Just too cool to care

As we checked out of our hotel in Maastricht a few days ago we had a conversation with the receptionist about Belgium and Belgians. As we bemoaned the state of Belgian roads and their attitude to cyclists, the receptionist nodded and agreed, but added, “They’re Belgian, they think they’re cool – so they’re not worried about anything else”. I was a little surprised by this statement as ‘cool’ was not amongst the things that had struck me about Belgians – that was until we reached Ghent. Ghent is ‘cool central’. Yes it’s all very old and ‘chocolate box’ picturesque but there are an awful lot of young trendy people here and everything that goes with them, bars, restaurants, clubs, art galleries boutiques etc. Ghent is also not shy of adding some contemporary additions to its mediaeval centre, we’ve seen a lots of modern additions to old buildings and a very striking new hall is being built in the centre cheek-by-jowel with some very old buildings. This fusion of old and new shows a lot of confidence and quite a few places in the UK could learn from Ghent’s example of how to be ‘cool’ and still have old-world character.

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