Brussels Calling

I’m waiting for my boys to come home from Brussels.

They departed on a very early Eurostar train on Saturday. We saw a beautiful sunrise as we drove along the motorway to Ashford International, listening soberly to the radio with its half-hourly news bulletins still focusing on the recent attacks that had hit the Belgian capital.

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My boys have had the time of their lives. Full foodie immersion – hot frites, warm waffles, superlative chocolate. Culture too – the mim (Musical Instruments Museum), beautiful Bruges/Brugge, as well as the visionary Atomium. Plus sporting challenges – hurtling down the fastest slide in Belgium and falling off bikes. These are just some of the highlights that have been sent to my phone via WhatsApp.

Lucky boys.

So far, the only evidence of any (Belgian) Dutch language acquisition is No. 1’s new knowledge of the verb amputeren (to amputate) – borne out of an attempt to curdle up some remote maternal anxiety by dispatching photos of magnificently mocked-up injuries supposedly sustained from the aforementioned bike mishap. I suppose I should be grateful that it’s clean Dutch 😉

Why Belgium?

Finca las Cañadas friendship – struck up between us and the Belgians last summer through a mutual joy of jumping from high heights into the piscinas naturales of Extremadura, the shared sampling of tasty tapas and solving of black stories, and getting too closely acquainted with scorpions – resulted in our Belgian friends issuing sons No. 1 and 2 with a very kind invitation to visit them in their home country. We didn’t think twice about accepting, (despite misgivings about sending their table manners with them).

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Last Tuesday, our Belgian friends were caught up in the tragic attacks on Brussels. For them it was a long, arduous, and worrying day, but they reached home safely that evening. A little later, we received a warm and heartfelt message, in which our friends made clear that the boys were still welcome, but they would understand if we wanted to rethink the visit.

We thought and considered, but not for long. We were of the same mind as our friends. The boys were not sheltered from the news (how could they be, even if we felt that they should be?). The children from both families felt that no terrorist should put any fear into them – they wanted to see each other, and that was that. Pragmatically we all decided that nowhere could be safer than Brussels now.

So the boys continued to pack, and our friends made their home ready, and we all kept an eye on the news as it unfolded.

The day after the attacks on Brussels, I came across this article in the Huffington Post in which senior writer and travel lover, Ann Brenoff, explains why she won’t be travelling to Europe in the foreseeable future. She understands that her fear of an attack by terrorists is illogical and irrational, but acknowledges that it is there.

This article made me think (again) about the wisdom of sending our boys to Brussels on their own, but it didn’t change any of our minds. I’m not sure that Ann Brenoff’s fear is totally irrational – the list of places that have been affected by terrorist attacks is growing by the day, in an apparently unpredictable way. But it’s not just Europe that’s affected, as this analysis by the New York Times shows, and acts of terrorism are not all related to ISIS or directed at the West (see here).

So should my sons have stayed at home instead?

And missed out on all of this:

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And not been able to hang out with their friends:

Together thinking about last Tuesday’s victims:

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Not to mention receiving the free hugs on offer:

Belgium, Brussels, Brugge, Bruges, Eurostar, Ashford International, train travel, March, UK, Finca las Cañadas, Spain, Europe, France, Paris, Dutch, Music Museum, Atomium, Place de la Bourse, memorial, Tintin
Brussels’ warmth

My guess is that my boys are glad they decided to go. And so am I.

So I sit here waiting for them, hoping that they return with at least 10 (clean) Dutch phrases, and a desire for further adventures. They’ve been very lucky to spend some time in this small country at Europe’s heart, with open-minded, friendly people who have a keen sense of humour. Where else does the tourist trail include a peek at a peeing boy (who quickly became a symbol of solidarity last Tuesday)?

Belgium, Brussels, Brugge, Bruges, Eurostar, Ashford International, train travel, March, UK, Finca las Cañadas, Spain, Europe, France, Paris, Dutch, Music Museum, Atomium, Place de la Bourse, memorial, Tintin
Mannekin Pis (Peeing Boy)

Aside from the obvious concerns, one of my main worries was that my boys’ table manners would let them down. I hear that they passed that test. Either that’s true or kids’ table manners are equally bad in Belgium (and everywhere else) – another thing we all have in common.


Many thanks to Katrien Eggers for allowing me to reproduce many of her lovely photographs. And for putting up with my boys.

Reciprocal invitation hereby issued 🙂

 

 

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