I’m currently flying above a hazy navy sky, and beneath that, the faint outline of patchwork farmland. As I tap this out on my iPhone, miles below Belgium fades smaller and smaller in the distance.
It seems a bit premature to give, or even form, my opinion of an entire country after four days. I mean, I had no life-changing, spectacular feelings the first time I visited England…five years later when I returned, I fell in love with it and moved across the ocean for it. So I’m not here to offer you blanket statements. But I will say – I did not fall in love with Belgium. But I don’t believe Belgium fell in love with me either. Still – there are moments I am grateful for (even the less-than-sweet ones).
In Brussels, the air smelled of cigarette smoke and urinals, mixed with sweet waffles. The grey, faceless buildings transformed into bright comic strips that spanned five stories, or ornate gold architecture. It drizzled gray, and then the sun beat down. One night, I was given free wine for waiting five minutes for a table, the next morning I was charged triple for my hotel breakfast by a concierge who looked down his nose at me. As my fellow blogger (who now calls Brussels home) Isabel said, what is low-range for Brussels is mid-range for the rest of us!
I am grateful for the many Belgians who were full of kindness. We were met with smiles on the street, patient directions, a kind woman at the train station who told us about a young persons discount. On Instagram, I posted a photo of Brussels, and was met with messages about hometown top tips, including the best frites in town.
On our final day in Brussels, everything seemed to go wrong. After we were charged over €100 more than expected on hotel checkout, things kept going downhill. Little moments: being cut in front of at the grocery store, charged an extra 50p for cream in a cup, our airport being a further 20km from the city than expected. Of course – many of these things are not Belgium’s fault. They are mine for ineptitude or carelessness or stress, they are moments which happen in every city on every day. I think there’s a sliver of something, even if those sour moments, that I can be grateful for. After all, they piece together my memories of Belgium.
And there were good moments as well (thank you to Carolann’s gratitude project for reminding me!). First and foremost, we spent a lovely dinner with Isabel, her husband Miha and baby Max. We laughed and I ate the best Mexican food for months, and the strongest margaritas too. We found a secret sheep garden in Bruges, ate fresh mussels, drank the best hot chocolate I have ever had whilst playing cards tucked into the back of an old tea house. We found a water fountain with sparkling water. A pure white, Persian cat in a window in Ghent, with the sign “#cocosilvershadow” stuck in the window’s corner. We passed corners of chocolate shops and ivy-climbed walls and dangling lights.
Overall, Belgium was sour and sweet. I am not desperate to go back, but I am grateful for even the moments which I did not enjoy. And who knows – it might be like my experience with England. I could still fall in love with it, years from now.
Follow along on my Europtrip adventures on Instagram!
This post is part of Carolann’s lovely link-up that is aiming us to bring more gratitude to our lives.