My Brussels

Brussels has an image problem. Its city planning suffered from an overly strong infatuation with brutalist architecture in the 60s and resulted in stupendously hideous constructions, which include some of the EU buildings. The tug of war between the regional governments–and the arcane laws–leave the city underfunded and disorganized, and construction projects can drag on for years. The bureaucracy is byzantine, and getting mundane things done, like opening a bank account or registering oneself with a commune, often turns into one of the labors of Hercules. The weather also doesn’t win bonus points. “Why on earth Brussels?” asked my mom when I told her that we were moving.

brussels-arch

My first impression of Brussels on a freezing winter day was unpromising. I emerged out into the chaotic area near the Gare Centrale and found myself in a grey tinted mash up of 19th century curvy facades and faceless cement boxes. By the time I reached the Grand Place, I had to pass through so many rings of tacky haunts selling cheap souvenirs and touristy trinkets that even the elegance of the Renaissance guild houses inside the central square seemed compromised. Eventually my husband and I made our way to Quai aux Briques, an esplanade dotted by baroque and medieval buildings. We drank hot chocolate as rain darkened the façade of Sainte Catherine church and turned the square into an Impressionist painting–and suddenly the city felt like a place where I could live.

In my four years in Brussels, the city made me frustrated. It made me angry. But it also made me dream, love rain and learn that beauty is more than skin deep. I came to see that the city’s bad reputation is largely undeserved. It has stunning architecture, great food, a vibrant art scene and a great spirit.

What Brussels doesn’t have is coherence. It’s fragmented, politically and socially. A city of less than 2 million people, it contains a dozen governments, from the Brussels region government, the French Community of Belgium government and its Flemish counterpart to the different political parties based on linguistic affiliations. Then the city is made up of 19 municipal districts, each with its own mayor, police force and regulations. It’s not uncommon to walk down the street and find that construction work stops abruptly where another commune begins–and some communes comprise only a few blocks. The European Union institutions are a self-sufficient city that feels connected to the main body of Brussels only when you get stuck in one of the traffic jams heralding yet another EU summit.

How this came about is beyond the scope of this article*, but suffice it to say, such political complexity is difficult to navigate. That Belgium could make do without a government for more than a year, when the Flemish and Wallonian parties couldn’t forge a coalition, tells you something about its political system. That it was the very year I decided to move to Belgium tells you something about me.

But the fragmentation of Brussels also makes this place fascinating and open-minded. It can be surreal and quirky. Live in the city long enough, and you’ll understand why René Magritte, Gaston Bogaert and Paul Delvaux found the place inspiring. That too is part of its ambiance. The capital has a remarkably dynamic scene in art, cinema, science and political thought, and it rewards the curious. Some areas of Brussels are more economically depressed than others, but each is safe to explore–yes, even Molenbeek, the area that has been in the news for the high number of its residents who joined ISIS. Each commune has plenty of interesting spots and layers of history.

Brussels is one of the most diverse and ethnically mixed cities in Europe, and this is its allure. There are few places in the world where you get into a cab and discover that your Rwandan driver speaks fluent French, English, Russian, and Ukrainian and has a degree from the Rivne University in western Ukraine. Or walk down the street and find Thai, Moroccan, Turkish, Senegalese and Polish grocery stores arranged in a row. Or stand behind a suited man in line and hear him say into his cellphone, “Yes, I will discuss it with the Prime Minister later today”.

The hidden nature of many of Brussels treasures makes exploring the city exciting. You can easily create your own collage of favorite spots. You would never guess that a busy commercial quarter near the Brussels Stock Exchange holds a jasmine perfumed oasis, Nong Cha. It’s a tiny boutique, but it’s one of the excellent tea purveyors in Europe. To find my all-time favorite bookstore, Tropismes, you have to brave the tawdry souvenir stalls near the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert, but your perseverance will be amply rewarded. The Italianate arcades inside the galleries also house many grand old boutiques and cafés. If you want to see the gems of Art Nouveau architecture, head to Schaerbeek and spend an afternoon with these treasures all to yourself.

“About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position.”

W.H. Auden wrote Musée des Beaux Arts after visiting the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels in 1938. His poem was inspired by the paintings by Pieter Bruegel, a 16th century Flemish artist who lived in a period of great change and upheaval in Europe. Like Auden. Like us. In Bruegel’s Fall of Icarus, the tragedy is relegated to the margins, while the foreground is occupied by prosaic, quotidian events. This week Brussels suffered, but the tragedy is in the center plane, eclipsing all else for those of us who live here. Yet, as in Bruegel’s vision, life goes on, because another admirable aspect of Brussels–and that of Belgium as a whole, a country that was all but wiped out in two wars in the twentieth century–is resilience. It will bounce back. It will continue to frustrate, beguile and intrigue me. It will still be the city I love.

Meanwhile, my thoughts are with the victims of the March 22 attacks and their families. I also extend my condolences to those who suffered from the March 13th terrorist attacks in Ankara, Turkey. Our compassion shouldn’t stop at the EU borders.

***

*But if you’re curious to delve deeper, I recommend the article by Tony Judt Is There Belgium? in the New York Review of Books.

More of my reflections on life in Belgium: Belgian Journal

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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160 Comments

  • Danaki: I visited Brussels for a few days about 5 years ago. I was with my parents, who were invited by the Lebanese airlines company to inaugurate the newly established Beirut-Brussels connection.
    It was one of the strangest places I visited, there was no story, no singular plot – as you say haphazard planning decisions, etc. But instead it read like one of the most fascinating short story collections! In some ways, it reminded me of Beirut, a layering of cities and histories, telling multiple storylines and forever at odds.
    I remember the Belgian government stalemate fondly. A few years ago, Lebanon had no government for under a year and now no president for over a year. Another connection, perhaps, between Brussels and Beirut. March 23, 2016 at 7:38am Reply

    • Victoria: You put it so well in that there is no one, overarching story. Belgium came together based on different parties disliking the Dutch rule, and that’s pretty much all they had in common. So, instead you have many stories, many narratives. And this I find refreshing. People often quote Baudelaire who came to Brussels and spent much time harping on how horrible it was. But why was he in Brussels? Because the city offered him greater freedom to express himself than Paris. March 23, 2016 at 1:25pm Reply

  • rosarita: Thank you for this most interesting bird’s eye view. Trying to understand the labyrinth while taking in information about the March 22 attacks is bewildering and you have provided some much needed background for my simple US brain. Your photos are always beautiful and an insight in themselves. March 23, 2016 at 8:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Believe me, even many Belgians outside of Brussels don’t understand it. 🙂 March 23, 2016 at 1:29pm Reply

  • limegreen: There are no words to talk about yesterday’s tragedy. Thank you for finding a way to talk about Belgium, the place and its spirit. It balances out the media portrayal of dysfunction.
    Do take care, and our thoughts are with the victims and their families. March 23, 2016 at 8:11am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s dysfunctional for sure, but it also so many positive aspects. I work in Paris, so people often ask if I would rather live there. And honestly, I wouldn’t. Paris is gorgeous and not like any other city in the world, but Brussels is more like my city. I guess I like my cities with a bit of grit. And quirks. March 23, 2016 at 1:33pm Reply

  • Sandra: I am so happy you are doing ok..
    My thoughts are with you and the victims

    I know how this tragedy feels… ( I live in New York City) but attack anywhere in the world is like a attack on all countries. One day I hope this evil stops. March 23, 2016 at 8:20am Reply

    • Victoria: I was in New Haven when 9/11 happen, and it all felt so close. I recognize the similar feeling of helplessness, anxiety. Of course, you know exactly what I mean. March 23, 2016 at 1:35pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Loved this, absolutely loved this.
    And I agree that part of what makes Brussels so great are the things that make it so vulnerable as well. Having grown up in an incredibly structured and organised country, a little chaos can be a welcome relief.

    I find that I’m very saddened by the events, I love Brussels, and I love Belgium. March 23, 2016 at 9:08am Reply

    • Victoria: I realized recently that Brussels is also unique in how much the city is mixed. A fancy bourgeois neighborhood is a couple of steps away from an area with Turkish coffee houses. When I go to the Syrian and Lebanese shops on Chausse de Louvain, it’s like the United Nations convention. And a fair bit of local hipsters. One time I counted how many languages I could use throughout a day, and I could easily manage 6. Just by doing shopping along one street. So, the relations among different communities are much complex and interwoven than the media portrays. March 23, 2016 at 2:00pm Reply

  • Anne: Thank you so much. Such a beautiful snippet of what is life, with it s ups, it’s downs, it’s chaos. I lost a friend in the Paris attaches of November 13th and as the rest of France, I was deeply disturbed by yesterday’s barbaric acts. But I also know that Europe has such a vast variety of cultures and tradition, that it will eventually crush those mindless thug. Our multicultural heritage and future will win. Our freedom to think, feel, love and live will win over any idiotic inhuman ideology. We are, European, French, Belgian, Italian, Spanish, English, Swedish,… Etc,… We are human, we are life, Love, culture. We are the futur. So keep strong Bruxelles. ❤️❤️❤️❤️ March 23, 2016 at 9:25am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so sorry for your loss, Anne, and I send you my condolences. I can just imagine what you went through with the tragedy striking so close to you. We lost a dear friend in Donetsk, and it’s impossible to capture the grief and pain. Many hugs to you. March 23, 2016 at 2:02pm Reply

  • Patricia: Thank you for this moving and personal portrait of Brussels and Belgium. All we are getting from the US news is its dysfunctional side. I’m so glad you are safe, but I grieve with the rest of the world for the victims and their families. March 23, 2016 at 9:29am Reply

    • Victoria: Belgium is a complicated case in many levels, and yes, it’s chaotic and complicated, but it exists and carries on. March 23, 2016 at 2:04pm Reply

  • Connie: Good Article! I have never been to Brussels, but my heart is again once saddened on the events that have unfolded. Will they bounce back? Definitely. Will people’s lives be forever changed? Most Certainly. As for certain that these events keep happening and our lives are forever impacted by the violence and chaos, we look to small things in our lives to brighten, such as our comfort in our home, a perfume, a candle to light our day. Take care the best way you know how. March 23, 2016 at 9:30am Reply

    • Victoria: You put it so well, Connie. Thank you very much. March 23, 2016 at 2:07pm Reply

  • Iuliana: Thank you for sharing this with us (and for all your other posts). Although we have never met (and probably never will, although I would love that), I thought of you yesterday and hoped that you were well, alongside my two friends that live in Bruxelles. Béatrice Delvaux’s editorial “Bruxelles n’est plus qu’une sirène” still brings tears to my eyes and I am at a loss for words, but my heart and thoughts go to you and all the bruxellois. March 23, 2016 at 9:32am Reply

    • Victoria: I hope that all of us can meet and have a scent event in Brussels. It would be such a pleasure.

      I’m going to find Béatrice Delvaux’s editorial right away. Thank you very much. March 23, 2016 at 2:09pm Reply

      • Hamamelis: A scent event with BdJ readers in Brussels. That would be fantastic. March 23, 2016 at 3:18pm Reply

        • Victoria: We should try to organize it this summer or fall. I’m going to be doing some volunteer work for the next three months, but once that’s done, I will have time. March 23, 2016 at 3:47pm Reply

          • Hamamelis: Maybe you could write a short separate post when you have time, to check who would want to come, and when? Happy to assist in any way.
            Very good to read about your volunteering work! March 23, 2016 at 3:54pm Reply

            • Victoria: I will do that! Doing it in Brussels itself might be easier, since it’s so well-connected to the other European cities. March 23, 2016 at 4:16pm Reply

  • Scented Salon: Nicely done: I was worried when I did not see any updates on your blog since the attacks but when I saw your update this morning, I knew you would find a beautiful way to address the situation and expand our knowledge in some way.

    The things you said about Brussels is news to me. It made me appreciate how every place one moves to has its good and bad. The weather, the people, shops and nightlife, the culture and art scene: there are so many considerations. And although living in America is much easier overall than living in Europe (at least the few places I have been), there is something about the whole of Europe that cannot be replicated anywhere in the world. I love stepping on the same stones that Joan of Arc stepped on. The closest you can get to that feeling here is probably visiting George Washington’s old haunts. March 23, 2016 at 9:40am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you!
      In terms of the ease of life, I’d say that Belgium in many ways is by far the more comfortable place to live and raise a family than the US. For one thing, the health care system is among the best in the world. I ended up in the emergency room a few weeks ago, was given a good treatment and my bill came to 1.89 euros for the antibiotics. No charge for the emergency room use. No waiting. No stress. Friends who have children here get generous maternity leaves. There are lots of social safety nets. And the pace of life is very comfortable. The only thing I don’t like is the complicated bureaucracy, but again, as a foreigner in the US, you face similar rigmaroles. March 23, 2016 at 2:14pm Reply

      • Scented Salon: You’re totally right. When I went to the emergency room, I was charged over $1000 and that was WITH insurance. The health and college systems here are out of whack. Europe has many more advantages.

        I guess I think it is easier to live here because there is plenty of space, cheap housing, many jobs (even in the down-turned economy) and it is completely easy to get a house, phone, apartment, etc. And that is only in my area of the U.S. There are many variables.

        In other countries (not just Europe), something like going to the post office can be a nightmare. It is definitely easier to be spoiled when most people around you, as well as companies, are approachable and polite like in the U.S. However, I found that the old American stereotype of Europeans (read: French) being rude is totally false.

        This is all surface level stuff of course. I definitely wish I lived in Europe but since I don’t, I choose to enjoy the perks of my city like you learned to love yours. March 23, 2016 at 2:21pm Reply

        • On WingsofSaffron: Dear Scented Salon,
          as a German-Swiss living in Brussels, having had strong connections to Spain, I am at a loss reading your summery of Europe. I do wonder: have you lived here?
          If you wish to rent a flat in BXL you can find any kind from cheap joint to luxury appt. within a day. I do not know of any place in Europe where going to the post office is a “nightmare”?! In BXL you can send away letters and parcels with people behind the counter often fluent in 3-4 languages. Phones etc are all available anywhere everywhere.
          Yes there are differences in efficiency and politeness, but in the one year I lived in Rochester, NY, there were similar differences. Re: politeness – look at the rude, vulgar and pubertal tone in the far right-wing scene in the US GOP-campaign which has arrived in the middle of the US Republican majority.
          Re efficiency: just arrive at JFK.
          No, Europe like everywhere else in the world has its ups and downs: there are rude people and kind ones; days which are ghastly and others which are wonderful; there is beauty and ugliness. March 23, 2016 at 2:50pm Reply

          • Scented Salon: No need to waste your breath: I already said everywhere has its ups and downs. As usual, there are people that have to nitpick on every little thing a person says. Sometimes the internet is just tiring. March 23, 2016 at 2:56pm Reply

        • Victoria: I agree with you, many stereotypes aren’t true. People tend to be much more formal with each other, though. So if one enters the shop and proceeds to look at the merchandise without first greeting the shop staff, they will surely get a raised eyebrow and cold service. But I like politeness and courtesy in such daily exchanges. March 23, 2016 at 3:12pm Reply

          • Scented Salon: In the Baltic country where I lived, you could not walk in and start looking around: the sales person would rudely ask what you wanted to buy. Hopefully those things have changed. March 23, 2016 at 3:16pm Reply

            • Victoria: The Soviet customer service was notorious and a completely different story. I was only in Estonia and not the two other Baltic countries, and I had a very good experience at shops, restaurants and cafes. I did use the Ukraine Post and paid my grandmother’s bills, and even that was a much more pleasant experience that in my childhood. Yes, some changes have been very positive.

              I hope to make my way to Latvia and Lithuania this year. It would be so good to see Riga and Vilnius at last. March 23, 2016 at 3:22pm Reply

              • Scented Salon: Riga has many beauties. I especially love the forests. March 23, 2016 at 3:45pm Reply

                • Victoria: Can’t wait to see it all. March 23, 2016 at 3:51pm Reply

              • Surbhi: Go to former USSR countries is an interesting experience for someone who is not familiar with the culture. According to them they are not rude but their ways are so different that if you are not used to it it will seem very very rude. I was only in places that are catered towards corporate culture and taught highest level of customer service still the waiters / servers would shock me with the way they would just say no without even trying. March 23, 2016 at 11:16pm Reply

                • Surbhi: going March 23, 2016 at 11:17pm Reply

          • Carla: So true! Now back in the US if I’m at Target for example and have a question for the employee I first say Hello then ask my question. So much more civilized, or at least slower paced and more human, than walking up to the person demanding without a greeting. Maybe for other Americans a big smile is enough of a greeting but once you get used to the European commercial culture of an automatic and immediate greeting between shopkeeper and customer, anything less feels rude, inhuman. March 25, 2016 at 1:20pm Reply

    • Surbhi: been to many places in europe and I end up missing the ease of doing things and Europe seems technologically behind at many many places but then the basics are so much right, quality of food ? What passes as food in US shocks me.

      And most of the things that i like to buy are european apart from tech.

      rude vs polite .. only paris seemed rude to me so far but for everything else that paris offers ..I can give it a pass. March 23, 2016 at 11:21pm Reply

      • Victoria: Guys, let’s not divert this thread into the stereotypes of life in the US vs life in Europe. Europe is big and variegated, so for any blanket stereotype there are valid counter examples. But for reasons I hope you understand, I’m not in a mood today to moderate such discussions. Thank you. March 24, 2016 at 2:13am Reply

        • Surbhi: sorry about that , I thought I was providing counter to stereotype. But upsetting you or anyone was not my intent.I can’t delete the comment above. I would be happy if you do so. March 24, 2016 at 5:07am Reply

          • Victoria: No worries! March 24, 2016 at 5:23am Reply

            • Scented Salon: It’s my fault: I should have been more sensitive at a time like this. Instead, let’s focus on which perfume you wear when you need to feel safe and comforted. I chose Dzing! this morning. It’s vanilla cream makes me feel all is right with the world. March 24, 2016 at 8:48am Reply

              • Victoria: I wore No 19 Poudree, a soft cloud of perfume. March 26, 2016 at 11:16am Reply

        • Marilyn Stanonis: Dear, dear Victoria — please save us from being called “guys”! That’s crept into the American vernacular, and has absolutely no place there. Besides, to some of us, it’s insulting. I hope I’m not being harsh with you, because you’re one of the grandest ladies I know! That’s precisely the reason for my comment! March 24, 2016 at 2:13pm Reply

          • Karen Ar: Goodness! As the people I worked with used to say, Just don’t call me late for dinner! March 24, 2016 at 4:14pm Reply

            • Marilyn Stanonis: To Karen Ar: well-spoken! March 24, 2016 at 5:24pm Reply

            • Victoria: 🙂 March 26, 2016 at 11:20am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: beautiful and clever portrait of Brussels. Your scetch of the atmosphere there is to the point.
    I was many times in Brussels for the opera, and worked 6 weeks in the drama department of De Munt. Mij apartment was in Schaerbeek, a loooong drive with the bus. I remember Schaerbeek was smelling of delicious food, i often smelled Ras El Hanout.
    Nobody could think of such a terrible drama then. Times have changed, the world is not safe anymore, Take good care, Victoria! March 23, 2016 at 10:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Schaerbeek is still one of my favorite places in the city. We often go there for our Saturday shopping. I was thinking of you recently, because I recall you mentioning that you lived there. March 23, 2016 at 2:15pm Reply

  • SublimiSomnium: Thank you for the enlightening description. Brussels seems like a magical place, where you can get lost and find small wonders. One day I hope I can visit.

    So glad you are safe, and hope you find joy despite the recent tragedies. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help. March 23, 2016 at 10:21am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much! I appreciate you reading this and I’m enjoying reading all of these comments. March 23, 2016 at 2:17pm Reply

  • Karen 5.0: You have found beauty and compassion in the midst of tragedy. Thank you for this post about your adopted city, Victoria. I am so glad that you and your family are safe and trust that Brussels heals in time. March 23, 2016 at 10:30am Reply

    • Victoria: I think so too. It’s a remarkable city. March 23, 2016 at 2:18pm Reply

  • Alicia: Dear Victoria, beautifully said.
    I know Brussels well, or rather I knew it well thirty years ago, when I was a student in Paris, and went often to Belgium.I had good Belgian friends, including a nearly boyfriend.I loved the cities, from Tournai to Antwerp, I loved Brussels and its cultural wealth,and I loved the people. For what you say my Brussels is not quite yours, but its spirit seems to be the same. What has happened is heartbreaking, and the civilized world is in mourning. Many of us are also in fear for our beloved Europe, the terror of uncertain and omnipresent danger. Still, Europe, and particularly Belgium, has shown since the 16th century how to survive violence. It is a model of resilience and its dignity. In that long history of blood, tears, and ultimate survival Belgium was forged, and so will be its future. In that I trust. March 23, 2016 at 10:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Alicia. I hope so too. March 23, 2016 at 2:22pm Reply

  • Ann: Brussels to outsiders right now feels like a mixed up jigsaw puzzle that’s ended in tragedy. Your homage says, “not so fast!” and shows us that the pieces still fit together, and with a little love and time will get put back in place. March 23, 2016 at 11:08am Reply

    • Victoria: It sure will! I like your recap. 🙂 March 23, 2016 at 3:23pm Reply

  • Sara: Your update this very morning conforts me a lot. I was worried about you doing OK.
    All my concerns for all victims and their relatives and friends.
    We had a similar tragedy in 2004 in Madrid so I truly understand what is to make life going on after an attack. March 23, 2016 at 11:52am Reply

    • Victoria: I was with my Spanish friends and we were talking about Madrid.

      Thank you, Sara! March 23, 2016 at 3:23pm Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: Victoria, what a wonderful article and so beautifully written. Thank you for this insight on Brussels. March 23, 2016 at 12:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for reading, Phyllis. March 23, 2016 at 3:24pm Reply

  • Qwendy: So great to read this (aloud) this morning, of course I have been thinking of you a lot lately. Yours is a wonderfully illuminating response to the tragedy, I wish more people could see it! I am posting it to fb now. Bon courage to Brussels and to you! March 23, 2016 at 1:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Wendy! March 23, 2016 at 3:25pm Reply

  • OperaFan: In many ways, and like many other great international cities, Belgium sounds like it is very much like New York City. It’s one of the places I hope to visit someday.

    As someone who lives across the river from NYC and whose church was IN the city, I share the grief with the people of Brussels, and Paris before it. Indeed, life must and will continue.

    Your thoughtful post is very enlightening, and very encouraging, thank you. March 23, 2016 at 1:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re exactly right. Brussels does remind me of NYC in its patchwork of neighborhoods and the way its communities are mixed. It has the same great spirit. March 23, 2016 at 3:26pm Reply

  • marilyn stanonis: Victoria, you were the first person I thought about, as well as concern for your safety; you are the only person in Brussels whom I “know”. Thank you for reassuring us about your safety, as well writing a beautiful and sensitive article!
    I was fortunate to spend several days in Brussels many, many years ago, and found it delightful. So even now it has a special place in my heart. Thank you, thank you, and thank you again. March 23, 2016 at 1:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Marilyn. It’s such a warm and touching message. March 23, 2016 at 3:30pm Reply

  • Hamamelis: Beautiful, thoughtful, medicinal. Thank you. March 23, 2016 at 1:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much. Also, thank you for your email. March 23, 2016 at 3:31pm Reply

  • LenaD: I don’t know anyone in Brussels, but thought of you immediately! Glad to know you are ok. My heart and prayers go to everyone impacted by terrorist’s attacks in every part of the world! God help us! March 23, 2016 at 1:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: Same here. I have a friend in Ankara, and the moment I read the news, I call her family to find out how she’s doing. March 23, 2016 at 3:32pm Reply

  • zephyr: I was just about to check on your blog, Victoria; I was worried about you and your husband!
    I’ve spent a little time in Brussels – had one of the best meals in my life there – and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Our hosts tried to explain the government to us, to no avail, lol!
    Brussels will be fine, as will Paris and Madrid. But I do worry about the toll this danger and evil will take, in Europe, the US, everywhere. We’re sending our fifteen-year-old son off with a school group to France tomorrow, along with our prayers for their safety.
    Take care, Victoria! March 23, 2016 at 1:53pm Reply

    • Marilyn Stanonis: Dear zephyr
      You’ve touched on the long-range, deeper aspects of these attacks, which are surely in many thoughts. These events will probably be the essence of many books to come. But what I Really started to say was that I will be thinking of your son and his friends and teachers on their school trip. It’s scary, but one has to let them grow up! March 23, 2016 at 3:10pm Reply

      • zephyr: Thank you, Marilyn, for keeping them in your thoughts! They’ll be gone for eight days, which isn’t too long at all. It’s Easter and we’ll be busy here at home, which is a good thing! March 23, 2016 at 6:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: I worry about it too. I worry that the policies implemented will move the EU in the same direction the US went post 9/11. In a place like Brussels it would be a tragic outcome for the reasons I outlined in my article and comments.

      But in the meantime, I hope that your son will enjoy his trip. As a 15 year old I would have loved to experience France this way. March 23, 2016 at 3:37pm Reply

      • zephyr: Thank you, Victoria! Yes, he’ll love it. We went as a family seven years ago, visiting friends in Belgium and then spending a week in Paris. My son, I’m sure, is very happy to go without his parents, lol, and we know it’ll be a great experience for him. His French is decent at this point, much better than it was seven years ago. He’ll remember much more of the trip this time around. And, he’ll eat very well; he’s such a foodie! March 23, 2016 at 6:28pm Reply

        • Victoria: And to be here at this season with new asparagus is a treat already! 🙂 March 24, 2016 at 2:19am Reply

  • Andy: You have been in my thoughts since I heard the news, glad that you and yours are safe. With all you’ve shared on Brussels and Belgium in the past, I couldn’t bring myself to keep hearing and watching the news on this tragedy–it didn’t speak to me of the country I knew from your posts and my many family members who have visited and lived there in the past. March 23, 2016 at 1:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: Brussels has so many great aspects, and even its scruffy neighborhoods like my beloved Schaerbeek have much character. It hides some of my favorite spots for cherry blossoms, a pleasure I anticipate very soon, if this warm spell will persist. March 23, 2016 at 3:40pm Reply

  • Aurora: A wonderful love letter to Bruxelles, Victoria, and may it reward you with many days of enjoyment and less dark times. I visited it many times as a child but except for the Grand Place and the wonderful food I don’t remember much and should go back one day; I long for the museums especially, Bruegel I remember very well from a recent exhibit at the Paris pinacotheque. March 23, 2016 at 2:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Food was one of the things that made my adjustment to Brussels easier. I would have a minor breakdown over the difficulties with my residence permit and then I’d walk into a cheese shop and find myself in heaven. 🙂 And Belgium has more cheese varieties than France, according to a French cheese purveyor I met. March 23, 2016 at 3:42pm Reply

      • Surbhi: Food makes every situation bearable ! March 26, 2016 at 9:56pm Reply

        • Victoria: Yes! 🙂

          I’m making a baklava cake today for an Easter dinner party. It’s a cake with all of the baklava flavors, but without the timeconsuming layering. March 27, 2016 at 10:49am Reply

          • Mezzogiorno: Oh, dear Victoria, please tell us more about this cake! Or really, just a link to a recipe, if you have one. Perhaps I should just Google and leave you alone. 🙂 But I love baklava and am daunted by the labor, so this sounds very appealing! March 28, 2016 at 8:46am Reply

            • Victoria: I apologize for replying so late. The recipe comes from Food of Life by Najmieh Batmanglij, easily one of my top 5 favorite cookbooks. It’s an almond sponge cake with rosewater and cardamom and lemon and rose flavored syrup. March 31, 2016 at 1:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: I began to understand Bruegel better here. He lived and died in Brussels, I believe. March 23, 2016 at 3:43pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Pieter Bruegel the Elder was possibly born in Breda (the Netherlands) or Bruegel (also in what is currently the Netherlands), he died in Brussels. His son Pieter Brueghel the Younger, was born in Brussels and died in Antwerp. At that time the southern part of The Netherlands and most of Belgium were part of the Hapsburg Netherlands.

        There is occasionally actually some discussion about whether Belgium, or at least Flanders should not join the Netherlands again. I find the countries to be so different, but our histories are very much intertwined. March 24, 2016 at 5:30am Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: I am from the south of the Netherlands (Limburg) and I feel in Belgium more at home than here in the noth (Amsterdam). Joining Flanders to the Netherlands (or Limburg to Belgium) does make sense (as far as I thjnk of course). March 24, 2016 at 8:03am Reply

          • Austenfan: I am from the North and am very much “northern” in my thinking, no faith myself but my father was raised a protestant. I don’t feel particularly at home in Amsterdam either, but that has more to do with the city being so busy and crowded, and me not being really a city person.I do not feel at home at all in the South of the Netherlands, the whole mentality feels alien to what I am accustomed to.
            While some aspects of Belgium drive my crazy (their roads for instance), others are welcome because different.

            It’s fascinating isn’t it? All these differences within two such small, and neighbouring countries. March 24, 2016 at 8:25am Reply

            • Cornelia Blimber: Big differences indeed! I grew up in Rotterdam and cannot live without a city. I was raised catholic (and grateful to the nuns for the outstanding education they gave me). You love Austen, I love Dickens….
              but both of us love perfume. March 24, 2016 at 9:29am Reply

              • Austenfan: What are your favourite Dutch authors? March 24, 2016 at 5:17pm Reply

                • Cornelia Blimber: I don’t have many Dutch favourites… I enjoyed very mutch the dark but slapstick humor of young Arnon Grunberg (Figuranten, Fantoompijn) but his later works are too bitter for me.
                  And I found Onder Professoren extremely funny.
                  A big favourite is Martin Mons, the pseudonym of two sisters from The Hague.
                  Their detective stories (Inspecteur Perquin !)
                  are irresistible. I read and reread them. This books are very hard to find. I own all of them, save one.
                  And, of course, Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen by Huizinga.
                  What about you? March 24, 2016 at 6:01pm Reply

                  • Cornelia Blimber: Sorry, these books March 24, 2016 at 6:02pm Reply

                    • Cornelia Blimber: How could I forget De Klop Op De Deur, by Ina Boudier Bakker! an underrated book. March 24, 2016 at 6:16pm

                  • Austenfan: I read quite a bit of Couperus when I was younger. These days I enjoy a lot of Adriaan van Dis writings. His short stories on Paris are very interesting, and very well written. I’ve read some of Erwin Mortier’s work and I adore Eric de Kuyper. His memories of holiday spent on the Belgian coast are just wonderful. He has also written some really interesting books on cultural differences within Europe. Not all of his work is currently in print but most can be found secondhand.
                    And I agree on Boudier-Bakker. March 25, 2016 at 11:21am Reply

            • Victoria: Same here. The roads here and the traffic jams drive me crazy. Have you seen this:
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeE83F9fwxw March 26, 2016 at 11:10am Reply

              • Austenfan: Funny! I think we have more traffic jams in Holland actually.
                What I mostly dislike about Belgian roads are the potholes, and the bewildering traffic situations. Trying to figure out which exit to take towards France in Charleroi took me 5 turns on the city ring. March 26, 2016 at 1:45pm Reply

                • Victoria: The video was created as a PR campaign by a much maligned train company. At least, it has a sense of humor. March 26, 2016 at 2:11pm Reply

                  • Austenfan: And it’s cheap.
                    My niece went on a trip from Hulst to Maastricht both in the Netherlands, they did the first part using the NS (Dutch) and the return using NMBS (Belgian). I believe the Dutch stretch cost 3 times as much, if not more than the Belgian part. I remember my brother commenting on the fact that he finally understood the reason for the state of the Belgian roads 😉 March 26, 2016 at 2:48pm Reply

                    • Victoria: I never compared myself, but a friend living in the Netherlands mentioned this too. March 27, 2016 at 10:37am

        • Victoria: That’s what I understood too.

          I agree, very different but intertwined. Considering that Belgium was formed because all of the parties had nothing in common apart from their dislike of the Dutch rule, this proposal, which occasionally pops up whenever Flanders are frustrated with whatever politics of the Wallonia, strikes me as unrealistic. At any rate, the Flemish nationalist parties today would rather have the autonomy within Belgium or full independence. Being joined to the Netherlands is far from their political ambition (and at any rate, they don’t want to give up Brussels, even if they don’t like it.) March 26, 2016 at 10:40am Reply

          • Austenfan: I don’t think it makes much sense to join the two. Can you imagine the time it would take to figure out how to govern the new state? There is some collaboration in certain cultural fields and there is the wonderful Taalunie ( Language union), a great resource on fascinating little tidbits on Dutch.
            The other day another option was mentioned on Dutch radio: joining the Netherlands to Germany as the economies are so intertwined anyway. Germany feels closer to me in it’s ways than Belgium, but I think that is probably caused by my being from the North. March 26, 2016 at 1:50pm Reply

            • Victoria: And if the Netherlands were to inherit some of our Flemish politicians, well, good luck, I’d say. 🙂 March 26, 2016 at 2:05pm Reply

              • Austenfan: It would be interesting, to say the least! March 26, 2016 at 2:49pm Reply

                • Victoria: On the other hand, there are many very original thinkers in Belgian politics.

                  All in all, Belgium is one of the most intriguing and interesting countries. March 27, 2016 at 10:44am Reply

                  • Austenfan: There are, Guy Verhofstadt no name just one.

                    And I agree. March 27, 2016 at 11:44am Reply

                    • Victoria: He has a book coming out in Jan 2017, Europe’s Last Chance, and it promises to be interesting. Agree or disagree, he is one of the few EU politicians with a long-term vision. And I appreciated him slamming the shameful deal the EU cut with Turkey. March 27, 2016 at 12:01pm

            • Cornelia Blimber: The south of the Netherlands are very near to Germany. Many people in Limburg go to Aachen and Köln for the opera (and to Liège as well). March 26, 2016 at 4:53pm Reply

          • katherine X: The political complexities of Belgium make my head hurt. Not to mention the price Belgians seem to pay for it. I hope the benefits are worth it. There’s another aspect (though perhaps less important). The divide also affects negotiations and agreements in international bilateral and multilateral settings. I have colleagues who tell me the Flemish Belgian representatives in these forums (forgive me if I don’t have the nomenclature right) sometimes can’t commit without the other rep’s concurrence and vice versa. So it can slow down an already slow process as well. The discussion also highlights unrealistically high expectations for people from vastly different cultures to readily adapt to Western life (when two, relatively similar groups of people in Belgium can’t simply unite and be done with it.) Belgium isn’t unique in this regard – there are many other examples – but at the moment they are the ones under the microscope. But like you said Victoria (in other words) – with friction comes grit and an interesting dimension. March 27, 2016 at 2:05pm Reply

            • Victoria: That inability to coordinate is by far the biggest price. The main benefit, though, is that this complex power sharing has allowed disparate groups to exist in the same polity, and exist peacefully.
              I think that it’s as much an issue of adapting as the ability of the societies to create level playing fields for all of its people. If the definition of who’s Belgian can be wide enough, the definition of who’s Flemish, Wallonian, etc. isn’t. And it’s those regional considerations that play a big role in politics, economic opportunities and life here. If a community doesn’t have its own mechanisms of support, then it’s very easy to drift. One thing I found very interesting reading interviews with various Belgian security experts is that while the biggest Muslim community in Belgium is Turkish (Sunni), there are no Turkish names on the list of suspects. Clearly, something within the community prevents its youths from fall prey to radicalization. Which proves once again that discussing this complex problem using general concepts like “immigrants” or “foreigners” or even “Muslims” is misleading. March 28, 2016 at 8:30am Reply

              • katherine X: Good points Victoria. It gets rather complicated very quickly. Makes it hard to conceptualize the situation (and harder to address problems). March 28, 2016 at 10:47pm Reply

  • Elena: I was so relieved when I saw a post from you on Facebook yesterday. Thank you for this lovely and thoughtful piece, I think everyone in Brussels and Belgium would thank you for providing the city an identity beyond that of terror victim. March 23, 2016 at 2:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Elena! I always thought that Brussels is an underrated place, but I also think that it’s a misunderstood one. Danaki’s comment was spot on–it’s a place of many stories, and it makes it special. March 23, 2016 at 3:44pm Reply

  • Mia: Brussels really impressed me the one time I’ve visited it in the beginning of 90s. I was in my wanna-be photographer phase of my early adulthood – and I am still amazed with the beauty of the pics taken there. A heaven of various era, architecture, ruins (in the very center of the city!), churches…all in beautiful grey and sepia shades, millions of shades.

    Thank you for the beautiful rhapsody for the city. Sorry for all the losses, keep going! March 23, 2016 at 3:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: I would love to see the photos you took, Mia. A city in the sepia shades captures my first impression of Brussels too. March 23, 2016 at 4:15pm Reply

  • Mia: They are all developed in paper format, at the time, naturally – but I am happy to try to take some pics of the pics to share them with you! Cities can feel like living creatures when one falls in love with them, like you love Brussels.

    Respect. March 23, 2016 at 4:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’d love that. Thank you very much! March 23, 2016 at 4:55pm Reply

      • Mia: Victoria, the pics turned out both lousy in quality but especially too heavy in size. I sent you a couple of photos through fb/messenger because they were too vast for email. So, if you have got some message from a stranger, it is me.

        Pics or not, hopefully life gets “normal” soonish, whatever it means to different people, even perhaps never back to the same. March 27, 2016 at 6:55am Reply

        • Victoria: I just checked, but I don’t see a message from you. March 27, 2016 at 10:52am Reply

          • Mia: Oh, I probably did not send the invitation. Maybe now I did it right. March 28, 2016 at 2:32am Reply

            • Victoria: Are you sure you’re sending it to the correct Victoria? I haven’t received it. March 28, 2016 at 8:35am Reply

              • Mia: Sorry, I have sent them to the blog’s fb/messenger, Bois de Jasmin’s, not on your personal site. Maybe you found it there? Or I will send them to your own account, too. Sorry for being this confusing! March 28, 2016 at 10:41am Reply

  • Liliane: Dag Victoria,
    Ik ben blij dat je in goede gezondheid bent!
    Graag zou ik je op een dag eens ontmoeten in Brussel.
    Ik ken de stad ook goed.
    Zou je dat ook willen of liever niet? March 23, 2016 at 5:08pm Reply

  • Lindaloo: So good to hear you are safe. I also appreciate your reminder that our concern should extend to other such attacks no matter where in the world they happen.

    Thank you for sharing your loving view of Brussels in all its complexity, beauty and uniqueness.

    It is a very thoughtful and healing message, and I hope you will be able to publish it elsewhere so it gets the broader attention it deserves.

    I have to agree with Anne that multiculturalism will save all of us in the future, as will an actual appreciation of the aspects each culture brings (not least the food) which you so obviously share. March 23, 2016 at 5:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much! What I love the most about Brussels is its tapestry of communities and the way people live close together. There are real problems, of course, and the economically depressed communities are left to drift. This is because there is a lack of central control, but at the heart of the city is enough acceptance of difference to make the city work. March 24, 2016 at 2:17am Reply

  • Ariadne: The reason why I read this blog faithfully…..Victoria, you bring life’s beauty to the forefront no matter what. March 23, 2016 at 6:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for such a nice comment, Ariadne! March 24, 2016 at 2:18am Reply

  • Wrenaissance Art: So glad to hear you and your husband are okay.
    Lovely writing, and Valentine to an adopted home.
    As with London with its Tube & busses on 7/7, it is most worrisome that the train station was attacked.
    In a big city, free and easy movement on public transport is more than taken for granted, it is a basic necessity. This is a blow to the psychological urban fabric.
    My condolences and best wishes to all in Brussels and Belgium. March 23, 2016 at 10:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, so true. My friend and I were commenting this very thing. For instance, this morning I had to get to the train station, and a journey that ordinarily takes 10 minutes extended to 1.5 hours. March 24, 2016 at 2:20am Reply

  • Surbhi: 🙁 March 23, 2016 at 11:08pm Reply

  • nozknoz: Victoria, in the midst of all this, I am so grateful to you for this poem! I read it during the 1990s in the New York Times Review of Books and could only remember the overall theme and a line about children playing, oblivious to the great tragedy or miracle unfolding in the foreground. For years I’ve toyed with the idea of going through that entire decade in an archive of the NYTRB to find it. Now, you’ve handed to me when we most need rays of light.

    Let me join Ariadne in appreciating how you always “bring life’s beauty to the forefront, no matter what.” March 24, 2016 at 12:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Not long ago I was with a friend visiting the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, and she recited Auden’s poem in front of the Fall of Icarus. It stayed with me and I was thinking about it a lot this past year.

      Thank you very much! 🙂 March 24, 2016 at 2:24am Reply

      • nozknoz: BTW, I also thought of you last night, Victoria: I unexpectedly found myself with a chance to visit a big Indian supermarket and kept asking myself, “What would Victoria buy?” Among other things, I came home with pandanus/kewdra/keora water, fresh curry leaves, and the most delicious masala kajus (marvelously spiced cashews) that I’ve ever tasted. 🙂 March 24, 2016 at 10:38am Reply

        • Victoria: You bought all the things that I would get. I’m addicted to masala kajus. 🙂 March 26, 2016 at 11:17am Reply

  • Michaela: How unexpected, Victoria! Now we should comfort you, yet you comfort us with this wonderful post! Thank you so much and… be safe! March 24, 2016 at 4:03am Reply

    • Victoria: I like to talk about Brussels. So underrated and misunderstood. March 24, 2016 at 5:24am Reply

  • Kathy: Thank you for the work you do as a journalist and reporter. I heard an interview on the National Public Radio station with a Belgian women, whose name I didn’t catch, who owned a coffee shop across from Maelbreek Station. The reporter, after asking questions about the incident and what she witnessed, asked if her shop was opened. She said “yes, we are opened” and there was so much courage and dignity in her voice. I hope I can have coffee there one day. March 24, 2016 at 6:26am Reply

    • Victoria: My mother was visiting us last week, and after reflecting that life in Europe is dangerous, she decided that she will go for a walk in the city center. Because it’s a sunny day and life must go on. She walked, since the metro was shut down. March 26, 2016 at 10:55am Reply

  • mj: I love your love letter to your adopted city. I was there past December, right after the Paris attacks and found a welcoming city that was a joy to walk around. March 24, 2016 at 10:53am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s definitely an easy city to walk, and the neighborhoods change so much, giving you a chance to experience lots of different things.
      Thank you. March 26, 2016 at 11:18am Reply

  • Tiamaria: Hi Victoria, thank you for a lovely article and I am so pleased to hear you are safe and well. You were my first thought when I heard about the events in Brussels . I’ve only been through Brussels once in my early twenties when I took the bus (The Bohemian Express!) from Dublin to Prague. I was only there long enough to use the facilities but I’ve always thought of it as a bit of a melting pot in the best possible way.
    When 9 /11 happened one of my sisters was living in Saudi Arabia working as a nurse and when she heard the news she was in an awful panic and wanted to leave immediately. I always remember, when she rang home very upset and scared, my dad reassuring her saying ‘The world has a wonderful way of healing itself’. I always think of that when things get a bit dark.
    I was so looking forward to this post because I figured you would have a response to these events that was intelligent, measured, insightful and life affirming and I was not wrong.
    Thank you so much, beautiful as always. March 24, 2016 at 3:43pm Reply

    • Karen A: What a nice comment, Tiamaria – and beautiful words from your father. March 24, 2016 at 4:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, and especially for including your father’s words. I will think of it often.

      A bus ride from Dublin to Prague sounds great. It must have been interesting to experience the changes in scene and people as you moved along. March 26, 2016 at 11:40am Reply

  • Karen A: Thank you for such a thoughtful, beautiful post Victoria. I hesitate to even go online the past few days, but am grateful for your words, and the sentiments of others. March 24, 2016 at 4:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Karen! I feel the same way, thank you to everyone for their kind words. March 26, 2016 at 11:41am Reply

  • Floralouise: You have quoted from one of my favorite poets. I hope to be able to see the paintings that inspired “Musee des Beaux Arts” one day. What a lovely tribute to your city. I wish you and all of Brussels well. March 25, 2016 at 12:17am Reply

    • Victoria: I now return to the museum just to see the painting. And I think of this poem. March 26, 2016 at 11:42am Reply

  • Carla: Nicely described. I can’t believe the number of terror attacks recently. I’ve twice had to contact a friend in Turkey this year to be sure she’s ok. (Im not on Facebook!) It’s terrible.

    One of my favorite things about Brussels was the number of affordable restaurants of all ethnicities. What I miss about living in Europe in general is the affordable flowers, fruit and vegetables. As it should be! A bouquet of flowers should be a regular purchase, for five euro, not fifteen dollars! Four years after living in the Sablon area for a three month assignment I returned to Brussels as a tourist with my baby girl. Walking the city this time exhausted me, I think because I was exclusively breastfeeding a six month old! On that visit I was struck by how dirty the city sometimes is, sadly, but this does not detract from its interest. By the way, I’m sure you’ve dined at In’t Spinekopke for a real Belgian experience, but in case not you should go! March 25, 2016 at 1:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t yet, but I will be sure to try it.

      Many of my friends from other EU countries who work in Brussels complain how expensive food is in comparison to their home countries, but after NYC, it seems like a bargain to me. Even the organic produce from the market is affordable. I also like the number of shops catering to pretty much everyone, not to mention restaurants and cultural events. March 26, 2016 at 11:45am Reply

  • Carla: Each country and culture certainly has its pros and cons. What’s wonderful about knowing anther culture is that you see your own more clearly and question things that don’t make sense but are accepted practice. Married to a Frenchman and having lived in France and Germany (and three months in BXL!) I do think life is easier and more affordable in the US – and we will have more money to travel in retirement than my French in-laws will – but as for quality of life between Europe and the US, it’s broadly speaking “a wash” in my opinion. Meaning quality of life is just as good in Europe, for different reasons: less self-imposed stress, better food and still-intact eating traditions, less commercialization and need to consume constantly, more reasonable expectations as to what is required for happiness and success, etc. For now we prefer living as the French in America to the extent we can…and saving for a “home-free” retirement of world travel which is more feasible here… March 25, 2016 at 1:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Very true! In the end, I find that I can adapt fairly easily to whatever conditions I have to face, as long as I have my family around. March 26, 2016 at 11:52am Reply

    • Austenfan: I loved your comparison of quality of life between the old and the new world! They each have their own merits. March 27, 2016 at 8:17am Reply

  • Surbhi: When this happened in my city, it shook me as well (the images were pretty nasty) and I felt like my freedom to just walk freely is gone forever. Bags and packs would be checked before I enter anywhere. That feeling was not good. But what eventually helped was things returning to normal in few months. Government also didn’t go over board with restrictions. But people also eventually just let it go. These monsters want us to live in fear. And I am talking about every city in the world not just western Europe. The bombs are only to gain what is not theirs. Power, money, oil.

    So lets enjoy the beauty of life and cities and flowers and fragrances ! March 26, 2016 at 9:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I also remember this in NY, and I spent the past two years traveling in Ukraine where there was a real war. The experience taught me that in most situations what helps is having family and friends around and remembering that beauty–art, literature, nature, etc–is a powerful force. And of course, helping others as much as possible. That’s probably the most potent element of all. March 27, 2016 at 10:48am Reply

  • Wara: Infinite happiness to know you are well…..and infinite “thank you” for the love you show for your city and all the cities of the world…..you are amazing! Besos and Blessings! March 27, 2016 at 2:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Wara!
      Have a wonderful weekend. March 27, 2016 at 10:50am Reply

  • Mezzogiorno: Dearest Victoria, like so many of your readers you we’re the first person I thought of when I heard the sad news. I came to the blog–nothing–I worried–I checked Facebook, and there you were. Such relief! And now you give us this beautiful tribute to your city. I’ve never heard much about Brussels and what I have heard hasn’t been great. Thank you so much for giving me a new perspective and reminding me that anyplace can be wonderful when seen with the right viewpoint.
    I will be visiting England and Germany this summer with my husband and two young children, and we’ll be taking the Eurostar from London to Brussels. We had a moment of wavering (with perfect timing, the attacks happened just after we purchased plane tickets), but of course, we can’t let terrorists keep us from seeing the friends, family, and countries we love so much. We live outside Boston and visit New York City, so it’s not like we aren’t just as vulnerable in those cities (if not more so, given the US lack of gun control).
    Well–not to bring politics into your blog, but I just wanted to thank you–and all your commenters–for their beautiful words. It’s comforting to know how many of us stand ready to defend beauty, freedom, and culture in all its forms.
    With all best wishes,
    Jen March 28, 2016 at 9:00am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for your kind words and thoughts. It was really a huge comfort to read your comments. Thank you to everyone. March 31, 2016 at 1:05pm Reply

  • Lecia: I love Brussels! We have visited Brussels several times, beginning in 1991, as a requisite of my husband’s job. My fondest memory is the Belgians themselves. They were so kind and accommodating to me, an inexperienced & eager American. My eyes fill with tears when I think of how this city’s people have been abused. I’m thankful to God for keeping you safe, Victoria. l greatly enjoy boisdejasmin; thank you for writing it! March 28, 2016 at 2:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: So true! Thank you very much, Lecia. March 31, 2016 at 1:06pm Reply

  • NBelle: Hi Victoria, am glad to hear you are okay. It’s a massive tragedy, and prayers are going for victims in Brussels, and elsewhere where they have hit. Sigh.

    I’ve lived for a short spell in Geneva, and I wish i had taken the chance to visit Brussels! I am currently in Asia, a wonderful, cacophonous place, but I hope I’ll be in Europe again sometime in the near future!

    A city that is too perfectly groomed, would… not have much appeal, really. April 1, 2016 at 6:32am Reply

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