It was Sunday afternoon and we'd been up since 5am for several days hitting the brocantes, the vide greniers, and every antique shop along every back road we'd traveled. So, while I was finishing up a little negotiating on a very lovely pair of crystal sconces, I suggested that my very tired and weary Maman (who like my Dad thinks I'm in the used furniture business) go next door to the cafe, sit a spell and order us a couple of Perriers.
My Mother does not speak one word of French. Not one. I convince her she can do this, order 2 Perriers. No big deal. When I finish my business and arrive, she's grinning form ear to ear. She very proudly announces that she has ordered 2 (by holding up 2 fingers) Pierres. Two Pierres I ask? Oh no, two Perriers she answers and exclaims that the waitress nodded enthusiastically and understood perfectly. Pierres or Perriers, I ask again because two Pierres are definately going to cost more that two Perriers. Look, she tells me, here comes the waitress and sure enough she has two Perriers on the tray she is carrying along with serveral other beverages, but no Pierres in sight.
The two Perriers, the waitress places them deftly on the neighboring table. On our table, she places two beers. Biers ordered by a flustered, southern spoken lady. Hot day, weary shoppers and a couple of Stella's. Life is good and I will forever ask my Mom if she'd like a Pierre.
Arriving in Brussels was like coming home again and the anticipation of shopping for treasures had me dancing with glee. Well, maybe dancing in my head because after the flight, the taxi to pick up the van, the drive to the hotel to check in for the room that was not yet available, but would be available sometime later that day, was definately playing catch up this "drooping in many areas" body of mine.
So, to begin, I rented a van. Not a minivan, the seats definately get in the way and the rental companies generally frown when you remove them from the vehicle because that fabulous painted 18th century buffet won't fit in otherwise and the hotel has a problem when you use the luggage cart to tote the seats through their lobby, not to mention that they do not fit into the elevator. Therefore, I rent a utility van. A high hat, 5 speed, very large utility van. This one came with 1000 kilometers included in the rate. Sounds reasonable, that's 600 miles in less than 4 days and let's face it, Belgium is not that big.
I have a GPS system with a European chip. Shortest route, no problem. Let's go country. One lane, irrigation ditches on both sides, curves that defy the letter "S" and did I tell you about the goats? Is the GPS, whom I have affectionately named BeBe because how can you yell at something that doesn't have a name, always correct? Well, let's just say there was a turn into a parking lot where I sweated or "dewed" profusely as I manuerved through the very creative Belgian parking. The kind where every car has pulled in their side view mirrors, where I literally inched through only to find that after all I endured... there was no exit and more importantly, no great find, antique or otherwise. Only a combination bus terminal - Pizza Hut parking lot. And the only way out was to BACK UP and not just a little bit. We're talking rows. Rows where when the spaces ran out, they just made new ones. On angles and corners. On sidewalks and crosswalks. And I in my kerchief had to back out. Not up one row or even two or three. Picture a maze. A maze with those death defying pedestrians chanting "na, na, you can't hit me".
Did I say that I'm a 50 something blond? Did I mention that the weather was absolutely gorgeous. A full sun with 80 plus degree temperatures and NO AIR CONDITIONING in this oversize white whale? Do you know what full sun and complete shut downs on the Ring Road around Brussels do to a woman used to flipping that AC switch to maximum at any hint of showing the slightest bit of "dew" as we southern women like to say?
As for that 1000 kilometers included in the rate.... blew right past that. Only 1300 kilometers, 780 miles in less than 4 days. Did I shop? Oh, yeah! Stay tuned for the highlights!
I am a: Passionate hunter of French, Belgian and Italian antiques--I love the stories their history tells, real or imagined. Travel affectionado, any excuse for a trip and my bags are packed. Proprietor, Collector, Connoisseaur...... anxiously awaiting the next search.