Piada Bar 2017

Piada Bar 2017

Stand Up for Europe Brussels: European Conventions; The Path to Democracy November 24th 2017


The joy of having over 60 new Facebook friends

After the conference in Munich I was well liked and

gained over 60 new Facebook friends which was a

delight, because I’d been hovering at just over 20 for

about 10 years. For this reason and because I had

received another invitation to a Stand Up event, this

time in Brussels. I decided to make the journey to

Europe again in December 2017, Yes, just weeks after

Munich I was back on the Flixbus. This time it only cost

38 Euros to get there. I thought we might be going out

that evening so I didn’t book a hotel I just thought I’d

crash out on the first bus home in the morning. This

time I had to go on a real budget.

Controversy with Hélène

After deciding to stay up all night I realised that we

probably weren’t got to go to a club that night in

Brussels as well like we did in Munich so, rather

controversially I asked to stay in Hélène’s kitchen and

she said I could sleep there instead and I got a bit hot

under the collar and felt rather embarrassed. She gave

me mixed messages saying I was welcome to sleep

there but she was having an early night, because she

had lectures the next day which didn’t help. ‘An early

night’, just made the situation worse, but this early

night wasn’t supposed to happen until 11pm when she

was flying in from Malta where she’d been to a

graduation. What was even more confusing was her

over use of smileys in her message about sleeping round

hers. It was the smiley that was all too easy to take the

wrong way. She chose a cheeky rueful little smiley I

didn’t know what to think of.

The Piada Bar


After arriving in Brussels at 4:15 having been traveling

since 9:30 in the morning I arrived in the nastiest part of

Brussels which is the area around the North Station. It is

actually the most obvious red-light district of Brussels

but it’s not a very nice one. I entered the station which

is full to the brim of homeless asylum seekers that tout

you for capital and beg you as you go passed particularly

aggressively there.


As I found out later on the

foreigner’s office is just around the corner from there

and they need to be there on a Monday at 9am to get

seen so they all congregate and sleep in there and it’s

scary at night. I had to go into the station because the

police had corned part of the road of due to some kind

of incident. I decided to get out of there fast and I had no

clue where to go but an address. I tried to ask in the

exchange office and they looked puzzled. They tried to

explain but my broken French didn’t help. Thankfully,

someone showed me the way to a nicer area of Brussels

where I’d at least be safer. They said it’s easier to walk

to Rogier underground station and once I got over the

other side of the street from Gard du Nord it’s a lot

safer but never go in the other direction she said.

I got to Rogier and popped into a hotel who let me log

on and we found the address which we marked on a

map at the reception and he let me use their loo.


Apparently, it was in the European Quarter where the

European Parliament is. To get there I found out from

the ticket man that I had to change at Arts-

Loix and then get the other line to Schuman. When I got

out there (as my Ipad required WiFi and is not cellular) I

had to ask the way again. We found the street, I just didn’t

go far enough down it. I started wandering around

aimlessly and got into a bar and had a Leffe, but was running

a bit late. By then Hélène had responded and said I was

welcome to stay but she wants an early night and

didn’t seem that keen but it could have been I was just nervous

I thought it best to arrange to stay elsewhere if

someone else would have me.


I eventually found the Piada bar in the European

Quarter and they had set up a marquee in the back

garden with heaters for the meeting which was a small

introductory meeting for new members to the Brussels

set and a social. I changed my top in the loo and

freshened up a bit as I’d been travelling all day on the

bus and had not had an opportunity to change having

also just yomped across the city. Pietro and Anita

Bernacchia the translator were there along with a

British member of the EU parliament who was busy

gaining French citizenship and a couple of other MEPs.


The Meeting


The meeting itself was chaired by Pietro, it was very

difficult to hear what people were discussing though

because the rain was hammering down on the plastic

roof the whole time, we just decided to set up a hashtag

for our campaigning which was hashtag europespring,

this seemed like more of a big deal to some of the older

top brass than to the internet savvy generation. It

seemed like quite a big new deal to me but it was just a

simple act to a serial blogger like me. I think it was

Michael the French presidential candidate that came up

with the suggestions at the end.


Piadas all Round


It wouldn’t have been named the Piada Bar if it wasn’t

about the aforementioned Italian speciality. What is a

Piada? I didn’t know either, but it is an Italian Taco with

whatever you like and can afford in it. They were only

eaten in one small area of Italy in Emilia-Romagna.

I think initially but they’ve expanded the tradition all

over Europe. They seem to be popular. My one cost

about 14 euros with 5 further Euros being spent on

mineral water. I think it was salami, mozzarella,

mushrooms and rocket I had in mine. We had a couple

of lovely photos in there of us all eating Piadas.


The People


I met Bàlint for the first time the Hungarian manager of

the organisation and found out that he was actually

Hélène’s girlfriend and let it out of the bag what she’d

suggested. We agreed that I would stay at Alessandro’s

(the new head of Brussels operations instead). He had

plenty of room and plenty of time and energy to go on

somewhere else for a while and meet some more


Drinks with Alessandro & Staying Round His

Alessandro and a couple of mates of his agreed to look

after me for the night. We headed on a bus out of the

European Quarter and into the quarter known as Louise

and passed the Palace which Alessandro mentioned was

like the Buckingham Palace indeed even modelled on it

just a little bit larger. He was a little sceptical about me

at first but I did strike up a friendship with him. He’s a

really nice guy. He and his mates went with me to a

small bar called Jupiter where we had a few beers and

Alessandro wanted to stay longer but they were booked

out and I was blocking the entire bar with my huge

rucksack. So we headed off back to Alessandro’s house

in a different part of Louise. We went up some of the

streets like Avenue Suisse that I encountered on my

second trip to Brussels as well.


When we got almost there his friend who lived nearby

parted form him and he took me up to his flat on the

top floor had a shower and he wished me goodnight and

I slept in his kitchen on the sofa bed. As a gift for him

putting me up, I gave him a £90 copy of my book My

Little Book of Berlin and left it for him when I left for the

bus at 6 am. He let me have a few glasses of mineral

water because it’s quite dry and hot in his flat, quite

stuffy. Alessandro studied history and archaeology and

now works as a teacher. Alessandro lives in three other

people in a shared accommodation and the kitchen is

their sizeable communal space and it was a really lovely

one with skylights in the roof and Alessandro loves it

and has a lot of parties there for Stand Up people.

Making it back home


Leaving Alessandro’s at 6 I headed off back down a few

of the narrow streets and found my way to avenue

Louise and the station Louise and from there I paid out

my last few Euros on a sandwich and orange juice which

turned out to be the only thing I could afford to eat all

day. I then headed back to Rogier and got on the bus to

London. We got behind at Coquelles again with the

usual faffing around described above, but we arrived

back in London more or less on time. I nearly died of

diabetes when the driver couldn’t sell me a coke at

Coquelles. I had to wait another three hours until we

got to London. I checked the bank balance and I had five

pounds I was able to spend in Pret on some lunch and

five pound coins in my pocket I got to Liverpool street

with. I then had to call through to mum yet again

because I had not got enough to get home and wait in

the waiting room for hours in Liverpool street having

rung mum and her having gone ballistic about having to

pay for me to get home from Liverpool Street as the

police suggested was the only solution possible. I got

home because I was able to pick up the ticket form the


SUFE Piadas