I now know that it has taken seven weeks for me to feel very, very comfortable with my life in Brussels.
The tip off?
I have finally watched TV.
At home, my daily routine includes hours of television. When I get home from work, I plop down and watch an episode of, say, 30 Rock, and then I start making dinner while an episode or two of Stella blares in the background. Before bed, I start in on Mad Men and the sight of so much Johnnie Walker lulls me to sleep.
Thus far in Brussels, I’ve been on the go, constantly. City life is exciting and there’s always something I could be doing or people I could be attempting to befriend.
I did have some plans this weekend. It was going to be an exciting one, actually. I was going to hitchhike with a friend to Luxembourg on Saturday. Sunday, a couchsurfer in Liège was going to show me all around his city. But the rain deterred both of these activities, which is probably for the best. I stayed in my house and studied for midterms week instead, which I realized I am not as prepared for as I should be.
This was the first Saturday night that I’ve spent alone, indoors, and to celebrate my return to my normal, anti-social self, I caught up on Dexter and The Office. And, of course, I studied.
Sunday morning also played out like a Europeanized version of what I do at home. I set my alarm for 9 a.m. but somehow didn’t rise until 11 a.m. In Davis, I’d make a mad dash for the farmers’ market before its noon closing. Here, I made an equally mad dash across the city for the Midi Market.
Steps away from the Gare Midi train station is an extensive outdoor market with, well, everything. It’s said to be the second biggest in all of Europe (after Ventimiglia in Italy, which I visited last summer) with 450 vendors selling produce, meat, fish, spices, clothes, shoes, jewelry, house wares, instruments, antiques, shampoo… everything.
And of course, the prices are great, and drop even further during the final hours. My 10-euro boots were 15 euro when I walked by an hour earlier.
The market has a strong international feel as opposed to the one in Ventimiglia, which while larger, had much of the same knock-off perfume and Italian leather wallets at every stand. The Moroccan and Turkish populations in Brussels are more than present at Midi, in both offerings and clientele.
I still prefer the simple daily flea market at Place de Jeu de Balle, with more silly items, dirt-cheap prices and less crowds. However, next time I’m in Brussels on a Sunday, I’m going to the Midi Market for one thing.
All afternoon, I saw people chowing down on these oh-so fragrant wraps gushing with fresh goat cheese. Finally, next to a friendly stand of fresh eggs, I found the long line of people patiently waiting for sustenance at an olive stand. On the other side, patrons were huddled over small wooden tables with their wraps and steaming cups of sweetened mint tea. The wrap — the m’semen — is a Moroccan crepe with tangy cheese, sweet honey and spicy, oily olives.
If I weren’t already carrying semi-heavy groceries, I would have queued up right there. Alas, I’m weak, but now I know exactly where I must return.