Weathering Belgium

By alison - December 12, 2006 (Updated: November 28, 2014)

Working from home during a Belgian winter can be very depressing. Too much light on the computer monitor makes working on photographs impossible, so I spend most of my workday in a dark corner of my living room. Lately, with the days at their shortest of the year, it feels like working in a cave.

On the rare occasions that the sun peaks out from behind the clouds for a few moments, I rush to the window to soak up as much vitamin D as possible before I return to the darkness of the cave. Some days, I wish I could just hibernate like most other cave-dwelling creatures.

Normally I’d be prone to complaining about the Belgian winter – it’s cold, windy, wet, and dark – utterly depressing really. But as I sit here typing, my internet radio is tuned to the Halifax feed of the CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – Canada’s national public radio). As I listen, I think of my friends at home who are travelling to work this morning through the 20 centimetres of snow that fell overnight. Belgian winters suddenly look a little brighter.

When I meet people here in Belgium and tell them I’m from Canada, their first comment is inevitably something to do with snow. While Canada isn’t the vast frozen wasteland that everyone assumes, (at least, not the part where I’m from) we do get some nasty weather in winter.

The past few winters in Halifax have been relatively mild – sort of. Rather than having constant light snowfalls, like I remember from my childhood, there are one or two massive storms that dump an entire winter’s worth of snow in several hours. (They blame this on global warming – it’s not very warm at all if you ask me).

The CBC report on the traffic jams resulting from the snow brings back a flurry of memories. (Sorry I couldn’t resist.) Two winters ago, my workday would have gone something like this:

  • Wake up before the sun rises and get ready for work
  • Trudge through knee high snow (because it always formed drifts around our front door) to the car at the top of the driveway
  • Start the car and turn the heater and defrosters on full blast
  • Clean the snow and ice from the windows and roof and if the snow is particularly high, dig out the tires
  • Get in the car and warm my hands until the blood thaws again while thanking the Gods for my four-wheel drive Subaru and the invention of heated seats
  • Try to be patient as my half hour drive takes over two hours because Canadians spend all summer desperately trying to forget how to drive in the snow and succeed two days before the first snowfall of the season
  • Arrive at work cold, damp and tired
  • At the end of the day, emerge into the darkness and repeat these steps in reverse order.

As I sit at my desk today, warm and toasty beside the crackling fireplace, I’m thinking that these Belgian winters aren’t so bad – However, talk to me next March and I guarantee you I’ll be looking for a timeshare in Provence.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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