Monday in Brussels

New Year’s came and went, and now I’m back in Leuven, trying to reestablish routine. This is difficult when the sun waits until 8 am to rise, and it’s below freezing until later in the morning — often, noon. Thankfully, Friday and continuing through this coming week, we will take four days in Lisbon, three days in Porto, and then three in Amsterdam before returning home. I haven’t had the easiest time in reestablishing routine, but hopefully the travel and warmer weather will breathe new life into my cold bones.

Soon to travel, I’d be remiss to not post December’s Brussels photos. If I didn’t, I doubt I would later, and the second half of Winter Review would be lost.

Let’s start with context. Before returning to Texas for the holiday, I had to replace my laptop battery. I planned to go without the laptop for two to three days — even though the repair was, to my surprise, complete the day-of — and on a Monday morning, arrived at the Apple Store in Brussels at 10 to deliver my laptop. With me, I had my iPad for work, and my camera for the rest of the day’s exploration of Brussels. These were taken over the day’s walk and following morning that my laptop was in for repair.

I walked from East to West, starting with The Hotel Brussels’ bay windows, overlooking Park Egmont. The small cafe in the park serves well to bisect the otherwise green, but sparse area.

Depending on the day and weather, the architecture in any city either fondly invokes a sense of identity — or strangles one with it. This particular Monday was a cold day in Brussels, but with the forced vacation of laptop repair, I enjoyed it. The most work I did that day was drafting an engineering spec, and responding to email — which I did from Café Capitale, along my walk.

After an espresso and number of emails, I continued walking to the Grand Place. I first wanted to visit Studio Baxton and review the vintage glass, but had to dawdle to arrive near their opening time.

As I approached the Grand Place, I started retreading familiar streets from my last few visits to Brussels. I’d visited once last February for the Lights festival, once with friends for shopping, and then again for a photo exposition in the early Fall — but I hadn’t taken the time to explore, let alone to do so alone. It was an opportunity not only to take my own time, but to pause, and to perfect shots I’d attempted, and failed, to previously capture.

The winter colors I found in Leuven were continued in Brussels’ winter — and now on return, continue. Yellows stand out in gold tones that offer fleeting but comforting warmth, and everyone is tightly bundled against the wind.

As I got nearer to the Grand Place, I found increasing groups of tourists — making for conveniently distracted surroundings, and great photos of those around me. There was plenty activity on the streets, and once to the Grand Place itself, there was so much going on that none minded a stranger with a camera.

I bought a coffee at the Grand Place and continued — unexpectedly, running into the Christmas market. At this point, I’d visited Studio Braxton, and found a camera repair store further West that I wanted to investigate. Rather than take the metro, I continued walking, enjoying the luxury of empty time.

Unfortunately, little came out well from the Christmas market itself, due to the same reason I sought a repair store — my floating EVF-distance wheel. Luckily, this only affected that batch of shots. Combined with the XF-56mm’s razor-thin focal plane when wide open, the pairing isn’t ideal.

I visited the store, and learned that my repair would take longer than either my return home for the holiday, or planned time in Portugal — and there was no way I would take either without my camera. We’ll see when I’m able to part with it long enough for the increasingly necessary repair. Leaving, I made a roundabout way to Mok. There’s one in Leuven, and Austen and I have come to enjoy their coffee roasts, and the Brussels location is significantly larger — and, I hadn’t visited, despite us having been next door months before, visiting the Brussels Beer Project.

I took an hour or two at Mok, further enjoying the empty time and continuing A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things. With surprise, I received an email telling me that my laptop was ready for pickup ahead of schedule, but I’d already taken the day in exploring, and couldn’t arrive back to the Apple Store before close.

The walk back to the station from Mok was less relaxed than the preceding day had been, but I didn’t want to arrive after dark. The brisk walk didn’t stop me from squeezing off a few good shots.

The station’s geometry and combination of formal, industrial, and traffic-sign colors offer a unique juxtaposition of competing elements.

As someone who enjoys unplanned and unbooked time, I’m awful at preserving it, let alone creating it. One sees patterns emerge in people and their surrounds when they take time to pause and separate themselves, and that happens much more easily when they one has room to breathe.

It’s too easy to first become busy, and then to keep oneself busy. I am the most at peace when this is not the case, and I can take the time to consciously reflect on myself and my surroundings. These couple of days without my laptop (and with diminished work) were less time than I’d planned, but were still more meaningful than I imagined.

I hope to write more on this type of unstructured time, and unstructured creative time, once back from Portugal — but only after vacation, and its photos.