussels isn’t much to really look at, and similarly, I had a lackluster visit there back in 2015…I’d much-preferred Bruges and Ghent. But it looks like Brussels kept you busy, not only with work and wedding, but also with all of awesome characters you hung out with, whether at house parties or at the stadium!

    April 6, 2023 - 6:10 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Rebecca, you are the third person on this thread to also feel “meh” about Brussels, so I guess there’s something in it. Teaching the bigwigs… yeah… let’s just say it taught me a lot, for better and for worse! And yes, it was still a really memorable time and one I look back fondly on, just for totally different reasons to Leuven. Cheers!

      April 6, 2023 - 10:09 am Reply
  • anoush

    I can see how Brussels would fail to win you over after the charm of Leuven. The gardens look beautiful, though, and a nice escape from the sterility of the city and the crowds. Even though football, doesn’t interest me one bit, I read through the story of Union SG. Quite an interesting, topsy-turvy history.

    April 6, 2023 - 10:05 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for delving into this piece so carefully Anosuh, football segment and all 😉 Maybe Brussels will redeem itself to me one day. However, reading some of the other comments on this thread makes me wonder…

      April 6, 2023 - 10:18 am Reply
  • Terry Christopherson

    Have only been to Bruges, but Brussels looks quite nice, as long as they have plenty of chocolate and beer all is good.

    April 6, 2023 - 12:06 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Terry, on both of those fronts you will be more than covered!

      April 6, 2023 - 12:44 pm Reply
  • Once Upon a Time in Brussels. – knowledge about every thing

    […] Once Upon a Time in Brussels. […]

    April 7, 2023 - 10:39 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for the repost!

      April 7, 2023 - 10:40 am Reply
  • travelling_han

    Like you, I didn’t love Brussels as much as other areas of Belgium – though I only visited for 2 weeks so I can’t possibly make comparisons to your time living there. I must say the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken look amazing and I’m sad I didn’t get to visit those. And I’m with your friend on the afternoon nap – I was out for 2 hours earlier 🙂

    April 7, 2023 - 8:21 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Han, the Brussels verdict on the comment thread is almost unanimous I’d say. I’ve never been an afternoon napper sadly, I can fall asleep ok but usually feel like absolute shit when I wake up.

      April 7, 2023 - 8:38 pm Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    Even though Brussels did not enamor you as much, you can’t go wrong with that incredible architecture, beautiful gardens, and the chance to play on the field there. I always think it’s so strangely fascinating about Mannikin Pis and how it became such a fierce icon of the city. 1000 different outfits just seems a little bit excessive for a small statue of a boy peeing in the street.

    April 8, 2023 - 6:00 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Right? That’s a lot of outfits bearing in mind there are only 365 days a year. I guess some nerd somewhere in the city hall offices has a written record of how many times he’s worn each one and when. It is a very small statue, so it can be a touch anticlimactic when you lay eyes on him for the first time. A bit like The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. Thanks for reading Meg!

      April 8, 2023 - 8:56 am Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    It’s always amazing how you can even have fond memories of a very challenging time in your life, isn’t it? When I look at good old Goldblum, I always wonder how it is possible for one to sleep on such a small couch (Berto does the exact same thing … and all I can think is how uncomfortable that must be). Beautiful photo of Woluwe Park (was it in autumn?) and the Pissing Boy is a drinking fountain … oh, that must be interesting (I thought it was just a statue). Brussels certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom – I mean, just look at that action photo of you in the stadium!

    April 9, 2023 - 7:21 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Corna, I’ve always tried to focus on the positives. Brussels is a perfectly liveable and handsome city, but perhaps a bit bland for young me. In the end, I was just too busy that year to notice it much. I’m sure I would get more out of the place if I were to revisit today. I knew you’d appreciate another Goldblum sighting 😉 and yes, that was a gorgeous autumnal day at Woluwe Park.

      April 9, 2023 - 7:49 pm Reply
  • NortheastAllie

    That is really neat that you worked with so many people, even in governments through your English teachings! Even though this time period was busy for you, it sounds like you had a lot of cool adventures as well. Also, the greenhouse looks like an awesome nature oasis!

    April 10, 2023 - 9:52 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Allie, Brussels wasn’t so bad despite it being one of the least memorable cities I’ve lived in. Thanks for checking out this piece, the greenhouses are one of the gems of Belgium.

      April 10, 2023 - 10:12 pm Reply
  • iGaming Informer

    Great piece, I hopes to go one day

    April 11, 2023 - 4:11 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for your comment!

      April 11, 2023 - 4:35 pm Reply

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