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ALLAN: The baroque grandeur of Grand Place is the premier destination for any self respecting tourist and is undeniably beautiful (as well as being home to a life-sized and strangely aryan nativity scene, that sits firmly in the middle of ‘uncanny valley’). And, like so many popular tourist destinations, Grand Place sits at the epicentre of an eczema rash of bad pizza restaurants, dodgy characters and tourist tat shops selling Mannekin Pis (literally pissing boy) corkscrews. Of course, this is exactly where our hotel is located.
To describe this Mozart/Moorish themed hotel as ‘a bit strange’ would be on a par with describing Hannibal Lecter as mildly eccentric. The North-African/gothic theme of my room is alarmingly offset by a giant framed print of the thirteen year old Mozart being presented to the pope. The bed linen looks like it was last aired in the 1970’s and the bathroom is lit by the grimy flashbulb brilliance of a scene-of-crime photo.
Most disturbing of all is the collection of unmoving, semi-catatonic characters who inhabit the lobby, staring blankly into their empty coffee cups but who strangely seem to be in a different location every time we turn our backs. Over a bad pizza, my travelling companion and I confess our mutual bad vibes about the place and, with the sudden life preserving instincts of of fleeing antelope we immediately collect our baggage and check into the reassuringly bland Ibis hotel down the road. It is a good decision – we feel like escapees from a bad David Lynch movie. On the way up to our rooms, the lift plays instantly forgettable european hotel muzak – it is strangely comforting.
KATE: I did warn you all yesterday my writing is not as vivid and colourful as my dad’s, and I’m sure you now see where I’m coming from. My gut feeling isn’t often wrong and my spidey senses screamed at me like a foghorn the second we set foot in this “quirky” place. If I am not mistaken, Mozart was, in fact, born in the city of Salzburg, Austria, our later destination, a mere 446 miles from Brussels. Furthermore, I do not believe he had any connection to north Africa, which the hotel’s décor seemed to attempt to emulate. Perhaps it was the mismatch of theme and décor that set my artistic teeth on edge, but the unnervingly quiet characters in the lobby really did feel like those weeping angels in Doctor Who. Aware that I have a tendency to over-worry and dramatise, I initially dismissed my not-so-vague feeling of uneasiness. But after going upstairs in the world’s tiniest lift that felt like it was built with Mozart’s contemporaries’ ideas of health and safety, and entering my bizarrely dingy room, I hardly felt reassured. I was not comforted either by going to meet dad for dinner, to find him padlocking his suitcase to the bed. After about an hour or so of “yeah it’s weird but it’s *probably* fiiinnnneeeee”, we wandered around Grand Place, amongst the beautiful baroque architecture, in search of a different place to stay. (Don’t worry Mum, we were fine).
Before checking into our new hotel we found the absolute perfect gift for my brother – a little metal bottle opener of Mannekin Pis, with a rather phallic corkscrew. You can imagine Dad’s glee at the cashier handing him a little polystyrene tube as “protection” for the corkscrew. You can’t accuse us of being boring x