On the morning of my 30th birthday I woke up at dawn. I lay where I was for a while, taking in the sounds of birdsong and river, the unfamiliar turquoise walls and morning chill, before slipping out to stride across grass coated in dew. For once I was happy to be the first person awake on a campsite, happy too that I had arrived somewhere peaceful completely by chance.
The previous night, short of our ultimate destination, the campsite selected by the GPS hadn't seemed so promising, and had led us through a grim post-industrial landscape, with chimneys pouring smoke, blackened buildings and houses clinging on to hillsides. It was the scene of some desolate futuristic movie, just minutes beyond Liège! But then the GPS led us a winding route down into a valley in the dark.
It was only when we'd parked up that we realised that we had nothing to eat. Suddenly my 20 and 30 year old selves combined, and we feasted on the only foodstuff we did have: a melon, accompanied by the champagne that I wouldn't have been able to afford at the age of 20. Yes, time had passed, and that was okay!
The day was hot, like last year, and I spent some of it floating in the thermal baths at Spa, willing myself to last ten minutes in the sauna and inhaling my first 30-something breaths of eucalyptus steam in the hamman. And then, why not try something new? Clinging to our towels, we ventured into the nudist baths. We hung onto them desperately, before slipping awkwardly into the middle of three pools. There we waited self-consciously for a few minutes. Everyone seemed quiet, serious even. We slipped out again, embarrassed. Something didn't feel quite right. Inhibitions and habits did not just disappear on the stroke of 30!
Then we drove back to Brussels in the aging turquoise camper van, entertained by a dramatic light show with rain, thunder and lightning between Liège and Brussels - it was the longest and best storm I'd ever witnessed.
Un air de Vieux Spa
76 Place Verte