I seem to have entered a phase of life when things are coming to an end. Usually a natural, largely expected, series of endings but endings nevertheless. Obviously some of those relate to my Father’s passing and subsequent sale of the house I grew up in; part of the upset for me on the day I finally posted the last set of keys through the door and left the place for the last time was the mind torture running up to that point, which goes along the lines of ‘this will be the last time I do/say/see [insert thing]’ which had me almost in tears a few time (much respect to the Lovely Wife for helping me keep it mostly together.
Also, I am at an age where it is unrealistic to expect everything to stay the same – it simply doesn’t and the sooner we can get our head around that fact the better we can deal with change whether that change be welcomed or hated.
But I was somewhat blind-sided last week when the hotel I was staying in announced they were closing the next morning.
I was tucking into some dinner in the hotel bar as I am wont to do on business trips to Brussels and chatting to the staff. I have been staying in this relatively small hotel off Avenue Louise for many years now. I do not remember exactly why I first stayed there – it is a good twenty-minute walk from the nearest metro station so is hardly convenient. But over the years it has grown on me and since being in Brussels is a fair chunk of my job I have stayed there enough – and the staff turnover so small – that being greeted by name and a smile when I arrive is something I have gotten used to (and I know I was not the only ‘regular’). The Lovely Wife has stayed there with me and we were delighted to find one of my favourite Brussels restaurants – in an old clock factory – was a short walk away. I have enjoyed sitting in the Bicycle themed bar (it used to show looped classic Tour De France footage) reading; and there was good running nearby at the lakes at Flagey.
Most importantly, I was staying at the hotel when the bombs went off in Brussels in March 2016. When I was turned back from the Metro station, some thirty minutes after the bomb at Maelbeck Metro station had gone off I went back to the hotel and was received with calm and allowed to return to my room. I did not leave the hotel again that day, spending most of the time listening to news updates and running on the hotel treadmill looking through the skylight of the rooftop fitness centre at perfect blue sky and wondering how that fitted really with the constant sirens of the emergency services. That evening I remember dining alone in the bar while the staff calmly carried on, despite the stress they must have been under. They were consummate professionals and any panic I may have felt was assuaged by their friendliness and care. When I could go home the next day, I took that calm with me through the enhanced security in place.
So, I admit the slightly weird feeling of being fond of the Four Points by Sheraton, Brussels. Or rather of the staff. But the chain is shutting them down, and although apparently someone has acquired the property and it will reopen in a few months it is hard not to feel that its part in my life is over, and that I should instead concentrate on the memories where a place to stay became more of a reminder of how wonderfully human a diverse group of people can be in a time of crisis.