I left Lille before lunchtime, flying through Flemish fields on a busy train bound for Brussels. I have this life-long affinity with Belgium. Well I say life-long, I had zero affinity with Belgium until about 1999, when I was sent on a year abroad there by my university. Even then, I wasn’t sure I had much affinity with it, but I lived there and befriended the country and developed a deep appreciation for the place, which is so often overlooked and even mocked by people who have never been there. Belgium is Belgium with all its fun foibles, nobody knows that more than the locals, but it always feels a little bit like home to me, and coming back I never feel out of place. I last visited here in 2019, when I saw a fair bit of the country (Brussels, Ghent, Liege, Bruges, and the long-awaited return to Charleroi, the city where I spent that year abroad). I was coming here for just a few days, staying in Brussels the whole time but with malleable plans to see other places, and unlike in 2019 I’d not made any plans to meet up with Belgian sketchers that I knew, this was just going to be a few well-needed days to myself. After the pandemic cuffed my wanderlust, and after the past couple of years of what felt like endless soccer coaching obligations, a few days to unwind in one of my favourite countries where I don’t have to rush about worrying about seeing certain things or missing important sights, that’s what I needed. After finding my hotel (Hubert, a short walking distance from the Grand Place and the Centrale station and right by one of my favourite cafes, A La Mort Subite) I strolled familiar streets, gobbled down some frites drowned in sauce andalouse, and went to the Grand Place to stand for a couple of hours. I have wanted for years to come back to the Grand Place with my sketchbook and just spend ages drawing. I drew here back in 2019, but I was always on my way somewhere and didn’t really give myself the time. Now, I had the entire afternoon and evening if I wanted, I didn’t have to be anywhere. So I stood and drew. The results are above; click on the image to get a closer look. This is drawn on a double-page spread of a landscape Moleskine sketchbook (as are most of my panoramas) and I initially thought about colouring it in – you can see that there are very small spots of green which I added very early on in the drawing – but after two hours of drawing windows it was obvious that wasn’t happening. In fact after two hours, I had to go and rest for a little bit. So I came back a little later in the early evening, after eating at A La Mort Subite, stood in the same spot and continued for another hour until it was done. A very nice time was had by all (me).
I did quite a lot of sketching in Belgium (of course!) over the next few days, so I will post those all soon, but wanted to put this Grand Place drawing here on its own. Next time I go back, I’ll draw the other side.