THE ROAD TO FLANDERS
Along the back lanes of Wallonia, the pine, oak and beech forests form leafy green necklaces aroundfields of red and violet heather. Above the treetops, the picturesque skylines of Belgium’s medieval cities stand proud, like the venerable manor houses and castles that dominate the Bouillon region, a land irrigated by trout streams and rivers punctuated with old mills. The roe deer venture to the water’s edge just long enough for a drink, while a flock of doves darts across the sky - as though pointing the way toward the country’s apiaries and the breweries of Namur, whose nectar flows amber or blonde, the beer of the Trappist monks or the bûcherons (woodcutters). It’s time to meet in one of the many informal eateries that serve Belgian specialties.
In Flanders, to the north, there awaits another sweet treat… for the eyes: Bruges, the “Venice of the North,” its canals lined with Gothic churches and old houses. The architecture takes a more sensual turn in the wrought iron arabesques that meander across the façades of the apartment buildings, shops and townhouses of Brussels. Iron, stained glass and the influence of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc can be seen in the creations of Victor Horta and Paul Hankar, the leading architects of Belgian art nouveau. An art that lives on in Horta’s former home and studio, now a museum, the renowned Hôtel Tassel and the residences of the Saint Gilles district - most notably the house called Les Hiboux (“the owls”) on Avenue Brugmann - that have preserved their original luster and function.