New Year’s Eve bubbly on Brussel’s Grand Place
This time next week Kyle and Kendra will be back in Arizona, Joe will be on a plane headed to Arizona (for a two month visit), and I will be busy at work. BUT, that’s next week. This week I’m still on holiday getting all snuggly with part of my family.
We’ve been busy living it up. We’ve done weekends in Amsterdam, Paris, Cologne and Brussels, along with showing off Mons and Brugge — including lots of good cheer with friends.
We’ve imbibed in a lot of goodness! And, the obligatory tourist shots!
We also got to witness a little bit of the Yellow Jacket ruckus in Paris. Our tour guide was more a fan of the protests than telling us interesting bits about the city, but it’s all good since it’s now part of our story.
The city was way less crowded than normal, and we saw the remnants of the violence that erupted prior to our visit, but we were lucky that no projectiles or fires took off where we were — just people chanting and parading for their something better.
We also got to celebrate Lorayne’s birthday sipping champagne at the top of the Eiffel tower, so our story is always more full of happiness than its antonym.
On New Year’s Eve we joined the party at the Atomium, which was fun until, well, it wasn’t, but that too turned out okay.
The aerial dancers, music and fireworks show was amazing — and free to enter! But, the trip home was insane. I love Belgium, and I get it has its kinks, but promising free public transportation after midnight (in Brussels) and then not planning on crowd control eeze a problame!
We got to the Tram station only to find a swarm of people like us trying to figure out where the damn line to get into the station was — instead it was just a mosh pit of hats and scarves pushing our way forward only to learn that the corner of the crowd we were in was ‘closed.’ Wtf did that even mean? Long story short we have no idea what was going on inside the tram station, only that our asses weren’t getting in. So, Kyle took over the GPS and we began the alleged 1.5 hour walk to our hotel. The goal was to hail a cab or jump on a bus or try out another metro station along the way. LOL, but every bus that passed us was so packed with people their faces were literally squished against the windows. They would have flipped us the bird — since we laughed at the insanity of it — but they were too packed in to be able to lift their hands. I wasn’t handling the whole thing very well and was really pissed, but then it started raining, and I just gave in to it because what can you do? Walk in, hopefully, the right direction, while packed taxis and busses pass you by — until Kyle managed to hail us our miracle cab.
So, we brought in 2019 with amazing fireworks, a bit of a “wtf do we do now” panic, then relief thanks to a stranger, and then, finally, oh thank God we’re home. That pretty much sums up our years, doesn’t it?
It’s all good because our story will always move forward, and that’s a great thing. Cheers to all of you and all that the new year will bring us!
And Auf Wiedersehen to the holiday season — we’ll catch you again in 11 months!
Okay, first off I know, I suck. I missed sharing the entire month of November with you. It’s not that I didn’t want to pop in here and tell you all about the cool things I get to be a part of, or that I haven’t been taking pics to post (I have plenty!) — it’s just that when I finally do have the time to type, my eyes are like “no way, woman!” And before you know it I’m snoring alongside the dog and Joe —- seriously all three of us have our own little orchestra going.
Speaking of which, we did get to see the Russian ballet perform the Nutcracker in Brussels (sorry about that abrupt transition) — and while I’ll never regret going to the ballet, it was the first performance I’ve ever watched to canned music not alongside an orchestra. It was lacklustre, BUT I got to go to the ballet in Brussels and that’s worth something. We’ve also been busy doing all sorts of glass clinking and touristing thanks to friends visiting. Thanksgiving week was busy, busy, busy with Suzanne and her beau flying in from Chicago, Jordan and Wilber from Korea, and Emilio from Phoenix. Needless to say lots of laughs and feasting went on — lol never once having a turkey included, although we did get to eat delicious pheasant.
Last week of October, first few days of November I was home meeting my adorable grandson and spending time with my own children. That time always goes by way too quickly, and I don’t have enough of it, but I’m grateful for every second of it. Warning: baby pic alert! And, yes, I look at pics of him (and video clips Kaylene sends me) way, way, way too much —- cannot get enough of that face. He’ll be walking the next time I see him in person.
My Babies and their babies
As for life here, it’s beautiful. I LOVE Christmas time, and Europe does it up right with the lights and Christmas markets. So far I’ve been to the Christmas market in Liege (another pretty Belgian city) and Cologne (my favourite German city); Joe also got to go to another one in Germany. Mons Christmas market opened up on Friday, but it was raining so much we decided to wait until today to stroll through it. Tonight, we’re just going to relax and soak in all the Christmas cheer despite the gloomy weather (which I also love because hello? candles!).
Kyle and his girlfriend arrive on Friday, so we’ll spend the weekend in Amsterdam with them, and then cart them back to Mons. I’m so excited they’re coming. They’ll be with us for three weeks, and we have all sorts of fun stuff planned (including a weekend in Paris! Yellow Jacket protests or not, we’re going). I’ll try to pop in to post pics and whatnot, but if not life will slow down again in January, so just in case I don’t get to type again until 2019: Happy, Happy Holidays!
Me right now dancing around the airport because I’m finally en route to meet my grandson Torin the Terrible! Cannot flipping wait.
Work has been busy, busy, busy, but now I have my week off, all is well. I survived Homecoming week.
I’m the accidental junior sponsor this year, which meant overseeing a lunch, Homecoming nominations, the votes, and the big dance. It was a lot of work, but thanks to some awesome parents and kids it all went off without a hitch.
Things have been busy in Mons as well. The leaves are turning and the temps are finally cooling down. Just last week we were still in the 70s. Our backyard is all confused. The rose bush is still budding while the tree and ivy are turning color.
Pic not of my backyard, but of the ivy in a nearby park.
Mons is also gearing up for its 100th anniversary of the WW1 armistice. This poor city got hit hard during both world wars, and they take the ending of both wars seriously. The Grand Place has been rehearsing bits and pieces of its amazing light show that premiered last night. It’s the story of a young soldier and how the war affected Mons. It will air twice a night through Nov 11, and it’s quite moving. I’ll try to do a better job of portraying it again. For now here’s a few shots
The spot lights from our park and apartment are also pretty cool. Looks like we’re being invaded by aliens.
There’s plenty more I can share, but I’ve got to head on over to my gate and wait to board plane one of Oma’s wild ride to Torin. Next up? Baby pics!
We haven’t fallen into an abyss; we’ve just been busy, busy, busy. Before I fill you in on what we’ve been up to, let me photo blast you the latest addition to my family who is born on 8/18/18. He’s been raising hell and breaking hearts since the minute he became my daughter’s son. I get to hold the little cutie on October 27th. I cannot wait!
This child has no idea how much we’re all going to spoil him. Oh I soooo hope he and his parents can come visit this summer — oh and when he’s a little older, Christmas! Europe is so magical around Christmas time. Okay, it’s always magical, but uber lit in December.
Tickets are booked for Kyle and his girlfriend to visit during Christmas, so I’m also excited about that.
We’ve been busy with visitors actually. In August we had too much fun with Jordan, in September Joe’s friend Brian came for a week and those two had a great time touring Normandy, and then last week my friend Marna popped in for a few days.
Showing off Belgium to visiting friends: beer, waffles, Brugge, outdoor markets, Mons Tanks in Town and the Belfry.
We’ve also been whooping it up with our friends in Belgium as well. There’s just so much going on this time of year. We checked out the flower carpet in Brussels, had too many laughs doing a pub crawl in Brussels, had quite a few Grand Place days, and were mesmerised at the Fire Symphonie in Viller’s Abbaye. Baroque music and acts in the abby ruins, lit up only by candles and fire. It was truly amazing. I hope they do it again next year.
LOL my crazy peeps tailgating before the big event. My pictures don’t do the symphony justice. The musicians, the dancers, the fire acrobatics, lol and the horse act all on a brisk night amidst the ruins of our past. Villers Abbey is one of my favorite places to go near Brussels. We’re signing up for more of their experiences!
A bizarre in Germany, the shopping street in Mons and the flower carpet in Brussels.
There’s so much more to share, but I can’t think of it all. Living in Belgium is such a treat for us. I know there will come a day when we have to leave here, but for now we’re inhaling it all as much as we can. There’s pretty much a festival or some sort of fun event going on every weekend until after Christmas. Then we’ll have the dark, cold days of January and February to snuggle up at home, and then before you know it Spring kicks in, and we’re back outdoors whooping it up.
Work has been super busy, so this weekend we decided to just chill in Mons, and lo and behold there was a pumpkin festival…
Camembert with pumpkin and flowers, and those birds and flowers are carved squash and pumpkins! Yum yum.
While sitting at our favourite cafe pub Excelsior, this happened! I wish I could tell you who the fur men shaking bells were, but all I know is when they finished performing the masks came off, fur stayed on, and they found their spot in the Grand Place and drank beer with the rest of us. This is Mons: Past and Present; Paganism and Christianity all meld together and enjoy a good beer when the sun is out (which has been quite a lot actually)!
I’m slammed at work the next few weeks, and then I’m off to visit the grand baby, but I’ll try to post more frequently again. And, Badger is ticked at me for not putting the woof in his blog, so I’ll work on that soon as well. Until then Happy Autumn!
Tomorrow I go back to work officially. Days of staying up late and lounging on the balcony, on the Grand Place, on the couch, on the wherever/whenever I want are over (well, except for weekends!).
I’m glad we returned to Belgium two weeks before going back to work because we’ve had a lot of fun touring here — despite the heatwave — and showing off our hood to new friends (and old).
Bought chocolate in Brugge, beer at Orval Abbey, beer at Villers Abbey, sipped wine at The Abbey where friends live, and ate food all over the place. It’s been good.
Some Orval shots for you…
FYI Dog lovers: dogs cannot enter this abby, but they can hang with you in the nearby restaurant.
My favorite Orval pic: Lord knows I’m going to need someone to hold me up the next few weeks!
I really enjoyed Viller’s Abbey, which is less than an hour’s drive from Mons (less than that from Brussels). Josh and Roger, friends of ours, suggested it since we could bring Badger on the grounds, and we’re so glad they did.
The whole area is worth it. Tourists reading this, I highly recommend you give it a whirl. It’s a maze of ruins and gardens, which you can get at just about all of the Abbys, but it’s a short drive and not as well known, so way less people. It also has stage set ups and events planned throughout the year. Mid-September there will be some sort of ghost walk and the end of September includes a fire symphony, which we’re totally going to.
Outside the Abby grounds are more walking trails, cafes and goodies to explore — including a “Dog Bar” for Badger.
Some Villers Abby shots for you. LOL, yes there’s a disco ball in them ruins.
We also enjoyed cooking out where Mini and Leah, more friends, live. Their apartments are on old abby grounds. I’ve been there quite a few times, and this is the first time I walked the grounds. It’s beautiful, and Lo and behold we discovered there’s actually a No Frog zone.
Frogs say pooh on that because we saw all kinds of baby ones hopping about.
Life never gets boring here, which is a good thing because my next vacation isn’t until November when I’ll finally get to meet my first grandchild (he or she is due August 28, come on lil one! The world awaits your chaos).
And, I haven’t totally let go of Brazil yet. LOL a piece of it is on my dining room table.
Beach wraps make great table cloths!
Well, it’s noon and I’m starving, so time to get out on the Grand Place and nibble on something like this…
I’m never getting thin again…
Rio blew me away. I was excited to go to Brazil, but I didn’t really care if we visited the big city. While I’m a big fan of the movie City of God, it, as well as articles and documentaries about street kids, favelas and drug gangs, made me think the city would be an overcrowded, filthy quagmire of pick pockets and violence.
It shines despite all that.
And, while we were warned by locals to watch our valuables and not stray into the bad areas (which we decided wasn’t meant for us to see), crime did not come our way. Vendors and passersby were fun, polite and busy with their own lives.
Rio is, by far, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever had the luck to visit.
We spent two days in Rio, so there’s plenty we didn’t get to see. We did get in some highlights: Ipanema Beach, drove by Copacabana beach, Christ the Redeemer, a colorful tiled stairway, and Sugarloaf — plus a few cafe restaurants.
I loved all of the street art. I could spend a day just walking the streets to admire all of the urban paintings.
On our last night in Brazil we took the cable car to the tippy top of Sugar Loaf and sipped bevies to toast our time here and just sip and stare at its glory. We will be back to tour this land again. Next time we’d also like to see more of other parts of the country. Until then Saude, Brasil!
We’re back in Mons after a whirlwind trip. While we were in Brazil, I usually woke earlier than most of our crew, climbed to the upstairs balcony of ‘our’ beach house, and either read or wrote. I didn’t have time to post any of it until now.
This is my view right this second. As will be the case with the rest of my photos it can’t possibly do Brazil justice. The magic of travel isn’t in the party snaps or our landscape shots; it’s the inhaling/exhaling life in another corner of the world. You just can’t post the layers, the sounds, the scents, the soul —- no matter how good you are with filters and angles.
We’re staying at a friend’s family home in Angra de Reis (Port of Kings), a famous beach town nestled among the mountains about a two-hour drive from Rio. So, once again we are blessed to vacation with people who actually live here —- as well as with a group of friends whose mantra has become, “this soooo doesn’t suck.”
Snaps of the nearby beach life. OMG that dog broke my heart. She decided we needed to be her people, and we so would’ve kept her had we been able to.
Yesterday Wilber’s mom graced us with Feijoada, a traditional Brazilian bean and meat stew. She and her husband cooked all day while we napped, read, and watched Brazilian families sing, dance, swim at the beach.
On Thursday we rode a party boat to four of the 300-plus islands that bud off the coast. We ate amazing seafood, drank bevies with freshly-squeezed juice, partied with locals (and other tourists), swam in the Blue Lagoon, strolled the beach of what-felt-like a deserted island, relaxed at an open-air restaurant (more seafood please), and rocked and lulled our way through sunset. Then we put on our sarongs, ripped off our wet bathing suits and ended the night at a beachside bar watching a guy sing Brazilian country music.
What a day this was!
Someone is practicing the flute while I type this. Booty-shaking music blasts from another house closer to shore. Children squeal while playing soccer. Birds gossip about whose laying whom’s eggs. Stray dogs shade themselves under tropical bushes, waiting for suckers like me to coo over them. Tourist (or those of the wealthy) helicopters hover above, until it’s their turn to land on the numerous helipads scattered among the islands. And, the annoying chihuha mix across the street is barking at all of us: there’s always that one guy that’s gotta mess up the rhythm!
We also spent a day in Rio, and we’re spending a night there next week, so I’ll do a separate Rio blog.
It rained throughout the night, so this morning is blessedly cool. While it may be winter in Brazil, it certainly isn’t cold. Mist devours surrounding mountains; birds circling above the trees disappear into its density. The Atlantic pounds the coast. A grandmother scolds the young while she begins the long process of cooking today’s Sunday meal. The clanking of her pots and pans adds to the disco (seriously!) music reverberating from a neighbouring house. Rooftop satellite dishes taunt the few remaining anorexic rooftop antennas. My cohorts are still snuggled in their beds since we exhausted ourselves touristing yesterday.
The plan was to end the night Sambaing in the streets of Angra, but all but one of us was done. It’s all good because as curvy and wild as the roads are, we unintentionally sambaed our asses in the car.
We spent the day at a beach near Paroty, which was surreal. You can either wade through a frigid canal (the water comes from a nearby waterfall) or pay 1 real for a boat to take you across to the beach (no brainer on which option we chose!). Then you have the choice to either lounge on the beach or take another boat (lol the Shrek) to a nearby island to do the same. This beach’s water is calm because it’s surrounded by islands that tame the feral waves, but there’s plenty of fun going on inland.
Behind the sea are mountains on top of mountains, and surrounding the beach is a small farm with chickens so tall they could be poultry runway models. There’s also a restaurant, so we got to gorge on more fish, sausage, acai (it’s served with bananas and nuts), beer and a freshly-squeezed pineapple juice drink.
After that we walked the large-cobblestone streets of Paroty. I’ll never bitch about navigating the streets of Mons again. Brazilians used boulders to cobble their streets. It’s a lovely town of artists, musicians, shops and restaurants. Sadly, one of our crew had to leave to continue her summer journey. Another one of us leaves tonight, and the rest of us leave on Wednesday. In too short a time we’ll be back to the rhythm of our routines —-maybe being envied by tourists visiting our corners of the world?
We fly out early tonight. The boys are packing up their suitcases; Joe is reading on his phone. It’s been an amazing trip. Our last night in Angra was spent whooping it up with Wilber’s family. Oh my God did they ever cook up a storm. Brazilian barbecues are the best. Basically, you sit around drinking beer or calparihnas, laughing and waiting for platters of meat to be passed around. There’s also salad, a Yucca condiment (basically yummy crumblies you put on top of stuff), spicy oil, rice, and this amazing garlic bread concoction —- it’s grilled and stuffed with sausage, butter, mayonnaise and other goodness (I’ll try to replicate it with my sandwich grill!).
I’ve already bored you with too many words on a trip that can’t be done justice with pics and words, so I’ll end this with a thank you to Wilber’s family and Brazil for welcoming us to this layered, complex-yet simple haven. Yes I know there is an incredible amount of awfulness here too, and, yes, we totally avoided the poverty-crime stricken areas, so our view is biased. It always saddens and surprises me that the most beautiful places in the world (with the most amazing people) are always partnered with corruption and violence. So, I’m even more grateful for the good we get to experience.
Woo wee did we ever have a fun time celebrating Jordan and Wilber’s nuptials in the Dominican Republic. If their wedding is any indication of their life together, it’s going to be a whirlwind of everything. Pool parties, boat party, beach parties, dinner parties, a surprise party, hell even acrobatic pirates, a burlesque show and an unexpected night in Columbia became part of all the fun.
The best was all the love and laughter from friends and family who traveled from around the world to take part in solidifying their union. Those two have the coolest people as friends, and the wedding was beautiful. I really enjoyed getting to know Jordan and Wilber’s family, and I’m honoured that we got to share in all of their glory. Love should be unabashedly celebrated and highlighted like it was on this trip. It’s the best of what we humans have to offer.
I also cherished getting to spend some time with some of Jordan’s and my UAE peeps who we haven’t seen in a year. We became each other’s support and family over there, and I so missed our time together. I’m a lucky gal to have so many wonderful people in my life.
Joe and I also had a few moments of couple time enjoying a spa day, and strolling through the resort’s tropical landscape, beach and shhhh, even sneaking in a night-time swim in its amazing pool.
Our anniversary was on the 16th, so it was a nice way to remind us of our own love bond and life together. The plan was to enjoy our anniversary in Brazil with Jordan and Wilber (since we’re spending 10 days there with them in an adorable beach house in a town called the Port of Kings), BUT we had to have some drama thrown in.
Long story short our flight was delayed, which caused us to miss our connecting flight, so the airline put us all up for a night in Bogota, Columbia. At first we were like shit yeah, another country to add to the list, but then we walked up to the gate and saw folk bundled up in fur-lined parkas. Um, it’s winter in Columbia, and we were in tank tops, shorts and sandals because hello? it’s flipping humid and hot in Dominican Republic. But, the Team Jordy-Wilber crew persevered and made our way to Bogota. Luckily a Bogota winter translates to rain and temps in the 50s and 60s, so while chilly it certainly wasn’t arctic.
By the time we got to our rooms we were all exhausted, so no tour of the city the next day, but we enjoyed watching the Policia and their bomb/drug sniffing dogs work their beats near the hotel. Joe and I walked to the nearby mall, so that I could buy a sweater, and I have never seen so many working dogs before (and I so badly wanted to scratch their necks!). It’s a little jarring, but everyone we met was so friendly and accommodating despite the fact that we knew very little Spanish and they very little English. I doubt I’ll get the chance to come back, but I would like to tour more of Columbia —- despite the uglies that facilitate the need for all that security.
And Joe and I got to celebrate our anniversary at the hotel bar (God Bless bartenders who aren’t stingy with their gin!) We’ve made it another year sipping, feasting, and laughing our way around this lovely little planet of ours. And, now we get to cheer on our friends as they do the same!
We’ve been having a grand old time whooping it up in Dublin. We decided to stop here for a few days to visit our friend Derek. An extra plus is we got to also meet his parents, who are lovely, fun people (and now whooping it up on their own vacation).
The weather is unusually warm and sunny, so we spent a lot of time walking around in St Stephens park, Temple Bar area, Trinity campus, etc.
We also got to visit The Irish Whiskey Museum on Grafton street (thanks to Derek’s suggestion) and loved it. I’m not a whiskey fan, but I do love a good story mixed in with some history. And, a few good laughs as well as some booze tasting (got to swirl some whiskey, sniff and attempt to like it) always work. It’s worth a stop if you find yourself in the area.
We also got to tour the area Derek grew up in and the lovely university he earned his drinking badges and degrees in.
And, today we got to take a Viking tour — something we wanted to do the last time we were here, but couldn’t fit it in. They restore WW2 amphibian vehicles and take you on a tour through Dublin streets and for a bit of a float on the Dublin bay — plus give you the chance to scare the shit out of pedestrians with the group Viking roar.
We also got to do a bit of this (imagine that!)…
So, it’s been a fun couple of days. We’ve got to stay sober and crash early tonight because tomorrow we take off in the wee hours of the morning for our big adventure in the Dominican Republic. I can’t wait to see the folk we’ll run into there — and get some quality pool and beach time.
God Bless summer vacay!
We had fun on our our mini vacation lol visiting Mini and her family in Bavaria. One of the highlights was our kind of workout: the Funf Seida Steig, a 10 km hike that includes five breweries in the Franconia area of Germany. Our hike turned into a much longer one when our guide got lost, but now that we’re no longer huffing and puffing and thinking we’re gonna die amongst the hills and fields it’s all good — we burned lots of calories and imbibed more.
Beer on a comfy lawn while earning our brewery stamps worked for us!
And who doesn’t love walking through fields, forests and hills on a sunny day!
Brewery hiking isn’t all that we did (although beer was a theme!). Joe got to spend a day in Nuremberg with Mini’s son while Mini, a friend of hers and I went pottery shopping in Poland. I now have a slew of Boleslawic cups, plates, bowls, you name it prettying up the innards of my kitchen cabinets! Plus, we got to spend the night in a quirky, burlesque art-like hotel, so of course a good time was had by all.
And yeah … more bevies and lots of Polish grub were also part of the journey.
Joe finally got to see Munich, but since it was a rainy day we pretty much just dried out (while wetting our insides) at The Brauhaus, and did more of this…
Another lovely day was spent strolling the streets of Regensburg (aargh those pics didn’t upload, but you get the idea: beautiful buildings, greenery, and, well, beer!)
We even got to cruise a bit on the Danube to, big surprise here, an Abby with monk-brewed beer.
But, most importantly, we got to spend quality time with friends, and that’s always a good thing!
I’m a bit rushed because we’re taking off again for our next adventure. Tomorrow we’ll be in Dublin, and then it’s off to our big trek to celebrate Jordan and Wilber’s upcoming nuptials! In between all of that is World Cup Fever (Belgium keep it coming!) and more quality time with old (lol not age-wise, but we’re getting on up there) friends.
May none of us end up this way!