For many British tourists a trip to Belgium means a few days in Brussels or Bruges, both easy to reach on the Eurostar trains from London.
But despite being one of the smallest countries in mainland Europe, it is probably more densely packed with fascinating history than any equivalent-sized area on the continent.
Nowhere is this more true than the region of Wallonia, the French-speaking part of southern Belgium which borders France, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands.
It occupies more than half of the total area of Belgium, yet far too many people travelling to or from those adjoining nations just whizz through on the motorway.
I found Wallonia not only a place worth pausing in, but somewhere deserving of a special visit.
I was in the regional capital Namur with my family for its annual festival of performing street arts.
The timetable promised all manner of eccentric theatre, comedy, music and circus, and was as unusual (in a good way) as I’d imagined. This was a festival that everyone could join in while going about their normal business, or pausing for one of the regional delicacies in one of the old town’s many pretty squares.
My youngest son Remy, nine, briefly became a cameo player in one of the acts when he was asked to be the jockey on a weirdly life-like pantomime horse that paraded through the medieval streets.
There are many fine places to eat and drink here – no visit to Belgium is complete without sampling one or two beers from the immense range produced locally, many of which are far more potent than a typical pint in a British pub.
Namur is one of those cities with a dizzyingly chequered history, much of it no longer apparent on the surface.
The Citadel on the opposite bank of the Meuse river to the main town has been overcome by many invading forces, and is an amazing place to explore today. metery one of the most poignant to visit on what was once the Western Front.
Liège, to the east, is just as rewarding as Namur, and well worth a visit too.
A welcoming city, it has plenty to offer including the palace of the Prince-Bishops of Liège, a cathedral with its treasury, good museums and Le Carré, the historic, cobbled city centre.
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