A palpable piquette to ponder over
I have always loved going to the Belgian Coast. The sea to me represents freedom, ultimate freedom, something I have been looking for all my life. I always get a little closer to it when I am surrounded by the sound of waves, when I can feel the breeze or even the stormy wind blowing in my face, bringing that invigorating scent of the ocean. As a child I would never say I was going to the coast, I was always going to the sea. Maybe a coincidence, maybe karma, but my name, Murielle, in its Celtic origin, actually means “Bright as the Sea”. It took me a long time, but I have finally discovered that I am carrying my freedom with me all the time, it is nowhere to be found, it was there all along and it will be there, always. I have very fond memories of the coast, since this is where my grandparents had a cottage and where my favorite aunt used to live for a while. As a child I would go and visit with her for a couple of weeks a few times a year. She would be the aunt watching TV with me, cuddled up on the coach, suddenly getting up to make us fried potato slices with mayonnaise (so greasy, so decadent, so yummy). She had no car, so we had to walk everywhere. Going for groceries was quite an undertaking, she with the stroller (my cousin was about 6 months old and the cutest baby ever) and me by the hand, bags everywhere. To soften the experience, she would buy me one of my favorite comic books almost every time we passed the book store. I can still feel the anticipation when we would near the store, wondering whether I would get a book this time… Good times.
We leave the coast to find the pale green, flat pastures of Flanders, bordered by proud poplars, a ribbon of liquid silver flowing through historic cities like Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp, carrying the history of hundreds of years, the memories of thousands of people to the depths of the North Sea. Seeing this flat, wide open landscape as a child on my way to “the sea” would make me exclaim each and every single time “I think I can see the sea now, we are very close!”
We make our way further east to the lush, deep green forests of the Eastern region, interspersed with deep purple fields of heather and embellished by the proud bronze of the statue of Ambiorix in the Roman city of Tongres. Rolling hills gently leading us through fields of pink and white blossoming fruit trees to the majestic black green pine forests, the brown-reddish rocks and crystal clear streams of the Ardennes. There is a story on the Ardennes, of course food related, that I really want to share with you. One year we decided with a whole group of friends to celebrate Christmas in a small village in the Ardennes. There was about ten of us and we stayed in a lovely wooden chalet that one of our friends had managed to get through a friend of his parents. The Christmas tree was beautifully decorated and there was a huge fireplace with comfortable coaches all around. Cozy and warm. We brought loads of food and ate to the point that we would get up in the middle of the night to discover that everybody was hanging on the sofas, moaning that they had too much to eat (and drink probably!). In spite of that we found that we could not celebrate Christmas without a Christmas Cake (a tradition in Belgium, called “Kerststronk,” a cake shaped like a log of wood, coated in crème au beurre and decorated with sugary leaves of holly and a marzipan plaque that said “Merry Christmas”). Nobody had remembered to bring one, so my husband and a friend set out on a quest to find one on Christmas Eve. They drove for miles and miles and finally came home with a glorious Christmas Cake. Since the fridge was so full with the rest of the food (in those days we did not have those gigantic fridges!), we decided to put the cake out on the porch so it would stay cool and fresh. On Christmas Day we would then enjoy this delicious cake, or so we thought. The next morning we woke up and discovered that the cake we had made so much fuss about, had simply been eaten by some animal visiting our porch at night. Not a single crumb was left…
Indeed a country of multiple colours, tastes and memories!
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Don’t miss hearing Murielle read at the JUzDIzRTS Author Event Saturday August 17th starting at 1pm!