‘That’s the factory right smack dab in the city center. One of the special features of Aalst. They make glucose. That’s what you’re smelling.’

‘Odd to have a factory like that so close to the city center.’

‘You get the same deal as in Gent. Bakeries and little shops everywhere. There are no students, of course. The vibe is less open. People are a bit more glum, a bit more serious, but still much more accessible than people in Slovakia, for example.’

‘The park was really beautiful. It’s a surprisingly big park for such a small city. How many people live here?’

‘About 120,000. How do you like the Aalsterse vlaai?’

‘It’s delicious. Hard to pinpoint the flavors. Have never tasted anything like this. It vaguely reminds me of those little Lotus biscuits Belgians and Dutch people serve with coffee and tea.’

‘Yeah, there is some similarity there, yes.’

‘You’re going to make me fat.’

‘You say you want to grow in certain places.’

‘Yes, but strictly in those certain places. Nowhere else.’

‘In February or early March there is the famous Aalst Carneval. Am not a fan of it. You wouldn’t like it either. But it’s a big tradition. If you want to make it as a politician here you’d better be a very vivid and vocal part of those festivities. Three days of drinking in the streets. Three, officially. The die-hards go for over a week.’

‘Did you ever join?’

‘Three times. I was bored out of my fucking head.’

‘Don’t swear. You know I don’t like swearing.’

‘I know, I know. Sorry.’

‘Thank you.’

‘So in the afternoon we will take our bikes and cycle to the next city along the Dender. We can go to Dendermonde today. The route there is very beautiful. All grass and meadows and the backs of houses all along the river. We will eat typical vol-au-vent there. You’ll like it. Three different kinds of meat, a sauce based on mushrooms, lemon. I don’t what else they put in. A lot goes in there. Every chef makes it a little bit differently though. It comes with a very specific type of pastry. You only eat it with this meal. Best would be to drink some white wine with the meal. Something French.’

‘Would love to.’

They stroll through the shopping streets of Aalst.

‘The whole center is just shops and restaurants’, you say. ‘Is every Belgian city like this?’

‘Pretty much.’

‘I like traveling with you, I must say. You make everything easy, breezy and take excellent care of me. I can’t wrap my head around it. Why are you always so fucking good to me?’

‘Who’s swearing now?’

‘Sorry. I just don’t get it sometimes. I feel like am in heaven with you. I feel like a Queen.’

‘That’s all I want to hear.’
‘I don’t know how you do it. Where is it coming from? Why me?’

‘Why even ask? Just accept that it’s like that. I have loved you from the first day I saw you. If I could explain it, it wouldn’t be magic. You are my Queen and that is the end of it. Accept it. Finally.’

‘I love when you are strict. Well, not always. Correct would be: I sometimes like you being strict.’

‘I really don’t mind being strict.’

‘Mr. Strict. I like my Mr lovey dovey better. My sweet, caring romantic troubadour who makes me feel loved like I have never felt loved before. My poet who puts my soul on fire. And not just my soul.’

He writes poem dedicated to her breasts on a napkin.

‘This is coming from a very deep place of caring for you’, he says and slips her the poem he’s just jotted down with a pen.

She reads it and says.

‘Thank you. Really. Thank you. I am very grateful for the way you see me.’

‘I see it religiously. I have to, cause there is no other explanation. I was put on this earth to love you. I see you and there is also room for you in me. You f.., I mean, you stimulate all your sense.’

‘I fuck all your senses?’

Yes, to tell you the truth, you fuck all my senses silly.’

‘That is doing things down there.’

‘We can go back to our room before we start cycling to Dendermonde.’

‘By all means. Let’s.’