Jeff and I have been married over 28 years and we have been in the military the entire time, one way or another, as a matter of fact, that is where we met...in Air Force basic training. It is hard to believe that almost 29 years have seen us come and go and we are still together but now we have finally set down roots. We have moved 16 times in our 23 years of military service and a couple of those, 2x, one of which was Belgium.
If you have not ever heard of or visited Belgium, you have really missed out. When we first arrived on the base, they gave us a two week course consisting of places to visit, commonly used phrases (in french), traditions of the local national people and much more. Since Jeff was already working and I had not yet found a job, I went out to meet my neighbors. There is not such a thing in Belgium as the Welcome Wagon (not that there is much of it in the US anymore either) but Belgians are very "to themselves". I embarked on a quest of meeting my neighbors by baking loaves of different types of quick breads and delivering them, hoping to: A. Not scare them to death and B. Impress them with my french that I had learned. Well, as most of you know, I am from Oklahoma and one of the things that I have not been able to shed over the years is my accent. Okay, now picture this, an Okie, speaking french and TRYING NOT to throw in the Okie twang that I had grown up with. My neighbors were very patient with me and most extended a welcome to me as we lived there over our 9 year tour. Some of our best friends that had taken us under their wings are Cecile and Marcel Yasse and their family. Cecile taught me French and corrected me as I did for her in English. They have become an extended family for us over the years and we have seen each others' children grow up and move out over the years.
Belgium is a one of a kind place. It reminds one of fairy tales, knights, dragons and castles. The countryside is filled with a multitude of people that try to assist you once they know you aren't Belgian and you don't speak french well...but...you try to speak their language and follow their traditions. There are open markets that consist of household goods, plants, animals, pre-made food items (such as the rotisserie chicken aka "Horny Dinosaur Chicken") that I have included in my recipes. There are castles (we lived 10 minutes from the Chateau d' Attre and the Chateau du Beleoil) and cobblestone streets. The architecture is very stimulating. Art Deco abounds throughout the countryside and you will see many old barns/buildings that have the year of their inception embedded within their bricks. While I was there I saw only 1...count it, 1...house that was made of wood. All others are created from stone or brick.
Belgium is north of France and Luxembourg, west of Germany, South of the Netherlands and east of the UK and Scotland across the English Channel. The easiest way to get around there is by foot or train. The bus follows quickly behind those two. Their mass transit is impeccable.
There are three languages spoken in Belgium. We lived in the south so we and our neighbors spoke French, to the east, close to Germany, folks spoke German. Those that lived in the north spoke Flemish and when you go to Brussels, you will hear D:All the above, spoken. When driving on the autoroute, the signs are usually in at least TWO of those languages so you must know at least one of the names of the towns that you are going to visit. We lived close to the town of Mons, as it was called in the south. However, if you are in the north and driving home to Mons, you will see it called "Bergen". Tell me that this isn't a pain!!! It is just part of the experience.
One of my favorite things there is the Parc Paradisio. It was created on the grounds of an old Monastary/Abbey http://www.pairidaiza.eu/fr/index.html . If you look this site up on Google Chrome (which I think should be what everyone uses but I am not the internet police) it will give you the option to translate the page at the top. I hope you enjoy your visit via the net.
Another one of my favorite things is what Belgium is famous for. They are famous for their chocolates, waffles, beer and lace. I was fortunate enough to take a bobbin lace course, along with my daughter Michille, while we were stationed there. The ladies in the class were so very patient with us, especially our instructor! I have signed up to take bobbin lace here and hopefully will re-enter my class in October with my teacher RuthAnn. She is a dream and has the patience of Job!
On a final note, Cecile and Marcel are visiting us again this year. They have come to visit us in most of the locations that we have lived in over the years and have delighted us with their presence. You should try Belgium in one or more of its forms, whether it be through their chocolates, their waffles, their lace or their country. I promise...I PROMISE...it will be worth your while to do so. It will be an adventure that you will never forget!
*hugz n blessings*