The sound of the birds' bills hitting the ground. One bill beating the pavement wouldn't make that much noise. Instead, they were over 30 to rush for the bread loaves, grabbing as much as they could and that was another story. Once they have what they want, some fled away to hoist themselves up the melée. Others ate there, fighting for the loafs that were already in the bills of others.
The most spectacular fight is an "air fight" or a "flying fight". Those two were fighting for a loaf of bread the first had gained from the "ground battle". As he took off, another pigeon followed him, attempting to steal the bread out of its mouth... They fought... the stalker didn't manage to have the loaf.
Seeing the white pigeons on the fence of my neighbours in Woluwé, it's hard to imagine them fighting, battling for some loaf of bread. I am so used to them cuddling each other... Why am I surprised ? They are animals after all, so are humans.
At times, I have my lunch sitting on one of the benches looking onto the water. Usually, there are people around: the youngs from ULB and La Cambre, a university and an art school.. another young category, probably from a neighbouring high school, they seem very hectic. Then, you have people who use to work in the area and who want to have some air.
Not to forget, the perennial old lady who brings a plastic bag with bread loaves and smitters who enjoy pouring the loaves on the ground.
Sometimes, there is even this Morrocan or Turkish woman who does the same. She uses to come with a craft paper bag with Morrocan bread. I have a feeling she works for one of those Morrocan our Turkish snacks in the area...
In any case, that makes up for a spectacular "fight for food" scenery.
Fondest memory: More than the lunch time around the pond, my fondest memory is sitting on the bench at the shade of a tree, end of the afternoon and summer evenings. At 7pm, it's as clear as at 4pm. However, the area is so calm because most of workers have deserted the area and Ixellois are already home, either enjoying a bbq, either chilling in their gardens or at the terraces (Belga, Le patio d'été or L'Antenne).. anyway, very few cars driving around. Only joggers, wanderers, mums with toddlers, families enjoying, like yourself, the sudden quietness of the pond, of Flagey. Good time to read this book you've never managed to finish.
A slight change compared to the constant nightmare (for drivers and locals) on Place Flagey where the works would continue till 2008...
Downtown XL, around Place Flagey, is featured by some landmarks:
- the ponds, Etangs d'Ixelles... a nice place in spring and summer surrounded with benches where to sit and reflect or simply contemplating this little nature heaven (water + grass + saules + pigeons + ducks). Also, to spot old local ladies, bringing bread for the pigeon and even the ducks ! Around the ponds, somptuous townhouses (some Art Nouveau) inhabited by rich people, ex-pats.
- the place, Place Flagey.. as a matter of fact, the place used to be the third of the Etangs d'Ixelles set (two ponds had been merged to give the nowadays Etangs d'Ixelles). Place Flahey is reported as the biggest in Bruxelles, after Grand-Place. Nothing special to mention except the centenial "Kotfrit de la Place Flagey" (used to change owners several times, though, in the contrary of Maison Antoine on Place Jourdan). It used to host a market. Nowadays, it has become the place to avoid for drivers (it will drive you mad) since it is being under a huge renovation: works are reported to go on until 2008. The place is being fit to house an underground parking. From a technical point of view, many things have to be undertaken to achieve the goal. How to fit a pond and make a underground parking lot out of it ?
- the boat... hmm.. the boat-shaped building that is devoted to the sound. Nicknamed "L'usine à son" or "Le paquebot", used to house Belgium National Radios and Televisions for decades. It is now designed for Culture, Music, Film making, Artists where they may record (some rooms were intially fit for recording), reside in many studios... Concerts, shows also take place there.
at the basement and with a terrace looking onto the ponds: Café Belga, one of my favourite place in Brussels, to sip some drinks, watch people and grab a bite to eat while (live or programmed) music is there to entertain you.
Fondest memory: Without any doubt, Café Belga is something I would miss in Ixelles ! but in terms of cool spots, downtown XL has other names, ranging from a brasserie to hip places (Café Belga) through student- intellectual "dives".
I call this area around Place Flagey and the ponds "downtown of Ixelles" since it is the lowest part of Ixelles, compared to the University area, compared to Louise area, compared to neighbouring Etterbeek. It houses the ponds and even some streets around the place used to be river beds. It's not unusual to see for instance Rue Gray dwellings flooded in heavy rain season, for it being the natural bed of a river, paved and turned into a street.
Ixelles is one of the biggest amongst those 19 municipalities. Also, for me, it is the most diverse in Brussels region. It has the University area, Flagey area which is partly inhabited by blue collar community (traditionally Portuguese workers and nowadays, Turkish and Moroccan) and rich US, Swedish expats (these latter are rather gathered around the ponds, Etangs d'XL), Matonge: the African area, the Turkish area. Then, let's not forget Avenue Louise: the very one where you can indulge yourself with the upscale & luxury items.
Here and there, you have other arteries made to please the consumers in you, such as Chaussées d'Ixelles, de Wavre.
Also, not to forget, Ixelles & St-Gilles are the ones with greatest concentrations of Art Nouveau & Art deco styles (but mostly the former) buildings. If you want to see Art Nouveau buildings, your tour will surely include those two communes (not the entire regions but parts of them).
Fondest memory: For me, the Ixelles I become to know most is Rue Malibran, one of the streets that give to stellar Flagey place.
Petite Rue Malibran was a little surprise, for me (picture to come).
Used to like Belga, the pub in the RTBF boat-shaped building. At this very moment (untill 2008, if my memory serves me well), the Flagey place is under renovation so it is not the time to visit it & enjoy the terrace at Belga. I insure you, the view on the Etangs d'Ixelles is not bad at all.