Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mussels in Brussels...

Today we took the train into Brussels to try some of their famous mussels and to check out the Grand Place.  The architecture is amazing; I had to stop myself from taking too many pictures of buildings.  Brussels is a very big city compared to Gent and it felt really good to get back to the little city I'm somewhat more familiar with.  Bronwen had a blast on the train (she was so excited) as well as in the city, and both kids were really good the whole day-hurray!
Grand Place
The famous statue, Mannekin Pis, is just a few blocks away from the Grand Place. I think that they change his clothes daily and today he was dressed as a surfer-how funny!  The only thing that could have made it better is if he was wearing an HB T-shirt:)

Manneken Pis

We stopped in a restaurant called Chutneys for some mussels and beer. Both were outstanding!! We had a Belgian beer called Leffe which is Steve's favorite Belgian beer and mussels in a creamy white wine broth. The mussels were the best we've ever had and even Bronwen ate quite a few.

Belgian beer-Leffe (each Begian beer is served in its own glass)
Moules au vin blanc (Musssels in white wine)
Panoramic view of Brussels
Then we went to a big park located in front of a palace and Bronwen made a little buddy, Milan.  They had so much fun together splashing in puddles and throwing leaves in the pond.  His mom was really nice too, they moved to Brussels from France and she has Milan (2 yrs) and another little guy who is 8 months old the exact age difference between Bronwen and Alex.   It was nice to talk with another Mom with two little ones so close together.
Bronwen and her little friend Milan

Little cutie!

All in all it was a very good day!!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

De Blaameersen

We spent the afternoon at De Blaameerson, a really nice park near our apartment.  I had no idea how big and awesomely kid-friendly it is. I can't wait for summer!  The park has several playgrounds and a big sandy beach area with water slides, paddle boat rentals, etc...  There is a separate swimming area for kids under 12 with little animal fountains and sand bars in the middle.  I still haven't seen the rest of the park but I'm anxious to check it out.  If you look on the map and follow "our" canal to the left you will see the park (click on the eedverbondkaai 245 link  to see my markers).

On another topic, another example of how nice Belgians are; I was on the wrong road looking lost with my map out and a jogger (a female U Gent student) stopped to see if I needed directions and ended up walking me all the way to the park to make sure I made it-very cool! 
My little guy's first time in the sand
Bronwen had a blast feeding the ducks snickerdoodles (home made!)
More cookies mom!!!
The wind blown look
Pirate ship playground
Kid's lagoon

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sunday flower market

On Sunday we went to the flower market again and actually bought some flowers this time (to go on my new dining room table-Yay!!!). It is such a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon (no NFL over here). At one end of the market is a coffee stand and the other is an aperitif stand where you can get a glass or bottle of wine or champagne and some appetizers. It is a social event to meet at the market and have drinks and hang out afterwards and I decided last Sunday that I wanted to partake next time, so we did...

Krab, egg, and mayonnaise on toast-delish!
 Here are a couple more pictures...

With all the parquet, we bought Bronwen her own swifter (unfortunately, dancing with it doesn't get the floors clean)

Paddle boarder in the canal in front of our apartment-crazy!

Cute little house on a side street near the city center.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Best Belgian waffles (or I guess just "waffles" over here) EVER!!!

We tried our first Belgian waffle the other day and OH MY! Words do no justice for these Belgian treats, but I'll try...First of all, they were made from dough instead of a batter like I had assumed. The dough was speckled with sugar balls (my descriptor, not there’s). The man who runs the place, then squished the dough onto the grille with the heel of his palm. Next, they were essentially fried in butter on the waffle grille which gave them a nice golden crunchy exterior and a soft chewy center and the “sugar balls” turned to caramel-YUMMY!!! I can’t imagine adding a topping to these perfect treats but at this place you do have the choice of adding chocolate, cream, or chocolate and cream, but I’d stick to the “nature” waffle as it needs no accompaniment.

The waffle joint is housed inside of a fancy looking café called 3.14 or Pi (π) in the Groetenmark. It’s in the front of the building with a window facing the street so you can purchase waffles to take away directly from the waffle man.

Waffle place (waffle window on left)

I went back to the waffle man today to see if I was right about the sugar balls and met Geteen, the “waffle man” mentioned earlier. He was very friendly and kind about answering my questions about his waffles. It turns out I was right about the sugar balls but he calls them “pearl sugar” (much more elegant). I was embarrassed to ask him for a photo but did anyways and he was very compliant and even posed. He dresses in funny old fashioned baker’s outfits and sometimes wears a traditional symbol of gent-a noose around his neck (on May 3rd, 1540, Charles V ordered the disobediant city’s leading citizens to parade through the streets of Gent with nooses around their necks and forced them to kneel and beg for mercy from the Emporer giving them the nickname “noose-wearers”. Some people in Gent still wear the black & white noose as a matter of pride at the city's festivals.)

Geteen the waffle man.  You can see the dough on the right (under Geteen's armpit :)

I’ll certainly give other waffle vendors a chance but I really don’t think this place can be beat, but I’ll let you know…
The real critic:)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Same day, different pictures...

Gent plaza

Same plaza, opposite side

Steve & Alex in front of a canal in the city center

Steve and Bronwen at the Sunday flower market in the city center

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The city center

Today was a beautiful, sunny but cold day. We walked to the city center (which is only about a 15 min walk) to check out a flower market and ended up spending the whole day there-it is so BEAUTIFUL! I took a few pictures with Steve's phone...

Beer haus

Canal in city center

Candy shop (left) Cafe (right). 
Plaza in Gent
St. Nicolas church

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 4 in Gent

We made it!!! We had a very uneventful flight (the kind I like) and the kids did great. Neither one slept until the last hour but both were very well behaved and self-entertaining. Steve and I actually were able to watch a couple of movies which made the time go pretty quickly. Regardless, it was a long day of travel and all of us are still suffering. We've been wide awake between 1 & 3 am. Last night we were all up so the kids and I watched a video on the computer while Steve worked.

I absolutely love this city! It’s like a mini Paris. Everyone is so friendly and helpful which makes adjusting that much easier.

"We" (not me) locked our keys in the apartment and after a long day of shopping came home to discover this. Of course it started raining and Alex had a "blowout" so we were stuck in the car with two tired and hungry kids, one of which now naked, when thankfully our neighbor below came out and invited us in to wait for the locksmith. She was so kind and playful with Brownen and it turns out she is a recent graduate of one of the two major Universities here and is now a secondary (high school) religion teacher-hmmmm, babysitter???

Grocery shopping has been so much fun-everything is new and so fresh. I love it and I can't read any of the labels-I can only imagine how great it would be to shop if I knew what I was buying. Steve and I rely on label pictures-that's the only way that I knew that "Pate de cacahuetes pindakaas" was peanut butter. The biggest difference so far is that the eggs aren't refrigerated. I was already a little freaked out about that but then it got worse, Steve opened a container to check the eggs and they were covered in feathers...oh well, our omelet this morning was delicious!

Yesterday we went to Ikea, by car! Unless there is an emergency I will not drive here during our stay. Steve did quite well and I wasn’t too nervous (for the most part). There were a few "Oh my gosh, oh jeez..." Steve's comment was "don't worry, it works." There are bicyclists and pedestrians everywhere and not only do you have to worry about cars you have a tram lane and a bicycle lane to watch for too-yikes! I'll stick to walking which probably isn't much safer.

Here is a picture of Bronwen and I at Citadel Park today.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

5 days to go...

The count down has begun... Our flight leaves around 11:30 am from Seatac to Amsterdam then on to Brussels this Tuesday (10/12/10).  Our furniture arrived last week and is mostly set up so we will have our own beds to sleep in when we arrive.  We ran into a couple of bumps in the road with our VISAs and the refinance for our condo but all has been sorted out (enough anyways).  We are enjoying our stay in Anacortes and are sad to be saying goodbye to family and friends but we'll be in contact...we love skype!  This is such an awesome adventure and I am soooo grateful to have this opportunity-THANK YOU, Steve!

I have added a link to "google maps" with a satellite image of Ghent and our apartment is marked. Follow the canal to the right and it will lead you to the City Center (15 min walk from our house).  Be sure to stop at Patrick Foley's Irish Pub along the way, Steve says it's great:)

Well,  hope to be writing about something awesome in Belgium soon...