Posted in Personal life, Travel

Why Belgium Is Being Rebuilt (Further Tales from the Camper Van, Easter 2013)

Roadworks in Mons, Belgium - 2
Coming soon: European City of Culture 2015

Everywhere we go in Belgium, there are roadworks: on the motorway, on the main roads,  in pedestrian precincts.  Highway diversions  confuse the satnav; footpath blockades trip us up.

One of the first Belgian towns that we stop in on our motorhome journey to Luxembourg is Mons, known as Bergen to Flemish speakers. Mons has recently been designated the 2015 European City of Culture. The local council wants to ensure that when the time comes, this ancient city will live up to scuh honour. Disruption at every turn is a small price to pay. Cobblestones are being lifted and relaid, walls rebuilt, roads resurfaced. We teeter across roadworks on temporary planking between piles of sand and stone, only to find, to our disappointment, that Mons’ greatest tourist attraction is closed for repair.

Oh well, we console ourselves, we’ll be going to plenty of other places in Belgium, and we move swiftly on.

Roadworks in Mons, Belgium
And here’s one they prepared earlier

Yet beyond Mons, the madness continues. In Dinant, parked in a quiet spot by the river, we awake to the distinctive sound of jackhammers, before hop-step-jumping around noisy roadworks in the town for some sightseeing. In Arlon, we have to detour around impeccably rebuilt stone steps to the Church of St Donat. (We try picture Homer Simpson.)

What is it with these Belgians? Why the apparent national obsession with rebuilding?

And then it dawns on me. Until recently, Belgium has been without a government for an extraordinary length of time – 541 days, to be exact. During this interregnum, the daily life of the country apparently ran more smoothly. Presumably that included the granting of planning applications, the bane of any builder’s life in Britain.

Roman column in Mons, Belgium
A great advert for Roman engineering – this Roman column is about the only thing the good burghers of Mons have not yet seen fit to rebuild

No government? This could be just what we need to get our potholes mended: let’s overthrow ours today!

Well, at least it would give the political pundits something to talk about other than Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.

Other posts about our Easter 2103 motorhome trip to France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany:

Just When We Thought It Was Safe to go Back into La Piscine

When In Belgium, Drink As The Belgians Do


English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

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