Punters on the Dageraadplaats in Antwerp, braving the damp and chilly conditions, insisted the weatherman had promised more clement conditions. Despite the damp and the cool breeze heading off the Scheldt estuary Antwerpians were eager to enjoy regained liberties and show their good humour.
There has been scant hospitality in Flanders for nearly seven months now. Many folk experienced the first big relaxation as a kind of holiday.
“My mum texted me this morning” said one lady. “She told me we should seize this opportunity to share a few coffees on the terrace!”
Another Antwerpian explained she was sticking to a strict schedule today: “It’s going to be a minor pub crawl: this afternoon with my brother and tonight with a friend. Whatever the weather, we are determined to enjoy ourselves!”
It’s a similar story in Ghent where two friends decided to start the day with a lager in the shadow of St James’s Church: “It’s symbolic. Our first draught lager in six months. We may switch to coffee later on, but we wanted to start on the beer.”
“It’s a feeling of liberty” smiles Sandra. “We’re allowed something once again.”
Another punter was determined to enjoy the atmosphere and expected to be on the terrace until 10PM.
In Leuven too locals descended on the famed watering holes of the Old Market, albeit equipped with a brolly. “We’ve been looking forward to this for yonks. We’re so pleased to be back” one said enthusiastically.