By Pieter François
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Additional resources for ‘A Little Britain on the Continent’: British Perceptions of Belgium, 1830-1870
18 Pieter François group have to be interpreted as a source for the study of intercultural imagery, and to what extent their observations are representative of British society at large. In this contextualisation of the middle-class traveller as a British observer of Belgium, the focus will be placed on the (social) background of the traveller, on the specific layout of a mid-nineteenth-century visit to Belgium, the technology that made these visits possible and fashionable, the impact and normative influence of the existing travel guides on the actual travel experience, and the frequency and character of the encounters with Belgians.
Reading George Sala’s account of his visit of Antwerp, the annoyance some of the British travellers caused becomes more understandable: I walked the other day, being my own guide, into a handsome building, and right upstairs to the first floor, thinking it was a museum. I was stopped by a servitor in a shabby livery, who had a plate full of butter brods and sliced sausage in one hand, and a black bottle in the other, and who was in a dreadful rage at my intrusion. “No muséé! ” he exclaimed, as he bundled me out63.
Some travellers felt nervous the moment they left the hotel and hoped to be able to leave without being stopped by all sort of commissionaires, guides and ‘friends’ who wanted to show them around for a small fee. The big advantage of travelling in a group was precisely to be able to avoid these persons hanging around at the customs and hotels. Especially the compulsory visit to the Battlefield of Waterloo was perceived as one shrewd attempt of the Belgians to make the British spend their pounds.
‘A Little Britain on the Continent’: British Perceptions of Belgium, 1830-1870 by Pieter François