Chocolate, stews and beer
Next month is going to be exciting for those of you who like football (or soccer, for those across the Atlantic). For those of you who would rather sit in a traffic jam while several toddlers scream in your ear, the excitement levels are a little lower. Somehow the European Football Championships don’t do it for me. Henry talks of little else. The Premier League has literally just finished and I mistakenly believed that meant we could have a few football-free months. But we can’t. And he tells me I should show an interest in what he likes as he occasionally goes to art galleries with me. These two things are clearly not the same but rather than argue I’m going to try to care. First of all I had to pick a team to support. You’re probably thinking since I’m English I should support England – but that would be far too easy. I decided to place my support elsewhere and choose a country based on something utterly unrelated to kicking a ball.
My choice is Belgium. Largely because I really want to go there next.
Among the European heavyweights (in terms of tourism) Belgium sits quietly, not showing off or shouting too much and yet everyone who goes there comes back raving. The food is rich and hearty with pork, beef, game and seafood served all over the place, predominantly in big, steaming cauldrons of delicious stew. Nobody does stew like the Belgians, if you ask me. They love chocolate too – we have that in common. I seriously love it. Strolling around the cobbled streets of Bruges, there’s always a chocolatier nearby with windows rammed full of the most delicious-looking creations I’ve ever seen. And of course they treat beer with the same reverence as other countries treat wine. Sit down for a three-course meal and the waiter will match what you choose with delicious beers served in wine glasses (strong beer too so don’t order a pint!). Before I went the first time I would have sworn I don’t like beer… the Belgians proved me wrong.
It’s not a big country and, as dull as it sounds, the rail network is absolutely brill. You can easily explore all of the country, from the coast to the many quaint towns. As you know I’m a Christmas market obsessive, and they have some of the best here. The festive season is a good time to go, but the summer is equally fun with the gorgeous countryside and beers just waiting to be sipped in the sun.
Whenever you go, I insist on visiting Bruges, Antwerp and Brussels though. Bruges is something of a fairy-tale town with canals, market squares, horses and carts, beautiful churches and general levels of beauty only a few spots can rival. Antwerp is the second largest city and home to the cool kids with a vibrant fashion, art and entertainment scene and some incredible modern architecture. It also has a fortress and a cathedral so it’s no slouch in the historical sites department.
Then there’s the home of the EU – Brussels. Brussels is a strange mix of some of the most beautiful and ugly buildings you’ll ever see. The Grand Place, which is the centre square of the city, is probably one of the top 10 most attractive on the planet. Some of the 1960s buildings have a Medusa-like quality that stop you in your tracks.
The good news for me is that despite my unscientific approach to football team selection Henry tells me Belgium is actually very good at football and could do well. So I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. When they win I’ll be raising a glass of beer while stuffing truffles in my mouth to celebrate.
Who will you be supporting at the Euros? I’d love to know – especially if you have unorthodox reasons like I do!
See you next week.