When in Belgium
 

On the way to the airport, the taxi driver told us what a fantastically safe city Tangier is. “Women can stand by the side of the road here (in groups, of course), waiting for the vans that take them to work, without men! Not like in other cities.” It was just after dawn, and there were indeed huddles of veiled women all along the road. The streets were empty except for those lumbering white vans.

Not quite my standard for safety. It had been two weeks of constant hassling, endless men getting in our faces, yelling at us, following us. We were absolutely ready to leave.

The keyboard we had to contend with to get our Ryanair boarding passes printed

The keyboard we had to contend with to get our Ryanair boarding passes printed

Our cheap Ryanair flight landed at the Brussels South Airport, in an industrial town called Charleroi. Every square inch of the airport was under construction and festooned with cheerfully illustrated but utterly useless signs. After several laps, we finally found the shuttle to the train station and bought tickets to the southern town of Mariembourg.

When we stepped off the train onto the curvy cobbled roads, the bells on the old stone church were chiming charmingly. A trio of dour stone statues presided over a little fair underway in the square, ringed around by people sipping from goblets of glorious beer. It was heavenly.

Why the long faces?

Why the long faces?

An hour later, the sky had clouded over and fat drops of rain were beginning to splash down. The town was too small for taxis, so we set off to walk the 3 km to our hotel, planning to stop for dinner supplies at a grocery store along the way. When we arrived at the store, it was dark and empty, having closed an hour earlier. We continued along the road, which wound past beautiful green fields, peaked stone houses, and old windmills, trying to shield our technology from the steady drizzle.

At the hotel, there was no dinner to be had, but true to Belgian form, there was an extensive Trappist beer list, and each nutty drink came with a platter of meat and cheese. When in Belgium...

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