Days 49 & 50: MIM & PRICE.

On Saturday I set off an adventure with my camera in the morning. I wanted to knock something off my bucket list, so the Museum of Musical Instruments it was. I wandered from West of the city center all the way to Parc Royale and the museum (Note, this long walk is important later.)

jenclinton/08052013aFrom MIM’s website: “Besides the well-known Scottish version, many more countries appear to have their own type of bagpipes, Tibetan monks make musical instruments out of the bones of their deceased colleagues, and African slit drums are the local form of Twitter.”

I don’t know what genius decided the concept for MIM but I’m kind of in love. You get a little transponder thing in your language of choice when you walk in, and there are markings on the floor that you stand on in front of most of the instrument displays. Once you’re in the right place, you hold the transponder to your ear, so you actually hear what the instrument sounds like! I mean really. That’s the point of an instrument right? It was so simple it was obvious, but it sort of blew my mind when I realized what the deal was, haha. So clever.

Many of the pieces were from Eastern Europe (lots of Romania), and most were instruments I’d never heard of. I apologize in advance for picture quality but lighting was definitely not conducive to picture taking, not with my little camera dude anyway. Let’s give out some superlatives, shall we?

Creepiest :

Yikes! That would be a skull drum and a femur horn. I thought a femur flute would be a great alliteration but would be decidedly less intimidating in battle I suppose.

Yikes! That would be a skull drum and a femur horn from Tibet.

Most ornate:

I'd be too afraid to even hold this thing, never mind play it.

I’d be too afraid to even hold this thing, never mind play it. She’s so dainty.

Most BA to play (listen to it here):


the SERPENT from RUSSIA, distant cousin of the tuba.

Most difficult to play:

no WAY is that a one person instrument! holy lung capacity. maybe it comes with a reverb pedal or something, haha.

no WAY is that a one person instrument! holy lung capacity. maybe it comes with a reverb pedal or something, haha.

Best Smile:



Best Dressed:

from romania, circa 2007. (that threw me.)

from romania, circa 2007. (that threw me.)

Most “what the?” moment:

"it's a little weird that we're blowing into animal intestines, ya? let's cover it in fur so it's less conspicious. much better."

“it’s a little weird that we’re blowing into animal intestines, ya? let’s cover it in fur so it’s less conspicious. much better.”

Personal favorite:

phish guitar?

phish guitar?

I will say this though, I did enjoy the museum but it would  be much better for you if you have a pretty deep-seated appreciation for classical music. I only appreciate it in small doses, usually when working, which is not something pleasant to think about on a free Saturday afternoon. That’s probably why the nature museum was the one for me. 🙂

On the walk back I took a few more pictures of the city. Isn’t she pretty?

So Sunday was designated write-your-damn-thesis day. It went, eh. Okay. I took a break go to the insanity that is Garde du Midi on a Sunday afternoon.

Unfortunately as I was walking through the crowd my right knee just gave out for no reason at all. I’m like, hello old lady. I was able to put weight on it fine so I kept on keeping on. I actually got some delicious food today, look look! And aside from the provolone I didn’t spent more than… seven euro?

pêche, pastèque, fraises

pêche, pastèque, fraises

carottes, fromage feta, fromage provolone, persil

carottes, fromage feta, fromage provolone, persil

When I got back to my work space I tried to stretch my legs out to the chair on the other side of the table. OWWWW OWOW OW. So I can walk on it but I can’t straighten it. Gah. My several-knee-surgeries boyfriend suggested a strained tendon and PRICE – pressure, rest, ice, compression elevation. It’s not swollen or anything, and I’m sure it’s from walking so much in not-made-for-distance-walking shoes. Just PLEASE no crutches, they don’t have normal ones here. Everyone uses the hand ones and not the underarm ones and excuse the vanity but it would make me look all the more pitiful.

Sad face. I should probably wear my sneakers to work for a while. I’ll be the only one in BRUSSELS wearing running shoes, I think even the women who run wear cute flats at the very least, haha. Ah well. Body says slow down, you better darn well listen.

Day Twenty to Twenty Two: Summer is Here/Brussels Bucket List

Friday afternoon, after getting out of work, I realized that I’ve already been here three weeks. Three weeks! I feel like I just stepped off that plane yesterday. I wasn’t going to make a bucket list, since I already have one for life (we’ll save that for another post), but then I realized I only have 5-8 more weeks here.

This weekend I knocked off a bunch of them. It was so beautiful out! Saturday morning I set off to find the Marolles flea market at Place du Jeu de Balle. I love wandering around these little markets even if I don’t often take things home. I fell in love with an oil painting of an old fisherman, but I left him alone because he was a little big to cart home in my suitcase. I’m also trying to save up for a trip in August! I feel like I’m vacationing from vacation.

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someone PLEASE explain this image to me hahaha

someone PLEASE explain this image to me hahaha

The whole area around Place du Jeu de Balle looks a hundred years older than where I work – you even have to take a glass elevator down from the Palais de Justice into the old city. I also discovered this store with hundreds, if not thousands, of carved African and Indonesian sculptures and beads, it was this quirky little oasis surrounded by general stores and sandwich shops.

In the afternoon, I walked to Parc Cinquentenaire for a picnic, then wandered around looking through the crazy sales Brussels has in July.  After my housemate got out of work, she and I and five of our friends walked to the African quarter, Matongé. We had dinner at this delicious little hole in the wall called Soleil Afrique, and let me tell you. I cleaned. my. plate. The whole street is full of Congolese and Cameroonian restaurants, I will most definitely be returning. Afterwards, we skipped over to another patio for espressos (the Italian), martinis (I felt adventurous), and beers (everyone else).

Sunday morning after sleeping in, I met up with Jess at Garde du Midi again. It must have been the weather, but this was more packed than usual. And I mean, elbows up, make sure your feet don’t leave the ground busy. We took the metro downtown for lunch at the Irish Bia Mara, just to eat these fish and chips. Another one for the clean plate club!  When I came back I took a nap with my new book in the garden. Heavenly.

Suggestions for things I can’t miss in Brussels are welcomed and/or encouraged. Five weeks? I got thisss.

Brussels Bucket List: Summer 2013 edition

Bia Mara Fish and Chips

Try at least five Belgian beers (so far Leffe and Blanche)

Snag a table for outdoor dining in Place du Luxembourg, minus the smoking

Zinneke pis

Guinness at Michael Collins, Ave Louise

Coudenberg museum (15th century Brussels ruins)

Eat Congolese food in Matongé, the African quarter

Palais de Justice (can I get in? not sure. currently covered in scaffolding.)

Vintage market at Place du jeu de Balle

Rits Cafe (Monday movie screenings)

Picnic in Parc du Cinquentenaire

Chaochow City, cheap Chinese food

Buy yourself a pair of shoes, girl.

Intern social at Place de Luxembourg, Thursdays

The Atomium

Non-touristy waffles. And more of the touristy kind too.

Photograph all the graffitti pencils I can find (up to five or six now)

Museum of Musical Instruments

Go to the beach. Any beach. Three tons of sand being dumped in the city center counts.

Day Seven & Eight: Playing tourist

After settling all my affairs Saturday, I hopped on the metro and let myself wander without a map throughout Brussels. There was a music festival going on this weekend, so if I stumbled into some live music – lovely. If I found a museum I wanted to try – probably better, because it’s raining again. And if I find waffles, you know what’s going to happen there. Just by following the sounds of music and random groups of people* I ended up smack dab in the middle of tourist country, Brussels.

I can’t even tell you the names of all the things I saw – I really do need a walking/biking tour to understand the rich history here. (Fun fact I did learn is that Belgium recently broke Iraq’s previous record for length of time existing without an official government in place. Ha!) At one point I managed to stumble into this gorgeous plaza with intricate, soaring buildings all around me. Statues and gilded pillars studded the facades, and people all around me were walking in slow circles with their camera above their heads. (What did we do before panorama mode?) I asked the nearest British tourist to please not laugh at me and tell me where I was – I had found Grand Place! (Don’t ask me what that means, though. Not yet.) I took pictures in zooms of three to show you some random details.

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Surrounding Grand Place are lots of famous chocolate shops, lacemakers, and countless restaurants. I stopped in one for a drink and chatted with the waiter trying to rope people into the restaurant. His 20-something friend stopped by, another waiter, and when he found out I was American, he bellowed, “OBAMAAA!!!” which of course made me happy. He asked me to come to his restaurant so he can make me a plate of mussels, and I could kindly please take it to “meester president obama” because he would be so honored to have the president eating his food. Don’t know how far past security I could get but hey, the thought counted.

Other major Saturday accomplishments included securing a local phone, my monthly metro pass, and walking around so much I was icing my ankles all night.

Sunday afternoon, I met two of the other interns for the market at Garde du Midi. This is the market I went to, very first thing after arriving in Belgium. I saw more of it this time, from the clothes to the wallpaper to the cutlery demonstrations and, of course, oh lordy the food. The expense for onion and garlic surprised me but I also got a pineapple and some bananas anyway. OH and those naan wraps, thank you anonymous internet tipster that told me find them. In the market there’s one really long booth close to the bridge where you can order custom-made naan wraps.  I got one with chevre, olives, artichokes, figs, sundried tomatoes, and an olive/pickle/celery mix. If it wasn’t so darn filling I would have had two. I also tried their tea – supersweet but the hot drink was good for a drizzly day.

Next I wandered around Avenue Louise, one of the shopping areas, afterwards. The Chanel store is looking very scottish-kilt-meets-grune-meets-80s-makeup-mannequin these days. We dropped into a super great cafe for lattes in the afternoon too, Workshop, and traded travel stories and baby pictures on Facebook. We also found some wonderful live music – I highly recommend you listen to some Gaëtan Streel. For different songs, he sounded like Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol, Jack Johnson, and Marcus Mumford. After our adventures, I trekked back to my new apartment, pineapple in tow, and learned the history of my new residence.

Which means… new house tour coming soon! In the meantime, here are some pictures from my two days of walking through the capital of Europe.

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*Yes, I did that. I look less like a target for thief-ing when I’m in a group, and if I hover just far enough back the group doesn’t notice

PS – If you want to read something much funnier than I will ever write on expat living… please please PLEASE read Oh God, My Wife is German. I was peeing my pants laughing at his wedding tips and the story of getting a haircut by a Turkish man in Germany.

Day One

And what a day one it was.

This was my first transatlantic flight, and any preconceptions I had about Delta service were thrown out the window. I got a blanket, pillow, breakfast, dinner, warm hand towels, free alcohol… I mean what! This is not the Delta I know from home. I smiled every time the announcements would come on in three different languages, and I played trivia on my seat screen. Mostly I slept as much as I could.

On my BOS to JFK flight, I talked to the guy next to me from Munich. He was saying that his layover was really short, and when we were delayed pulling into our gate, he said “I’ll probably make it but I doubt my luggage will.” URGH. I knew right then that I was going to be in trouble when I landed as well. And I was right. Delta had already emailed me letting me know my bag didn’t make it, and they were sending it on the next JFK>BRU flight available. Fortunately I packed one set of work clothes in my carry on… no PJs though, oops.

la place luxembourg

la place luxembourg

After that debaucle, I hopped on the 21 bus to Place Luxembourg, and Jess and Frank were waiting for me on arrival – with a croissant no less. The bus stop was literally steps outside their door, not that I had much to carry anyway. Since I was pretty awake I decided to join them on a train ride to the huge farmer’s market at Garde du Midi, which I had heard about several times when looking up Brussels. They sold everything! I saw tea kettles and kitchen ware, underwear, dresses, comforters, and some super cute shoes for 5€ that will definitely be coming home with me at some point this summer. And then we got to the food! All the vendors were yelling in French, and there were samples to taste of watermelon, honeydew, and pineapple. There was such a rich variety of foods and sights and smells, people pushing against one another and running each other down with their personal shopping carts. The fish market looked particularly delicious, and we got some cod for dinner.

We walked through some of the different neighborhoods on the walk back, pausing to share raspberries at a little park guarded by one little duck (and a conservation commission employee who reprimanded me for stepping on the grass when taking pictures and not paying attention. such care for their parks!).

There was not much time left before having to go to our first apartment showing in Place Flagey. There was so much to do there, they said even if I don’t end up living there I’d definitely be going to hang out. The second one was kind of a hike north, up in Schaerbeek – much more residential, very sweet little neighborhood. All the houses are so squished together, I’m not used to such close living quarters! I’ll decide tomorrow which I’ll take.

squishy houses

squishy houses

I had my first frites as well! We stopped at Maison Antoine, Jess got tartar sauce and I tried Andalouse sauce (I resisted the urge to use ketchup!). So good, and so fresh. It didn’t quite ruin my appetite for dinner though, and after a two hour power nap we had dinner around 9PM. As long as I eat something substantial between 12 and 9 I can definitely get used to eating later. Especially when it’s followed by Skype date with boy. 🙂

Tomorrow is my first day of work! I need to get my luggage, find a phone, and pick an apartment. I call today a success. 🙂