I truly enjoyed preparing this post. I must admit to wistfully walking around the neighbourhood these past days, looking at things I know I will miss and remembering how much I’ve enjoyed living here. But enough sappiness!
First, for those of you unfamiliar with Brussels, a little bit of back story. Brussels is the Capital City of Belgium, and home to many European and international institutions (European Commission, European Parliament, European Council, Nato, etc). It is officially a bilingual (French and Flemish) city and has a very large population of both immigrants and expats. Foreigners sometimes joke about how hard it is to find a Belgian living in Brussels (though this isn’t really true – I know many!).
Now let me show you around!
Show Me Your Neighbourhood Around the World – Brussels, Belgium
1. A Playground
This is our neighbourhood playground. It’s right in front of our apartment building, which is very practical when you don’t have a garden! We’re actually lucky enough to live within walking distance of at least 3 different parks/playgrounds. I love how this particular one has a nice mix of green space and play area. It has a great ramp for sledding in the winter, and some great green paths amongst some garden plots.
2. A local mode of transport
Despite Brussels being considered the number 1 most congested city in the World according to the annual INRIX Traffic Scorecard, it actually has a great public transportation system and bicycle lanes keep popping up all over the city. I used to cycle to work everyday, and though some parts are a bit scary with traffic, it really is a fairly cyclable (is that a word?) city.
In our neighbourhood you see trams, buses and bicycles all the time, but lots of cars too. There are city bicycle share spots as well. We live within walking distance of about 4! Unfortunately, no metro in our neck of the woods!
3. A typical house/building
We live in a fairly recent neighbourhood, with some construction still going on, so you won’t find any stunning art-nouveau. There is a certain sameness to the construction, with mostly 3 different types: big 50′s and 60′s style apartment buildings, which can mostly be described as eyesores, some smaller mid-century houses and more recent developments from the 2000′s.
4 – A street nearby
We’re lucky to live in a really calm child-friendly neighbourhood. As you can see in this picture, there are signs put up around the neighbourhood warning drivers about people playing in the streets You can also see our mail-person’s delivery bike propped against a lamp-post!
5- A school, nursery or other education facility
This pre-school/elementary school was so hard to photograph! First, it’s dark in the morning when I took them. I didn’t want to get people in the pictures, so I waited a bit after drop-off. Second, It’s very low and protected from onlookers. It is surrounded by shrubbery and trees, and it’s hard to get a good look inside at the playgrounds and gardens. The smaller kids (preschool – 21/5 to 4) have a closed off area to themselves and the 5 to 8′s have a bigger area to roam. There are not enough schools in Brussels, so there has been some very controversial addition of pre-fabricated buildings to existing schools already busting at the seams.
6 – A market, supermarket or other shopping outlet
Small supermarkets and neighbourhood markets are generally the norm here, but we actually live close to 2 quite big supermarkets, the Belgian chain Delhaize, which is my favourite and stocks quite a lot of organic and fair trade products. it’s currently undergoing renovations, so I’ve had to shop elsewhere or at the big Carrefour hypermarket, which sends my senses into overload! We also have 2 neighbourhood markets, but they are not as nice as many throughout the city.
7 – Other local and typical stuff
I just had to mention our neighbourhood collective compost
! Among the little plots, there is an eco-garden and collective compost bins where anyone in the neighbourhood can take their organic waste. this is great for those of us who don’t have a garden or much space for a kitchen compost bin. Plus, you get a share in the compost once it matures! Perfect for balcony gardening!
And I wanted to share what our mail vans look like. I always find it interesting how they vary from country to country!
I wanted to add a picture of the commune’s pool, but alas didn’t get a good picture. Every commune here has a public pool, open to everyone for a small fee (around €1,50) and to public schools for swimming classes, which are part of the curriculum from preschool!
So that’s our neighbourhood!
Don’t forget to check out the other neighbourhoods around the world in this series at The Piri-Piri Lexicon. Thanks Annabelle for this great idea!