La Plage et Les Boules

Oostende

The weather in Belgium has been unseasonably warm.  Like, really warm, especially compared to last year.  One quick dusting of snow in November is all we’ve seen of the white stuff so far this winter.  The clouds never go away, though.  Did you know that the average amount of sunlight that Belgium sees in the month of January is an hour and a half per day?  That means if you count up all the minutes of sunlight, all day long,  you would only get to ninety.  And I’m pretty sure that’s stretching it.  But, anyway, even with the constant clouds, the temperatures have been above normal.  So we did what all good southern Virginians do when it’s warm in January.  We went to the beach.  This time we headed toward Oostende (Ostend).

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Check it out, Montgomeryfest!

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Oostende used to be a favorite spot for the Belgian royal family.  The Leopolds (I and II) liked to hang there so they built royal villas and horse racing tracks and casinos and long galleries so the royals could pass between all of their playgrounds without being bothered by rain or, presumably, beach goers.  These days, the galleries are there for the Martins to pedal through.

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January is also a good time for a little sand soccer.  None of those crazy Dutch tourists taking up all that precious space.  The beach does something to my normally short-attention-spanned children.  Their need for the television or the Wii disappears.  They are both content with a huge stretch of sand as their playground.  Not like those crazy Leopolds.

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Shell collecting, digging, rolling down sand hills… keeps them occupied for hours, which pleases me immensely because I can spend just as much time at the beach with my own thoughts.

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Sunday was brocante day, as usual.  This time we opted for the closest weekly market on the opposite side of Mons.  We usually wind up bringing home lots of little things from this one.  L wound up with a dancing, MP3 playing pig, E brought home both a Harry Potter and Hagrid doll, Ben found some beautiful, frame-worthy, Belgian sheet music, and I chose several things including… balls.  Unusual, old balls.

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Have you ever heard of crossage?  No, you haven’t.  Neither had I until we asked about these.  “Poor man’s golf” is how the seller described it.  So we had to come home and immediately Google it.  Apparently you play by whacking a ball with a stick and it’s very popular in the area around Mons and just across the border in Maubeuge, France.  It dates back to the 12th century and can be played either in the street or in fields, though records show that King Philip V prohibited street crossage in 1319, probably due to too many broken windows and concussions.  Completely ignoring King Philip’s pronouncement, there is a small town very near Mons that has an organized street crossage match every Ash Wednesday.  I am so there.

Now that’s good Belgian fun!

Oh, yeah, I also got this…

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There’s no good union without good wine and good cheese.

Amen.

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