Belgium is a cute little european country famous for its chocolates (Godivas, Leonidas confections) its beer (about 700! types of beer), its lace, and many historical, architectural, cultural attractions . When on tour at belgian chocolate factories or beer breweries, one gets to sample the products , and this in itself is a tasty, wonderful experience.
My great surprise at the time of my visit in Belgium, was that at McDonald's - a child and family oriented chain, with most of the staff underage - they sold...beer, an alcoholic beverage. I thought that was strange. In reply to my questions on the matter, I was told that in Belgium , there were generally fewer restrictions and age related limitations on alcohol consumption than in the USA and other countries, and that beer drinking in particular was a major part of belgian culture. Belgium, so it appeared, was the first country in the world that served beer in its McDonalds.
I must admit that I myself greatly liked the idea of beer with my Mac meal . I was tired and hungry from touring , so a glass of icy cold beer to wash down the Mac burger and the fries was very welcomed . Besides , it was a new experience for me. I usually don't drink alcoholic beverages. It's not that I don't like to , it's just that these beverages don't like me; a drop of wine and my head drops , and this is embarrassing when you're sitting at the table with people. With the belgian beer I 've had no problem at all. Anyway, my all time favourite cold beverage is soda water or sparkling mineral water.
The gem of any tour in Belgium is the well preserved city of Brugges. It' s often called "Venice of the North" because of its canals and bridges. Brugges is synonymous with lace as the 'bobbin lace' work ( a branch of lace making) is a specialty of this city.
Lace -making has an history of exploitation of girls from poor families. The girls , good at this craft because of their little nimble fingers , were considered cheap labour, . Lace making was a sedentary kind of work, bad for the eyes and for the spine. Young girls in convents were sitting for hours bent up, not allowed to raise their eyes from their work. As a result of the hard physical conditions they looked pale, weak, undersized. The girls paid a very heavy personal price to allow the bourgeoise ladies the pleasure of wearing lace.
Nowadays , lace is made chiefly as small souvenirs (doilies mainly) as it is very expensive for other purposes. Anyway, no one leaves Brugges without a souvenir of lace and neither did I.
In the photo below we see a girl dressed in a traditional outfit sitting outside and demonstrating the craft of lace-making.