My 10 best things about Belgium
My daughter has challenged me to list the 10 best things about Belgium and as I have been stuck in bed with a cold, while it has rained for two days solid, I decided to give it a go.
1. Speculoos. They are delicious. Speculoos ice cream is also delicious. Speculoos spread is weird. But also delicious.
2. The self-service checkouts in Delhaize don’t give a monkey’s about what’s in your bagging area and they don’t shout at you in a robot voice. I may be brave and start using them sometime soon. (There are also proper boulangeries and boucheries and lovely markets so I may not go to the supermarket at all.)
3. The Belgian equivalent of Lemsip is stronger and tastes better. (We call it Belsip but it probably has an actual name.)
4. The national anthem is quite chirpy, actually about Belgium and only mentions the king in the chorus, along with the rule of law and liberty.
5. Trams. I absolutely love trams, especially the 94 in Brussels, which lists its destination as Trammuseum, and the Kusttram (Coast Tram) from De Panne to Knokke, which is the longest tramline in the world. (The Tram museum itself is quite small but fabulous.)
6. Special conveyor belt lifts for getting furniture into your new home via a third floor window, or HIGHER. Well worth stopping on the street just to watch one in action.
7. Stealth cones, which appear mysteriously at night in the city, and a myriad of other peculiarly Belgian solutions to the practical problems of daily living.
8. Belgian food. I love all of it, except for calves’ brains. I particularly like the big tomatoes stuffed with little grey shrimps, and hearty portions of carbonarde flamande. Belgian food works less well for vegetarians, though still a lot more veggie-friendly than Poland.
9. The strangely lyrical weather forecasts printed in Le Soir, which remind me of poems by Verlaine (Les sanglots longues, de l’automne; La nublosité continuera sur les côtes….) Also, the warnings of light “perturbations” on the rail network delivered in haiku form by SNCB. Belgium public services have a poetic soul, at least in French. Sadly, I don’t (yet) speak Dutch.
10. Football. Belgium actually has a good national team and did quite well at Euro 2016. At club level, Anderlecht may be a top flight team (in the Jupiler Pro League) but the stadium is really friendly, unlike say Paris Saint-Germain, and the strip is a most excellent shade of purple. There are a manageable number of league grounds in Belgium so my ambition to visit them all may even be achievable. I already own a jigsaw of the Belgian National Team and a Smurf in Belgian football kit. #tousensemble
There are lots of other great things about Belgium which didn’t make my initial list, including the architecture, the Belgian countryside, almost free university education (there is a modest parental contribution), glorious folk festivals, chocolate, beer and the broad beaches of the North Sea Coast in the driving rain.
The main thing I like about Belgium right now is that it is at the heart of the European Union and that we have the right to live and work here should we so choose, at least for the time being. I can’t wait to shake off this damn cold and discover more of Belgium.