Misha Downey is a dancer and performer who has performed with Rosas, with his own company Amgod, with the rock group Zita Swoon, and with the Needcompany. In addition, he is also studying patisserie baking, and he is a stay-at-home-dad for his children.
Downey lives in “a very strange, rough, and forgotten but interesting little corner of 1000 Brussels”. The area north of the North Station, between Laken and Schaarbeek, near the canal. It is his starting point for lots of trips both inside and outside the Region, usually by bike.
“If we go on holiday, it is often to visit family. I was born in Leicester, but my parents moved to the coast of Wales in Pembrokeshire where they have some of the best beaches in Europe. Absolutely beautiful. But on holiday I don’t get the chance to take my bicycle with me. That is one of the reasons that staying in Brussels over the summer is great. Because I always have my bicycle. Any city is great by bike, but Brussels is quite small so you can go up and down the canal and within minutes you are in the countryside where the canal becomes a beautiful place that you might want to stick your feet into.”
Closer to home is Tour & Taxis. “We have been going on after dinner night walks there. Eventually you get to Parckfarm, but along the way the kids will do all sorts of activities and ﬁ nd things to make a sort of gym out of the area. Brasserie de la Senne has also just moved there from Molenbeek and has a fantastic bar there.”
Downey was brought up in a place without a garden, so he was always in parks as a child and still loves them. “For me there is no excuse not to enjoy the parks of Brussels. Pick any area, look for the local park, and check out what there is to discover around it. Like ice cream vendors or other places where everyone goes. In the centre, the Warandepark/Parc Royal is always buzzing in the summer, and they now have better bars there then they used to have. Bozar and Cinematek are nearby to cool down if you want to. We also go to the Josaphat Park quite often because there is a nice café called La Buvette, and because we have a friend who competes in the ‘vertical stake’ – the traditional bow and arrow shooting. Ever so nice and very Belgian.”
What Downey misses are opportunities for wild swimming. “I like swimming in rivers and seas, but there is nothing like that here obviously. I take the kids to the Pierebad in Strombeek-Bever, a nice swimming pool with a skateboard place outside. In the same area there is also the cultural centre CC Strombeek, where they always have interesting exhibitions.” And holidays are also about food of course.
“Brussels boasts all the different foods from around the world. The ‘Wolf’ food hall that has opened is pretty well done. I was waiting for something like that in Brussels. And my daughter asked me to mention The Avocado Show near the Bourse, where they apparently have very good Peruvian avocados! The idea of doing a barbecue in the summer is also nice, and they have fantastic meat in Dierendonck.”
Need some music to enrich the atmosphere? “I always put on internet radio to hear my BBC and stuff, but if we have a Thai dinner, for example, I just hop over to a Thai radio station. And just yesterday the neighbours were playing Latin music out of their house, and it was lovely to hang out on my terrace. I really felt like I was already on holiday.”