Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Life in Belgium

Belgium might be a small country but a lot happens here.
Belgian designer Raf Simons
During the second half of 2013 Dior piled up profits worth 108 million euros. CEO Sidney Toledano: "We are doing great business. These are excellent results." Dior's results are the best since Sidney Toledano took over in 1993. Mr Toledano attributes the upswing in the company's profits to the arrival at Dior of the Flemish designer Raf Simons in April 2012.

Sidney Toledano was recently quoted: "Simons possesses exceptional talent that has allowed a new and modern wind to blow through our house of fashion. He is responsible for renewal, but also retains that which made the Dior look so famous."

The year that winter forgot about us

This year will without a doubt go down as the 2d warmest winter on record. This is because temperatures are expected to stay mild at least until the end of February.

The meteorological winter runs from 1 December to the end of February. And, until now, we have hardly been confronted with temperatures below zero. We only had sub-zero temperatures in Ukkel (which is close to where we live) on 3 times, and even then it never got really cold. The night temperature only dropped to -0.1°C/31.82°F, -0.4°C/31.1°F and 0.5°C/31.28°F.  The coldest  maximum temperature we had, was 4.1°C/39.38°F.

Temperatures for today will again exceed the year-long average. Normally, maximum temperatures in the 3rd week of February are around 6°C/42.8°F, but today we could have up to 12°C/42.8°F in some areas. Temperatures are expected to stay very mild for this time of year as ocean winds will keep on dominating the weather.

The lack of frost has been good news for our heating bills, and also for the government who will have to spend less on repairing roads that suffered badly from a combination of rain, frost and salt during the last couple of winters. Gritters have hardly had to come out so far. Until now, 7,000 tons of salt have been spread on our roads, compared to 52,000 tons last year.

But as usual we find something to complain about cause even though it has been mild it has been wet and windy and grey. And I must admit, I do like getting a bit of snow.  Not that snow in March couldn't happen. In 2008 there was a 'snow storm' which left snow in the higher lying areas as late as 21 March.

Himself with the kids, look how little they were! Oh and yes, he is wearing shorts, he always wears shorts

Road signs in one or four languages?

The Senate Commission for Home Affairs has approved a bill that makes it possible to have a language on road signs other than the 3 official languages in Belgium - Dutch, French and German.

"Half of all the lorries on Belgian roads are registered abroad. Their drivers are mostly of foreign descent. They don't understand our official languages, and often don't grasp what a road sign or a message on motorway boarding means", says Mr Guido De Padt, the driving force behind the idea, argues that this is the best way to have foreign truck drivers understand our traffic signs.

The bill opens the way for traffic signs in English. "When we are doing major road works, it would be safer to make announcements in English as well. In countries like France and the Netherlands, multilingual messages are already a common sight."

But as always when it comes to language issues in this country nothing is easy and not everyone is in agreement. In the end it's the different regions (Flanders (the Dutch speaking area), Wallonia (the French speaking area) or Brussels) that will have the final decision so it might happen in one region and not in another.

An Oscar for Belgium?

The Belgian movie The Broken Circle Breakdown has been nominated for an Oscar in the category of foreign-language movies. If it wins it will be the first time that a Belgian film wins in this category. I haven't seen it yet.

These boots are made for walking ....

Okay, I don't think these boots are really made for walking, even if a Chinese model did just that a the recent Business of Design Week in Hong Kong (December 2013).


The boots which were designed by  A.F. Vandevorst, an Antwerp-based luxury designer fashion label, presented a pair of diamond ankle boots valued at $3.2 million during the Business of Design Week in Hong Kong today. The diamond boots project is a result of collaboration between A.F.Vandevorst, Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), Flanders Fashion Institute and Diarough/UNI-Design.

I'd say this takes the term bedazzling to the extreme. The boots are covered with 39,083 natural fancy colored diamonds, comprised of 1,550 carats that were supplied by Diarough/UNI-Design. 

Designers used champagne, gray and pink colored diamonds for the most part, but also added reddish-pink diamonds for defining the A.F. Vandevorst logo. The manufacturers used 4,783 grams of gold and set the stones at the UNI-Design's manufacturing plant in India. The diamond boots project required 30,000 man hours in all, according to the firm.

If you are in Belgium you can come and have a look at them in Antwerp or if you have 2.4 million Euro and wear a size 39 (European) you can buy them.

And that, is what is happening in and around Belgium.


  1. Those boots are a little scary. Yikes!

    I'm sure the East Coast is jealous of your tame winter.

  2. I can't get over those boots. :/

    What language is the most common one in your part of Belgium? What do you speak (mostly) everyday? So interesting about the road signs.

    Let me know if you see the movie. And I think we got all of your cold weather and snow here in Alabama. Want it back? ;P


  3. What a cool post! I haven't seen any of the foreign films, so I'm officially rooting for The Broken Circle Breakdown now! :) The US has had a really, really crazy winter, but not so much in my state. We have been dry and I think we're going to have drought conditions this summer. Bummer. I can't imagine all those official languages! How confusing.

  4. I've been very disappointed in our lack of snow this year, too! I'd be willing to suffer through cooler temperatures if it meant we'd get a little snow! This incessant rain has been killing my mood!

    Thankfully when we were in Austria this week, there WAS snow, but only on top of the mountain. Even there they are having a milder winter!

  5. fun! I love your updates on Belgian life :)