The Tale of a Belgian Night
As the sun finally peaks out from behind the clouds like an old friend turned shy after a long time from home, we throw open our doors to embrace the warmth and thaw the chill set deep in our bones. With the doors wide open and welcoming, we turn to tackle the windows, the ones that have been shut with curtains drawn for so long that we relish the small clouds of dust as they shake loose from the hinges and the fresh warm air rushes in. Before we know it, our homes are brimming with sunlight beckoning us out onto the streets for more, as if it has come to boil our stagnant waters, bubbling us up and out of the fortresses we had constructed against the bite of a cold and bitter winter.
So we escape our burrows, friends and strangers alike spilling out onto the streets to release the laughter we had been hiding behind closed doors to protect from the chill of the winter months. A new energy begins to buzz through Brussels, and we ride it out into the open air with a plethora of beers in hand. We gather, emerging from our various corners of the city, to find each other once again in our favorite places. For us, we have chosen Place Flagey, with it’s vicinity to Belga for beer and Frites Flagey for fries, combined with the shimmer of the sunshine reflecting off the lake and ample lush grass to laze on, it is the perfect location for a relaxing rendezvous on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Our limbs creak and reach for the sun as we stretch our bodies out into a tangled mess of recently sun-kissed arms and legs on the blankets we’ve laid next to the water. The click and hiss of opening beer cans cuts through the air as the cones of fries are passed hand to hand and the debate over the best frites sauce ensues. The conversations begin to ebb and flow through a variety of languages, the soft hum of French and the singing of Spanish and the harsh guttural sounds of Flemish all interwoven, mixing and appearing in various accented English statements, all of which dissolve into laughter, our universal language, as the beer continues to flow.
The time slips as quickly as the sun towards the horizon and the air begins to cool, drawing us away from our oasis and into the cold alleys framed by colorful buildings lit from within. As our steps begin to echo through the streets, we endeavor to form plans for the night, only to break them as our names are called from a nearby terrace spilling over with friendly beckoning faces, more beers in hand refusing to be ignored. And so the night slowly turns into a blur of exchanged bisou, techno inspired dancing, and a few acoustic renditions of Wonderwall as we wander from bar to bar, drifting amid the flow of friends, enjoying each other’s company along the hunt for the perfect atmosphere.
Finally, as the night fades to dawn, we return to our homes, two by two, to nestle back into our fortresses and hide from the sunrise. A peaceful silence spreads across the city, stretching its influence in all directions until the calm sinks in and even the bars embrace it, closing for the early morning hours.
But even in the silence, if you listen closely enough, you can hear a content hum break through, the various native tongues joining together to whisper -
Today was good.
P.S. If you liked this article, you can read my piece on a night in Rome here