‘Blown away’. Anne Boyle, from the States, never quite got over her first wow-impression of Leuven and Flemish Brabant. And her new home country continues to surprise her every day.
As a student, Anne dreamed of seeing more of the world, which is why she traded Baltimore-based Loyola University Maryland for the KU Leuven. Normally, it should have been an academic year packed with new experiences; instead, it turned into seven. And chances are good that there are many more to come. ‘Because it didn’t take long before I was hopelessly in love – with the city, the region, the culture and ultimately with someone living here’, she laughs.
As far as Europe goes, Leuven was ‘undiscovered country’ for Anne too. ‘Most Americans don’t make it any further than Brussels and Bruges. Flemish Brabant? They’ve never heard of it. And that’s exactly what makes this part of Europe so special, it’s a hidden gem.
Whenever friends and family come visit, they’re just as blown away as I was. Naturally, it's the famous places that do it: the town hall, the Grote Markt and the Oude Markt.
But the deeper you dig, the more beautiful it gets. Try to take in a little culture. Check out a concert at Het Depot, a film at Cinema ZED or a performance at the STUK Arts Centre.’
Anne notices the little differences every day. ‘Like the beer. Sure, they've also mastered the art of brewing in the US now. But a real Lambic beer? That’s something you'll only find in the Pajottenland and the Zenne River Valley.
And you can’t call yourself a connoisseur until you've tasted that one-of-a-kind, slightly sour beer. You won’t find a better place for it than De Lambiek Visitor Centre in Alsemberg’.
Another tip from Anne: head out for a day's stroll through the Meise Botanical Garden. The 18,000 different plant species make for an enchanting journey through exotic worlds and even catapult you back in time.
A sunny day off? That’s when Anne hops on her bike and pedals over to the Meerdaal Forest. ‘My regular stop is In De Molen, in Bierbeek. It’s the kind of authentic restaurant/café you'll only find here, with a gorgeous tiled floor, a wooden bar and a warm atmosphere.’
Fancy heading out on your very own voyage of discovery in Flemish Brabant? Not sure where to start?
Definitely check out our ‘Become a local’ Bucket List! The bucket list is a challenge to really get to know our province.
It’s a list packed with great outings, tasty specialities, unprecedented sights and loads more astonishing things to see and do.
Perfectly tailored for expats, this list is bound to delight anyone excited about experiencing Flemish Brabant.
Visit www.bucketlistflemishbrabant.be and calculate your ‘local score’.