Turns out that I’ve under estimated Belgium’s water cycle.
Yes, Florida has its four horsemen – and yes they are scary – and yes they delivery more rain over the course of the year than in Belgium. And yes, I also mentioned (now I know mistakenly) that Belgium’s rain delivery wagon is pulled by the equivalent of ponies in comparison.But if we have our umbrella season, typically around 4 months long; Belgium has its umbrella year.
On any given day it can rain, and the rain – when it comes – can come out of nowhere, and rain in cold torrents. That’s a big difference from the well telegraphed storms we see in south Florida, the ones that you can see coming from miles away.
And then when you’ve pretty much given up on the day – and called in a “rain out” – and sought refuge at a nearby House of Frittes*, the clouds part and an incredible sky of blue shines through, at least for the moment.
(*Frites are French fries, but I’m constantly reminded around here that it’s Belgium, not France, that is famous for its fries, and by most accounts invented them. Frites stands are all over the place, and they come in all shapes and sizes, and are most popularly eaten with mayonnaise.)
And the toughest decision a Belgian faces each day?
That would be what to wear!
But part of that is a recent wrinkle to Belgium’s weather chart.
A decade ago rains were more telegraphed – the classic cirrus, stratus, cumulus transition that gave you a solid few days of rain. Thanks to a shift in the Gulf Stream, those fabled “Belgium rains” been replaced in part with “England style” rains where waves of clouds and patches of blue sweep through at a harrying speed … and leave you guessing all day long what it will do next.
The saying: “if you don’t like the weather just wait 5 minutes … because it’s sure to change,” applies no place better than Belgium. Especially when these depressions move through.
And after 2 weeks of very warm days – and granted, I call them warm, but I’ve been wearing long pants every day: the past week has been sweater and jacket weather.
As 10-year veteran of south Florida’s climate, I’m inclined to borrow from Mark Twain’s famous quib about San Francisco summers, that “the coldest winter I’ve spent in 10 years is a summer in Belgium.” Even on cold winter days in south Florida I usually end up in shorts by mid day.
And as for the storms not being strong: I have to scratch that assumption off the list as well.
A cold front moved through from the west and brought with it booming thunder that rattled windows, and filled the rain barrels up on short order. And did I mention the wind. That’s what you need the jacket for, because it will blow right through a sweater, not to mention when the sweater is damp with rain.
And did I mention when that cold front started to overtake the sky that I was a good ten to twenty kilometers from home, on a bike, without a cell phone, and no map, and not even sure if I was in Belgium – Germany and Netherlands are nearby.
The good news is that there are lots of train tunnels to take refuge in … or should I rather say: car tunnels under a train overcrossings. That would be just down right silliness to hide in a train tunnel. And there were enough patches of daylight inside the waves of rain clouds to get me home at least partially dry.
But mostly wet!
You can’t understand Belgium until you’ve gotten soaken wet in its rain. That’s a nod to the famous Belgium saying that “if you want to be truly beautiful, you’ve got to walk in the rain.”
I’m not sure if it also applies to bike riding.