In Belgium

Halfway through a ten-day house exchange, and it’s a rest day, sitting around the house listening to the rain. Rest days are much to be enjoyed following days of getting out and about, either into the melée of Brussels or the frantic road system. Rest days renew the dissipated spirit, refuel the knackered body, prepare for the affair of the holiday to begin again. You might have got the impression that I quite like them.

It might  a bit unfair to rough up the habits of Belgian drivers for they are not quite as the French. Within minutes of entering the roads you have a car up your backside as you obey the very reasonable 50 km suburban speed limit. Not so the locals, who treat speed limits, unless policed, as reference points from which to indulge their boy-racer persona. I was wrong, they are as bad as the French.

Brussels has had a bad press, largely due to their having torn down so much of their architectural heritage in the 1960s. Despite that, in parts it has a lovely Parisian feel, supported beautifully by the predominant language of French at which we are not bad, at least ordering food, buying stamps and the like. There are rewarding quartiers to explore, sinful beer to try and don’t you just love the transport: efficient and cheap, at least the latter beating London. Best of all is coming home to an exchange-house that clasps you unto it, sets you down in the quiet, soothes the fatigue of older age.

Yesterday we drove to Leuven, drove rather than on the tram/train/bus as planned, not only for Suzanne, who has attempted too much after her operation, but also for me with this blasted plantar fasciitis that has persisted for months. Appearing in the square above the car park we were greeted with one of the modern sounds of summer: the banging together of racks of chairs preparing for a rock concert. Another victim of the wars (it’s beginning not to matter which) when the Germans razed lots of the old town for no apparent purpose, Leuven is the country’s oldest university town (1425).

Towards the end of the stay, we visited the town museum where I expected my eyes to glaze over with exhibits of bits of Flanders cloth or spiky mediaeval helmets. Instead, your 10 euros bought four floors of weird arrangements of children’s blocks on tables, pointless films of Indian dancers, pictures (and not many of those) of bits of rope or hairy carpet, and most disconcerting of all a three-act play with two child-robots talking in an American accent to projected films of pole dancers. We did not stay beyond the first act.






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