A few weeks ago we booked our first Belgian beach vacation since moving here, and lol of course it’s the one weekend a major storm hits. All is well: we survived, our cars survived, Badger survived.
We rented a cottage in the Koksijde area, which was lovely and its old roof and walls held tight despite the constant pummeling of gusts up to over 100 km per hour — all weekend long.
On Friday night while the wind howled, we made some noise of our own yowling out our own gusts of fun and stories. Saturday we ventured out and followed a trail that brought us to the dunes, which brought us to the beach, and which eventually brought us to the woods. It was wonderful, windy AF and probably too dangerous to be out, but whatevs … we survived.
I started this entry a few days after out trip, but life, work, the exhausting drain of 2020 got in the way. Basically, I forgot to come back and finish up the post. Badger has some great pics to also share, so I’ll get on his blog next.
Today is a rare sunny autumn day. It’s been raining for weeks, which is okay because Belgium is supposed to be rainy and before the rain finally returned it was way too dry. The leaves haven’t really changed color yet probably because they were so damned dehydrated. Some are yellow but mostly it’s just brown or green — totally matches the whole mood/tone whatever the eff you want to call it of 2020.
Like everyone else on this planet I am sooooooooooo done with Covid and sooooooooo done with the shitstorm that is 2020. And oooh there’s a lot I could say about the politics in my own country, but those conversations are better off had in my living room. That said I did finally upload my vote yesterday. I clicked the submit button with a little extra gusto, so it felt good.
Covid numbers are drastically increasing and with that comes more restrictive measures, so yeah we’re once again hunkering down in our apartment. I have a vacation coming up in a few weeks, but we can’t cross borders right now (they’re not actually closed, but I can’t miss work because of travel-related quarantine), so we’ll explore more of Belgium while masked. Again, I’m done with it all, but I’m glad to say we’re still healthy. And, at least I’m stuck in a beautiful corner of the world, so we will make the best of it. With the longer dark and cold days comes more baking and roasting — it’s not like my waistline ever had a chance.
I’m bummed we can’t see the kids nor can they visit us, but summer (and hopefully the chance to travel) is lol just around the corner.
Stay safe and healthy everyone! We have some rocky days ahead of us before it’ll get better, but we can pull through and make the best of what we have.
And Badger pawed out his version, go to Badger Does Belgium.
We had our first 100 degree day last Friday, and it looks like we’ll have our second today. We have been so lucky this summer because, for the most part, our temps have been great. So, we can’t complain about the current heatwave, but we’re human, so we will. It’s supposed to stay in the 90s until around Thursday next week, which sucks when you’re in a country that doesn’t consider A/C important — until we hit these days and folks flock to the hardware stores desperately searching for portable units.
Luckily, Lorayne sold us her unit (looks like R2D2), which we use in the spare bedroom to cool off. Our apartment has a great cross breeze between the front and back windows, so it’s not as bad as you would think, BUT it does get warm and stuffy.
The best, however, is our new vehicle because it can take us anywhere, so last week we did our first off-road adventure and loved getting lost in the forest.
One of the coolest and saddest things about Belgium is that you run into war memorials all over the country. We were literally in the middle of nowhere, and we came across this celebration of an American soldier’s bravery. Joe googled him, and it turns out he stopped the German’s Panzer division by blowing up their lead tank with a bazooka, which also took him out and earned him this tribute that reminds us hikers to thank those who fought for the lives we have today.
We’ve also spent the week touring towns and breweries. I’d show you pictures, but the camera on my phone isn’t working, so I take snaps with Joe’s, but lol it’s a pain to send to me to upload, etc. etc. Just know we’ve had lots of lovely trips checking out all the good Belgium has to offer. Yesterday we escaped to Maredsou Abbey with friends.
Today, we’re staying in Mons, but we’ll find shaded cafes to sip and dine with friends, so all is good. Mons also is doing its best to keep our spirits up despite this damned pandemic, which just won’t go away.
There are new murals and 31 elephants placed around the city, so it’s fun to walk and find these treasures. The musicians are out playing, and we’ve discovered that Badger loves the violin. Last week, there was a parade of puppet animals. They looked so real. I wonder what fun things we’ll witness this weekend.
Badger has also been totally loving our new car and our trips. He has some cute pics on his blog. Click here to see him all woodsy and what not.
On Monday I go back to work. I’m not as excited this year as I normally am. I do still love my job, and I do so look forward to seeing students again, but, well, you know, the pandemic. There are just too many unknowns right now, and we’re all feeling it. We all want to do the best that we can do, but we all also do not want to get sick, so there’s lots of uncertainty. But, we will get past this as well. The kids and I will figure out how to make it work, and fingers crossed we will all continue to stay healthy. That said I’m not looking forward to training and classroom prep with no a/c next week — tis a good thing the kids don’t arrive until the following week because I’m going to be pretty stinky and sweaty. I’m amazed the ring around my mouth hasn’t broken out from all the mask sweat.
There’s not much more for me to share other than stay safe, and that I hope you’re all enjoying your little bits of joy as much as I am. Please keep masking up despite the discomfort. I want to be able to fly home next summer and see this cutie pie (who turns two this month! And, he’s such a responsible toddler).
The weather in our corner of Europe has been so lovely. Mostly sunshine, cool breezes and temps that don’t make us fantasize about air conditioning. So, we’ve been enjoying a lot of outdoor time.
Yesterday, while sipping some Maredsous at our favorite cafe pub, just loving life the way we do, nature bitch slapped us a little reminder. A flock of pigeons played chicken with our allegedly slow-moving traffic since it’s right near where diners and sippers sit. One got its neck snapped by an overzealous driver (Joe says his wife was arguing with him — I’m ignoring that hint). Another driver, got out, gingerly picked up the bird and scooped her to the side where she sadly twitched until she died. It was awful, but around 10 minutes later another pigeon flew to her side. He squawked and pecked to make her move.
“Aw look it’s her mate,” I cooed. “How sad, he’s trying to wake her.”
Then the bird jumps up and down on the carcass, feathers flying, but still no movement, so I shit you not: he humps his dead mate. What in the effity eff is that? Joe is dying; Badger is fascinated; I’m again mortified. Satisfied, Mr. Peckity Pecker flies off, a few minutes later another bird lands and does the same exact thing. This happens until another human kindly picks up the de-fowled carcass and throws it away.
This, my friends, is when I learn that a. pigeons are as messed up and cruel as we are (who knew necrophilia was a cross-species thing?), and b. that dead bird pretty much sums up 2020. Just when you think it’s bad; it gets more freaky.
Belgium, along with much of Europe, is battling the beginnings of our second wave. We now have to wear a mask pretty much everywhere (which I’m okay with) and keep our social circle to no more than 5 for the next 4 weeks. They are trying to avoid a complete lockdown, but our numbers are quickly rising. Within this timeframe, I’m going back to work — allegedly in the classroom with students, but I guess we shall see what the great pigeons in the sky have to say about that.
Despite this being probably the worst year in a long time, Joe, Badger and I have managed to tune out the nasties going on in our world and mostly enjoy our summer. Our first stop was in wine country, Germany where we hiked grape-laced hills and sipped along romantic riverbanks.
We were off to a great start, until the Polezei pulled us over. Turns out our temporary tags on the new car expired (guess we should have looked!). Long story short: I talked my way out of getting our car impounded, and promised we’d manage a way back to Belgium to get our permanent tags. In the middle of the night, we ran like the bandits that we are and drove praying like mad that we’d make it to the Belgium border without another encounter with the law: whew! we did. But, we had to cancel our Black Forest and Austrian alps portion of our trip. It’s all good since the lady who owns the alps cabin said we could come during my next vacation instead, so no money lost there.
Once our tags came in, we got back on the road and visited friends in Bavaria, where we hiked and sipped some more.
After having fun with our friends there, we took off to spend a few nights in Poland (with friends) where we supported local artists by buying pottery (so much so, on my end, that lol I had to buy a cart to store some of it) and hiked some more. Our adorable rental also had an inflatable jacuzzi out back, so we got to sip outside and soothe our sore muscles at the same time. Perfection! Our hostess also suggested we take a dip in the “little lake” (a rock quarry) just a few minutes away. It’s mineral water, she said, so it would take 10 years off our age, so heck yeah despite the slippery climb down and the cold water, we dove in. Um, on our way out we saw the No Swimming sign — too late, party of 30 and 40 somethings (ahem) on their way to the jacuzzi.
We loved touring Grodziec Castle, it’s like a jungle gym for adults. Lots of towers and tunnels to climb through and plenty of fairy tale trails to get lost in, plus the museum end of it where you can pretend you’re a knight or princess. Next summer we’d like to tour more of Poland. The people are great, food is hearty and comforting, beer is good, and it’s surrounded by so much beauty. So, yeah Poland we heart you.
Of course we also love Germany; I’m still hoping I one day get a post there. But all is also well in Belgium.
The virus may be doing its damage, but Mons is still doing its best to spruce the place up for summer. No festivals or big parties, but they did decorate the Grand Place to make it beachy.
Temps are supposed to be in the nineties on Friday, so we’re contemplating another Ardennes trip since it’ll be cooler there, and we love it there too. What’s not to love about castles, woodsy hikes and beer. We wanted to go back to the Netherlands for a bit before I go back to work, but we’re afraid to cross borders right now. No sense in tempting fate in case they do close again, plus, to be honest, we’re just better off hunkering down in Mons. There’s plenty here to keep us amused.
And that’s about it on our end. Hopefully, the next time I pop in I can tell you all about how we managed to dodge a second wave.
Rue du Onze Novembre applauding the essentials. I don’t know why it’s sideways.
It’s Friday — woo hoo, so what. Yesterday I completed my 10th day of online classes. The kids and I are making the best out of it, but of course it’s not the same. I did get to have a few educator friends join my classes for a fun guest day (so that was cool). Today is a meeting/office day, meaning I catch up on meetings with colleagues and students who need extra help. My front guest room AKA my closet (with a daybed for when I need all 4 bedrooms) is now my classroom. It won’t be next week because it’s cramped and uncomfortable. That was part of my plan, so I’d move around more in between virtual sessions. But, I quickly grew to dread going in there as much as I used to dread waking up Monday mornings.
Oh wait … next week is Spring Break. Normally, I’m so excited for my two-week escape from it all, but now I’m here, in my apartment (thank God it’s a lovely place). We’d escape to the Ardennes or a Belgian beach, but that’s also not allowed (and they have the police and fines to back it up). Technically, I should be writing this from my hotel room in Ireland since I should have landed there late last night. Good news is no hangover for me today, which I’m almost certain would have been the case as well.
Again I’m very well aware that I am one of the lucky ones. Belgium’s numbers are now 16,770 confirmed; 1,143 dead, including a 12-year old girl. As you all know globally there have now been more than one million confirmed cases and more than 54,000 deaths. The U.S. and Europe are racking up some numbers, and it looks like it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.
Joe and I, our loved ones and our friends are all still healthy — a bit more pudgy with less muscle tone, but healthy nonetheless — and we have plenty of food, water, toilet paper and internet to keep us going. I’m also finally working on two online classes I signed up for last school year. I’ll finish one of them this weekend, and then I’ll dive into the other. There’s another course I’ve also signed up for, so I’ll be busy building those last few credits I need for a bit of a bump in my salary. Oh and that’s another thing I’m super grateful for: I’m still getting paid.
My big plans for this weekend are to take more silly pics of Badger, so that I can finally post something new on his blog. A friend is loaning us her car (ours is so lonely at the mechanic’s), so that Joe can go to the commissary to buy more American comfort food. We’re also planning on a long walk around the lake near Mons on Sunday. We’re hoping Badger can do this — he has his good and bad days, so we’ll see. Since we’re not allowed to use park benches anymore (the parks and benches were sealed off with police tape last weekend) there will be no more sit and rest breaks for the poor boy. The weather has been beautiful. This past week was cold, below freezing at night, but oh my goodness the sun has been out every damned day. She just waves at us while we drool on our windows. Our local memes remind us that as soon as the lockdown is over we’ll go back to rainy days.
While it’s awesome that we’re allowed to go for walks and runs, it’s, sadly, not as enjoyable as you would think. It’s good to get out, don’t get me wrong. But, every time we leave the house the threat of coming into contact with the virus is very real. Sometimes strangers just come up too close to you — it’s rare, but it happens. Sometimes we touch things and forget to wash our hands before touching our face. Sometimes we bring the groceries into the house and remember oh shit we should have washed off the packaging before putting food away.
I’d also give anything for a case of lysol disinfectant spray, so that I could de-germinize my couches. Hell, Badger is one big swifty mop every time he goes for a walk. How much is attaching itself to him? He coughed the other day and we were all oh no, did we give him the virus? Turns out the hoover choked on his own hair and doggy biscuits. These are the things we stress over now (again no where near the truly horrible things others must stress over).
On the bright side there are the 8 pm applauses on the street, my teddy lamb is in the window for any kids who might look up to the third floor, happy hour video chats are happening, and I’m reading/philosophizing the fuck out of my reading corner. So all is well, even if one day is beginning to blend into the other — technically that’s always been the case; I was just always too busy to notice before.
And, since I’m eternally optimistic, I do look forward to the fun things I get to do. Speaking of which it’s about time for me to make a refreshing gin and tonic to get ready for our zoom Friday happy hour.
Well I’m in my second week of self isolation. Last week began our first week of teaching online. The goal was for us to teach from school while the kids stayed home. That changed last Wednesday when Belgium went into lockdown at noon. By last Thursday we were teaching our first online classes from our living rooms. By 3 p.m. that Friday our borders closed. I am now living at a time where the police will pull you over if you have more than one person in a car, and you better have a good reason for being on the road. Fines are steep for those who get caught tempting fate. Not a problem for us since my car died last week, and, well, it’s now in auto isolation at the mechanic’s until the lockdown phase passes.
It’s all good, we’ve got nowhere to go anyway. Luckily the grocery store is within walking distance as are the parks, but don’t make the mistake of loitering in the park either. The police will find and fine you. People are dying, and Belgium is finally taking this seriously (we were all resistant to doing so at first because hello? cafe sipping is Life — until it no longer is).
We are allowed to go for a walk or run, and Badger still gets his walks, but we can only go with a person we live with (or alone), and we need to keep our distance from others. Wouldn’t you know the weather has been sunny — in Belgium where it always rains, so it’s a bit of a bright middle finger from Mother Nature.
I’m not complaining. We’re up to more than 6,200 confirmed cases (in the past 24 hours almost 1,300 people tested positive) and 220 dead, which the news and officials clearly stress is an understatement since they only test the severely ill and medical professionals. We’re obviously not alone since the whole damned world is shutting down to protect ourselves from this virus. I worry that too many aren’t taking this seriously enough, and I pray (I’m not even the praying sort of soul) that this whole exponential growth thing doesn’t, you know, grow exponentially. I’m not a math whiz or scientist, so I can still hold on to my hopes and dreams.
The beginning of last week I was a little excited about the teaching online thing because I mistakenly thought I’d get a lot of work done while in my classroom. Then I got excited about the idea of teaching from home — look Ma no pants! But, when we were told to pack up as much as we could because there’s no telling when we’ll be back, the reality of this all set in. I might be homebound for a lot of weeks (can’t bring myself to type the possibility of months). The probability of people I care about getting sick is quite high. I’ve already learned about a few deaths of people who knew people I know — luckily so far no one I’m close to has been confirmed of having it. Yet.
I worry about my children. I’m too far away from them, and I can’t tell them to come stay with me while we feast on my home cooked meals, watch movies and take dips in the pool (those days and that house are long gone). I can’t Vics vaporize them if they get ill. I can’t protect them from any crazy that might ensue, and I cannot pay all of them their missed salaries. My sons work in the restaurant industry, my daughter has her own small business, and her husband is out in the public risking his health, so that his family can continue to eat.
A few nights ago Joe had a coughing fit; occasionally my head hurts a little bit. We both have runny noses. Normally neither of these would be a concern. It’s allergy season. Joe could have inhaled a bug in his sleep because he hasn’t coughed since. I’m on the computer too many hours, so hello? of course my head hurts. I’ll be blind when this is all over with. But yeah the what if? lingers and embeds itself as tightly as the pestilence that waits for us on door knobs and handrails.
It doesn’t matter that most of us who get sick will recover — if any of us gets sick we will still stress. Sure most of us will be able to nurse ourselves at home, but what if we’re of that percentage that needs intensive care? None of us wants to drown in our own mucus, or cry home alone while our loved ones suffer. Joe and I (and many of our friends) have the added perk of not knowing much French, so communicating our ailments won’t be easy. So yeah it’s a scary time for all, even if we crack jokes and minimalize any potential symptoms we might get. Plainly put: this sucks.
But, it’s not all bad either. I do so enjoy my morning commute, and I’m adapting. My students and I still have our own learning vibe going (I do so miss working face-to-face with them, but their personalities still shine through). I’m keeping track of the kids that don’t talk so much via our virtual sessions, so that I can check in on them one on one later. We’re all coming up with ways to make this more fun. And, we’re remembering to remind people we care and that they matter — and they us.
We’re learning how to reevaluate our time, our presence, our what we have. My favorite memes are the ones that remind us that the only thing we have to do to save the world is to stay home — while still having food, all the joys of the Internet and our creativity (OMG keep it up you silly fools with all your stay-at-home antics. Have you guys seen the one where a couple does their own thing to a Horse with No Name?).
LOL I’m planning a photo shoot for Badger this weekend, so he can have fun being humiliated on his blog. A girl has gotta take a break from HBO, video and email chats, and online learning or teaching.
So, all of this will eventually pass, and we will all learn something from it — hopefully more good than bad. For those of us who will not get through this unscathed, know that we are all rooting for you (and ourselves) and blasting you with healthy, cheery, love-filled vibes. It’s all we have to offer — along with keeping our fat asses at home on the couch.
Stay safe everyone, and do your best to keep your home filled with positive, cheerful things. Our grocery store still sells fresh cut flowers, so our dining room table is blooming with life and color. If I could, I’d buy you all a little of the same. Hang in there, Humans. We’ve got this (even if it feels like we don’t).
Well that’s pretty much what my life will be like the next two months (minus the friends on couch — with social distancing we’ll sit farther apart next time we meet). Pray my upcoming days won’t include people I know getting ill. My colleagues, our families and I are on a 60-day travel ban (this comes from our work, not Belgium). We are not allowed to leave Belgium, and our relatives are not allowed to come in to visit. I’m not complaining. We all have to do what we all have to do to keep this thing under control. But, that does mean our spring break trip has been cancelled. We can’t even drive the 20 minutes it takes to get into France.
We are not in a forced lockdown yet, but precautions are put into place. Beginning this weekend all bars and restaurants are closed (unless they offer takeaway only), all events cancelled and only grocery stores, street food markets and pharmacies can sell their wares (on weekends; during the week all stores can open). Fritteries, fry shops, remain open (lol you can’t stop the frites!) All schools are closed Monday, including mine.
We teachers still have to go to work to set up our online materials and teach online from our classrooms unless it gets to a point where we’re told to stay home. Confirmed cases in Belgium have jumped up to almost 900 — beginning of last week I think we had less than 100 (can’t remember: a week ago feels so long ago).
I, nor most of my American or Belgium counterparts, am not panicking. I do have a stash of paper towel and toilet paper, but we always have about that amount saved — my husband has this now-timely fear of running out of paper products. Who knew this would become one of our life-saving moments?
Yes on Friday (when closures were announced) our store aisles were bare, but most of them filled back up yesterday morning, so I think the mass buying will fizzle out here quicker than in the states
Our street is never this empty on a Sunday afternoon, but hey plenty of parking if anyone nearby wants to visit.
I’ve been preparing myself and my students for online learning, so I feel like the transition into that will be easier for us than those who found themselves having to make this shift overnight.
We’ve also got plenty of beer, wine and food stocked, so I plan on making us some great meals. I also plan on using this time to organize and clean my house and finally focus on two online classes I signed up for almost a year ago. I have to finish them by May, so giddy up it’s time to read and write the b.s. I’ve been avoiding. Provided I don’t get ill, I’ve been given precious time to do all those things I keep putting off because I don’t have enough time.
I’m of two halves on this thing. On the one hand I’m not worried that I’ll get sick, and I know I’m good at keeping my own morale up (not so sure I’m good at doing that with my husband, but whatevs shit will get done in this apartment). As long as we can, we’ll still meet up with friends in small settings because none of us likes being alone for too long (although this extravert is embracing the notion of some down time).
The other part of me is very aware of the dangers of this damned disease. Overall, I’m a healthy chunky monkey, so if I were to come down with this I’m pretty sure I’d beat it. Joe doesn’t fare so well with respiratory stuff (he gets sick way more than I do with those kind of ailments), and he’s a few years older, but while he might bitch and moan about how miserable he is, I sense he too would recover. BUT, there’s always that small chance that either of us won’t, so yeah that sucks — a shitty reality for all of us right now.
Belgium might become the next Italy or Spain. Right now we’re good, but it could go to super scary over night, and of course I pray and hope and throw out tons of positive vibes that it won’t. Universe I hope you’re taking in all that positivity! But, yeah, we’re all fully aware of the reverse of my good wishes, so we just won’t dwell on that unless we have to, and then we’ll take that one step at a time like every other obstacle that comes our way.
I do not think it’s stupid for all of these closures and cancellations. I don’t think it’s over reaction. I do wish our governments would have done it sooner to really wipe this thing out, but only time will tell if their timing wasn’t too late. I also do get why the waiting happened; closing everything down comes at a very large cost — hopefully, we all remember that it’s a worthwhile one, but again we’re an odd species, so we’ll see where it all goes.
I also worry about my sons who work in the restaurant industry back home. They’re young and healthy and currently still working, which is great for them financially, but how long will that last? It’s also affected my daughter’s business.
I worry about the long-term financial impact this will have on us all (and whether it will cause other tensions that lead to nastiness), but again now is not the time for me to focus on the negative, but it is a time to be alert and aware.
There is so much good also coming out of this. We’re learning how resourceful we can be, and I truly believe more of us are pitching in to do good than to take advantage of the situation (although of course those assholes are out there). I hope that when we’re collectively wiping our brows and exhaling because we survived this last bout of crisis, we will reflect and realize we can quickly make massive change for the better.
So it seems 2020 is the year of Wash Your Hands, and what a wonderful metaphor that could be for getting rid of all kinds of figurative bacteria that’s been making us ill for too long of a time. If we can close everything (for the betterment of all) and we can quickly realign the way we work and learn, hell’s yeah we could change those things we say are too embedded to change. Let’s remember that when life goes back to normal.
And thanks to Tracy for the best hand-washing gel a botanical sipper like me could ever scrub her fingers with.
Shame on me for not posting most of February and all of March. Work and life have been busy (I know you’re tired of hearing that excuse, but it’s true). We’ve whooped it up around Belgium and Paris with friends who were visiting, we’ve gone to a few wine tastings and lots of dinners and local outings.
Same old, same old … but never dull! Even a trip to the flower market could turn into bubbly on the curb — especially when the sun is out!
The Grand Place is all decked out for Easter, including a big ferris wheel, which I’d like to post pics of, but I’m sure it’ll be down before I get to it. We’re leaving on Saturday for our big trip to Asia. I’m really excited about it. We begin in Beijing where we’ll see the Great Wall and Forbidden City, then we’re off to South Korea where we’ll whoop it up with Jordan and Wilbur and watch a Korean baseball game, imbibe at a Korean BBQ, do a DMZ tour and check out Seoul, then it’s off to Shanghai and then Hong Kong. Every stop except Beijing includes fun time with friends, some of whom I haven’t seen since moving away from the UAE. So, a busy, good time will be had.
Another thing I’m excited about is it’s Spring! Days are blessedly longer and work is winding down (I’m already planning away for next year). When we return from Spring Break, we have Game of Thrones parties, more friends visiting, weekend trips, Dou Dou fest (before that the Beer Fest!), more dinners and plenty of Grand Place adventures to look forward to. And then it’s time to fly back to the states for the summer where I’ll get to swim with the grand baby, my kids and friends. Let the warm days of fun begin!
And while I like this picture: Adieu to the long dark days of winter. LOL Winter is NOT coming here — until November.
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!
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…