Monday, June 20, 2011

belgian waffles and a marathon.

wednesday, 8 june 2011 

...i got the 12h15 train to brussels via lille, and got to brussels in about 2 hours… gotta love those TGVs. i had barely finished my sandwich before the journey was over. the train for the second leg was a ‘eurostar’, which was fun. they did announcements in 4 languages – french, english, dutch, and german! loved that.
once i arrived, i had to find my way from the station to my host julie’s flat. the directions she gave me were good, but with my bags, it took me loger than expected. i got to her place around 15h15 and settled down for a bit – got some water, changed into shorts, talked to julie, etc. around 4, i left to go explore. i had no map, but since everything was new, i didn’t really have a direction picked out. i just wandered around and turned when i saw something interesting. there’s a big 50th anniversary park that was very beautiful. i saw some cute Belgian houses and buildings, and got an ice cream. at one point, i figured i’d gone far enough out of town, so i made my way back on a completely different path. my sense of direction was in top form! i wandered further downtown and saw all the EU buildings – HUGE. i felt like i was in a city completely comprised of EU offices. i walked for a solid 3 hours, taking little breaks here and there.

i got back around 19h and met the other CSer staying with julie. her name is katherine, she’s from alberta, canada, and she’s lovely! the three of us sat and talked, ate some soup, and then made dinner – chicken in a masala sauce. yum! after letting that digest, we did the dishes and got ready to go out. julie took us to the city centre (which i hadn’t yet seen!) for a little tour. she showed us the grand place, which is surrounded on all sides by beautiful 17th century Flemish buildings – it was breathtaking. we went to see the mannekin-pis statue, which is tiny! and got waffles. SO GOOD. we strolled around for a while, and stopped in delirium café bar for a drink. in 2004, it held the record for most beers available – 2004 beers! the menu was half an inch thick. seriously. i ot a light, fruity beer (surprise) and really liked it! i also very nearly guessed what part of england our bartender was from. just the wrong side of london… i said west ham, but it was fulham. we left around midnight and hopped on the metro home. when we got in around half past midnight, julie’s boyfriend came over and we all went to bed pretty shortly thereafter. i stayed up for a bit writing postcards, but went to sleep around half 1. it had been such a crazy day! wake up in paris with my parents, go to bed in brussels with plans to visit luxembourg with a brand new friend. three cheers for europe, traveling, and especially couchsurfing!

thursday, 9 june 2011

thursday was a walking day. our goals were to go to the museum of fine arts and buy stamps at the post office. we woke up around 10 and ate breakfast with julie. after some lazy lounging, we got dressed and left the apartment around noon. katherine and i decided to go on foot, so we could see the city and same some money too! the apartment wasn’t too far from the downtown “old” district.. if you go the right way. we rarely consulted the map so we ended up wandering a fair distance off the course. but we got to see some new parts of the city that way! once we realized that we were going the exact wrong direction, however, we checked our location and turned around. on the way into town, we stopped in a beautiful cathedral and also bought some chocolate gifts from cote d’or - julie had let us try some of the chocolate spread (à la nutella) and it was amazing! i got some from the ratcliffe family and a small box of chocolates for julie. we continued on to search for lunch, finally finding a kebab-esque place just off the grand place. after my last kebab experience, i went with a vegetarian pita. we went and got waffles for dessert – delish. we walked on to find the main post office, where i bough some stamps for my collection and some for postcards. we sent our mail and started to make our way to the art museum. after not checking the map again, we headed in sort of the wrong direction, but that brought us to the main cathedral on the hill! nice. we eventually made it to the mont des arts, where we sat and rested for a while. we finally got to the museum around 16h45, only to discover that it closes at 17h. whoops. the best part was when we looked just down the street, we realized that we’d walked about two blocks away a few hours earlier and not realized it. double whoops. we just laughed and decided to come back the next morning. our journey home was uneventful – we took the metro to avoid another long trek. i picked up some peppers and a courgette to go with dinner – the plan was just to have fries, belgian style, but i needed some veggie action! the meal was good, though, and we made a lovely dessert of strawberry sorbet, raspberries, and chocolate sauce. yes. after dinner, we hung out and then watched a movie online called “chaperone” – it was funny, in an awful movie sort of way. i skyped shane (who’s meeting us in LONDON next month!!!) and my mom briefly before heading to bed.

friday, 10 june 2011 - belgium

katherine and i woke up around 8h to pack up and be ready to go around 9h30. we walked to the metro, went to the train station downtown, and bought our tickets for later in the afternoon. once we got those sorted, we headed back up the hill to finally go to the art museum. the combiticket was only 3 euro, so we got it – magritte museum and the fine arts! the magritte museum was okay – none of his “known” stuff, but still cool to see. so much symbolism.. i think! we got through there by 11h15 or so and went next door to fine arts. it was also okay. i don’t love the northern school, so i wasn’t too overwhelmed. i did see “marat assassiné”, which made the 3 euro totally worth it. we looked in the museum of music but it was too expensive so we got sandwiches instead. we went back to julie’s at 13h to get our stuff and say goodbye. we got a bus to the station and hopped on our 2 hour (thanks to the TEN stops) train ride to luxembourg! i’d found a host for us there, and it was so nice to be going with a buddy.

*belgium was so great. i’d like to see more when i go back; ghent, brugge, antwerp. i loved the food – waffles and fries! – and the architecture. the people are very lively and kind. plus, i bet they have a great sense of humour once you get to know them – with the most famous landmark in the city being a tiny statue of a naked, peeing boy, i think you’d have to have a strong humour!

friday, 10 june 2011 - luxembourg

we arrived at the train station around 16h45 and waited about 20 minutes for our host chistian to show up. he had agreed to host us even though he was already hosting another guy, an american studying in Amsterdam. the other surfer, nate, was arriving via bus around 18h, so we dropped our stuff in christian’s car and went to get a coffee and kill an hour. he is such a nice guy! we had a lovely chat over our various drinks and only left when the employees kicked us out. we went and waited for nate, making bets on who he was as people arrived. his bus was late, but he showed up around 18h30. i was so convinced that a different guy was nate that i followed the guy for a bit. but nate showed up (not wearing the blue shirt that’d he’d promised to wear!) and we headed back to the flat. on the way, we stopped and checked out a sweet park behind the philharmonic. great view of the city, and some very interesting sculptures. we finally got back to the flat, dropped our stuff, and began preparations for our PASTA PARTY! christian had invited three friends over – tweety, chester, and bobbie – all filipinos, all amazing! we had loads of fun over our pasta. christian, nate, and tweety were al running various distances the next day, so they needed to load up on carbs. we had an awesome dessert of strawberries, mascarpone/jam, and crumbled shortbread…heavenly! they left around 23h or so and we all hung out until perhaps 1h before saying goodnight. katherine and i shared a room with a giant blow up mattress – nice!

saturday, 11 june 2011

marathon day! we woke up around 9h and ate breakfast befor e heading out for our tour around the city. i bought a stamp for my collection and we walked all over – even down to the valley floor, a neighborhood called ‘grund’. it was so beautiful, and reminded me VERY much of the island of sodor from thomas the tank engine – stone arch bridges with trains on top, colourful houses, valleys.. i don’t know, it was just all very sodor-y. :) we had a lovely morning – sheep’s milk ice cream from the market! – and then got sushi for lunch later. i even tried a few rolls! mostly, though, i ate pineapple. we headed bac to the flat so nate and christian could rest before their run 0 katherine and i napped as well. around 16h30, we left again. christian dropped katherine and me off downtown, and continued with nate to the ‘luxexpo’, where the race began. we had about 4 hours before they would pass our designated spot. there is an awesome pirate park where we played for a while to kill time.. the slide was so sweet! we wandered around, got mcdonald’s for dinner (with a free side salad!) and did some souvenir shopping. around 19h, we went to stake out our spot. runners started passing us around 19h45, and nate passed at 20h20. we never saw christian, though! :( we ran and caught nate again, and then cheered for random people until nearly 21h before we started walking to the finish line. it was a long walk – nearly 7km – but the night was so nice. we met up with christian, who finished the half-marathon in about 1 hour 44 minutes, and then nate came along a while later, finishing his first full marathon in just over 4 hours! amazing. we got lots of pictures. unfortunately for them, we had to walk about 2km back to the car, and with all the road blocks, we didn’t get back to the flat until around midnight. we were all hungry, so we ate hamburger patties and leftover pasta. everyone split off around 1h30, and katherine and i stayed up talking until about 3h.

sunday, 12 june 2011 - luxembourg

the morning came quickly again.. i got up around 7h30 to pack up. we all ate breakfast together and left for the train station around 8h30. nate’s bus back to amsterdam left at 9h, and our train was at 9h15. since katherine was going to a city nearish to mehlbach, my next stop, we got to ride the bus/train together until my stop! we had a nice stopover in saarbrucken, where i successfully ordered two pastries in german, only to realize that i didn’t understand anything after my initial order. oh well!

*luxembourg was a great example of having no expectations and then having an amazing time. it was all about the people – katherine, nate, christian.. even tweety, chester, and bobbie! plus, the city itself is so great. i loved the cute buildings and the old abbey in the grund neighborhood. all in all, it was another raving couchsurfing success that i believe will yield true friendships in the future.

--next up; germany!

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