Someone sent me a link to an interesting website the other day – Bettery Magazine – an online magazine about urban spaces. It’s actually sponsored by smart, the car manufacturer, but has an interesting aim to provide a “collection of insights and inspirations from smart cities around the world”. It includes a series called “Change of View” which pairs two photographers–one local, one visiting–to share their portraits of world cities. The latest feature was on Brussels. Reading through the answers from the two photographers, I thought I’d take a stab at the questions myself. So here we go…
1. What makes you happy in this city?
I guess I’m pretty easy to please. What makes me happy is to go for a walk through the Flagey market on a Saturday morning with my dog Charlie, pass by the Etangs d’Ixelles, stop by the Parc du Roi to let him play with other doggie friends, and then finish at Natural Caffe with a cappuccino and a pain au chocolate. It’s a great way to start the weekend on my own or with a friend (a shout out to my friend Jen and her dog Kali who we miss at the park!)
2. What inspires you in this city?
I find the unexpected, low-key nature of Brussels inspiring. At first glance, it can seem dull and quiet, but if you start the scratch the surface, it can show a whole other side. There are so many creative boutiques like Hunting & Collecting and small art galleries like Harlan Levey Projects scattered around the city. They’re not always in the most obvious locations but there are some tools out there to help, such as Shop in Brussels and Design September, and of course just exploring new areas of town. I recommend starting with the Dansaert / Sainte Catherine neighborhood.
3. What works well for you in the city?
I’d have to say what works best in Brussels are the restaurants. We are truly spoiled for choice and quality. It may not always be the cheapest, but man we have some good food here. One of my absolute favorites, Chez Marie, sadly closed recently, but there are still loads of great choices including La Canne en Ville, Les Brassins, Britxos, Gaudron, La Cuisine, O-Liban. Need I go on?
4. What would you do better?
If you’re a regular reader, you know I always try to focus on the positive aspects of this city, but I’m going to make an exception today. One of my gripes about this city is the metro. I recently changed jobs and have started taking public transport to work (instead of the car), and while it’s great to skip the traffic and road rage in the mornings, I must say that the metro seems worse than when I used to take it regularly a few years ago. So many of the stops are under what seems like permanent construction or crumbling, there aren’t enough of the new trains running and what is with the infrequent times during rush-hour? I’m not sure if the background music and strange artwork make up for it. Follow @STIB_Fail on Twitter if you want some more views on the subject. 🙂
5. How would you do it better?
Now this is a tricky one. It’s easy to complain about aspects of life in Brussels, but not as easy to suggest solutions. One idea on my list would be to do away with “priorité de droite”, the traffic law which basically means that you must give way to traffic coming from your right (but not all the time, very confusing). More often than not, this rule drives me crazy and has made me think seriously about donating a stop sign to a corner in my neighbourhood. Maybe I could start a stop sign campaign? Just kidding, sort of. This is one of the things that makes Brussels a special place after all.
How would you answer the questionnaire? Be sure to share your thoughts!