It’s been two months since I was last in Brussels so it was something of a surprise to get an invite to head over on Monday and be there for Friday for a couple of meetings. Of course I didn’t get clearance until late afternoon Wednesday so the prices on the Eurostar website weren’t the most favourable but I’m not the one picking up the tab. Unlike other trips, this wasn’t making me feel happy to be heading out. Difficult to say why – probably as I didn’t have time to get used to the idea beforehand as it felt more of a burden than a pleasure.

I think my malaise extended into my travel arrangements; waited until the last possible minute to leave the flat and head for the tube to King’s X (hell, had I received more notice, I might, just might have arranged to stay at Brendan’s if that was feasible. I made check in with one minute to spare as the queues were horrendous and I was forced into collecting my ticket at the machine rather than have an e-ticket. Just about managed to pick up a coffee at Neros before jumping on the train. Irritatingly, I was in the breast feeding carriage full of squirming babies demanding attention though blessedly, not a single one cried. But there were plenty of ravenous babies enjoying snacks that you felt impolite to look up from the books on your iPad… It wasn’t so much the feeding but the packing up and unpacking of pushchairs was a real nuisance and Eurostar staff magically vanished rather than assist.

Two hours later and I’m in Brussels, head over to Place Schuman and have an early lunch at Exki for another one of those couscous and vegetable dishes with Courgette Soup. Very nice and I was emboldened to sit outside because of the un-springlike weather enjoyed by the Belgians. One thing Belgium is critically short of is good coffee shops – I like the one by Kolenmarkt as I’ve written about before and there’s another one in the street behind UKREP but very little else which isn’t a regular café. I’d have thought one of the French or German chains would have invaded and colonised but nope, stubborn resistance. Paul’s was just a bit too far out of the way to be comfortable and in all likelihood, I would have failed to resist buying some pudding.

Had my meetings – they went very well, lots of points scored and I’d definitely say successful. Traded gossip with colleagues, shared some intrigues and came away having accomplished…something. Naturally after I was finished, it was time to hit Delhaize and stock up on cheese, chocolate and the rest of the usual purchases. Bloody shop has stopped doing my favourite mustard cheese but fortunately, there’s some brand that packages it. It’s great for sammiches and the like. And I allowed myself to be seduced to going out for a drink with a transport lobbyist afterwards and traded gossip (I think I got the best end of that exchange). Alas I left it late again and barely made check in with two minutes to spare this time. I’d have liked to have popped in for a quick Carrefour trip but there just wasn’t the time.

Standard Premier on the way home – I paid the extra fare rather than agreeing to work on the train. Dinner was ok but I wish the meals were the least bit more substantive. Still, it left room for one of my two Desperados. When the train got into the tunnel, I had visions of picking fights with immigration if they were to stop me yet again for a tobacco and drug search. Lucky for me, this was not my turn to get pulled aside. Home for 9.45 or so, kick off shoes which are digging into feet, unpack goodies, meet Dom’s friends, pass out early.

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