We landed in Brussels early in the morning and made straight for a double-decker train that was to take us north of the city, crossing field and farm with bright blue skies above us to a bus that delivered us outside the open gate at Botanic Garden Meise. Through the gardens, which were awakening from their winter slumber with exploding Magnolias and buds bursting from their branches, we spotted a signpost directing us towards our goal; Plant Palace.
After getting (happily) lost in the greenery of the 13 glasshouses in Meise we headed back to Brussels, watching the plentiful landscape whizz past our bus window. We joined the tourists amidst the grandeur and gilding of Grand Place – an opulent square on the plot of a 13th century market, now a UNESCO World Heritage site and passed by the statues of Everard t’Serclaes and the Manneken Pis, bathing in evening sunshine as we ambled towards our home for the night.
Day two began with another beautiful train ride, this time to the decorative cities of Ghent and Bruges, where we wandered along the cobbled streets that were lined with pick-and-mix houses, our nostrils filled with the sweet scent of chocolate and warmed waffles. In true Haarkon style, we may have also fallen into the University of Ghent Botanical Garden. A multitude of languages sailed past our eyes and ears; signs in French, Dutch and German hinted at the role Belgium plays in Europe and also made us feel like detectives as we pieced together the oddments so that we could understand which direction to walk in.
Bruges offered us dazzling sunshine that bounced off the canal waters, rows of lace in shop windows and fresh spring air. The houses appeared to snuggle next to one-another, each with a differing façade and character but somehow singing from the same hymn sheet.
Our 48 hours in Belgium was full to the brim with syrupy smells, tired-but-happy feet and lessons in lateral thinking when it comes to architecture.