The last time Stacy Lyn was in Belgium was back in 2012. She spent a few short days there when her principal destination was Flanders Field American Cemetery.
The time before that, she was but an adolescent of sixteen years, when she participated in a student exchange program and enjoyed the summer with the Tulcinski family in Brussels. They joked that her last name was more French than theirs. That was the year it all came together for her and she knew that French, in whatever capacity, was her destiny, and she would travel the world in pursuit of that path.
She was right. The French language has opened many doors for her – and as she has stepped through the threshold of life, she has thus far walked on four continents. With us, her Traveling Socks, of course.
Last summer she was able to reconnect with Belgium, the first foreign country she had ever visited, and one that still holds a special place in heart, thanks to the Tulcinskis. Though her temporary residence was in Liège, a city she grew to love, she stepped out of the comfort of familiarity on the weekends and traveled to not-so-distant places. Belgium is roughly the size of Maryland and easily crisscrossed by rail.
Brussels was host to a Renaissance Festival the weekend Stacy Lyn found herself there. Watching simulated knights perform simulated jousts in a well-controlled paddock held little interest for the self-professed profoundly entrenched twentieth century existentialist. So Stacy Lyn chose, rather, to park herself on a bench to enjoy some delicious confections, a cappuccino, and the conversation of a much more interesting Greek. This is what the French would call flânerie. It’s a uniquely European art of doing nothing more than appreciating one’s surroundings from the comfort of one’s own skin. Stacy Lyn finds this difficult to do, except when in Europe. Why is that?
Stepping off the train in Namur was like stepping back into the Middle Ages. Ok, we just told you that Stacy Lyn felt most at ease in the twentieth century, but if she had to choose another epoch to call home, she would choose the Middle Ages. There was an enlightenment then that she recognizes, even though she feels that few achieve such loftiness. Rose windows, flying buttresses, archivolts – the light of heaven was the goal, to sum up a couple thousand years in a few words. And the love story of all love stories – Héloïse and Abélard. Swoon city. What a wondrous place Namur is, if you like to imagine such things.
Bruges is called the Venice of the North. Why don’t they call Venice the Bruges of the South? The Tulcinskis had taken Stacy Lyn there (to Bruges, that is), and as a youth, Stacy Lyn found the city on the canals to be most enchanting. But now, the town seemed more of a Disney-like tourist trap. People crowded the cobblestone streets at every turn. Where once Stacy Lyn had walked up the winding staircase of the tower at her leisure, this time? A line of people, people everywhere and not a one can think. So Stacy Lyn chose, rather to park herself in a café to enjoy some delicious confections, a cappuccino, and the conversation of much more interesting persons – a fellow Louisianaise and a Greek (see above).
On her last day in Belgium, Stacy Lyn rose early so that she could amble to her favorite brasserie, Jupiler, across the street from the University of Liège. She had become accustomed to greeting her favorite baristas every morning, and she wanted to say goodbye. Sometimes we wonder what it’s like – to see someone for several days, and then poof. Nevermore. The least Stacy Lyn could do was say adieu.
Adieu, Belgium. Rather, until next time. That sounds less final. Less “poof.”