I love Belgium. When I lived in London many moons ago, a good mate had settled in a village in the Belgian countryside and we would take the train from Waterloo station to visit him in his little village.

He'd met a local girl. Her dad was in the local gun club. "If you take her to New Zealand," declared her deadpan father: "I'll shoot you." Today, they live in New Zealand. My mate remains happily unshot, his father-in-law a frequent visitor to these shores.

The Belgians we met were straight-up people. They liked good, straight-up things done well. And - thanks to the alcoholic tendencies of lonely, womanless monks in the Middle Ages - they brewed great beer. Belgium is the only place in the world where I have woken up with a hangover and genuinely felt that a pre-9am beer would be the best thing to cure it.

We took long bike rides, typically to the fabulous Ter Dolen - a brewery in a 16th-century castle (the Kiwi craft beer scene has a lot going for it, but I'm yet to see anything to match a brewery in a 16th-century castle). There might have been other things on Ter Dolen's menu, but the only thing we noticed - and the only thing we ordered - was a giant rack of ribs. They arrived as a slab of meat hanging over the edges of a plate the size of a Kenworth truck's steering wheel. Straight-up things done well.


In those days, from my home in London, I frequently visited friends and family in Paris and Madrid. London, Paris, Madrid, Brussels - they've got something in common: They're all terrific places and you should visit them.