I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth.-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Mona's Musings

February 25th, 2011

Birthday in Brussels

The weighty gold and crimson drapes framed the abysmal lack of color on the walls outside. A gray pigeon landed on a gray roof; the flutter of wings hardly ruffling the slate called sky. Streaks of black pollution made stone faces, gallantly frozen in time, unable to protest or clean themselves, look sad. I was sad. It was my birthday and I was in Brussels. No family. No party. Nowhere and nothing I knew.  As I stood alone at the window of my third story room, having just said good-bye to my only hope of a companion, the drab and the dreary made my eyes blur. A hereditary tremor which occasionally rattles my head and tries to detach it from my nervous system flared up. No! It can’t be happening. Cities get old. Buildings get old. Things get old. What now birthday girl?

At the behest of my twenty-somethings on the other side of the world (hail the internet), I troweled the  options for ‘fun’ and a few hours later, was welcomed by a multi-lingual guide to the group shivering outside a tour company office. Cocooning our heads, faces, and torsos, we set off down little cobbled lanes sequestering chocolatiers, lace shops, beer parlors, and antique dealers. Our destination finally appeared as we came around one unassuming corner; a whip of wind took my breath away.

Someone had painted a back drop for Fairy Tale Theater and stretched it into a gigantic square called “Grand Place” by the French and “‘de grote Markby the Dutch: magnificent buildings shoulder to shoulder; rooftops undulating above golden facades; steeples and spires glistening in sunlight. With ears buried beneath wool, I could barely hear the tour guide prattle, but it didn’t matter. I was a dot in a whole new universe and deliciously young again. I wanted to spin like Mary Tyler Moore and throw my hat in the air.

Exuberance carried the day. I clicked left and I clicked right. I snapped up and I snapped down. Everything after that deserved a digital memorial. Brussels, it turns out, is a wonderful place: the heart of Europe, the headquarters of the European Union, a former world’s fair host (Expo ’58) with a fascinating history, and like all the great cities of  Europe, it has distinct character and unique flavor; famous products and people completely its own.

As the guide and the bus driver pulled up near the hotel, I thanked them enthusiastically for the ‘Grand City Tour’ (in French no less!) and with a gay wave, set off to do some serious shopping; after all, it was my birthday. Downright giddy, it seemed strange that I’d been reticent to leave my room! A Carefree Me had overcome the Careful Me, and, uncharacteristically, I refused to worry that I’d ever find my way back. Sure enough, several shopping bags later, I stood at the point of origin (which is a feat worth mentioning to my family.)

The sunset atmosphere on Brussels’ streets is energizing. The night, as they say, was young! Dale had barely walked in the revolving door of the hotel lobby after his day of work, when we revolved back out, heading straight to The Music Village, a little jazz club around the corner. We did our best to fit into wooden chairs, tiny as they were and cozy as they were with our neighbors. (A challenge we’ve grown accustomed to, though not particularly comfortable with, in Europe.)

Pasta and French and Gypsy Jazz made for a heady mix until we gradually heard the ticking of an inner clock – a slow descent into age and reason. At this hour though, I didn’t mind feeling a tad old, because Dale was a tad old with me, and by mutual agreement, we called it a night. Slipping out as gracefully could be expected (our American “excuse me’s” turning heads as chair legs scraped the concrete floor) we donned our cold weather gear and hurried back to the very hotel room that had depressed me at the start of the day.

A few minutes later I was in pj’s, washing off make-up, reviewing the day, talking to myself. So what’s the verdict, I thought. Are you a moldy, gray facade or a golden Grand-Place?…after all, they’re about the same age.

“Whatcha doin’ in there, grandma?” Dale disrupted my musing from the other side of the wall. I grinned at his teasing and summoned up my best French accent, which, of course, I learned long ago from the Mater Romancer himself: Pepe LePew.

“Oh mon chéri,’ I crooned peeking round the corner.”How long I have waited for zees kiss!”


For lots of photos with commentary on Brussels, Belgium visit Mona’s Musings on Facebook.

Hint of Romance

Though they may need restoration once in a while, old romances can be the grandest of all.

What did you think of this musing?

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  1. Hannah Z says:

    I have to agree with old romances…..cause that’s what my Kenneth is. hehe :) Just had to look at it again. :) Hey! This is my first post as an engaged person! Yippe! :)

    I loved this one!!! I was delighted and tickled through the whole thing, and literally felt like you walking through the streets, turning every corner, and seeing something new and wonderful. I have fallen in love with Brussels just by your description. :) And shouldn’t that be how our romance is – delighted and tickled by every new corner we take – always finding something new to love about them – and being able to talk about all their wonderful characteristics? I sure think so.

    Oh and don’t forget, ending it with a kiss. :)

  2. Heidi says:

    I’m so glad the day turned out wonderfully for you!

  3. Sharon says:

    I love this one, too, Hannah! Being newly engaged myself, romance is in the air and everywhere! Brent, my personal French speaking, hopeless romantic sweetheart will love this one, too.

    Mona, Once again you’ve given us a peek into another glorious place. A precious glimpse of your beautiful day. Thank you. I have so enjoyed my year of watching you and Dale adore and cherish each other, it’s been a rare gift. Mona’s Musings has helped keep it real for me, as it does for everyone else, now that we’re not living under the same roof. By the way, I’m so glad you had a Happy Birthday. Love to you both.

  4. maritza ardila- perez says:

    I have love really and felled in Love with Brussels, your pictures and description are beautiful. I am agree with old romances. Your birthday in Brussels was a Romantic gift.
    Love you. Maritza

  5. sue simper says:

    Well, Mona, if your sweetie is going to leave you alone all day on your B-day, at least he left you in Brussels! I can think of worse places – in fact it’s hard to think of a better place after reading that.

    And Hannah – I gave your Ken a big hug at the ward auction last night. We just love him so much!! You two are a great match, and will have amazing adventures together, just like your awesome parents.

    Love you all!

    • Hannah Z says:

      Awwwwwee THANK YOU SUE!!! Give him lots of hugs for me!! :) Thank you for taking such good care of my boy! :) And I’m so glad you approve! :) He loves YOU guys!! :D :D P.S. You can tell Evan I still think he’s hysterical. ;)

  6. Ellenor Abeln says:

    Romance mmmmmmmm this Miusing makes you think back a little of all the beautiful things that happened in your life. To see Hannah in love is beautiful.
    Did you ever notice that Mona when sad or whenever a tear falls things turn to the better things of life.
    Whenever there is gray clouds and a dreary day it is time to think happy thoughts.
    It is surprising happiness comes our way very soon,
    Mona I love your descriptions and stories. Happy peop;e live a longer life.

  7. Colleen Tolva says:

    Hello Mona,
    I just love the way you paint a picture with almost every word and every sentence. I love the way you take sour lemons and make sweet lemonade out of every experience.
    There is beauty all around isn’t there, and you have such an appreciation for it and an inquisitive nature that you get to find it where ever you go.
    I’m glad Dale was home for your birthday and the two of you could romance in Brussels.
    Always keep your positive attitude and enjoy this marvelous season of your life.
    Happy belated birthday to you!

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