Saturday, May 3, 2014

Great Expectations; England to Belgium

My first glimpse of Belgium was of fields and a spot of sun through a dark bank of clouds. It could have been anywhere, but a French flag was flying beside the train tracks, so I knew I was someplace different.

Exploring England the week before was surreal. It was like finally coming to a place I had been to so many times as a mental traveller. I grew up in love with U.K. authors - Beatrix Potter, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Kenneth Grahame, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, The Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Rudyard Kipling, Roald Dahl, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Their England was the one I expected to see when I arrived and they did not disappoint.

England was a country of mythical status in my mind, built upon page after page of stories written over hundreds of years, but I saw it all just as I had pictured it in my mind. The fields of green countryside filled with bunnies that were in the Peter Rabbit stories I treasured as a child, the ancient and gnarled trees that reminded me of Tolkien, the riverbanks that brought me right back to the pages of The Wind in the Willows, and Baker Street in London where a character so beloved and admired has been made real with his own museum. Sherlock Holmes might as well have really lived for all the detail that has been put into supporting his legend.

England was familiar before I even got there, but at the same time everything felt new as I was seeing what I'd only imagined for the first time. Now, as I ride the train into Belgium, I'm about to experience a whole new level of 'new'. I know very little about Brussels, Bruges, and Ghent, but I'm so excited to see more - past the fields and sun peaking out of dark clouds, past the French flag to the people who live under it. I'm prepared to fall in love with this new place. 

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