Liege is often overlooked for many Belgium visitors - but it was the first place on our list.
The classic question posed by all travellers at one point or another is if you can ever really go back again. Is it ever a good idea to revisit a location from your past, a location that once meant so much to you? On our recent trip to Belgium, Ryan had the chance to confront these questions head on. As a Rotary Exchange student at the age of 17, Ryan completed his grade 12 studies in Liege. For a year, he soaked up local culture, polished his French speaking and beer drinking skills, and was introduced to a new world of travel. Fast forward 20 years, and he finally got his chance to return to Liege.
Ryan tells us what it's like to retrace your footsteps two decades after the fact.
Can I really go "home" again? Well, yes.... and no. I left Vanessa back at the hotel and walked from memory to where I went to school (beside the beautiful staircase in our Liege post), and from there through the side streets and alleys to the pub where I used to go every Wednesday afternoon - the Pot Au Lait. We revisited on a Wednesday, and while I had hoped to run into other exchange students, it was not to be. Still, I ordered my "usual" - a pint of Jupiler - and enjoyed the surroundings. It felt like 20 years ago (and it was!) - but it also felt like yesterday. I was rather conflicted emotionally. So happy to be back again, yet also knowing I couldn't BE back. So it was the same, yet entirely different.
As it should be. Time moves on. I'm older, hopefully a little wiser, and while Liege was the city and time of my life that shaped me more than any other, it was only one step on a path that led me to where I am now. After a couple of pints, and realizing that it was ok that things weren't as romanticized as I remembered, I made a decision. I had originally wanted to revisit Liege on my own. To relive, rediscover and remember. I discovered that what I really wanted was to share a big piece of my past, and so I went and got Vanessa and showed her "my" Liege. It's what I should have done originally, and I'm happy I realized that in time. By bringing her in, I got to relive a lot of happy memories through story (and pints), and was able to let go of any lingering sadness.
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Liege. I will revisit, even if I can't go back again. But the next trip will be all about making new memories, and not just living in the past adventures of my 18 year old self. Seeing Liege again gave me exactly what I wanted to get out of it, even though it did so in a completely unexpected way.
Do you want to retrace Ryan's footsteps in Liege or make new memories of your own? Either way, you have to head to the Pot Au Lait! This hard-to-find funky pub is located at 9 Rue Souers des Hasque and new faces are always welcome to mingle with the longstanding loyal patrons. No matter how long you stay, the colorful and unusual decor will be sure to make an impression.
Looking to learn more about Liege? These articles can help!
In Love With Liege: Day 5 of Our Round The World Trip
Flavors of Liege for the Fickle Foodie
2/1/2014 02:28:57 am
I had actually thought about taking a quick train to Maastricht from Liege but once I arrived I couldn't dream of leaving!
2/1/2014 09:35:16 am
Liege is only an hour away from Brussels making it an easy place to visit. It has an a fascinating history and some enchanting architecture. Expect to hear a lot more about the city in 2014 and find out why Café Viennois became Café Liegois and how the city got the Legion d'Honneur.
4/1/2014 07:24:55 am
Good points! True, Jupiler is really nothing all that special in the ranks of Belgium beer, but it was Ryan's favourite as a student, so of course it remains the sentimental favourite!
17/2/2014 02:51:17 am
It's always such a tough call. Maybe the best thing to do is speak with other travelers and bloggers who have been there recently and decide if the kids would enjoy the island as it is, right now. If it seems probable that they would, then you can look at whether or not it's the right decision for you to go back. On one hand, it's a chance to make a whole new set of memories. On the other hand - even if those memories are fantastic ones - it could potentially blur your memories from your honeymoon - it will no longer be just "your place". I'm inclined to go for the visit. If anything else, it kinda brings everything full circle. From honeymoon to "honey, I thought you had the kids!"
I loved reading this! Last year I revisited the city I did my high school exchange year in (Hamburg, Germany) after 21 years away. It was surreal, emotional, and overall a really good experience. I visited on my own but next time I want to bring my husband so we can explore the city together.
18/4/2018 06:45:50 pm
That's so cool! I almost want to do a return trip to Liege now because I want to see it again without the pressure of it being "the first time back in forever" and we can explore it through a different point of view.
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