Belgium, bicycles and birthdays part three

Trip Start Oct 04, 2005
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Belgium  ,
Monday, July 24, 2006

Belgium is a strange country.
Despite the fact that it is very small it has an amazing amount of history, culture, scenery and influence in Europe.
The people are very divided. You have the Flemish in the north, they speak Dutch and are closer to their neighbours in The Netherlands and you have the Wallonians in the south who speak French and are closer to their neighbours in France (obviously).
If you had a Flemish person in the same room, at the same table as a Wallonian you would never know that they were from the same country. Generally their common language would be English and they would probably consider each other with a certain amount of contempt.

The Belgian cities like Antwerp and Brussels are great. They are a cocktail of Dutch and French influence and style and when you are first there you have a strange feeling that you don't really know where you are. They are stylish and cosmopolitan but also dirty and crowded.

During my time in Belgium I learned a few things:
1 not all French-speaking people are attractive and cultured
2 not all Dutch-speaking people are educated and stylish
3 I like rich food at any hour of the day
4 I don't like cycling up hills in the midday sun
5 French-speaking waitress' are rude no matter what country they are in

The journey that day took us along gigantic reserviours and damns that reached for miles into the air. We stopped to rest at the water's edge where Peter smoked while I played with some tiny frogs.

After cycling for forty kilometres (oh my god!) we arrived in Belgian town of Spa. The now faded and crumbling buildings tell a story of a once grand and fashionable resort town famous for its natural mineral water springs.
There was a speed car rally in town and the teams and drivers were showing off their cars outside the grubby casino and the town was packed with spectators looking for something to eat.
Unfortunately no one was serving any food. No one was polite in telling this and no one was prepared to offer any kind of customer care what-so-ever.

Course this led to a "Stephen is tired and hungry" moment that alerted many to the facts that:
1 Belgium is a hillbilly country populated by rednecks
2 Too much sun is never a good thing
3 I have no control over my temper when I am hungry
4 All french people are rude and hateful

Peter let me get over this and we managed to find an over-priced meal in the Radisson Hotel.

The journey home was a long one and one that neither of us particularly wanted to make. Peter handled it in the manner of a man who has children and is a responsible grown up.
I threw a tantrum and stated my unhappiness at all the ugly people in the vicinity.

Ever patient, Peter cheered me up and before we knew it we were back at our tent by the busy road and heading into Eupen for something to eat.
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