The idea to visit Belgium during the summer was born in the pub. After a tipsy evening, Jim & I decided that the perfect summer holiday would involve drinking lots of beer and eating lots of chocolate. Belgium was the obvious choice.
Although I have always wanted to visit the Christmas markets in Bruges, I had never really considered Belgium as a summer holiday destination before. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing. Brussels is the capital of the European Union, and I was worried that Belgium would be bureaucratic and a little bit dull. The more I read about it in planning the trip, the more I realised that I was wrong. There was so much that I wanted to see and do in Belgium that I was then worried that my one week holiday from work just wouldn’t be enough time!
Belgium is a lovely country with a fascinating history. It has changed hands between many of the great empires over the centuries, and only became an independent state in 1831. It is sharply divided along language lines between the nationalistic Flemish in the north and french speaking Wallonia in the south, to the point where french speakers are not allowed to vote for Flemish speaking parties and vice versa. These divisions nearly led to the separation of the state in 2010, when Belgium was left without a Government for 535 days before a coalition was eventually formed.
Jim & I crammed a lot into our week in Belgium. We visited the following places, which I will blog about in the coming days:-
- De Panne
It is a lot to do with one week, but Belgium is such a small country that we did not feel rushed at all. Although a lot of the places we visited were full of tourists, it was not a typical touristy holiday. For example, we could look at the menu outside a restaurant without a waiter trying to usher us in. We could walk around tourist sites without touts trying to sell us a tour. It all made for a lovely relaxing holiday, and of course, we drank a lot of beer and ate a lot of chocolate!
I would visit Belgium again in a heartbeat, and I do have a dose of the holiday blues since leaving. We did not have enough time on this trip to visit the south, but I would love to do that in the future to fill in some gaps in trying to understand the Belgian sense of national identity.
Given how easy it is to get to Belgium from the UK, I do think that Belgium (outside of long weekends in Brussels and Bruges) is an underrated holiday destination for the British. It may not have the guaranteed sun of a Mediterranean holiday, but there is so much to see and do there that it could fulfill every holiday wishlist, and I hope to show that with my upcoming blogs.