Thank you Nakoma
It has been an amazing Journey following Nakoma on her latest abroad adventures. Her time of writing about them has come to an end. Please feel free to look back over her adventures and the lovely posts and pictures.
One day in Bruges
With my parent’s only visiting for 10 days, we have lots to do in a short amount of time. We managed to get a full tour of Bruges in one day. After arriving by train we walked into the town center. My mom oohed and ahhhed at all the little homes and narrow streets. She would stop every few steps to take pictures. When we reached the main square we took a carriage ride through Bruges. There is something magical about this carriage ride. My mom and dad were smiling ear from ear. They loved it. We enjoyed lunch at Cambrinus. This restaurant has a fantastic atmosphere and offers 400 beers. I would not recommend going there if you are a foodie though. The food was ok, but it’s more about the atmosphere and beer. Before we made our way to Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan (Brewery), we took a canal boat tour. Bruges is known for their beautiful canals. Our guide gave the tour in three different languages. He was charming. The canal tour gives a different perspective of Bruges. On our way to the Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan, we stopped at our favorite chocolate shops, Galler and Mary’s. Mom passed on the chocolate and Dad wanted more (he he he …) We finished our day with a nice cold beer (that’s not true… When we were at the train station Adam ran to a store while we were waiting for the train and got Dad and himself one more beer to enjoy on the train.) The Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan is a fantastic brewery and has delicious beers, food and a great atmosphere. We headed home around 18:00. Mom and Dad passed out on the train home. It was a wonderful day!
Hiking in Luxembourg
When we lived in Lemoore Adam and I loved driving to Sequoia National Park. In Sequoia we would go hiking, have a picnic, and then do a little more hiking. It was wonderful! In the last eight months we have not found parks like Sequoia. We have seen a lot beauty and have travelled to many great places, but we miss our outdoor hiking days.
After reading about Luxembourg’s hiking trails we decided to make an over night trip. We are so glad we did, as it will be our new Sequoia National Park! This is exactly what Adam and I needed. It took us about two hours by car to reach Hotel Brimer. The hotel has so much character with old antiques, and knick-knaks along the hallways. Hotel Brimer has been family owned for over 100 years. From the hotel we walked to the beginning of our four and a half hour hike. The hiking trails go all through Luxembourg. We went up and down hills, and climbed through huge rock gorges. At one point we came across a large group of rock climbers. It made my stomach turn watching them climb up a very steep rock. The hiking trails were so well marked. Adam got really excited after he saw a mountain bike sign.
The next morning he rented a mountain bike and went back on the trails for a few hours. I stayed at the hotel and treated myself to a massage.
Motorcycle Ride to Germany
Adam had an appointment at Ramstein Air Base on Monday. Instead of making it a work trip we made it a fun weekend. We packed up the motorcycle and rode to Germany.
Packing clothes should have been easy, but with Belgium’s weather you can never pack simple. We had a beautiful warm ride to Ramstein and a cold rainy ride home.
On our way to Ramstein we stopped in Liege, Belgium. What a cute town. I didn’t expect to see the Meuse River right in the center. We hadn’t been to Liege and thought it would be a nice rest stop. Ok, we really stopped to get a real Liege Waffle. Yep, it was delicious. However, the Liege waffle from our farmers market is still the winner. They serve it to you fresh off the waffle iron.
Our next stop was about an hour away in a town called St. Vith. It is a German-speaking town in Belgium. We stopped to fill up the tank before riding to our destination.
When we arrived to Ramstein Air Base I was in culture shock. I sat with the bags while Adam checked us into the lodge. As I was sitting I noticed that I could understand everyone’s conversation. People were dressed much differently than how Belgians dress and people were smiling as they were walking by. I know this might sound silly to some, but this was really strange to me.
Ramstein Air Base is huge. Our hotel room was pretty much in a mall that offers a variety of stores, and restaurants. It has a movie theater, a spa and an outdoor center with a rock-climbing wall.
The restaurant choices were not that great. We ended up eating at Chili’s. Oh, boy. The portions were huge! As we were eating I was doing some major people watching… Seeing people eating dinner in their workout clothes is something that does not happen in Brussels.
After dinner we went and saw Jurassic World. It’s been 8 months since we went to a movie. The movie was good and it was exciting to see in a theater.
The next day I had so much fun clothes shopping. Clothes’ shopping in Brussels is tough. It’s expensive and the clothes don’t fit me right. Winter is coming and I need clothes. Thank goodness for online shopping.
Although it was cold and rainy on our way home from Ramstein, it still was a beautiful ride. We went over so many bridges with huge canyons filled with villages and the entire ride had views of trees and greenery.
I don’t even know where to start. I’ll do my best to recap the last three months by writing the highlights of each trip. We are definitely taking advantage of traveling. I was excited to be home for a while, but now that we have been home for a few of weeks, I’m ready to go, go,go! I think I have an addiction to traveling.
In April, Adam and I went for a weekend to Reims and Epernay for champagne tasting. I thought champagne tasting would be a lot like wine tasting. The wineries pour 2-3 ounces of wine so customers can taste multiple wines. All the Champagne houses we went to poured full glasses. A tasting usually includes three glasses of different champagnes. I never thought I would say this, “but that’s just too much champagne.” How does one taste at a champagne house and move to the next? Somehow we managed.
We stopped in Reims to visit one of our favorite champagne houses, Veuve Clicquot. We also stopped at Champagne Taittinger, and Champagne G.H. MUMM. Veuve Clicquot was our favorite in Reims. Unfortunately, we only had one day in Epernay, France. Oh my goodness, Epernay was a wonderful surprise to us. I can’t wait to go back. Avenue de Champagne is filled with beautiful mansions and old Victorian style homes that are all Champagne Houses. Most of the Champagne houses were within walking distance from one another. We ended up purchasing a lot of bottles on Avenue De Champagne.
Two weeks later Adam and I headed to Dublin, Ireland for four nights and then took a ferry to London. This ferry was not your typical ferry. This was a cruise ship. Super nice with a movie theater, restaurants, game area, and rooms for rent. Adam and I were shocked. We had to check our tickets to make sure we were getting on the correct boat. The trip on the ferry was around 5 hours. Dublin:
· Guinness Store House -The Guinness Store House was like an amusement park. All it was missing was rides. This place was huge and too crowded! The best part was the bar on top that overlooked Dublin. We had a fantastic Guinness and then headed out. I’m glad we went, but I don’t know if I would recommend it.
· The next day we walked around Trinity College and then to an Irish Whisky Museum. I loved this museum! We had a great tour guide. The tour had about 8 people and the tastings at the end were fantastic! I liked this so much better than the Guinness Store House. · Saw Dublin Castle, went to Grafton Street area for lunch and shopping · Old Jameson Distillery- The building itself was awesome, the tour was not very good and the tasting was ok. If you can’t get into the tour, I would recommend going and getting a drink at the bar. · Traditional Irish Musical Pub Crawl – Wow! This was such a fun night. We met our guides who were also the musicians for the pub-crawl at a bar. They would talk about traditional music, culture and would tell fun stories before each song. We walked to 2 different bars with the tour and stayed at each for close to an hour. Our guides would play music at each bar we went to. One guy played the fiddle while the other played a mandolin and a few other instruments.
London – We had a full itinerary and we still did not get to do and see everything. Adam and I both can’t wait to go back to London.
· Tally Ho! Cycle Tours 3hrs. – So much fun. I was a bit nervous to be back on a bicycle especially in London. The tour guide made this so easy for all of us. We were able to see most of the big attractions and learn their history. It lasted a little over 3 hours. I’m going to look into bicycle tours more often.
· Eating London – Food tour 3.5hrs- this has to be the most food given in one food tour. If we hadn’t gone on this tour we would have missed visiting the East End of London, which is a really cool area. Our stomachs were sooooo full by the end. Great food, great history, great tour guide.
· Shakespear’s Globe Theater – On our last night in London we saw The Merchant of Venice. The theater is an open-air theater. This theater offered two kinds of tickets, seat tickets and standing tickets. Standing tickets were right in front of the stage. The show was sold out. Most people who had standing tickets would sit on the ground during breaks. We were able to purchase seat tickets.
One week later we went to Cartagena, Spain. Adam had a work conference and I was able to join him. Cartagena is a beautiful little town. It’s unbelievable the amount of Roman Ruins this town has. I will write about Cartagena on another post.
My mother in-law, Lois is on her way for a 3-week visit from Arizona. I know it will be no surprise to hear that I made a 3-week itinerary. Very excited to have company.
The Rosensweet Inn has been booked through the beginning of October. We are very excited to show off Brussels and to experience new places with family and friends.
Cologne was a fun city to visit. The city has lots of museums, shops, pubs, restaurants and a magnificent cathedral. We spent two nights in Cologne and could have easily spent a third.
Cologne, Germany Itinerary:
· Breakfast at home
· 9:30 Drive to Cologne (2 hour drive)
· Check into hotel
o We stayed at the Pullman Hotel. Highly recommend. Walking distance to everything. The hotel has a restaurant and bar on the top floor with beautiful views of the city. We had a drink at the restaurant, but went elsewhere for dinner.
· Cologne Cathedral
o This cathedral is breathtaking from the outside. The architecture is beautiful. If I remember correctly it’s supposedly the largest Cathedral in Germany.
· Lunch at Gilden im Zims
o The local beer in Cologne is called Kolsch. The restaurants serve the beer in small glasses to keep the beer cold. The server will refill the beer automatically until the drinker places a coaster on top of his/her glass.
· Farina Perfume House
o Johann Farina made the original cologne and the original cologne scent can still be purchased at the museum. The museum gives an excellent 45-minute presentation explaining who Johann Farina was and how he made his cologne. Some of the original customers were Mark Twain and Napoleon. Adam and I purchased a few bottles of the cologne. It smells really good.
· Hotel Rest
· Breakfast in room
o Great way to save money and relax in the morning. I brought breakfast cookies and bananas.
· Cologne, Cathedral
o We went back to climb 533 stairs to reach the top of the South Tower. Unfortunately, the tower had graffiti all over the walls. It was difficult to enjoy the beauty and the history while being in the tower, because of all the graffiti. It still was neat to climb up and the view was not disappointing.
· Second Coffee
o After climbing up the tower we stopped for coffee, which was right across from the cathedral. We were able to warm up and enjoy the view.
· Wallraf-Richartz Museum
o Art museum with Gothic, Impressionist and Renaissance paintings. The museum does a very nice job displaying the art pieces. It also has descriptions next to the paintings. The descriptions were in German and English.
· Chocolate Museum
o We were able to walk along the Rhine River to the museum. Adam was so happy! He loves Lindt chocolate. This chocolate museum was as HUGE. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate… free samples. The museum shows where chocolate comes from, how it grows, and how it ships. Then we were able to walk through the factory and watch the chocolate being made. Unfortunately, we had already eaten or we would have stayed to eat at the restaurant, which overlooks the river.
· Kolsch beer stop
· Hotel rest
· Breakfast in the room
· Drive Home
We will definitely go back. There are still a few museums to see. It’s a fun little city. For those who like cruises. It looked like different cruise ships pull into Cologne as well.
I wanted to get a good workout in before the weekend so I headed to the gym. I’m getting used to being the only girl in the weight training area. If I see other women, they are usually in a fitness class or on a cardio machine. While lifting weights two older guys in sweat pants were chitchatting and lifting in between. It was more chitchatting then lifting. After I was finished I decided to go for a quick run on the treadmill. I saw the two guys in sweat pants sit down with the employee to continue their conversation. I was almost finished with my run and I heard what sounded like a bottle cap snap off. I looked over to see the three chitchats’ eating a cheese plate and drinking beer. It was 12:30! Is this how all gyms are in Brussels or just the one I go to? When I walked by them to leave, they didn’t offer me a beer. However, I was offered a complimentary croissant the following Wednesday at the gym. I said no thank you, but he insisted that I take at least a piece of one. I took a piece and then went for a run. The complimentary croissant at the gym has not been a one-time thing. Croissants have been at the front desk these past two Wednesdays. I didn’t take one the second time, because I already had a croissant for breakfast. My solution now is to have morning croissants on different days so I can eat them at the gym on Wednesdays.
Adam and I had a date night at Belga Queen restaurant. This beautiful restaurant was formerly a hotel and then a bank. During dinner I got up to use the restroom. The restroom was unisex. To enter I had to pull a huge velvet curtain open. The entry had a floor to ceiling mirror and in front of it was a large oval sink with different spouts. In the middle of the sink were little individual towels. After passing the sink, women go to the right and men go to the left. The bathroom stalls were glass. I opened the door and closed it. Anyone who walked by could see me and I could see them. I thought it was a bit strange, but it didn’t stop me from using the restroom. When I went back to the table I told Adam all about it and how the doors were glass. He asked me if I locked the door. I asked him why I would lock the door. I closed it and I’m pretty sure no one would walk in since they could see me and I could see them. He started laughing and told me if I locked the door it should turn completely white, so nobody can see in or out. Oops! Ha ha ha… luckily nobody came in and saw me. I used the restroom later that night and locked the door. Yep, it turned white. I couldn’t see out and nobody could see in.
This last month I have been having really bad back problems. My doctor referred me to an Osteopath. The Osteopath’s office is in a house. To be let in I had to ring the doorbell, then I was buzzed in. When I walked in there was no front desk to greet me, just an entryway with chairs. I decided to open one of the doors to find a doctor working on a patient. I put my head down with embarrassment. My cheeks turned really red. After the doctor was finished with his patient he opened the door and introduced himself to me. I went into his office and sat down. We went over the problems that I have been having with my back and then it was time to for him to examine me. He asked for me to undress and sit on the table. He continued to sit at his computer and work. I have never undressed while the doctor stays in the room. I was told about this before I moved to Brussels. I undressed to my undergarments and sat on the table. I left my goofy socks on, my underwear was not appropriate, and then my pits started sweating. I was so embarrassed, but the appointment was great. I was more prepared this last appointment. I waited in the sitting area, wore appropriate underwear, left the goofy socks at home and put extra deodorant on before I ran out the door. My pits still started sweating… Oh well.
I’m sure this will not be the end of funny happenings while living in Brussels. I will continue to share...most of them.
I enjoy putting little goodie boxes together for friends and family. If you have not received one, don’t be mad. Let me share what goes into these little boxes.
Speculoos cookies. I call these breakfast cookies, because they go so well with coffee. The first time we had Speculoos cookies was right after we moved to Brussels. Our hotel had a nespresso machine and next to the nespresso machine were speculoos cookies. Just because we are out of the hotel doesn’t mean I can’t still have a cookie with my coffee… I decided to place a jar full of Speculoos cookies next to our coffee maker. It makes me happy. It’s official in this house they are breakfast cookies.
The second item that goes into the box is the Belgian Cuberdon candy. These little candies are weird. Cuberdon’s are in grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, and coffee shops. They’re very popular in Belgium. There are many flavors to choose from, but I send the traditional flavor, which is raspberry. The candy is coned shaped. The Dutch call it Neus, which means nose. That’s funny. It’s chewy and does not have a strong raspberry flavor. Check out Belgian Cuberdon’s website for the history of the candy.
The last item placed in the box is chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but Galler Chocolatier or Neuhaus. Brussels has many chocolate shops and these two are our favorites! Last weekend when we went to the Galler Chocolatier shop we purchased a variety of chocolates. It’s really hard for me to have one piece of chocolate with out trying the others. So, I take a little bite of a few pieces when I want a piece of chocolate. Poor Adam, all of our chocolates have a bite missing from them. The amount of chocolate in this house in insane. I actually just gave Adam a huge bowl to take to work with him.
Too bad I couldn’t place a bottle of wine in the goodie box too. Everything listed goes great with red wine.
We decided to check out an antique market on Saturday at Place du Grand Sublon. Wow, some of the booths had some really nice things. We didn’t really prepare for the rain, but it didn’t stop us from looking at every booth. I’ve noticed Belgians don’t really let the rain stop them from going out. Today, I went to the market in the rain and didn’t bring an umbrella. The umbrella is more of a pain to open and shut every time I have to make a purchase. I don’t see many people using umbrellas, unless it’s raining really hard.
After the antique market we went to a couple of chocolate shops. I’m becoming very picky when it comes to chocolate. We tried Patrick Roger’s chocolate shop first. Wow, not only is this chocolate very good, but the chocolate art is so neat to see. I highly recommend going online and checking it out. Patrick uses chocolate as his sculpting material.
We also went into a Galler Chocolatier shop. This is my favorite chocolate in Brussels! I purchase Galler chocolate at least once a week from the grocery store. I had no idea there was a shop in Brussels. When we went inside I told the saleswoman all about my chocolate purchases since we moved here and that Galler is my favorite. The saleswoman gave us a complementary chocolate of our choice and then we created a chocolate box to purchase. Before we left the saleswoman added a few more complementary chocolates to our bag. Galler Chocolatier is the best! Another good chocolate shop I can’t forget to mention is Nehaus Chocolate. Oooh, that chocolate is really good.
Before lunch we decided to walk to the Musical Instruments Museum. The building itself is a sight to see. It’s an Art Nouveau building. The museum has a free audio guide. The guide needs no assistance. Once it’s near an instrument with an audio sign the audio guide automatically plays a song from that instrument. It’s a fun way to tour the museum. As we toured I saw some people dancing, tapping their feet, and smiling. Adam and I even danced a little with some of the music. At the top of the museum there is a restaurant. The restaurant has amazing views. We wanted to have a glass of champagne, but realized if we wanted a view we would have to dine. Otherwise we would be at the high-tops in the bar area with limited views. I’m putting this restaurant on my list of places to dine. We shall go back.
We were both getting hungry and decided it was time for lunch. Adam found a brewery that he wanted to go to. It’s called Delirium Tremens Brewery. Before we moved to Brussels, I was able to find some of their beers in World Market. What a fun brewery. Heads up if anyone plans to go here, they do not serve food. You can purchase a bag of chips, and little items like that, but no meals. After two delicious beers Adam and I were feeling pretty good. The alcohol content in beers here are a lot higher than standard beers in the US.
Just a few blocks away we were able to eat at O’Reilly’s Irish Pub. All the TV screens had Rugby on. I don’t understand anything about that game.
Going to go eat a piece of chocolate now. Cheers!
These last couple of weeks, I have been catching up with friends and family via email. As I was going back through these emails I thought, all this information should go on my blog. This post will not read smoothly, because I took a little bit of this and a little bit of that from each email.
Everything is going really well. This last week has been pretty low key. With everything that is going on in Brussels after the shootings in Paris, I have decided to stay around our neighborhood. Two arrests associated with the shootings in Paris were made 20 minutes from us.
I’m happy sticking around our neighborhood, because it’s super cute and has lots of little clothes shops, butcheries, cheese shops, restaurants and we have a fantastic farmers market on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday's.
Sales! So, sales do not happen here like they do back home. Brussels allows stores to have sales I think twice a year and January is one of them. For the whole month stores have had 30, 40 and 50% off their items. Interesting. I’m not sure when the next sale is.
One thing I really like here is we walk, walk, walk. I walk to the grocery store and bring my rolling basket. We walk to the shops, we walk to restaurants and if something is a bit out of the way we walk to the metro and then walk.
Today, I went to the butchery shop and had them ground lamb for me. It's a really nice shop that’s only two blocks away from where we live. I'm making Skillet Pastitsio. The recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen. It's an Italian pasta dish with tomatoes; broken up lasagna noodles, ground lamb and cream. We will have a salad and a fresh baguette from a bakery. Oh my goodness... The bread here is amazing. I was the one who tried to avoid eating bread while living in the US. Nope, threw that out the window as soon as we moved here. I literally have eaten the most croissants in my life, and I can't stop eating the bread. I will really miss the bread when we come back to the states.
I have been expanding my palate these last two months with a variety of foods. Next on my list is horse beef. I didn’t notice if they had it or not at the butchery shop. Horse beef is supposedly very popular around parts of Europe. I asked Adam if he would try it and he said, “Nope.” So, I guess I’ll have to order it at a restaurant. Cheval is how you say horse in French. Paard is how you say horse in Dutch.
We finally got our car! We purchased it over a month ago, but had to wait to get our registration before taking the car off the lot. Everything is a long process here. With purchasing the car before the holidays, it made it an even longer process. We purchased a Mini Cooper. It's called a Mini One D here. The D stands for Diesel. I finally picked it up last week, while Adam was at a conference in Norway. BEEP, BEEP! It's super fun to drive. Oh, yes and the driving here is a bit different. We had to take a driving course, which included two tests at the end. The signs are crazy! There are 156 of them.
Our building. I was excited to meet our neighbors after we moved in. I had this idea of becoming great friends with our Belgian neighbors. We would have them over for dinner; they would have us over for dinner. They would show us around the city, we would travel together and be friends forever. Well… come to find out there are no Belgians living in our building. People from Japan occupy the other five apartments. Last week one of our neighbors stopped by and gave us a gift. She was super sweet and we chatted at my doorway for a good ten minutes. She even mentioned that we were the only American’s in the building. That made me giggle. I hope to have the chance to get to know her a little more. I could see us hanging out and making our weekly trips to the market. She might become my best Belgian Japan neighbor friend.
Travel With Me Abroad
Hello to all. I’m very excited for the opportunity to share
my upcoming adventures through Themetrip. In the next couple of months my
husband and I will be starting a new chapter in our lives with our big move to
A little about the upcoming blog and myself:
I love food! While eating breakfast I’m already talking about dinner. I will be posting notes and pictures of where we dine, what we eat and sometimes what I cook.
I love adventures! With my husband being in the Navy, we have had and have the ability to visit and experience places all over the world. I will post about our travels and experiences while living in Belgium.