It’s raining today. Actually, a crazy storm is brewing and, apparently, there could be some tornado action. Unsettling, yes, but after the horrendous May rains last year when the mighty Blanco River overflowed, I guess I’m kinda jaded. So instead of manically preparing three days’ worth of survival supplies for me and my dog, I’m in my office browsing through old photos of when I lived in Belgium.
I have a love hate relationship with Belgium. The bureaucracy and the general pessimism of its people (which has to be a natural by-product of all that bureaucracy) drove me out of my mind on the daily. In fact, it’s an expat joke that the two most common phrases in Belgium are ‘normally’ and ‘not possible’. Normally is used to indicate that under different circumstances, whatever it was you needed to do or buy or accomplish would have been possible–just not at the present moment you presently find yourself in. Not possible is fairly straight forward. The funny thing is, one never seems to land in the magical, time space continuum that is ‘normally’. Everything is usually not possible the first (or second or third) time around and may never be possible, depending on whom you are dealing with. It was during my seven years in Belgium that I developed a level of patience which makes Ghandi look like a hot-headed asshole.
All that aside, it’s a charming little country. I so loved that every village has a little grocery store, and Belgians don’t need an HOA to police the state of their yards–grass is mowed and flowers watered because people there actually take pride in their neighborhood and care about what their neighbors think of them. There is a lovely cafe culture where on a sunny day, you can head to the square and sit and people watch, drinking amazing beer. There are many fabulous cities–each with their own character. Antwerp, Ghent, and Brussels are the major ones, and I fell particularly hard for Brussels.
Things I love about Brussels are its labyrinthine layout and culturally-diverse quarters, both lending a sense of adventure to every visit. Every neighborhood has its own vibe, and there aren’t really too many chain stores. Shopping there is so much fun because every store is unique and special. Ohhhh how I miss my favorite perfume shop, sitting in this square and people watching, checking out the monthly vintage market and then grabbing lunch or dinner in the Asian Quarter. In the summer, we would pack a picnic and head to the Bois de la Cambre to chill out with some wine and listen to the DJs spinning tunes on the park grounds. There was always an interesting art exhibit or musical performance happening at the Bozar. Eating delicious steak and frites at Brasserie Georges. This place isn’t in Brussels, but there’s this little movie theater called the Cinema Plaza Art, located in Mons, where they show films in their original language (i.e., films from Britain, Canada, and the US aren’t dubbed…yey!). I miss the very affordable weekly flower markets. There were always a bunch of roses, or sunflowers, or peonies in my living room. I miss my sweet neighbors who, thankfully, I still keep in touch with.
While I don’t miss the weather (it rains a lot there, and there are far too many overcast days for my liking), or that %*&#@ bureaucracy, I miss Belgium, and Brussels in particular. Here are some random photos I took on a Saturday in the city:
I’ll leave you with probably Belgium’s most famous pop song.
Remember it from National Lampoon’s European Vacation when the Griswald’s were in Paris? Total 80s cheesiness 🙂