Saturday, May 2, 2009
Belgium in Boots
We are quite close to Belgium, but for one reason or another we don't actually visit very much.
Historically, we used to dash through Belgium when driving to/from UK for Xmas, often in the dark, rain, snow, ice &/or fog, grateful for the free & well-lit motorways, where French Autoroutes are neither.
Based on that unfair sampling, we saw no particular reason to stop, slow down or revisit.
Ambling towards Belgium in a summer, exploratory mood, we would be more likely to get waylaid in Luxembourg, which is more obviously scenic & attractive.
So it was only recently that we spent a few days in Belgium and of course we found plenty to see & do in that time.
Bruges (Brugge) is all you would expect of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, in the words of Michelin, is worth the voyage.
Antwerp easily exceeded our modest expectations with its extravagant architecture.
Brussels, we knew would have a big mixture of old & new, but we were still impressed by the Grand Place and by endless details in the domestic architecture.
Not to mention the pubs, which we miss in France.
But lots of the modern bits look like the endless faceless offices they are.
And the most surprising negative bit was the pavements.
I knew "Belgian pavé" roads were an old-time standard in roughness, reproduced in car proving grounds worldwide to test prototype durability.
But I had never heard that the pavements, for people to walk on, were the same or worse.
Even right in front of the Royal Palace, the stone slabs were chaotically uneven, broken, missing, rocking, so you needed to watch every footstep carefully.
I can't imagine what the rate of ankle injuries in Brussels must be.
But I strongly recommend high-laced hiking boots for any visit.
Parting thot: "To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee." - William H. Walton