Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mardi gras

Today is Fat Tuesday. Lots of people think of today as a big party. Carnival. Certainly they're having a great time in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, but also other places, too. 

Sophie says that back in the old days, people here in Belgium had to clean out their pantries and get rid of all the food in order to prepare for the Lenten season fast. Well, you can't just throw all that food away, right? Or all that good Belgian beer? That's how the whole party thing started. It wasn't all done on Tuesday, though. It could have been on a Monday (Lundi gras), for example.

There are carnivals going on in Belgium, such as the one in Binche. But for me, this is just an ordinary working day. We worked in the Brussels office again and I'm laughing when I come out of the office building and see all the tourists standing there looking at Manneken Pis.  That's an indication that I'm no longer a tourist, but not quite a local. I don't think the locals even notice the tourists anymore. :-)

On the way to the office this morning, we drove past the royal palace. It's HUGE! Belgium is a constitutional monarchy with a King - Albert II. Next in line to the throne is his oldest son Philippe. After Philippe, Belgium could possibly have its first Queen because the rules have changed recently and Philippe's oldest child is a girl, Elisabeth, born in 2001.

This will probably be my last post from Belgium. Although I won't be home for a few more days,  I need to start packing and planning my exit strategy. There are lots of things I'll miss about Belgium: Sophie and her family, waffles, the boulangerie by the river, pain au chocolat, Speculoos, and the beautiful old buildings. There are things I won't miss, like roundabouts, narrow streets, and the rainy weather. I'd like to come back again for a vacation - when the weather is warmer - to revisit some of the places like Brugge/Bruges and also see some new places like Antwerp and Gent.

Let the good times roll!