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Sometimes, living abroad and traveling a lot means it can be hard to meet up with friends. Especially when they also live abroad and travel a lot. Like my friend C. : when she is in BA I am in Belgium, I am in BA when she is in Spain, when I am in Belgium she is anywhere but. In between we are both trying to get it coordinated, but in vain. We don’t seem to be that good at timing.

So when she send me a message, as we say in Belgium, ‘between the soup and the potatoes’ (‘tussen de soep en de patatten’, between the 1st course and the main course, or when you really don’t have time to get into it), telling me she is in Belgium for just 5 days, I immediately answered that we should meet the next day, letting her choose time and place. She chose the most convenient and easiest solution : a renown and popular restaurant close to where she was staying. The Rubens in Knokke.

Her family, mine, friends ; we ended up being 10 and had a fantastic night together. So much to talk about and so much to catch up. My kids as well as well as hers are scattered around the world and she exchanged BA for Madrid…. The whole world but Belgium seemed to be the topic of the day. We didn’t even have time to notice the food : we all had a typical Belgian meal, either shrimp croquettes or mussels, not bad but not exceptionally good either.

It was but when we decided to get the dessert outdoors, an ice cream on the go, and asked for the bill, that we were put back with our feet into the Belgian ground. The bill was outrageous. When checking the details, -how on earth did we get to 50€ per person?- we saw the price of a bottle of water… our jaws dropped, we raised our eyebrows and stared at each other in disbelief. WHAT??!!

Isn’t water a primary right? Shouldn’t water be free? Why don’t the restaurants in Belgium offer the choice between bottled and tap water, like they do in our neighboring countries and in the US? Why didn’t we drink from the bottle of water one of the girls had in her handbag? These were all questions that came about. Unanswered. And useless.

One of us asked the waiter if she had not been mistaken. It can’t be that a bottle of water is 10€, can it? “Didn’t you make a mistake?”

And then came her answer. Our jaws dropped even more. “Well madam, you are in Knokke, you must pay for that!”

We were baffled.

We agreed to swallow our pride, take our loss, and blame only ourselves, because we were the foolish ones, getting ourselves robbed like that, by going to a mediocre place in a posh coast village, just because it was easy and convenient. It is again confirmed that nothing beats a good Belgian-Argentine Style Asado at home, with good Argentine wine, and liters, liters and liters of chilled tap water with some lime slices in it. Super delicious, cosy, relax, chill, and… cheap!