Birthday & Antwerp

Um…oops? ūüôā

The last two weeks have been a blur. I had a birthday on Friday, and celebrated quietly… for four days straight, haha. Thursday night, my friends and I (including KB who was also celebrating her birthday!) went to the best restaurant around, Soleil d’Afrique in Matong√© (I went earlier in the summer as well.)

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On Friday, my actual birthday, I took care of business at work and then let myself catch up with my far-flung friends. I heard from some people I haven’t seen in ages and it made my day. I vaguely remember some of my college friends discussing buying our own retirement community when we’re old and have money and nothing else to do, I think that would be awesome. Can we make that happen?

Birthdays are like New Year’s Eve to me (my favorite holiday, BTW). They’re time for reflection and re-assessing and updating and changing habits, not just celebrating surviving another spin around the sun. I took myself for a long walk around my neighborhood and ended up finding a cozy little restaurant serving one of Belgian’s specialities – moules frites. It was everything I wanted and more, haha. I’d like to point out the mayonnaise in the corner, which is for the frites. Ketchup isn’t a thing.

I also needed to knock two more beers off my bucket list, so I tried I Chimay Rouge. (I had the ‘misfortune’ of finding my favorite beer on the first try, so I’ve had to force myself to branch out).

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OEP kids, it wasn’t until I sat down that I noticed the name of the restaurant was Carpe Diem. I felt like it was an appropriate end to the year, hahaha.

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JB took me out for drinks that night at L’Athenee because she’s a doll, and I tried a caipirinha? I’d never heard of it before but apparently it’s Brazil’s national cocktail. Ol√© indeed. The next day we met at Bruxelles Centrale and took the (crazy-‚ā¨4-cheap) train to Antwerp. It was beautiful.¬† Afterwards we sat outside in Parc Royal listening to the sweet jams of K’s choice and drinking margaritas outside the Brussels summer festival entrance.

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This guy was amazing - Tobias van Hattem. I found him on Facebook but I don't know if there are any videos of him playing. He rolls the piano around to wherever he's playing.

This guy was amazing – Tobias van Hattem. I found him on Facebook – and here he is playing price tag, haha. Awesome.. He rolls the piano around to wherever he’s playing.

I did some research on the big statue in the middle of Grote Markt. It depicts the hero of Antwerp Brabo cutting the hands off the giant who used to take money from ships who wanted to enter Antwerp's harbor (because if the sailors didn't pay they suffered the same fate). It's actually a major swipe at the Dutch who used to restrict traffic going into the harbor - HA!

I did some research on the big statue in the middle of Grote Markt. It depicts the hero of Antwerp Brabo cutting the hands off the giant who used to take money from ships who wanted to enter Antwerp’s harbor (because if the sailors didn’t pay they suffered the same fate). It’s actually a major swipe at the Dutch who used to restrict traffic going into the harbor – HA!

because why not.

because why not. oh, and that’s an inflatable dragon behind me, haha.

grote markt. very typical flemish architecture I learned.

grote markt. very typical flemish architecture I learned.

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Today was the last day of my internship (I’m really sad about this), but I need to pass in my thesis by… oh, tonight. ReadysetGO.

Also! Thank you to the newly-discovered-by-me blog Journeys of the Fabulist that gave me a shout out on her recent post about visiting New York and Boston. I hope I was helpful! ūüôā

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Day Sixteen & Seventeen: Listy McListerson*

*Young House Love¬†reference. They’re sort of my favorite.

Monday and Tuesday were about meeting deadlines and staring at a computer screen until I actually felt dizzy, so let’s make some fun lists instead of recapping work!

Things I didn’t expect to do in Belgium.

  1. Eat raw meat. One of the other interns introduced me to the “American sandwich,” which you would think, you know, is a peanut butter and jelly or something. Nope. It was this literal RAW MEAT PASTE mixed with chopped onions and topped with lettuce (usually topped with fries). And you know what? I ate the whole damn thing. I think I had¬†skipped breakfast that day.
  2. Ice my ankles. One weekend-day of wandering around with my reef sandals on, and boom. Elevated, iced, drugged. Seriously, none of my shoes are comfortable enough for long term walking, and I don’t even see tourists¬†in sneakers. The young ladies of Europe must be trained from a young age to walk on cobblestones in heels, because even with a few years of stumbling through Quincy Market under my belt, I’m doomed here.
  3. Develop a sense of direction. It may be¬†limited, but for those of you who know me and how easily/frequently I get lost and/or use my smartphone¬†(even when I drive to the same place every week for months), this is something of a Big Deal. Mayyybe it’s because I don’t have a car, or GPS, or any support besides a quick Google Map check before I go somewhere. And it’s not like I can always ask for directions (see next list).
  4. Use my phone! If you have Viber or What’s App and my number, I can text you and send you absurd emoticons anytime. Expect something like this (Roo is another favorite blogger).
  5. Feel weird about telling people where I’m from. Not weird as in sorry-I’m-from-the-US weird, but my whole life the answer has been Boston or New England. Now it’s like, I’m from the US. And I’m a minority here. That’s weird.

Things I learned in my first two weeks.

  1. Just because I can ask for directions in French doesn’t mean I have a darn clue what they say back to me.
  2. Dresses > skirts > dress pants > jeans > shorts with tights > shorts > sweatpants.
  3. Calcified water is the devil, and my hair is pretty sad.
  4. Quality Belgian chocolate has a similar cost/weight ratio to printer ink.
  5. Stay updated with your news, always. People will ask America questions and say sorry for America things and you need to know what they are talking about. So far that’s been Snowden, Keystone XL, fires in Arizona, and Obama’s visit – I was the happy one to share the news about DOMA. ūüôā
  6. Always carry an umbrella. As long as you have it, it won’t rain.

Things I thought I could live without but really miss. (Or, things I took for granted in the US.)

  1. Sweatpants. Disregard above statement. I need warmer sleep clothes but I want to spend money on nicer things to bring home… so I found a cheap blanket or two instead.
  2. Please excuse the moment of vanity but the other 90% of my makeup and hair products. But I only need like two or three more things.
  3. Sunshine, but this is getting significantly better. “In Belgium, the summer comes on Saturday.”
  4. A clothes dryer. It’s frustrating to have to time your clothes washing appropriately with the weather, so I haven’t washed things often. Fortunately I brought more than enough to wear, and if I’m stuck I can bring them to a laundromat.
  5. More books in English! They’re expensive here, so I’ve been trading/borrowing for reading in my free time.

Things I’m OK leaving behind.¬†

  1. Eating dinner before 830 PM.
  2. Leaving work before 6PM.
  3. A smartphone. Really.
  4. Expensive wine. ūüôā
  5. My car (but only in this context, because I love and miss you Leopold and don’t you forget it.)

To finish up with my crazy amount of pictures from the Netherlands, these are from Annika’s adorable little city Utrecht:

the netherlands from the train. i could get used to that. mostly unedited photo, too, it was that bright outside.

the netherlands from the train. i could get used to that. mostly unedited photo, too, it was that bright outside.

the dom is the highest church tower in the netherlands

the dom is the highest church tower in the netherlands

the canon saint of the dom.

the canon saint of the dom.

i lit a candle, i hope there's no rules against lighting protestant candles as a catholic, haha.

i¬†lit a candle, i hope there’s no rules against lighting protestant candles as a catholic, haha.

i was so proud of myself for remembering all the religious relics were destroyed as part of the reformation. which instantly made this the oldest thing i've ever been in the presence of.

i¬†was so proud of myself for remembering all the religious relics were destroyed¬†as part of the reformation. which instantly made this the oldest manmade¬†thing i’ve ever been in the presence of.

inside the dom

inside the dom

i love the cat sneaking through the old garden. annika said this place isn't usually open to tourists, so he probably watches over it in our absence.

i¬†love the cat sneaking through the old garden. annika said this place isn’t usually open to tourists, so he probably watches over it in our absence.

Day Fourteen & Fifteen: Amsterdam and Utrecht

I should preface this whole post by saying Dutch is a crazy language, and now I really want to learn it.

After a lazy start to our Saturday, Annika and I first went to a small cafe near her apartment. The area is not touristy enough to have English translations on their menus. I ended up going with a goat cheese and honey sandwich, which ended being toast, an entire carton of goat cheese, and a little honey. But it was SOGOOD.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmhm.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmhm.

Until I got a stomach ache half way through and had a sugar high for the rest of the day. #worthit

We metro-ed to Utrecht Centraal, where we caught a high speed train to Amsterdam, only half an hour away. I brought all the rain gear I could and BEHOLD we had a beautiful sunny day. I love when that happens. Annika took me to the top floor of the bibliotheek (library) for a great view of the city. There was a super sweet gentleman playing piano on the first floor (it was up for the public to use, sort of like the ones hanging out in the city in Boston), the design of the place was unreal, and the view was spectacular. An unconventional first stop in a city but a great choice.


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Since we got a late start to the day, we decided a canal boat tour would be the most efficient/awesome way to see as much as of the city as we could. We happened to find a great deal in the visitor’s center when we first arrived ¬†– we got cheaper tickets, to leave whenever we wanted, and they came with a free coffee and food. The girl even switched the coffee to chai for us, you’re wonderful. The company was called LOVERS which made our trip even more memorable, haha. I didn’t see any lovers on our boat. Our table-mates were a mom and her two daughters; the mom promptly passed out cold on the table for an hour, haha. Her daughter kept taking pictures of her with an iPad, which was excellent.

The tour was great, because they explained what we were looking at – the statues on the tops of some buildings (often Neptune), why there are hooks on the facade of the buildings (for a rope and pulley system to get merchandise in and out of the stores – now for moving furniture out of the house – because the stairs are too narrow to bring things up), where the famous homes are (Anne Frank especially), and what the canals names were (I liked the ‘Gentlemen’s Canal’ personally). The announcements were translated¬†into SO MANY languages – we heard at least dutch, english, chinese, indonesian, german (?), and at least two others. ¬†Our captain was a little odd and made a few unplanned stops (?) but aside from that it was worth the money spent.

It wouldn’t be Amsterdam without visiting the Red Light District, so we walked through but most places were closed¬†until the evening. We passed quite a few bachelor parties, with the grooms-to-be all dressed as something absurd. Usually a beer wench, sometimes a terrorist. Yes really. I didn’t get a picture, sadly. And sorry, no space cakes or coffee house visits, I know you’re wondering. ūüôā

After some shopping and picture-taking we headed back to Utrecht. I was really proud of myself for remembering a recipe for sausage, peppers, and onions pasta (Bob I hope you’re reading that!) and it turned out DELICIOUS with bratwurst. After a few glasses of red wine we were in no shape to go out that night, and happily so. More late night talking and dreaming of traveling together. Hopefully very, very soon!

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[i was aiming for the name of the boat Рludwig van beethoven Рso this picture really was just a happy accident]

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[flag of the netherlands]

[amsterdam centraal]

[amsterdam centraal]

I took way too many pictures, so in the interest of your computer’s sanity…. more Amsterdam photos after the jump!

 

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Day Nine: Coffee.

I drank it. (What!)

Monday was fine.¬† We had a late afternoon work meeting on islands and climate change, so I needed to rally. It worked in my favor though, because we had company at our apartment after work and I wasn’t able to nap like I wanted to anyway. One of my roommates works for Haagen-Dazs, so she brought us home Liege waffles.

OhmyGOD the Liege waffles.

Instead of the sugar-coated ones I had, there are literal sugar cubes baked into this kind so that every bite feels like you’re crunching a spoonful of sugar. I mean that it in the best way possible? We put chocolate, pineapple, and strawberries on them (which is totally illegal, you’re supposed to eat them plain) to make the Belgian flag… photos to follow, of course.

I wanted to share some of the pictures I’ve been editing of my walking tours of Brussels (click for better viewing). Enjoy!

parc royal

parc royal

royal palace gardens

royal palace gardens

grand place

grand place

grand place

grand place