If you're gay and looking for some Belgian action, this book was obviously written especially for you. There are as many index entries under "gay" as there are for the city of "Ghent," perhaps because Ghent isn't particularly exciting ("if you're looking for a raunchier scene," we're advised on p. 124, "go to Antwerp.") The largest section of the book is of course about Brussels, and in the long list of recommended hotels there, the only one dubbed "our pick" has a "target market [of] 'married' gay couples, [but] the charming owners are hetero-friendly" (95). Elsewhere, the author takes pains to criticize the repainting of a Brussels' mural, citing "creeping homophobia" (81), because the female half of the couple in the original version had looked more "ambiguous."
The lion's share of gay tips are in the Antwerp section (which is "raunchy," remember?), providing contact info for "inexpensive gay lodgings with shared bathrooms," including one with "a four-bed 'encounter' dorm" (181). Another suggestion, on the same page, "has rooms devoted to fulfilling almost every imaginable sexual fantasy," as it is designed "for a full-on fetish experience."
If, however, you are a typical Lonely Planet user (like a group of college students or a young married couple), who actually want to tour Belgium to see what it looks like without spending a lot of money, you will find that unlike most LP's, this book is full of holes, particularly the section on Brussels. The "eating" section of a standard LP normally mentions some supermarkets, but this one suggests that in the entire capital city, there is only one, off in the northwest. (Hint: there are two big ones right near the Bourse, smack in the center; and at least a million "Carrefour Express" food-shops everywhere you turn.) Two separate historic churches are both described on p. 80 as "rarely open," when in fact I discovered they're open EVERY DAY for 6-7 hours! It's true, prices and opening-hours often change after a tour-guide has gone to print--but do you seriously think these schedules morphed from "rarely open" to "constantly open" overnight?
The Brussels-author at times displays a disdain for Belgium's history that he doesn't try hard to mask. The historical figure of Godefroid de Bouillon rates an entire paragraph of scorn on p. 239; and the huge church directly behind his statue--one of the most distinctive buildings on the skyline near the Royal Palace--doesn't even get noted on the map! (Note to author: you don't have to like Belgium's history or its Catholic background; you just need to describe it.) There's a fountain in Sablon (a zone of Brussels), with an inscription noting that it had been erected by a British ex-pat; a single sentence of explanation would have been great but it's not even noted in the book. Similarly ignored is a medieval tower nearby, built into what appear to be ruins of an old city wall, which has been lovingly preserved but in this LP does not even exist.
At the same time, the section on the part of Brussels called St-Gilles (88) simply HAS to be a practical joke. Its town hall, a typical period building with a couple of gilded statues on top, is touted as "one of Brussels' overlooked architectural wonders." Compared with the architecture of GRAND PLACE?! You have GOT to be kidding! The same page lists "Ave. Ducpetiaux 18-24" as "fine archetypal townhouses," which obviously suggests that they're worth viewing; three of them have a slightly unusual window in their front doors, while #20 is a plain white row-house like anything you'll find here in Washington DC. Wow, I'm sure glad I walked two hours out of my way to see THAT!
To be fair, the section of the book on the city of Bruges proved to be quite accurate and helpful, and without a single sneering cheap-shot at Belgium's past. I concluded that it must have been written by someone else.
I've used LP guides to travel all over the world and loved them, but this is by far the worst I've seen. If you want to write a book specifically for gay travellers, go ahead! But identify it as such, you know? DON'T market it as a standard Lonely Planet guide that ought to be of use to everyone. This one definitely isn't.