One minute it’s café au lait…and the next you’re in Belgium.
One thing I find startlingly difficult to get the hang of, is not so much the sudden changing of countries (and the fact that all the signs suddenly switch language during a microtime where you've been preoccupied with cleaning your fingernails), but the total absence of fanfare when crossing a border in these parts. In Australia, by contrast, there are many big signs in place to WELCOME YOU TO A DIFFERENT PART OF AUSTRALIA. WHERE THE NUMER PLATES ARE A DIFFERENT COLOUR!!!!AND EVERYTHING IS THE SAME!!! THOUGH OUR POLITICAL PARTIES MIGHT HAVE MORE QUESTIONABLE MORALES THAN YOURS! OR VICE VERSA!! WE MIGHT ALSO HAVE A RIDICULOUS AMOUNT OF GIANT SCULPTURES OF STRANGE OBJECTS FOR NO APPARENT REASON!
That said, if you enter any other country via a major highway (or England via any form of transportation including a flying broomstick) you will be treated to a giant sign that makes you feel special. And if you’re extra lucky, you’ll get sniffed by a customs dog (not the time to play friendly with the puppy, just for some general travellers advice). Which reminds me of that time that we all got hauled off a bus and had to remove our luggage to be ceremoniously sniffed. Not so much an extraordinary event in itself, but you’ve got to wonder how seriously they’re taking their job when you get the following situation:
‘Has your bag been checked by the dog?’
‘And there was nothing in it, you’re not carrying any drugs?’ (ok so I haven’t washed my hair for a while, but it’s not that serious)
‘Really? Are you certain? Because if you’re carrying any drugs you’d better let me know’
‘Well your dog doesn't seem interested'
‘ok, that’s fine, off you go’
(Oh wait hold on, there was that HUGE bag of cocaine, but since my bag has been passed over 3 times and you haven’t bothered to notice that I’m still standing here tapping my foot impatiently, and because you subsequently interrogated me anyway, and because you then simply took my word for it, I’m going to keep that piece of information to myself)
Anyway, where was I before I got sidetracked into pretending I was a drug smuggler..? Ah yes, Belgium. Rattling along through northern rural france, a few fields, some cows, and suddenly you’ve got the Belgian version of, well, exactly the same thing. Except that it’s in Dutch. I find the Dutch language frankly hilarious, and spend ages amusing myself with the similarities between this language and English, the way I imagine it was spoken 800 years ago. Like Warme Drankken, translates to Hot Drinks. Funny no?
Anyway, I went to Belgium to consume some of their caloriffic food and giggle at the menus(Flemish food, for the uninitiated, is mostly various forms of potatoes and dead animal. Vegetarians be warned).