In Belgium, there are TV game shows where people compete to throw slices of bread into toasters from great distances and pull tissues out of Kleenex boxes faster than their opponents. Waffles are served at lunchtime or as afternoon snacks instead of during breakfast, and the most common way to eat them is out of a napkin while strolling shop-lined streets. Bread is sold in actual bakeries here, and you go to separate stores to buy fruit, cheese and meat – each specialty shop just oozing freshness and an enchanting spell that makes you ache to cook new things while donning an apron with pockets that are filled with wooden spoons. Even the tattoo parlors look classy here amidst the cobblestones and cloudy skies, and, as though compensating for the gray weather, there are florists at every turn who peddle potted bulbs, orchids and tulips.
Perhaps the sweetest sight of my Thursday was when I walked into the Kortrijk town square to find every balcony, window and church tower filled with high school students. The teens were waving paper airplanes in their hands and shouting at each other across the square, but silence eventually fell when someone sounded a bullhorn and all the airplanes went soaring. Some passersby picked up airplanes, and I can only imagine Dutch love notes were written within the folds, because whenever a passerby finished reading they smiled, blushed and nodded approvingly at the students many stories above. I hope you also have a day of love notes falling from the sky in languages you may or may not understand.