18 October 2006

Macedonia and sunshine

This weekend the Sunday icon on my little five-day forecast widget showed a sun without clouds on it!

This is a rare enough occasion in Brussels that we decided to go on a picnic. A group of seven, we divvied up what to bring, via an epic conference on Skype the afternoon before.

I offered to bring a fruit salad ("macedonia," in Catalan...I often wonder about that word. Did fruit salads originate in the Balkans?), thinking, like any American, that fruit salad forms an essential part of a picnic/barbecue/outdoor eating scenario. A side dish.

But I forgot that Catalans (perhaps most Europeans?) find it odd and unsettling to combine something sweet with the other things on your plate. Fruit is reserved strictly for the dessert end of things. So, I had unwittingly volunteered to bring dessert. Since in my book fruit salad doesn't quite cut it as a stand-alone dessert, I brought cookies too.

Anyway, not a problem, that was just a digression on different cultural perceptions of fruit salad.

The important thing is that it was a beautiful day. I wore sunglasses! And, drumroll please, it felt like autumn! The sun was bright, the air was crisp, and I even saw fallen leaves. Everything felt golden.

We took the tram to Tervuren, which as tram-rides go, is one of the more beautiful journeys you could hope for. It shoots out of Brussels, starting at the fountainy roundabout Montgomery, and heads right into the woods. You ride along a park-like stretch of road lined with trees and cute little houses, and then into the thick of things. When we tumbled out, it felt like a different Belgium.

We walked over to the Royal Museum of Central Africa (will have to save a visit for another day) and strolled around its sumptuous grounds. These lead into a huge expanse of well-manicured green spaces surrounding canals and lakes, and these in turn to forests with trails and cleverly striped mushrooms in them. We didn't eat the mushrooms (aren't stripes universal animal-language for "back off?"), just took pictures.

But the first order of business was settling down and digging in. Open-air food is so pleasant! Especially after our normal eating-lair, which is our underground kitchen. One relishes food touched by the wind and sun in a new way.

All of Brussels, it seems, went to Tervuren on Sunday (especially a large number of the Belgian equivalent of boy- and girl-scout troups), but since there is so much space no one was bothered. We watched little kids race their remote-controlled boats around the lake, uniformed scouts playing ball and chase, and the rest of the bikers and strollers and skaters and promenaders. We joined in on the promenading. Nothing too strenuous after eating, you see.

It was the perfect way to celebrate a sunny Sunday, and to have at least a taste of something that felt like autumn.

No comments: