GPS travails in Belgium

By Nancy Norberg
This item appears on page 17 of the November 2013 issue.

For our 10 days in Belgium, May 2-11, 2012, my husband, Ed, and I decided to buy our own GPS, a Garmin nuvi255 for $160, rather than opt for one (for an extra $210) with our Budget rental car. We did have to load it with European maps for an extra $100, but, this way, we had something we could take home and use in the US. We dubbed the GPS, which had a female voice, “Jill.”

Traveling through Belgium, we saw a great deal of road construction. This shows a prospering economy, but many of these sites and road closings were not noted on the GPS system. On the outskirts of Aalst, Belgium, halfway between Ghent and Brussels, Jill kept telling us to go on roads that were closed or under construction, and “she” would not reprogram for an alternate route!

Since Aalst is not on the tourist path, I had corresponded many times with people at its tourism info office, Info Toerisme (Molenstraat 45, 9300 Aalst; phone 053 73 22 70 or email, and found them to be extremely helpful. I wanted to actually meet them and get road maps.

At the tourist office, we explained that we would like to travel some of the “gray” (secondary) roads shown on maps. I was told that with the introduction of GPS and mobile phones with map apps, maps were not being printed anymore! 

They did have some normal “tourist” maps and many booklets. They were in Dutch, and the staffer sat patiently with me explaining each area, circling it on the map and writing down the name of each of the villages so we could enter them into our GPS. 

While staying in Aalst, we would spend the rest of our time going on day trips to towns and villages, so it was with great excitement that we headed out to “take the gray roads.” Much to our dismay, as soon as we left the city limits, we lost the road on our GPS. I guess Jill doesn’t like gray roads!

 We frequently ended up on a back road with no idea where we were or which way to go. We made the best of it by programming Jill with JUST the next village. That worked. 

By the way, we learned that traveling back roads around Aalst on the weekend is not a good idea. We encountered a lot of bicyclists. At a lunch stop, we were told that every year since 1934, Aalst has hosted a famous cycle rally, and many teams use the roads for practice throughout the year. 


Mount Pleasant, SC