Moving swiftly from Dinant’s Citadel, Ive and I drive to Durbuy, ‘the smallest city in the world’. If asked, though, I’d lean towards it being more of a village. What constitutes a city, anyway? I used to thing it was having a cathedral. Any ideas?
Or the difference between a town and a village? This is your perfect opportunity to leave an erudite comment. How about the difference between a village and a hamlet? Oh I don’t know – I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.
Durbuy is a pleasant spot, formerly part of Luxembourg. At this time of year, however, it warrants little more than a short stroll along the river banks. Oh, and a cappuccino served by an adultress masquerading as a waitress. As our eyes meet over a china saucer, an oblivious Ive asks what I would like for the evening meal.
Flippantly, and still aroused by the coffee girl, I use the expression: ‘I could eat a horse.’ This has never been a problem in the south of England, but the phrase is taken literally by men from the Flanders region – they’re the ones that speak Flemish, which is more or less Dutch.
Incidentally, they are called Flandersmen, not Phlegms – a shame, I know. ‘I have horse in the freezer,’ says Ive, then frowns. It slowly dawns on him that he is, in fact, fresh out of horse. But he doesn’t give in that easily.
The Walloon butcher in Durbuy looks aghast when Ive asks, in French, something like: ‘Whatho. Got any horse?’ What a funny country Belgium is. A couple of sneezes on the motorway and you could miss the country altogether. Yet Walloons and Phlegms – oh, all right, Flandersmen – have such different cultures.
We stop at a supermarket for wine and vegetables, and I ask if some leeks from his garden wouldn’t be rather nice with dinner. ‘Leeks?’ Ive exclaims, outraged. ‘With horse?’ He wrinkles his nose a little, and whinnies.
‘Leeks are only for soup and fish.’ What a wonderful irony that he thinks leeks are the black sheep within the meal. It turns out that any red wine is OK, though. Phew, I’m going to need plenty if I’m to look a Shetland pony in the eye again…