I recently discovered that aside from my “chatty” and “angry” neighbors, I have another neighbor who is much worthier of being visited: BELGIUM.
A trip to Belgium from Valenciennes involves:
1. Taking the city bus from the train station to “Frontière,” the last stop on the line which is right on the Belgian border (30 minutes).
2. Walking across the border, down the street which consists of nothing but Tabac shops (bulk tobacco, booze, etc. for much cheaper than in France), and end up at the grimy and desolate, not to mention closed down indefinitely so we can’t actually go into it, station. (15 minutes)
3. Catching the train from Quiévrain (the border town) to St. Ghislain. (20 minutes)
4. Catching a train in St. Ghislain to basically anywhere in Belgium (1 hour to Brussels, where you can catch another to Ghent, or about 1 hour to Tournai)!
In other words, it takes me about as much time to get to Belgium as it does to get to Seattle in traffic at home. My friend even worked out how to get to Luxembourg or Aix-la-Chapelle this way.
I had Tuesday off this past week, so Matt and I went to Tournai.
The belfry, which is the oldest one in Belgium
The view from the belfry (cue intense feeling of vertigo)
On the main square
Then, this weekend, my friend Laura and I went to Brussels, having heard about their amazing Christmas market. It definitely lived up to our expectations.
Inside the market rows
Bison burger (!? they invited Québec to do a few stalls) and vin chaud (mulled wine)
Sometimes (all the time), a change of scenery does wonders for one’s mentality. There is nothing better than arriving in a brand new city with a bunch of new things to do and see and feeling like every little victory (navigating a new metro system? finding the grande place?) is a championship achievement.
Also, I loved the Brussels Christmas Market because so many of the stalls contained things I would never be able to get anywhere else in the world. It was mostly a visual feast, because after I got some Christmas presents there wasn’t a reason to spend more money…but the number of beautiful artisan home decorations, jewelry, food, etc. we saw was insane! The market went on for blocks and blocks, and we got lost several times…but it was a GREAT day.
Goal of the year: visit every Belgian city worth seeing? 🙂