It’s always tempting to form a negative opinion of a whole nation after encountering just a few brusque individuals, but it’s worth keeping an open mind – there are of course some grumpy folk in Belgium, but plenty of kind, warm people too, just like in every other place on earth. I went for a twenty minute pre-dawn jog around Leuven in my high-vis gear on Saturday, (having just signed up for my first half-marathon I needed to get a run in) and got quite a few surprised looks from the few people on the early morning streets. They clearly thought I was barking mad! I really enjoyed my run past the War Memorial in front of the railway station and the stunning spotlit Stadhuis (Town Hall).
Lieges was fun that evening, with a distinctly Belgian twist on the German Christmas markets model. I enjoyed a hot spiced apple juice, a‘saucisse curry’ with mayonnaise, bought some woollen mittens for my frozen hands, and bravely handed over my 3 euros for a solo ride on the Big Wheel! I also snapped a couple of pooches for my Dogs page!
Bruges looked fascinating – I was pleased to see that Sir Thomas More once visited the town. He has always interested me, not least because he had a house in Southborough, where I live (his most famous work Utopia is very nearly at the top of my book pile).
I enjoyed walking round the streets surrounding the central squares of these old towns and cities, really just getting my bearings on my first visit. I went in search of the Flea Market in Brussells and came across a wonderful band busking in the old High Street. I also, to my delight, found a fab organic wholefood self-service cafe, EKXI, relaxed and friendly, in the Bourse.
I look forward to going back one day to have a closer, slower look. Obviously, there is a multitude of marvellous works of art to see in Belgium, and in particular I would love to have a guided tour of Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s house in Brussels (groups only, and needs booking in advance!). I would also really like to see The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb in Sint Baafskathedral in Ghent.
In the meantime, here are some snapshots: