How did you get here?
I am Belgian, born in Antwerp. I joined the American Club Brussels (ACB) to speak English fluently, and I’m so glad I did! The ACB welcomes all nationalities and we enjoy great get-togethers (when it is possible!)
My family moved to Brussels when I was 14 to open the renowned Brasserie Anspach, which seated 300 people right in the center of town. It was a very dynamic time. As the song says “Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end.”
As a long-time ACB member, your “trip down memory lane” is likely to be one of the most creative we will hear. What are the highlights that you remember?
When I first joined, I served on the Board for 4 years. In those days, without internet use, all member communication was by land mail. I recently handed over to the Board 25 years of ACB Newsletters – an amazing repository of our ACB history and highlights.
I particularly remember one of our Fourth of July celebrations in the 1990’s in Bois de la Cambre. It received so much advance publicity that more than 4,000 people attended over two days – all accompanied by an orchestra and square dancers! Another great memory is of our ACB Ommegang dinner at the Grand Place each year. Hopefully, we will look forward to it later this year, depending on how conditions are in the month of June.
You were named Brussels Ambassador by Visit.Brussels in 2002. What are some of the themed events that you then went on to organize and became known for?
I organized Soirees Bruegel which showcased Belgian folklore, dance, gourmet foods and beers, and took us back to yesteryear. Music evenings included classical, jazz or orchestral music. Mediaeval weddings were arranged in castles and farmhouses.
One memorable event was the official opening of the new Rue de la Loi with Princess Astrid - I provided the folklore music, Jacques Brel repertoire and some young rap dancers.
The Caves de Cureghem in Anderlecht has been a spectacular setting for theme dinners. I often included a surprise - for one brewery celebration, I put a live bear at the entrance, which attendees really liked! We had a special Falcon Bird demonstration for guests from the UAE. Chinese and Japanese tourists were especially amazed at everything they saw. Flemish is my mother-tongue - but I also speak French German, and Spanish, which is especially useful when foreign TV crews arrive to comment on tourist events in Brussels.
Have your adult children inherited your creative talents?
My son is professor of Dramatic Arts at the Royal Conservatoire in Brussels. He is a well-known actor and Metteur-en-Scene (Mozart Assassine, Les Miserables de Victor Hugo etc.) My daughter works in the law department at Cargill, the global American food company in Mechelen. They and my four grandchildren always inspire me.
What lessons have you learned from Covid?
I now have time to organize my 30 years of business papers! I had to cancel four events this past year, due to Covid. I especially miss theatre performances in Brussels - but “hope springs eternal.”
What are three things that you love about Brussels?
1. The Grand Place at Christmas - the big tree and the one million begonia flower carpet
2. Haute Couture on Avenue de la Toisson d’Or and the Boulevard de Waterloo area
3. Museum visits – more than 100 Museums in Brussels! www.brussels.be/agenda
The ACB thanks Sonia for joining with us in organizing so many memorable events!
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