Picture of the Week

23 April 2018

Week 16: five days in Brussels, and an evening of flamenco

Filed under: — Administrator @ 22:18

I spent the entire working week in Brussels, travelling there on Monday morning and returning Friday evening. So most of the images are from there, supplemented with some flamenco photos from Saturday night. I present the week’s images chronologically.

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For once, the weather in Brussels was glorious sunshine. As soon as I got off the train from the airport, I photographed the back of the Commission’s HQ (Berlaymont), looking unusually colourful:
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In the Schuman roundabout, the remnants of a memorial event for murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana, held earlier that day:
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As usual, I stopped to photograph the funny faces behind Berlaymont:
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I spent most of Tuesday in meetings, sometimes interesting, sometimes less so, but it is always a pleasure to see some of the people from Member States with whom I have become friends, such as Linda from the Latvian Ministry of Culture:
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Conveniently, the meetings I was attending were taking place at the hotel where we were staying, so in the afternoon it was quick to go up to my room, change into comfortable clothes, and venture out into the city. On the way to the metro station I photographed this scene outside Exki, a popular local chain restaurant serving healthy food. Obviously, the following morning was recycling pickup day:
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I made my way to Grand’ Place, the glorious central square of Brussels. Lots of people were out and about, enjoying the nice weather:
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In the gate of the town hall there is a statue of Everard t’Serclaes, a Brussels alderman from the 14th century. Local superstition has it that rubbing the statue brings good luck. However, I have never seen any of the locals doing it (although I confess to having done it when I first arrived in Brussels in 1995). The vast majority of the good luck seekers are tourists:
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I then moved on to a nearby square called Place de l’Agora to have a coffee and watch the human traffic a bit. At the centre of the square there is a statue of late 19th century mayor Charles Buls:
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Well-equipped buskers taking a break:
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A group of Asian tourists following their guide who, for reasons unknown, is using a Swiss flag as his marker:
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Just before descending into the metro at Gare Centrale to go back to my hotel, I snapped this couple, both with big hair/fur:
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Back at Schuman, I was struck by how imposing the Berlaymont building looked next to the lone woman:
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Another feature of the EU quarter is the large number of political stickers and posters of all stripes, and in many languages–not surprising given that this is a place where important political decisions affecting a whole continent are being taken. Here, a sticker in German proclaiming the effectiveness of civil society (it is unclear what is the underlying political message):
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After a long day at the office, many of the thousands of EU workers in the area like to go for a pint in one of the many watering holes in the immediate vicinity. One of them is The Old Hack:
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My favourite, however, is Kitty O’Shea’s. On this sunny Wednesday afternoon, the crowd was huge (fortunately, I was not looking for beer that evening, as I am currently taking a medication which severely restricts the permitted alcohol intake):
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La Brace is a popular Italian restaurant. My colleagues and I eat there often, partly because they serve good and authentic food at reasonable prices, and partly because it is a short walk from our hotel:
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On Wednesday evening I attended the monthly meeting of Viewfinders, the international photography club which I joined when I lived in Brussels in the late 1990s and which I have continued to support even after moving away. On the way to the meeting, I walked through Parc Cinquantenaire, which was full of people enjoying the sunshine in different ways:
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The meeting was held at the Swedish church just on the other side of the park. The club’s president, Alun, started by making some housekeeping announcements:
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Then Alun moved on to a talk about using flash off-camera, and other ways of taming the beast:
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The main part of the meeting was the Sports Challenge, a contest to which each member could submit two images. Most were digital, including my image of the passage of the Vuelta a España through the town of Relleu last summer. In the end, my image did not garner a prize, but it was fun to take part nonetheless:
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There were also a few prints. The judge, a local professional photographer, is looking at one of them here:
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After the meeting ended, I was tired and hungry, so I did the lazy thing and took the metro back to the hotel instead of walking across the park again. Just before entering the station, I stopped to photograph this temporary friterie that had been set up near Mérode:
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On Thursday, I had the morning free, so I ventured out to the centre again. On top of Avenue Louise, in the area of the main courthouse (where today, on 23 April, the sole surviving perpetrator of the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the shootout with the police that led to his capture in Belgium–in absentia, since he is currently in a prison in France), there are the usual concrete barriers in strategic places, a sign of our times. At least some people embellish them:
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When I saw this, I was not sure if it was a joke or for real. A “lost dog” type of announcement, except that the lost creature in this case is a child’s plush toy:
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From the square outside the courthouse one can take a lift down to the Marolles neighbourhood below. It is a pleasant place, a traditionally working class and immigrant neighbourhood that has been somewhat, but not completely, gentrified:
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A traditional Marolles watering hole:
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The old and the new–an e-cigarette shop next to the halal butcher:
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Later in the morning, I found myself in Ixelles, looking at this:
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And this, a fearsome guard dog in the door of a clothing shop:
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Then it was back to the hotel, and chairing a 4-hour meeting in the afternoon. In the evening, the work done, I went to Kitty O’Shea’s for a well-deserved beer, my first such indulgence in almost 3 weeks:
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In the evening we went for dinner at Italian restaurant Dal Padrino, also walking distance from our hotel. The mood was happy and relaxed after several days of hard work:
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The boss checking on the customers, always a good sign:
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More Brussels images are available for viewing here.

On Friday, I flew home to Alicante. On Saturday night my wife was attending a charity event organised by the local Rotary Club, with Seville’s Feria de Abril as the theme. This meant dancing flamenco, an activity that my wife (correctly) assumed I would not be interested in, so she did not sign me up (in contrast to last year’s similar event which had an Oktoberfest theme). The restaurant where the event took place is beautifully located on the shore of the bay, but parking is scant, so I drove my wife there and picked her up afterwards. This gave me the opportunity to take a few pictures, which follow.

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My wife posing in her flamenco dress; she bought it second hand on some local version of ebay:
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Dancing:
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The music:
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More dancing:
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The view from the restaurant, looking north. The road on the left is my daily commute, and the buildings in the distance are in Playa San Juan where we live:
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And so ended a tiring but good week. There are some more flamenco photos here.

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