I'll admit it, I'm bonkers for Belgium. The little country sandwiched between France, Germany, and the ever-so-small Luxembourg. Much too long ago, I had the pleasure of working there for a summer, and I'll never forget the wonderful experience. Belgians must be some of the most generous, welcoming, people on the planet.
I lived with a Belgian family which had been set up for me by an exchange organization, but I there was a problem part way through, and I needed somewhere to say for one month (because of vacations) in the middle of my stay. Having learned this, all of my co-workers offered me different places to stay, free, and it was marvelous! Even though I worked at a grocery store, and as a result those people I knew, were far from wealthy, I've never experienced such hospitality.
A dear friend insisted I stay with her and her husband who were also residing with her parents and brother in a much-too-small apartment, but they made room. She and her spouse had one bedroom, her parents had another, her brother slept in the living/dining room, the kitchen and bathroom were no wider than a hall, and they crammed a bed in the laundry room for me. It doesn't sound comfortable, but I'm short, and it was fantastic. I was completely at home. Though not wealthy, the cooked marvelous food, as Christophe, my friend's brother, was attending culinary school. He even taught me to flip crepes, which was great fun.
It only takes two and one-half hours to traverse the small country at the widest point, and they took me everywhere. We went to the beach, the countryside, the castles, and all of the beautiful small villages. Everywhere you turn, well, except certain parts of Brussels, is absolutely breathtaking.
Years later, when I visited, my friend's husband picked me up from the airport. We took the train to the nearest stop to his home, which was a nearby village. Then came the fun part. He only had a motorcycle. I brought an outer frame backpack which weighed about eighty pounds. So, holding on for dear life, and being able to see absolutely nothing because the helmet was pushed down over my eyes by the backpack, we zipped up and down the hilly, curvy roads to his house. What fun, oh how I miss it!
I've found though, that it's not just the Belgians I met while I lived there who are so helpful. It really seems to be the whole country. I had to do a lot of research over the internet to make certain that the information I provided in my fictional visit to Belgium in "Destined Love is Immortal" was up to date, and I found that whether it was the spelunking society, the Belgian consulate, the tourist bureau, or the owners of business establishments, everyone was more than helpful in my quest for information.
It's my hope that one day I'll return again to this beautiful country, but for now, I'll travel there vicariously through my characters.