Reflections on Belgium

We’re on a housesit in a town 30 minutes outside of Antwerp, the second-largest city in Belgium. This is our first time in Belgium and it’s been a great place to visit. I had no idea that this is such an interesting place. I want to share some of our experiences in this wonderful area close to the border with the Netherlands.

First of all, bicycling is an important mode of transportation here. Everyone rides bikes on this mostly flat land. There are Moms and Dads with multiple kid seats on their seriously strong bikes, bike commuters taking the ferry into the cities, and local folks just doing their errands or enjoying the scenery by bike. The streets, sidewalks, and street signs are designed for biking as well as pedestrians and, seemingly lastly, car traffic. People know and follow the rules. Few people wear helmets, though.

Belgium is know for fries, chocolate, beer, and waffles, and those foods are ubiquitous for locals and tourists. However, we have also eaten a lot of seafood, fresh pasta, and wonderful vegetables as well. There are international restaurants as well as vegan/vegetarian. Breakfasts for locals are usually from the bakery, though. We’ve seen lots of kids munching their croissants.

Locals are patient and friendly to us. We are from the USA, but we are invariably approached as if we were locals. Wherever we’ve gone, people address us in Flemish (a Dutch dialect) and we have to explain that we only speak English or Spanish. Usually most everyone switches to English but sometimes we go through an exploratory period of: German? French? There don’t seem to be many tourists in this town but this occurs in the more cosmopolitan Antwerp as well.

Lastly, there is an appreciation for history here. The museums we’ve seen are quite unusual. The building owned by the Red Star Line, a shipping company that carried more than two million immigrant to the USA, Canada, and other countries, is now a museum dedicated to the immigrant’s stories. Another museum presents the story of a multigenerational family dedicated to printing, with original hand-printed books and the machinery developed for the tasks, with an admirable collection of paintings by the painter P.P Ruebens. A third museum contains the objects that individuals hold most dearly and the stories behind them.

This is just our experiences in this one area of Belgium. We’ll be moving on in two days but I will cherish our memories here and return if I can.

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I too, am actively looking for sits in Belgium. I’m a tad disappointed, however, that in your lovely and quite extensive ‘snapshot’ of Belgium, you did not mention the numerous WW1 Battlefields sites which are literally dotted all along the main and also side roads in Belgium, representing the thousands of lives lost by allied forces , and German forces, 1914 to 1918.
This is one of my main reasons for wanting to visit Belgium. I’ve just returned from three days touring Ypres and Arras. The 8.00pm ‘Last Post’ played at the Menen Gate, Ypres, every single evening, is a must. When I was there two weeks ago, there were literally hundreds of people standing respectfully … from the four corners of the globe.
Everyone should visit the WW1 battlefields sites. ‘Lest we forget’.

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I am based here ST with my Dutch boyfriend in Antwerp. We are house sitters when we travel to the the U.S. and in future, here in Europe. I’m also a former cursing sailor so I am used to the nomadic lifestyle. We spent the past two winters in Mexico. Looking at Portugal now, or Thailand next.

Nancy

Hi Nancy. I’m sorry I didn’t post earlier, we might have met in Antwerp. Tomorrow is our last day which means we’ll be packing and straightening up. We are also post-cruising sailors. It hasn’t been a year since we donated the boat. An easy step into housesitting to continue traveling, but I’m still not used to being on land all the time. We are headed to Northern France for five days, then London on the 13th. Nice to hear from you, thanks for posting.

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Being originally from Belgium, I’m glad you like it! We often get overlooked between our big Dutch & French neighbours :grinning:

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Thanks so much for your detailed review @AnnieNai. We also just wrapped up a sit and will be leaving Edinburgh and heading to London, at the end of the week. The time we spend discovering all these different cities and countries, is truly a gift. Safe travels!

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It sounds like an amazing place to visit. I will have to add it to my pet-sitting bucket list :slight_smile:

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@AnnieNai, welcome to the forum and thank you for sharing such a great story about your travels to Belgium. I have not had the pleasure of visiting there yet, but it is definitely on our bucket list…and what you have shared gives everyone a little extra insight into the area, customs, and all things to do.

I am always amazed at the history learned when visiting other countries. We tend to take it for granted when we don’t leave our cozy home areas and you have painted a beautiful picture of what to see and do while there.

Any time you would like to share more photos would be wonderful!

Thanks again!

Debbie - Forum Moderator

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@AnnieNai I’m also dual u.s. and Canada. Can I message you about travel ins and Mexico residency? We spent the last 2 winters in Mexico

We stayed in Bruges- inside the “old town”. The preserved history, architecture, art, and culture were soul candy for me (as was most of Europe). My niece lives in Brussels, speaks French, English, but no Flemish. In Bruges (1+ hour away by train), they speak Flemish, English, little French. Interesting…

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