I went to Brussels for work a couple of weeks ago. We left Brussels for good in July 2008 and this was only my third trip back. The first couple of times, shortly after we had left, I didn’t feel anything in particular and I remember remarking to people in Ireland how surprised I was that I didn’t miss Brussels at all.
This time, it was different though. The weather was lovely; much warmer than here. You forget that Brussels is warmer. And so much was the same, the Sablon, the 92 tram, I felt a remembering tug of all the things I used to love. I went to see some old friends in the evening and their children, in the manner of small children on whom you turn your back, had grown from infants to polite, slightly exotic older children who kissed me on both cheeks when they greeted me.
I think I would like to spend a long weekend in Brussels. Nobody is more surprised than I am.
In the airport on the way home I overheard a Belgian mama lamenting to her mother about the difficulty of finding an English speaking exchange for her child. She pointed out that everyone wants to learn English so the English can go where they like and their fancy rarely falls on Brussels. The grandmother asked whether she had considered Ireland although, she added doubtfully, she herself had been to Dublin and the English spoken in Ireland was entirely unintelligible.
I love Belgians too.