Celebrating the New Year

By - January 5, 2006 (Updated: November 30, 2014)

My artsy fartsy composition of 6 fireworks images.

So a brand new year has begun and I have been asked about my New Year’s resolutions. The only one I have is to try to enjoy my time here in Belgium this year to the fullest.

The future for me and Andrew is unpredictable. This could in fact be our final year in Europe, if Andrew’s company decides not to extend his contract here. Or it could be the beginning of more years here, should they decide to renew it.

We originally accepted the Belgian transfer because, years down the road, we didn’t want to look back and regret not taking the opportunity while we had it. That said, I also don’t want to look back and feel that I didn’t experience European life to the fullest while I was here. So now that we are settled here, we hope to travel a little more, and see a little more and do a little more.

Aside from this resolution, we started 2006 off with a bang… literally.

We spent New Year’s Eve with the Belgian and Kiwi in Antwerpen. We had a lovely supper of New Zealand lamb and roasted veg. We finished it off with a Bailey’s cheesecake, provided by moi.

Gert and Di have a lovely apartment on the top floor, overlooking the Antwerpen skyline. Windows on either side of their living room offer a panoramic view of the city.

We had been invited to view the city’s fireworks display… little did I know that the entire city would participate.

It seems the normally calm and ordered Belgian race has a secret passion for explosive devices. Not only were we treated to the city’s display of fireworks. But it seems that every citizen in the city was setting off their own.

For half an hour the city sounded like a war zone and looked like a carnival. We watched fireworks go off on all sides of us. It was truly amazing and I have never seen anything like it before.

Besides New Year’s itself, I normally hate January. The days are so short. It is cold and dark and long. There is nothing in January to particularly look forward to, besides its ending – at least, before we moved to Belgium.

In Belgium, as in the Netherlands, there is something special about this bleakest of months – January clearance sales.

Of course Canada and the US have the Boxing Day sales which can be fine if you can stomach the pushing and shoving that last for the week that the sales happen. It’s a bit different here.

Major sales only happen twice a year – January and August. The theory is that they are clearing out the winter and summer stock at those times to make way for the new stock. The sales can be good – damn good.

Yesterday I went a little crazy in the shopping department. I don’t buy a lot of clothes … I’d love to but I’d usually rather spend the money to go somewhere new. When the sales hit here though, I can’t resist those 50% off signs.

First I wandered into Zara. This is a shop I usually avoid because it’s a bit pricy and frankly it makes me feel fat. Their size small would hardly fit an anorexic eight-year-old. Their large fits me… usually.

I wasn’t expecting to find anything there, but I walked out with four sweaters.

Then I hit Promod – one of my favorite chain shops here. I left with two blouses also at 50% off.

Finally I succumbed to the madness that was H&M. I got a pair of pants for 15€, and another for 4€… that’s right, I said 4€. 50% off the lowest price. Mmmmm… happy girl.

Even Andrew found a couple of dress shirts and some new ties.

It’s not just the clothing stores that are on sale. The electronics stores, housewares shops – even Ikea has sales. We went the other day to look at our couch once again. It wasn’t on sale but we managed to get a rug and a dresser for under 100€.

Oh, and the sales aren’t over at the end of the week… they go on all month. While things get picked over pretty quick, the prices on what’s left usually continue to go down through the month.

I’m planning a trip to Amsterdam.

Andrew has hidden my purse … good thing I still have my credit card.

If you like this, you might like:

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+
- 22 hours ago


  1. Comment by Jay

    Jay January 5, 2006 at 12:43

    Sounds like you’re setting yourself up for an awesome year. Enjoy it.

  2. Comment by Di

    Di January 5, 2006 at 20:40

    Like you, I was stunned by the Belgians New Year’s Eve firework … a warzone. Your cheesecake was kind of sublime, and we enjoyed what you left behind … dank u wel.
    And yay to the sales, we have 5 dvds here … very cheap, and one of NZ’s premier movies was there in the ‘for sale’ bin … The Piano … so good.
    See you in the big city tomorrow.

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