Category Archives: Belgium Year One
We really lucked out in that Friday, Saturday and Sunday were sunny days in the 70s! My face got sunburned — I’m no longer a vampire! On the crappy side of things Joe got really sick, but he ploughed through and did the hikes. We avoided the more difficult ones this time around, but we live a 1.5 hour drive from here, so we’ll be back. I got sick toward the end of our trip, and it was wet and foggy the last two days, but it’s all good we love it here. I’m so glad we decided to do road trips instead of flying somewhere. We really needed a slow-paced vacation, and it totally would have sucked to abandon Joe in the hotel room while I toured Italy, Greece or Croatia (trips we’re planning down the road) without him.
If you ever get the chance the next time you visit Belgium, do try to spend a few days in Belgium’s countryside. Maybe do Brussels and Brugge first, and then wind down a bit hiking in all that green. There are campgrounds, kayaking, zip lining, and all sorts of outdoor adventures in the Ardennes. Um, if you’re into suicidal motorcycle rides, there’s plenty of that too — can’t tell you how many times I screamed we’re gonna die during a crotch rocket’s crazy manoeuvre.
Dinant: It’s an easy 1.5 hour drive from Mons and well worth it. We easily found parking and enjoyed just walking around. The Leffe brewery is also there, but we didn’t tour it this time around. The highlight was that we were able to take Badger on the Telefrique, cable car, up to the Citadel, which dates back to 1040.
Awww look at us frying in the sun on the Meuse river! Badger is at our feet. All of the Ardennes was incredibly dog friendly. Then again, most of Belgium is.
Houyet and our cottage (I keep calling it a cabin, but it’s more than that)
We spent four nights in a cottage we loved. The downstairs is a tight fit for more than two people, but who cares? The backyard is everything!
view from our bedroom window.
We’re totally going back in the fall. Click here if you’re interested in cottage (and noooo I don’t get paid for sharing their info; we just really liked it)
The tiny town of Houyet worked for us. We enjoyed our hikes and day trips from there.
Just a few pics of the cool stuff we got to see putzing around in the area.
Dubury: is the smallest city in the world, and it’s adorable. I found a perfumery I loved, and, well, everything about the town worked for us. Hello? it even has a pirate bar, so we’ve gotta come back for that alone.
Bastogne: We spent a night here, but after a great day walking and touring (and sipping some amazing gin and tonics), Joe had a rough night coughing and fighting the cold from hell, so we went straight home after breakfast. The town of Bastogne is more neon-lightish than other Belgium cities, but it has a lot of restaurants and shops — not to mention all the museums nearby. We have friends and family who want to come here, so we’ll be back again to see more. The war museum and memorial park is well worth the trip. It amazes me how we can war and maim in lands that are normally so quiet and serene. I could write up a whole blog on my thoughts on this alone, but I’ll spare you my reflection/hurt/concerns on this. Pray people, even if you’re an atheist (we need all the positive vibes we can get), that we manage to not go into WW3.
I have a few more days left of spring break, so we might take a day trip into the Netherlands, or just explore around here. Best part is I’ve got time to do whatever, including sipping coffee on my couch.
Here’s to whatever path we go on!
Of course you can also check out Badger’s view on all of this at Badger Does Belgium. It’s supposed to be sunny and in the 70s next week, so he and Joe will go on their first blog mission to Waterloo. LOL deadlines to keep man and dog busy — no such thing as true retirement here!
Helloooooo it’s been awhile. I’ve been busy having fun and readjusting to life with my man and dog, and now I’m on a two-week spring break. And Spring is in the air. Temps are rising, birds are singing and flowers are blooming. It’s a beautiful time to be in Belgium. Joe, Badger and I rented an adorable cabin in the Ardennes.
Joe is napping off a cold, while I take the time to blast you with some pics and updates.
First off my daughter is now in her 5th month of pregnancy, and my first grandchild is bouncing around in there, already letting us know he or she is going to grab life by the reins and ride it for all its worth. So far the little bugger has a pierre hat and booties and a little dragon (Mons loves dragons) hoodie. I’m having fun shopping for the little ball of energy.
Easter was great since we had 10 friends over for dinner and games. We were too busy feasting and laughing to take pics, but I’ve got this one of a basket of goodies a friend brought over.
and lol this one our neighbour and friend took of a whole other Peter Cottontail bouncing down our street handing out condoms.
Michelle visited for a few days, and as always we had a great time. We ate at great restaurants, toured Mons, went to the Cantillon brewery in Brussels, ate, drank, laughed: our usual.
Mons has so many gems. I can’t wait to show them off to those of you planning to visit!
Badger has been having a blast since he gets to go just about everywhere with us. Yesterday that dog was able to get on a cable car and ride up to the citadel in Dinant. He’s having so much fun he started his own blog, which will tell you all about his Dinant day (when he gets time to paw the keyboard).
Click on happy Badger pic (in our backyard at cabin) to see his view of the world. Lol on Badger Does Belgium.
Joe is coming back to life, so gotta get ready for our second day of hiking and exploring.
I’m sure I’ll tell you all about the magic we get to discover along the way, and I’ll post more about the cabin and Dinant later — both are well worth a visit!
Woo hoo Joe made it on Monday. I would’ve typed up something sooner, but it’s a mixed welcome. I’ll write more about the downside of this all after Badger gets here, but long story short the airline refused to let him on the flight because there wasn’t a full three inch clearance from the tip of his ears to top of crate, despite the fact that he could easily stand, turn around, etc. in the crate like their website said needed to be the case.
Devastated, Joe rushed to catch his plane. What he didn’t know is that while he was flying here, I (with Kaylene and Kelly’s help) already bought a bigger kennel and rebooked Badger to leave Wednesday morning. What I didn’t know (nor did I know it was an issue) was that Joe had Badger’s original papers on him, which prevented Badger from being allowed onto second flight. Now we need to redo paperwork because it’s no longer valid. So inshallah the dog makes his big flight next week. Trust me I have some venting to do, so more will be written in here and to the company.
Joe waiting on his dog!
As for Joe being here it’s surreal. He retired a week ago, and it still hasn’t sunk in that he’s not here on vacation, visiting his wife. We’ve taken lots of walks, inhaled quite a bit of beer, visited Brussels, got him in-processed at base, and lol netflixed and chilled. I’m very happy to have my man home. Monday I go back to work, so the ‘normal’ life will begin.
Badger at Joe’s friend Mike’s house waiting to join us. Thank God for good friends and family! Between Joe’s friend and Kaylene and Kelly running around all over Phoenix for us at ungodly hours, Badger will finally, eventually, hopefully make it here.
And here’s a few random Belgium shots (Brussels, Gent and Mons) to keep the vacation vibe going
Just checking in to let the folks back home know everything is peachy over here. I had started to write something on Sunday, but I was too busy sipping kir royals and dancing around my place while cooking up a stew (in my purple Le Creuset that I bought at the factory in France — hahaha other girls can have their Channel and Dior, I’m all about cookware you could pull a muscle lifting), catching up with friends and doing mundane Sunday-type things — and perfectly happy doing so!
I also made some new friends and had a last-minute happy hour at my place, which was a lot of fun. I’ve been humiliating myself at Zumba, and I’ve been pushing my students with literary theory, WW1 research and, oh my goodness, even attempting a little literary analysis, with the lower level ESL kids, which is cruel of me, but we all seem to be enjoying (notice how I convince myself they’re liking it too) multi-level thinking and discussions. I love this shit. So all is right in my world.
I won’t be watching tonight’s State of the Union because, well, I’ll be sleeping when it takes place, and I want to stay on the ‘expanding our minds’ track, plus the odds are it’ll just pull me out of my happy place — but I could be wrong. Here’s to hoping I am!
And onto even bigger news: Joe and Badger arrive in LESS than two weeks. This living in Belgium thing is happening for them soon too! Since it’s pre-work hours, I’ll have to raise my coffee (and save the champagne glass for much, much later) to celebrating whatever it is that makes us all happy. Here’s to the normal-day things that make life peachy!
Guess which lucky girl got to go to Epernay (self proclaimed Champagne capital), France this weekend?
And guess who got to sample a few glasses?
I know there are all sorts of scary, bad things going on in our lil shithole world, but I am not going to let any of that dampen my time in the land of glorious food, wine, beer (another Bachus miracle) and champagne. It is 2018, and I’m no longer moving in or settling in to my new school, I’m in the thick of it and finally getting the chance to breathe and appreciate all of it — including the rare moments of actual sunlight (she’s danced quite a bit with us this weekend). In less than 30 days (can you believe?!!) Joe and Badger join me, and then a little after that spring kicks in, and, well, there’s just so much for us to enjoy. Thank you to all the powers that be for the gift of now and where I get to live, work and play.
Epernay is less than a 3 hour drive from Mons. It’s an easy route (especially when you’re not the one driving), and great to do in the winter because it’s not crowded. Since I’m blessed to get to meet and befriend wonderful people, I had a great time with my bubbly-sipping crew. We laughed, sipped, ate, shopped and learned a lot. I appreciate champagne more now that I know more about its process. Perhaps during the summer Joe and I can visit the actual orchards too.
And look at all of those glorious bottles just sucking up dust and time waiting for their champagne to be born…
As for other news my house is officially sold. On January 4 a new family’s name went on its title. I was surprised at how sad I was that day. Had a good cry and mourned the passing of the place where I raised my children, but let’s be fair I raised my children in several places, that one was just where we lived the longest. And our bond doesn’t end just because the house most of us haven’t lived in for a while is gone. The next day I perked up when I saw the money in my account and realised, for now (you know it won’t last), I’m debt free. The stresses in my life are no longer connected to bills, and I so hope to keep it that way!
Oh, and I also got my new spiffy iPhone for Christmas (Thanks Santa Joe), so enjoying having a phone that works quickly. I’m learning to play with its camera too, but I still prefer an actual camera to the phone thing. That said a phone is more convenient for tours and stuff. When Joe gets here we’ll go on hiking trips where I can play with my Nikon and whatnot (sadly my Sony died), so life is transitioning back to normal again.
Of course there’s so much more going on — I’ve had some great meals, great times with friends, great experiences with students and the not-so great stuff like jet lag and wearing the wrong footwear on a cold rainy day.
Tried this tasty French appetiser Oeufs en Meurette. It’s a poached egg in a red wine sauce (beans, meat and mushroom stew). I’m on a mission to visit Le Creuset (yeah I know Staub was this restaurant’s choice) in France to buy my own dutch oven and little cute stew serving dishes, so that I can start making some of these dishes on my own.
To counter all my imbibing I’m also joining a Zumba class and attempting to use the gym on base. God help me it’s all about the balance.
As for all of you who plan on visiting, Mama has goodies waiting for you…
Photo by Leslie Shinaver — if Santa gives me a new iPhone for Christmas I could start snapping away again! Shhh he doesn’t need to know I’m too lazy to whip out the Nikon.
More photos by Leslie. Xmas market in Mons —- and yes I look like a gremlin while she’s rocking the eskimo look.
First off … IT’S SNOWING REAL SNOW!!!! This might not be big news to most of you, but to me it’s Miracle On November 11 street! I’ve lived in a desert for the past 17 years. I almost killed myself jumping out of bed to run out to my balcony to catch flakes. I hope it keeps snowing and snowing and snowing, but, um not enough to mess me up driving to work tomorrow — unless, of course, it brings my first-ever snow day. I’ve been told not to hold my breath on that one, but a girl can dream. Whoop whoop it’s snowing and it’s Christmasy, and I have lots of food and wine, and, and lol I’m a happy girl. Okay on to updating le life in Belgium.
My apartment is looking fashionably cozy, but I haven’t had much time to snuggle up amongst the candles and faux fur blankies. I’ve been busy, busy, busy having fun. The past two weekends I spent with friends in Waterloo — feasting, sipping, brocante (flea market) shopping, brewery touring, Christmas marketing.
Some apartment shots for you to show that yes, my life is real here … it’s all coming together!
I also joined friends for a day in the Flanders region, sipping/buying Trappist beer and then touring a lovely Flanders winery (bought some of that too!). LOL I’ve turned my dishwasher into a wine cabinet. Easy access until Joe arrives, and then it’ll revert to its original purpose. Guess I just need to find me a nifty wine cabinet in one of the many brocantes I plan on visiting.
Baby wine hibernating in Flanders…
As for Joe arriving, we have a date. LOL Badger’s ticket got booked first — with ‘kennel club’ access — and then Joe (with squished economy seat club access). My buddha bellied, snoring, luv muffins arrive 9 a.m. February 12. That is just nine weeks away!
This time next week my buddha bellied self will be in Phoenix with all of my luv muffins. So, again I’ve got lots to be happy about. This year is winding down quickly.
OOOHhhhh and I totally forgot to mention that — drum roll please ….. I’m finally posting all of this on my own, personal wifi. Fourth time is a charm! I have internet, cable and a land line phone (which I can use to call home in the evenings). Whoop! whoop. I’ve also been driving my own car for two weeks. I’m all legit now and in two months I’ll no longer be doing it solo.
I’ve got friends coming over later, so I probably should stop goofing off on my comfy chair and, you know, clean and cook for company. Happy Sunday everyone!
More Belgian sites and holiday cheer. I swear one day I’ll get better at organising pics for you …
This is my fourth year away from family on Thanksgiving, and while it is hard there is still so much that I am grateful for.
- There are always people willing to take you in and share their food, wine and laughter with. I’ve been invited to all kinds of fun activities tonight, tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday — there is no time to get lonely, pining for family time (but oh what I would give to be with Joe and the kids today).
- I’m surrounded by giving, good people. My neighbors upstairs are moving back to the states, and you would not believe how much great stuff they have given me. You know how I’ve been stressing over getting a bed delivered; no need. They gave me a fantastic king-sized one, a dining room table, fans, lights, small appliances, the list goes on. I cannot believe how lucky I am. All they asked is I give back to someone else, and they’re fans of Grandma’s Closet (or is it attic?), so a donation in their honour will be made. I hope it’ll help pull someone else through a tough transition like their gifts have helped lift my spirits!
Just a taste of what I’ve been lucky to receive!
- I’m driving my car! I got my tags earlier this week, and it’s so much more fun to drive than the Twingo.
- I think I’m getting Internet/cable service next week — my hope is that typing this will make it so.
- I have my health; Joe and the kids have their health; every one is doing well.
- Life is good.
I’m also on the continent of Christmas markets, which are budding all over the place. I went with some friends to the one in Lille, France (only an hour drive away!), going to the one in Brussels next weekend, and the weekend after that the one in Mons is opening, so mulled wine, gingerbread and all sorts of goodies galore!
In a few weeks I head home to see the family for Christmas, and then the countdown for Joe and Badger’s move begins. It’s finally all coming together as it always does, and that might just be the best thanksgiving of all.
Badger finally cool with his kennel. LOL don’t know how cool he’ll be with it on that long flight, but we’ll cross that bridge in February.
I hope you’re all enjoying time with your loved ones, and I promise to post more soon — just a little busy with work, finishing up the move-here process and play.
Yesterday Belgium celebrated the name of my street — okay, not the street or its name (Onze Novembre), but the date since it commemorates the day WW1 ended on paper.
Most stores are closed on Sunday, so a friend and I planned a shopping day for Saturday. We had it all planned out, meet for breakfast, hit Ikea (yes I AM a glutton for punishment), the mall, other household stores, etc., etc. It was going to be our apartment decorating day. What we found was locked doors and Ferme signs all over the big-chain establishments.
Belgium takes its memorials serious, so employers take heed. Who wants to shop on a day off anyway? I wasn’t happy about this at first, but we strolled on down to a cafe I assumed would be open since it caters to English-speaking folk (although of course they’ve got the French down pat too). Hahaha a coffee house named after Texas and run by a southern man, who I’m assuming is from Texas. I love going to local places, and, for the most part, I’m all about imbibing in the local flavour and saving my Americanisms for when I’m home, but this weekend I needed to have my first cup of coffee where I didn’t need to point and pantomime, and it was awesomeness.
Turns out a lot of privately owned places were open. The Belgium bakery two or three doors up from the Texas place was also open, and I’ve been told that place is wonderful too (so it’s on my list). When we finished eating, we stopped into what we thought was a wine shop to learn it sells only beers. The owner is a lovely woman who works hard to find the right beer for you. We ended up spending quite a bit of time there and got some Christmas shopping done. If you’re ever in Mons, stop by Cave a Biere on Rue d’ Havre (a street that juts off the Grand Place, Infotel hotel is on it — everything else I mentioned is there too). Something tells me I’ll be a regular at this little speciality shop/bar.
The Fromagerie was also open, so heck yeah Mama bought some specialty cheeses. I love that I live in a place that has stores dedicated solely to cheese — with bakeries to boot. My two biggest weaknesses (well besides wine) have their own stores!
The Grand Place was loaded up with carnival rides and games for kids, so despite the rain everything smelled like roasting sugary goodness, which makes you hungry no matter how much you already have in your belly, so we ate again at a little place off some other road. That one wasn’t as great as our other stops, but we still had a good time.
We even got lost and ended up at the park near the Belfry, which has beautiful views of the city. I purposefully have not gone to any of Mons’ main attractions, The Belfry being one of them, because I’m saving touring those with Joe when he arrives. But woo hoo there are so many hidden gems in this city that I get to discover.
Soooo, my rainy Saturday didn’t earn the cube shelves I want for my living room, but it turned out way, way, way better. Later on today, I go to another friend’s house for curry pumpkin soup and more goodies — yeah, I know my buddha belly is never going away.
As for all the other stuff going on: my furniture did arrive last week (woo hoo), my cable/Internet did not (boo hoo), my car still looks great parked waiting for its tags, it’s getting chilly and I’m loving winter fashion, work is still great, my apartment is coming along (will post pics when I’m finished decorating), oh and I got to visit my relatives in Germany last week. I LOVE that all I have to do to travel is walk to train station, get to airport, land and then hop on a train again — it’s so, so easy. LOL although, lugging a suitcase up the cobblestone hill that leads to my place is a bit of a cardio workout.
So all is well, and my weekends are booking up with all sorts of holiday festivities, and then before you know it I’ll be home baking cookies and sipping bevies with my kids, Joe and Arizona friends. This year is flying by!
p.s. my crappy old phone (it’s a 3 in its series) has been annoying me forever. It’s insane, I know, but I’m wasting my hard-earned euros and buying the iPhone X soon —— soooooooooooo, better pics will be posting in the near future.
Raindrops keep blocking the view of my basil plant in kitchen window — now try singing that to raindrops keep falling on my head; twas difficult typing it to that tune. Yep, I’m even off key when I type sing.
It’s a lovely cool, rainy Sunday morning. The perfect day for me to assemble another Ikea puzzle after I sip coffee, read and write a bit. I’m all snuggled up on my comfy, corner yellow chair and embracing the fact that I have the next week off. Normally, I’d book a weeklong adventure, but my big shipment from America is coming tomorrow, the plumber is coming tomorrow, and allegedly the Internet guy. May it all pan out the way I hope it should! I am going to visit my family in Germany later in the week though, and I’m sooooo looking forward to that.
So, I bought a car on Friday. A cute little 2009 VW Golf diesel from a really nice Frenchman who also works on the base. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience in buying a used car. He did everything he was supposed to; I got it insured and did everything I was supposed to, and we met at the admin building to register the car in my name (something the previous owner did not have to stay for, but he did to help me out). I feel great about buying this car. Are you sensing a hiccup? Yep. Two numbers were wrong on the VIN number on my insurance card, “Sorry Madame, you must come back Monday with correct number on card.” Monday is a busy day! My car rental is the equivalent of $600 a month, and I just paid a few thousand for this ‘new’ car, so you can imagine I’m not liking the evaporating euros. That said I wouldn’t be able to drive the car this weekend anyway because it has to sit in the parking lot until my tags arrive 5 to 15 days from when it’s registered. Temporary tags do not exist here. So, what’s an extra weekend? I was never meant to save money anyway. C’est la vie
Before: And Twingo is its Nameoh! Le rental. After: my poor baby waiting for me to rev her.
In September I went to a salon to get my hair done, which turned out to be worse than letting the roots grow out on their own, so my hair has been part witch, part “can you spare a coin?” It’s a good thing I smile a lot because people would have run from me otherwise. Anyway a coworker and new friend suggested I try her place out, which is in some god-knows-where village. I met my friend 7:30 yesterday morning to follow her through the woods, the deathtrap construction, even alongside a canal, to the lil shop on the side of some curvy road. Who in the hell does hair that early on a Saturday? Turns out she needs to begin that early because this little shop gets busy, busy, busy, and for good reason.
Not only is the stylist known for her talent, but also the place is just what stressed out women need on a Saturday morning. Her adorable attendants pamper you, while she works her magic (although Jill, my stylist in Arizona, and Gina, my stylist in Al Ain, if you girls are reading, you’re still my faves). One guy takes my coat and serves me a Starbucks-worthy cappuccino, the other makes two sisters giggle and pretend orgasm (maybe it was real) while he massages their scalps. Speaking of which, those two sisters didn’t speak much English, and I don’t speak much French, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time together — and I dare say they were two sexy mamas when they left the place.
There are two tables. One where we women sit together while our colors are painted on; the other divided by a mirror where the stylist cuts and styles our hair — it’s sort of like a beauty salon whack a mole; she finishes one of us and another pops into a chair. Meanwhile women cackle and tsk, tsk over the stories of their lives. It’s the perfect set up, and my GPS better serve me well because if I can find the place, I’ll go back again. One day I might even know enough French to offer more than one or two word responses.
See, bathroom selfies are not just for online dating! Thank God you can’t see the heap of clothes on the floor.
So, things are moving along, and I’m nestling into my version of normal. Ohhh, I even bumped into a friend and chatted for a bit while lugging my old-lady shopping cart on a cobblestone street to get me some wine and goodies, so I’m turning into a local foreigner.
I’m relaxed and content, and that is exactly how things should be — anywhere in the world — on a weekend morning. May you all be snuggly and well in your corners of the world.