One day I was looking online at airfares just for fun, and discovered a round-trip ticket to Belgium in March wasn’t much more than a new outfit for me. So I booked a flight and went for a week to visit Guy at his farm. The weather was horrible, much like it is here this time of year, but the scenery was charming, and I had a wonderful time there.

Guy lives on a farm from the 1800’s, built by and lived in by the governor of the time – Monsieur Dumont and his family. It’s a strong old structure, with thick walls and earthy red brick.

The four-legged tenants included 5 kittens, 1 dog, and 7 horses. I also met Monsieur and Madame P., musicians with old-world hospitality, who offered fresh butter from a local farm and nice white wine as we chatted with them through their window one day.

While it wasn’t a big sight-seeing trip, Guy did manage to take me around to a few key spots. I got to see a local inhabited castle near his farm, various parts of Brussels (including the magnificent La Grande Place with its grand architecture), Brugge (with chocolate shops and scenic canals), and Oostende (a popular wide beach in the Flemish region with a peaceful ambiance).

We also visited Guy’s friend, Antonio, the artist, at his place in Tournai. He is an animated, expressive man of remarkable talent. These pictures show some of his many paintings, and the award-winning sculpture was featured in an issue of Marie Claire magazine.

French was the official local language in the region where I stayed. Few people spoke English, or if they did, they were unwilling to speak too much of it! So all of the menus had to be translated (but by the end I was starting to get some of it), and the conversations around me had that lovely, familiar-sounding rhythm I adore but still can’t understand.

I found Belgium to be much more rural (some country roads and intersections had no signs at all, and the land was scarcely populated) and more beautiful than I imagined, even in the nasty end-of-winter weather. Its location makes it a convenient starting point for a thorough exploration of western Europe. I can’t wait to go back when the temperature warms up and things start blooming.

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