While there are two official languages here (french and dutch) it seems almost everyone also speaks English. Entering the airport, the airport employee directing passengers to find the appropriate customs lines defaulted to english immediately.
I got here on Saturday morning, and had forgotten how ‘closed down’ european cities can seem on the weekends. Except for the tourist city center, (which was about a mile from my hotel) most of the little shops, corner stores, and restaurants were only open in the morning. The Carrefour express- something like a nice 7-11 across the street from my hotel- shut at 1pm on saturday.
I learned French when I was in fourth and fifth grade, and used to have an ordering-food-at-a-restaurant-level grasp of it. But, unpracticed since age 15, I can’t communicate in it anymore, and don’t quickly grasp numbers (I could have done a modicum of practicing before travel, but didn’t.) I can still interpret written french, and dutch is remarkably similar to english, though it sounds a lot like unintelligible german to me, and has many identical words to german.
unlike thailand, where being white automatically pegged you as an english-speaking foreigner, here everyone starts speaking to me in french, then tries dutch, then english.
there were these little bits of parade activity going on in the tourist center.
a nice city feature seemed to be these racks of rental bikes I noticed in multiple locations.
The city really is quite quintessential looking. It’s as I had imagined it being.
I’m keeping a flickr set of the trip to Belgium and Germany here.