While studying and visiting the different institutes of the European Parliament, we also had a few cultural days what let us explore and learn more about Belgium. One of the trips took us to the Flemish countryside where we went on a very muddy hike ( it had just rained) through an orchard which was also roaming with sheep.
After this adventure we stopped for a wonderful lunch in a little town out in the country where we dined outside a little pub/restaurant right next to an old cathedral. It was an appreciated glimpse into the small town life in the Flemish countryside with old houses lining the street and a sense of old, cultural traditions in the air.
The next day was our one day off to do whatever we wanted. Some friends and I decided to honour our Canadian heritage and head to Ypres/Leper and visit the Flanders Field Museum. In the museum there are several exhibits offering you facts and a history of both World Wars. You are also able to buy several books relating to the wars. Of course I bought some books and some things for my Dad to as I know he is interested in this historical period.
We decided not to take a tour of the battlefields but instead opted for a nice, leisurely walk along the canal to a place called Essex Farms. Growing up I had heard stories of my great grandfather serving in World War II and of course I learned about both wars in school. I remember every year at the Remembrance Day Assembly in elementary and high school, we would walk to the cenotaph in our town and someone would recite John McCrae’s “In Flanders Field”. Little did I know that he actually wrote that poem at the place called Essex Farms. Another fun fact is that Essex is the name of the town where I am from.
After spending sometime at the farm, we then walked back into town for a nice hot meal, where the waiter told us that ‘French Fries’ are actually Belgian. He said, during the war when American troops were in Belgium they thought they were in France and when they ate the delicious fried potato they called them ‘French’ fries, instead of ‘Belgian’ fries. In addition to a delicious meal, while we were on our way back to the train station we saw a big Canadian Flag waving in the town square. As it turns out there was a band from Ottawa there! We stopped and chatted with them for a while and marveled in our very Canadian day in Belgium.