One of my fondest memories was having the opportunity of stepping out on to the Royal Balcony to view the Grand Place below. I'm not sure if it was part of the "Package" offered in the Tour or not. In any case, I felt quite Royal for the moment. There were a few other Royal moments for me in Mons, but this was the best.
That is me, on the left holding the flag from my face with my cane.
This photo is of a carriage gate that caught my eye. These houses across the street from Sainte Waudru Collegiate Church once belonged to the 'Canonesses,' rich women who joined the religious community initially founded by Sainte Wandru.
The Canonesses were influential in the town from the 11th century until 1794 when they were suppressed.
Something as simple as learning why a house would have such a wide gate inspires my imagination but mostly it helps to fill in the gaps about historical aspects that I don't have experience with. This is the type of little detail that I really enjoy.
Contact the University of Mons to learn about any special event planned during your visit. Especially for young adults, spending time on a University Campus can enrich your social life as well as your mind.
Fondest memory: Touring the main building of the University and learning about the style of education was interesting. Watching all the students interacting made me realize what a great place this was to visit, and to get a feel for the energy of the town.
One fond and outstanding memory was the moment the refrigerator door was opened. Nothing in it but bottles of beer, white wine chilling and a few cans of soda!
You might imagine that this was at the house of a bunch of wild students from the University?
Not so, it was the well stocked fridge of a very charming and social professor!
In French it is Grand Place. In Dutch it is Grote Markt. In English it is Town Square. There are town squares in the USA but not in every town and they are not so much a focal point as they seem to be in European towns, so the impact of this one really drove home the point to me the importance of such a gathering place for it's people.
A visit to the Grand Place on Market day, holidays, on days of concerts or any other day, is amazing. There are shops and restaurants, banks and tourist information and this is the ideal place to meet friends, planned or not.
In the short time I stayed in Mons I "bumped into" two Belgian friends at the Grand Place. We hadn't made a plan to meet. It was totally unexpected. This happened on two different occasions and surprised me each time. I almost felt like a local.
Dancing of course!
I think that I would never go to Mons if it wasn't the location of the first world Championship for over 55 dancers. Well, it was quite an experience, and Mons revealed itself as a good environment
Fondest memory: Don't you guess?
Dancing in a lovely city, as I already said!
Here's a brochure of Mons in English (French and Dutch), including the contact details of the tourist office
There are a few more in English: http://www.monsregion.be/web/fr/brochures/listing.aspx
Mons has a well preserved old city located on a hilly area of the Hainaut. Apparently, in the Plat Pays, these hills were large enough to name the city, but anywhere else they would have gone totally unremarked.
These pictures show different aspects of the hilly streets of Mons and its traditional buildings made of brick.
I spent here some of my University years. For half those years, I used to commute between Mons and Brussels. Then, eventually rented a room in Fucam's pavillons for the last years.
Fondest memory: * Le Plaza Art: I used to hang around there a lot when I wanted to escape from the university area. I usually went tho this India film complex to find some loneliness. My University years there were the first time I lived with strangers in a campus pavillion. At some time, I always needed to escape the exciting and lively communautarian life and immerse in my lifestyle in Brussels: a bit of shopping (or at least, window-shopping), walking around the center, browsing bookshops and Indie films to end with. Check my nightlife tips for details
*Sharing your kitchen, bathroom, toilets with 10 people who are not your family members. That was something. Arguments about dishwashing since some liked to pile up dirty dishwares before washing. Others did dishwashing regularly. I just discovered that I am not that lax and cool as I thought. Well, I don't mind people do what they want with dirty dishwares as long as they keep them in their rooms. Problem is, at some time, our kitchen and dining-room were like garbage depots due to some people who didn't show respect to others.
*The advantage was having people of your age to talk to in case of sadness. This is compared to renting a room in privately-owned house with only mean old woman as company.
Yes, you've read correctly. I called Mons the Italian city.
Prior to my stint in Mons, I've never experienced living in Southern part of Belgium. I realize very quickly that the area is really Italian: not only Mons city but also areas like La Louvière, Charleroi... the whole Hainault is in fact very Italian (Southern Italian and Sicilian).
Yes, Italian families migrated to Belgium in early 50s to find work. Most of times, they used to work in coal mining. Now, we have the 3rd generation of Belgo- Italians in Belgium. As far as I know, still very Italian, esp. in the Southern parts of the country. They have kept the habits, as Moroccan families do, to spend holidays in areas where they come from in Southern Italy or Sicilia.
From their hard working in the mining sector, they have also kept a tradition of trade unions. Most trade union stewards from the Southern part of the country, esp. blue collar, are of Belgians of South Italian-Sicilian origins. They are really specialized in representing workers and revendicating.
Fondest memory: It may appear as strange but people in Mons and La Louvière are the ones who have darker hair I've seen here. I don't talk about one or two persons, it's about more than half of population who is dark-haired.
It's always amazing to see Italian flags in the streets with cars horning after Italian soccer teams won their matches. Flags are brought by the 3rd generation kids. Once, I've been stuck in a victory procession. Was it La Louvière who won a match or an Italian soccer club ? I can't remember but I saw people who lifted the car I was in and it was funny. They brought the Italian flag and used the horns very much :))
In Mons, you have tons of Italian restaurants, most of times, Sicilian origins and much less Northern Italian cuisine.
There are many Belgo-Italian kids there as well. They speak a French-Walloon language but with Sicilian expressions ! That was very funny to hear. One who is used to Brussels or Flanders would be amazed by that. Compared to the average in Belgium, they are noisy, speak loudly... just Mediterranean style, I guess.
Oooh! Mons' city bourgmester is of Italian origin as well: Elio di Ruppo.
Mons is the capital city of the Hainault province. The Hainault province is the third biggest province in Belgium (Luxembourg and Liege provinces come over it).
Its name means "Mountains". No wonder why when you see its location. The town had grown on one of the five hills in the valley of the Haine river. It has kept the name of Bergen in Flemish, so Mons-Bergen it is.
Besides Mons, Hainault's main cities are Charleroi, La Louvière, Mouscron and Tournai.
The city of Mons, and the whole province, is wrongly overlooked by tourists. Still, Mons offers the splendors and historical elements one would find in most of the cities in Belgium. History? read here: http://www.trabel.com/mons/mons-history.htm
The city has some Universities and schools, more than in any average Belgian towns.
I know Mons from having lived there for months during the last part of my studies. Like most of Belgium cities, its center is built around a Grand-Place (square place with guild houses, stonebricks pavement, it seems)... a legacy from Roman epoch. Belgian city halls (Hotels de ville) use to be on a Grand-Place, so does Mons'.
My first visit of Mons was lovely. I was shown some nice view from the belfry (the only Baroque belfry in Belgium), visited a Museum of clocks, Duesberg museum. Then studying there changed my view of Mons a bit. Mainly because I went out of the belfry and Grand-Place areas.
I admit, I am not a huge fan of Mons but got used to my student life there. Still, it has one of interesting shopping joints (Oriental jewelry and accessories) I love most. Also, from those years spent there, I had gained some habits, some insider tips (restaurants and eateries). I hope you will use them if you plan to go there.
Fondest memory: More than anywhere else, the charm of Mons lies in the tiny and upslope cobblestoned streets. It's so typical of the city. I remember walking there in mornings when heading to my university from the train station. Then, when I decided to live there (generally for second semesters), I spent one day of my week-ends strolling in the center area, doing some window shopping just before catching my train for Brussels.
Also, I have nice memories of Fete de la musique there. I think I liked Fete de la Musique, on June 21, there because the city is so small that it became so atmospheric. Also, it tends to be our break in our June "blocus" (a period in which Belgian students prepare themselves for the exams, school is over but they still have to sit for exams.)
Mons is a city in South of Belgium, in the Hainault province. Mons is located in the Borinage area.
The Borinage is an industrial region in Hainault province. It surrounds Mons and extends to the French border. Traditionally a coal-mining district, most of the mines have been closed. Besides rýgion du Borinage, the coal is found other basins: the Central Basin, the Charleroi & Liege basins, which are all located in the Sambre-Meuse valleys. The Campine Basin, located near the Netherlands border makes up for 85% of all the coal mined today.
Glass-making and metallurgy are the now the regionýs primary industries. Yet, already in 1248, coal mining activities were organized in the Borinage. For decades, the wealth of the entire Borinage had been depending heavily on this industry. It soon had to stop since, after WW II, coal mining activites in Belgium came to a halt.
As a result of an unplanned and weak reconversion: a dire economic situation for the former coal-mining districts, the Borinage included.
Fondest memory: If you take the train from Brussels to Mons, you can't miss here and there the quarries still exploited. Also, I saw a blue-green lake in a big hole, so blue that I thought it was a clear water to dive in. In fact, I was told it was designed near a quarry but its colours are due to chemical products poured in there.
I don't say that only Mons area has those kind of sceneries. Still, these are ones of memories I have of my many railtrips there. I used to commute regularly by train from Bussels to Mons for some time, to attend Univ lessons.
Mons is quite a little town but there are three different official universities...
* Faculté Polytechnique de Mons : indeed an independent engineering school (not only civil architecture but also electricity, mechanics,...)
* Fucam : an independent commercial school
* UMH : university with different faculties.
Fondest memory: Mons, altough a real city also has this student spirit you could find in Leuven for example.
I enjoyed Mons and the area around there very much in my 9 1/2 years of living there.
The people in the south of Belgium are so much nicer and friendlier than in the north as they have a southern European attitude.
Most of the people in the south were immigrants who immigrated to Belgium for work in the mining industry and are from Greece or Turkey.
Favorite thing: A beautiful example of a church in Brabantine Gothic style is the Sainte-Waudru church in Mons. The gothic church replaced older churches in Romanesque style. The building started in 1450 and lasted until 1690. The different architects all respected the original plan, so that the Sainte-Waudru church remained quite homogenous in style. A 190 m (!) high tower was planned, but never finished due to lack of money. Although the church looks quite plump from the outside, the inside, however, has all the characteristics of the vertical late gothic style. In the 16th century a marble rood loft was placed between the choir and the nave of the church. It was decorated with splendid alabaster statues of the Virtues. The rood loft was destroyed during the plundering in the wake of the French Revolution. The alabaster statues survived and were again put on display in the choir and the transepts in 1930. One of the other attractions inside the church is the 'Car d'Or', a gilded wooden carriage used during an annual procession. When visiting the church, one should also admire the stained-glass windows from the 16th century, made by Claix Eve.