“Coldest winter is a summer in Belgium”

Ever hear a famous saying that doesn’t make sense …

Only to finally figure it out years (even decades) later?


Summers in Spa, Belgium
are “very warm” at most

For me, it’s the memorable line from Mark Twain: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” As an aficionado of American Literature in my teenage years was when I was first introduced to the saying, but had barely a clue what it meant.

Was he talking meteorologically, or metaphorically – or both?

Then in my twenties I visited my brother in Menlo Park, California.

We never made it to AT&T Park, thus I never saw Barry Bonds hit a home run – and for my money he’s the greatest baseball player who ever played – but we did pass through the city which I was shocked to find an unseasonable cool and damp, as if we were momentarily stranded in a cloud. I say momentarily because just like that we were in and out of it across the Golden Gate Bridge back in the warm California air.

Apparently there’s a fog that sits over the city all summer long.

Finally the saying made sense.


Spa stays cool all summer long
because of its higher altitude
and where its nestled in a deep valley

Fast forward twenty years later and as a Floridian visiting Belgium I find myself feeling much the same: “The coldest winters I ever spend as a Floridian are my summers in Belgium.”

Except last summer when Europe was in the grips of a major heat wave.

Belgian summers are winter like to a south Floridian

A common Belgian weather saying goes like this, or so I was told:

“The hardest choice you’ll face all day is deciding what to wear each morning, knowing in the back of your head you’ll have to eventually change …

Especially if you forget your umbrella!”

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