Thursday, November 17, 2005

New Weekend in Mesen, Belgium (November 13, 2005)

Yesterday was sublime. I died and spent a little time in heaven, and guess what, there were Kiwis there.

Anton had sent out his monthly newsletter to 'New Zealanders in Belgium', and I had noticed that Mesen was celebrating the 30th year of its twinning relationship with Featherston, New Zealand.

'Mesen has special significance for New Zealanders', to quote Anton, 'as the scene of a major and highly successful attack by NZ troops in 1917. The people of Mesen have never forgotten that they were liberated, for a short time, from the Germans. Mesen fell into German hands again in early 1918.

Gert and I had to miss most of it, as we have the children at the moment, and Mesen (also known as Messines in French) is about 140kms from Antwerpen. Two names because towns too near the 'language borders' within Belgium - where Flanders becomes Wallonia, or vice versa, often have two names for their towns, with dual languages spoken, or perhaps a weighting on one - Dutch for Flanders and French in Wallonia.

We missed the wreath laying ceremonies around Mesen on Friday - Armistice Day here in Belgium, and didn't quite get to see the exhibition opening that celebrates the relationship with Featherston, and nor did we see Friday night's concert however, by the skin of our teeth, we arrived on the Saturday in time to watch Ngati Ranana (a London-based Maori cultural group) perform. They were a pleasure to watch, and entranced the mainly Belgian audience... receiving a standing ovation at the end of their 45 minute performance.

I have to admit to being slightly distracted from the moment I arrived in the town hall. There were trestle tables groaning with some our own spectacular NZ wines. Not only were they there, glasses were constantly Filled with samples of some of the best wines I've tasted in ages ... I do wish I'd written the names but as I said, I was in heaven, and one clearly doesn't have time to takes notes while visiting.

Over the afternoon, I had two Merlots and a magnificent little Pinot Noir, and then a Kiwi wandered over with a lovely white wine that I never identified. BUT, that's not all ... complimenting the NZ wines was the most exquisitely cooked venison, lamb and beef I've had in my life. (Hunter Shaw's cooked venison steak is perhaps the only challenge to the sublimely superb cooked NZ meats tasted yesterday).

The chef is the resident NZ embassy chef, and he is surely an angel ...
I was sad to leave, and disappointed to miss today's Kiwi expat bar-be-que over in Kortrijk, but Nikki and Marco have Scouts here in Antwerpen, and anyway, after two days of NZ wines, how would I ever survive a return to normal life.

Ahhh real life ... Monday I start learning to count in Dutch ... een, twee, drie, vier, vijf, zes, zeven, acht, negen and tien.

Tot ziens.

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