Bruges, Ypres, and the Last Post.

Wow. I’m finally getting around to writing this. Almost 3 weeks later! Well, at least it’s 3 weeks rather than almost 3 months late (Amsterdam). This post is dedicated to iamjoe over at the blog Dynamic Flux who asked me for a post on chocolate. While it may not be exactly what you were looking for, this along with the rest of the pics on Facebook do give quite a bit of information!

Sunday, October 16 2011.

Lucie and I are up, have breakfasted, and are out the door by…oh, it must have already been around 9am. The drive there was nice. Not too much traffic. I’d never driven in Northern Belgium before. I mean, I’d been up there, but it wasn’t me who drove ;). I missed the entrance to the parking garage the first time round, somehow that always happens. So I just drove around the square, took the round-a-bout again and this time we were golden. When we walked up from the garage, it was to find that the square we were in was mostly deserted. Then again, Sunday morning isn’t the busiest time of the week and from what I could gather this wasn’t a super busy area. There was a large fountain at the one end that we took a bunch of pictures of before moving on. We had a map, but didn’t really know which direction to go in. Finally we looked up and scanned the skyline. We saw a few peaks of buildings and decided to head in their directions.

Holy moly I'm actually here!

The biggest thing we saw was the Belfry in the Markt. Good thing to because that’s where we were originally headed. Again, the Markt wasn’t that busy. It was pretty full when we returned later in the day. There were some people in line for horse-drawn carriage rides, that could have been fun. There were also canal rides we could have gone on, but the line for those was super long and we had a schedule to keep to. So after hanging around in the Markt to take pictures we chose a side street at random and started walking. One of the first shops we encountered was a lace shop. Belgium is also famous for this lace so we had to go in. The women working there was very nice, let us take pictures, – they had an example of how the lace is made on display – and thankfully spoke English. Although, that’s not really a surprise because Bruges is a tourist town. Of course, up there they speak Flemish. Lucie and I both walked away with a purchase and I feel that the items were quite reasonably priced for homemade lace. For me I got a key chain with a lace H in side – a little tacky, I know, but it’s something I can use – and I got two other things, but they’re for gifts and in case the recipients are reading I don’t want them to know ;).

Such beauty and art. And all by hand.

Right beside the lace shop was a chocolate shop. Then another, and another, and oh my goodness it seemed like every second shop held chocolate and/or candy. We had been forewarned by Adeline, but even then I wasn’t expecting so many. I couldn’t help but take pictures of the yummy window displays. And on we walked. Every street and sidewalk was paved with cobblestones. This is a Medieval city after all. In fact because of its closeness to the sea and channels it became quite the trading hub. Between the 11th and 13th centuries it enjoyed considerable economic development thanks to its location at the ‘crossroads of Europe’. With the sanding over of the Zwin (a large channel used for the transportation of goods)  and the competition with the port of Antwerp, after the 15th century things slowed down in Bruges. It wasn’t until the 19th century with restoration and tourism management that Bruges once again became an important city and is now granted UNESCO world heritage status.*

Dude you want what? There's so much to choose from. What do I do? What do I do!!

I didn't know this was City Hall when I took the picture. Huh. It was built in 1376 and is situated in the burg (a square).

This is the burg with City Hall on the left and at back-left (attached to City Hall) is the Basilica of Saint Sang(the dark building with gold).The lower chapel was built in 1139 and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

As we walked we took many pictures – of the architecture, the waterways, the statues. We even got someone to take a picture of us together! We walked through a small tunnel and into another square and – quite by accident – located the City Hall and the Basilica of Saint Sang. I didn’t know it that day, I only just realized what those buildings were today as I was looking through my one guide-book. I remember taking a picture of what I now know to be the Basilica because it was so dark, ominous, and old-looking – truly Medieval (the lower chapel was built in 1139). We found a bench to sit on and proceeded to eat lunch. After lunch we continued on our way. Our goal was the Chocolate Museum. Yes, there is a chocolate museum. They even have free samples they give out. The things you didn’t know about chocolate! Okay, I’m sure some of you already knew these things, but I didn’t. I did know that in South American cocoa beans were a big deal. The first way that cocoa was consumed was in drink form. Hot, spicy, smooth. It wasn’t until Cortez and the Spanish came though that sugar was added. I know it’s commonly known that sugar comes from sugar cane, but did you know it also comes from sugar beets? I only found that out once I got here. This area of Belgium grows a whole lot of sugar beets. Now that they’ve been harvested you’ll pass by fields and see a long, high pile of sugar beets close the road waiting to get picked up and transported to the nearest factory. There’s one about 15 minutes from us. Holy sugar beets. Did you know that 10 cocoa beans would buy you a rabbit, and 100 beans would buy you a slave? They also had special cups for the drink – some even had a special tube you could blow in to create froth. They loved them some frothy cocoa drink. They also had this special ‘stir stick’  that would create froth. Cocoa was also used for medicinal purposes. And not just in South American either.Do you like froth in your hot chocolate?

Chocolate can do what?!

Napoleon was noted as saying that chocolate is good for one’s health and in the next turn he denied it all. It was a drink the wealthy partook of often, creating their own special mugs and saucers just for their chocolate drink.

Well if Napoleon said it's healthy, who am I to disagree?

Belgium is famous for its pralines. In 1912 after inheriting his father’s chocolate business Jean Neuhaus – an expensive, but oh so good chocolate store – created the Belgian praline. First it was a hazelnut coated in chocolate and then a little filled chocolate cup. Leonidas is also a chocolate shop you see around in Belgium. Leonidas Kestekidès was a Greek who lived in the United States and then fell in love with a Belgian women before settling in Belgium and opening up a tearoom and the Leonidas company.

Even the jungle animals are crazy for coca beans! By the way...before this I didn't know that cocoa beans were found in those pods. And someone in this museum must really love LEGO because there were little models EVERYWHERE!

There were many plaques like this one including the answers to the questions 'does chocolate make you fat?' or 'does chocolate give you cavities?' See them all in the full FB album!

At the end we entered into an area that was full of statues made entirely from chocolate. There was even one of Barack Obama. At the end of this area was a chocolate demonstration and then you were finished – but not before walking through the shop part of the museum.

Yes. Those are entirely made/carved of chocolate. Eat your heart out. ^_^

Then it was on to the French Fry museum! Again, potatoes come from South America before making their way to North America and Europe. Potatoes, like chocolate, are also known for their healing effects. For example raw potato juice is incredibly soothing (said a plaque, it wasn’t me). Also, you can eat as many potatoes as you want – they don’t make you fat, it’s all the sauce and gravy you eat with them ;).

Why French Fries are called French Fries. Now you know.

Have you ever wondered why the fries in Belgium are so yummy? Well, you might if you were here eating them :P. I will tell you why. There are a combination of reasons – the appropriate variety of potato is cooked with the appropriate variety of cooking fat, they are often freshly peeled and cut, they are cooked in unrefined beef tallow and sometimes mixed with horse fat (ummm…), and the fries are cooked in two separate phases. I’ve noticed that. When you go to a Fritterie you will see a pile of fries sitting on a ledge above the cooking area. I was curious about that until going to this museum. They are cooked for a little while and then placed up here. Then when there’s an order they take the appropriate amount and toss them back in the cooking fat to finish them off. This makes them tastier and cuts down on customer wait times. Clever huh?

When we finished up there we set out again, intending to head back to the Markt, but we ended up going tin the wrong direction and were going out of the city centre – the old part. So we got set straight and found our way back to a chocolate shop so Lucie could buy some chocolates. Then it was on our way to Ypres, the In Flanders Fields Museum, and the playing of the Last Post. The cloth industry was a the main contributing factor in the rapid growth of Ypres in the 12th Century. The cloth halls were built in 1260 (the IFFM is located here). They were destroyed in WWI, but rebuilt in the old style. The large Menin Gate is a monument to the 54,896 British soldiers who died in combat.* Their names are carved on the walls. Canada was still considered to be British during this time. Although, after the battle of Vimy Ridge it started to gain recognition as its own country. More on that in my post on Vimy Ridge.

The In Flanders Fields Museum takes you through some history behind Ypres, detailed information about the war itself and why Ypres, what the German’s objectives were, and so much more. You also get a card at the beginning that you put into information stations and it gives you info on a specific person involved in the war at Ypres. I got an American nurse. I missed the last info station because the museum was closing. So we kind of had to rush through the end, but at least we got to see it. The museum is actually closing November 31 to expand. It’s quite the place already. In one area they had a raised platform with clear plastic columns. In these columns were different gas masks. The lights would be off and there was a reading of the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. Then there was a reading of a letter written by a soldier (I’m pretty sure) and as he described the war zone and the gas attacks the columns would light up and you could see the gas. It was very eerie. There was also a section dedicated to the telling of how on Christmas 1915 or ’16 (I’m so sorry I can’t remember!) there was an unofficial truce between enemies. How both sides travelled into No Man’s Land to shake hands, wish the other a Merry Christmas, and share things like sausages. The conditions the men had to face here are unbelievable. Belgium usually gets a lot of rain, but during these battles there was more than normal and a lot of things went missing in the mud (including horses). And the psychological damage…it’s a wonder anyone managed to come back and lead normal lives.

Unfortunately we didn't think to take a picture before it got dark so it's not the best quality.

Here are the rebuilt Cloth Halls now home to the In Flanders Fields Museum.

This is either Ypres of Passendale. Can you imagine? I certainly can't.

At 8pm every single night there is a gathering of people at the Menin Gate. They place flowers, read something to those gathered, play the Last Post, and have a moment of silence. I can’t remember what they recited because I couldn’t hear it (I’m pretty sure it was in English though). There was never a moment of real silence which bugged me. Even as packed as the area was it was definitely possible. There was a school group from the UK there. Teenagers. Unfortunately the one’s near us were quite disrespectful. Not all (I don’t want to generalize), but a lot. And pushy too. The kept wanting to see. Well, there wasn’t much to see as it was dark and I think the point is more about listening. Lucie and I were right up against the chain you have to stay behind and we were both being pushed so much we almost fell over. If I wouldn’t have had boots on I think I would have had bruised shins. So that was a little frustrating and disappointing, but I’m glad we got to experience it.

I have to mention this even though I forgot earlier. For supper that night I had fish and chips. I haven’t had fish and chips in ages! I’m really picky when it comes to this dish because I don’t like it when there’s too much batter on the fish because it ends up being all gooey instead of crispy. Plus I’ve only started to like fish in the last few years. My favourite place to eat fish and chips back home is a restaurant called Joey’s Only. So good. And in Ypres, oh my goodness, I was very happy with my choice. Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum ^_^.

So all in all it was quite the busy day! 3 museums, 2 cities, and really good company. I’m just sorry it took me so long to post about it.

*taken from my book The Best of Belgium.

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And if you look to your left you’ll see….hey, where’d it go?

This morning it was back to routine. Except instead of cereal for breakfast we had cake again. Lucie and I made sure we were ready to go, and after dropping Sylvain off we made our way to Waterloo. I told her she would be able to get pictures of the Butte de Lion (the big hill with the lion statue) from the road as we drove up. Normally this is true. Today was so foggy that you couldn’t see it until we were practically right underneath it. So she didn’t really get great pictures of it. Our plan was to just go and take a look-see, not to climb up or anything. This was just as well because we wouldn’t have been able to see anything once we got to the top anyway.

Then it was on to the 2nd part of our agenda; pictures with a Waterloo town sign. These were highly successful. Lucie even managed to get one on her camera of both of us. Well, all three of us, Freddy was there too of course. This was in fact his first time to Waterloo. You gotta love timers on cameras. The problem was finding a stable spot on the car and then her getting back  to the sign in time. We had fun, but I bet the drivers coming into town wondered what the heck we were doing/why we were taking pictures with the sign. Or maybe they’re used to odd tourists….

Then we headed to a grocery store where we picked up some chocolate for Lucie’s friends and family that would survive being mailed home. We also mailed her postcards from the store. We couldn’t mail the chocolate because they didn’t have any boxes. The guy who showed us where the post are was, was nice. He asked if he could help us and I tried to explain, but temporarily forgot the word for stamps, but we figured it out. I explained we were Canadian and he said ‘oh Canadians are nice people’. ^_^ Yes, yes we are. Although you really can’t be universal like that. Actually, that makes me think of a Weird Al song – Canadian Idiot – where some of the lines are: ‘break their nose and they’ll just say sorry. Tell me what kind of freaks are that polite? Gotta mean they’re all up to something. Quick, before they see it coming. Time for a preemptive strike *cue missile drop noise here*. I think that song is hilarious. I laugh every time at the stereotypes he lays out. In case you don’t know or didn’t guess from the title, it’s to the tune of Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’.

After that it was home, but not before picking up some bread for lunch. After lunch we just did our own thing. Lucie had some more bookings to make with trains and hostels and things so she did that while I started doing blog catch up. I also got a text today saying that class was cancelled because Madame Colette is sick.

Tomorrow we’re going to get up pretty early to make sure we’re all ready. Then I’ll go about my usual routine before stopping at the bakery (it was closed today, but I really want to take Lucie), dropping Sylvain off, and then heading to France! I’m already so tired – maybe it’s all the driving in the last two days? – so I’m pretty sure Wednesday I’m going to go right back to bed after seeing everybody off. I’m definitely going to be putting on my glasses to drive home tomorrow night. My eyes are still burning from wearing my contacts all day yesterday :(.

Even though I’m going to be so tired from doing about 6.5 hours (round trip with trip from Memorial to nearby town with train station) of driving, I’m so excited! We don’t actually have a lot planned and what is planned shouldn’t even take up half of our allotted time. Maybe when we’re there we’ll find something else we want to do, who knows.

A foggy day in *Waterloo* town! Had me low (not really), had me down (not at all!). 😀

                                                                                                                    

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What a day!

Today was packed full of stuff. I’m exhausted! I’ll give a short list of what we did so you know what to look forward to tomorrow (I hope).

8:30am: Leave Wasseiges for Bruges

10:14am: Arrive in Bruges. Find our way to the Markt (Market Square). Found a lace shop right away (so pretty!) and from there, chocolate shop after chocolate shop after chocolate shop. Wandered around this beautiful Medieval city before finding a nice park bench to sit and eat our lunch. Then we went to the chocolate museum and the fry museum. After that we got lost, then we found our way back to the Markt so Lucie could buy some chocolate. Then it was back to the parking lot and on our way to Ypres (Iepers in Flemish).

4:40pm: Arrive in Ypres, try to find parking. Manage to find a spot. Search for the In Flanders Fields museum because we only have until 5 to get tickets. Go the wrong way. Find another museum and get pointed in the right direction. Find the IFFM and are let in just before they close the doors. End up missing the tail end of the museum because they close at 6 and we just took to long looking at/reading all the other stuff! Found a place to have supper. Had fish and chips (me). Was very pleased. So far in Canada the only battered fish I like is from the Joey’s Only restaurant chain. This was so good tonight! Walk around for a bit, wanted to get an ice cream of something, but the shop was closed by the time we were done supper.

7:30pm: We decided to make our way to the gate, which was close, but we went anyway. Good thing we did. Lucie saved our spot and I went to take some pictures of the gate from the entrance outside the city centre. There was a group (maybe school) from the UK. They were pushing, shoving, talking, just being all around disrespectful. Even during the moment of silence. Not cool. Plus we were right against the chain which rested just below our knees and we thought we were going to get pushed over. Lucie got some video of the Last Post being played (just sound, the picture is really dark). There was also the laying down of wreaths. So it was a mini Remembrance Day ceremony – they do this every single night at 8pm. It was really cool, but my feet were sore and I was being pushed in to the chain so I was a bit grumpy. Darn kids. I don’t think they really got what was going on. They would have been high school age I think.

10:30pm: Arrive in Wasseiges. What a day. Got some awesome pictures and some not so awesome (quality) pictures. Some interesting facts about chocolate and fries. I’ll have a bit of time tomorrow, but maybe not enough to really do today justice, so you might have to wait till later in the week. I feel like Wednesday I’m going to be writing the posts for today and Tuesday, ha ha.

Today was also my first time driving in the Flemish/Flanders region of Belgium. I’ve been up there once, but I didn’t drive. The difference was just familiarity. I’ve come to realize just how familiar I am with certain stretches of certain highways here. So a very satisfying – and tiring – day.

                                                                                                                      

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Namur Citadel and homemade Liege waffles

We met Jean and his brother Charles-Antoine at Jean’s apartment in Namur. He made us tacos (soft shell) and for dessert homemade gauffres de Liège! They were very tasty, and so filling. I want to bring home a box or two of the sugar clumps that go in them. Then all we have to do is get a waffle iron and we’re set! We were going to try to have a Brussels waffle at one point, but Jean told us they are very similar to the ‘Belgian waffles’ served in Canada; light, fluffy, with ice cream, toppings, and sauce. It was his first time making them and I’d say they turned out great!

After eating we drove over to the Citadel of Namur. It’s huge, the biggest in Belgium and probably one of the biggest in Europe. It’s sort of a self-guided/walk through type thing, but I think if you wanted you can get a guided tour. The building that housed the barracks is used for parties and the like. I got some awesome pictures, but there was one really big problem; I forgot Freddy! I know, shame on me, how is that even possible? It was too bad, I could have gotten some good pictures with him.

Jean did a really good job of being our tour guide. He knows a lot about it. My Dad found this empty room (that apparently is normally shut) and decided to explore. There was an old staircase apparently leading to some tunnels. You had to be careful because there was only a railing on the length of the stairs and a smaller one in another spot, but there was a small section with no railing and it was dark in there. Well, Dad and Lisa went exploring. For a while. We didn’t have that much time so we had to try to call them back so we could continue. Eventually we got to the point with the barracks and Dad and Jean continued on up while Lisa, Mom, and I waited. Dad would have gotten pictures but I haven’t seen them yet. On our way back Lisa went ahead and went the way we came. The rest of us went a different way. Then we met up and headed for the car. It’s a nice place to just walk around, all big and roomy. Maybe have a picnic up there. ^_^

Sorry, I’m a little distracted. Lisa and I are talking and I’ve got music playing in the background (everything from Creedence Clearwater Revival, to Jessie J, to the song ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’, and so on) which if you read one of my previous posts, you’ll know is no good for me. So this is turning into a really odd post.

We actually did a little grocery shopping this morning. Mostly for chocolate (ie, Chokotoffs), yummy ^_^. Mom and Dad are in Antwerp tonight visiting Greet, and exchange student that stayed with a family in New Dundee that we know. She’s expecting a baby soon and my Mom brought some gifts.

I really need to go to bed, especially since I’ve taken way too long to write this short post. I’m sorry there’s not more detail, but, if you remember my pictures from Dinant it’s the same sort of thing, but different. It’s made of stone and was used to defend the city. It shares a river with Dinant (and many other places from France to the Netherlands!), and it high up! Ok. I’m super tired which translates into giddy which turns into really sloppy blog post that doesn’t make much sense :P.

Good night.

St. Valentin

What a lovely day for love. It rained. Almost all day…

Not that I really take much notice of Valentine’s Day per se, but in class today we talked about it, the history, how to say ‘I love you’ ‘j’ai taime’ in a bunch of different languages and got some chocolate. So that was a plus. I guess I really only spent any time thinking about it when I was in school. You know how in elementary school you have to make those heart-shaped pouches and valentine’s for everyone in your class and you fill up the pouches. That was fun. One year at Laurier I bought some candy grams for some friends (unless my brain is short circuiting and I dreamed that I did this) for either Valentine’s Day or Christmas. That’s about as much as I’ve ever done for Valentine’s Day.

I hope everyone had a great day, and not just because you could’ve received flowers and/or chocolate or maybe a stuffed bear.  ❤

One Month!

Last night I was up rather late. I went online to write my blog (not intending to do anything else), but one thing led to another, I answered some emails and then next thing I know it’s 2:18am and I’ve just spent the last couple hours watching music videos on YouTube. I say, Lady Gaga’s music seems normal, but then you watch the music videos and you’re thinking ‘what the heck is she on?!’. I mean sure, she’s very artistic and creative and ‘theatrical’ (according to Glee), but I’m being honest when I say that sometimes you can go a little over the top. But hey, the world needs a few people like that so the rest of us feel normal. I’m not dissing Lady Gaga, there are some of her songs I really like listening to. I’m just being observant and voicing an opinion.

I thought staying up would be ok because I could sleep in today, but I ended up getting up to go to Little Gym with Bastien and Adeline. Today was the end of a cycle and their was a show where family could come in and watch what the kids do every week (like they do with dance classes) and take pictures and things. Normally it’s just one parent per kid in the room. I didn’t have to go, but I thought it would be neat. So I have a bunch of pictures and some video. It’s a really neat place where the kids can be active in a safe environment (with lots of padding) and try out mini gymnastic type things. They also have this big circle pad where they put the kids on it on their stomachs and roll them towards another pad. When the get there, they help the kids do a somersault onto the pad on the floor. It looked like fun! They sang some songs and even had one of those big parachute things that are great to play with in groups. At the end of the parachute section they had the kids go underneath it and when all the kids were supposed to leave from underneath, there was Bastien trying to stick his head out of the center hole. I don’t have a picture of it, but I have it on video! Bastien even let me take his picture with his diploma. Now he will move up an age group and go at a later time.

Let’s travel back in time for a minute shall we:

Flashback to April 1997.

Some of you might know/remember the story of how when Jean-Go’s family came to visit the year he lived with us we went to Medieval Times in Toronto and someone (I can’t remember who, I was 10) won a blue teddy bear and gave it to Lisa. This is the one time I remember actually throwing a temper-tantrum. I know it happened more than once, but this is the one time I remember. I wanted a bear too! Yes, I admit, I am somewhat ashamed at my behaviour. Oh well. So when we took them to the airport Jean-Go’s Dad and younger brother disappeared for a while. When they came back they handed me a beanie panda bear and Charles (Jean’s brother) told me his name was Freddy. I remember playing with that bear a lot. I even took it to school and when my friends and I built small forts in the snow, I put the panda in them. I still have him. I actually brought him with me.

End flashback

This is the story of Freddy the Sleeping (now he’s awake!) Panda. So remember how I was saying (yesterday I believe) how Bastien likes to go on ‘trips’ with his backpack-on-wheels and he likes me to go with him with my suitcase? Well, he wanted to do that again today. So when we were in my room getting my suitcase he went and got Freddy. He had gotten him earlier when we were playing as well and I had put him (the bear) in one of my hoodie pockets. So Bastien tried to do that, but he didn’t have any pockets! So he told me to put him in my pocket again. Thus starts the funny part of the story. He decided that Freddy needed to have a nap so he took the bear and put him in my bed. Lying on his back of course (he corrected me when I put Freddy on his stomach). Then Bastien pulled up the covers (and now for something REALLY CUTE), gave him a little kiss and said good night (and good nap), just as if he was putting a little kid to bed. Then as we left he had me dim the light. Bastien closed the door, started walking into the library and then stopped! Freddy was awake! So he went up to the door and said ‘tok tok’ (knock knock) Bonjour Freddy, opened it (had me turn up the lights) and went to get the bear. He brought Freddy back out with him (but not before pulling my covers back up, so thoughtful) and got the library again and decided it was time for Freddy to sleep. This happened at least 10 times, I’m sure of it, and he never got very far (sometimes only a few steps) before he would take Freddy back into my room and put him back to bed or go and get him when he was ‘asleep’. Sometimes Freddy was crying, sometimes he wasn’t. Bastien would always talk to Freddy very nicely, and give a kiss before leaving. I couldn’t stop laughing (silently of course), it was cute and so funny. It was funny because he did it so many times and because he never got very far before he was back either waking him up or putting him to bed. It was adorable. Actually, I think Freddy is still in my bed right now :D. He’ll have to go back to his place on the nightstand tonight though, I sleep alone :).

During this time two of Adeline’s friends were over. One I met at the wine and cheese party and the other I just met today. Both are very, very nice. And for the occasion Adeline picked up a tarte sucre (sugar cake) from the bakery. Very tasty. We had hot chocolate as well and fruit.

Also today is my 1 month anniversary of my arrival in Belgium! And I haven’t missed a day of blogging yet, go me! And I guess I have this strange obsession with ‘!’ marks. I just get so excited!! 😀


Wine and Cheese Party

Last night was the much-anticipated Wine and Cheese Birthday Party! While I spent quite a bit of time off to the side by myself (I was feeling a little under the weather and I still don’t speak enough French to understand all the conversation!), I still had a great time.

I made a fruit salad all by myself…I know this isn’t hard and all I did was cut up the fruit, but for me it is a step in the right culinary direction! And on Friday I helped Adeline make an olive cake, but I didn’t have any because I don’t like olives >_<. Before I put him to bed, I took a lot of time taking care of Sylvain. Greg thanked me because that left him and Adeline free to socialize (he explained to me earlier that they don’t get to see all of their friends regularly because they all live an hour away) and I was happy to do it. It’s really nice when you get time with your friends who you haven’t seen in a while. Everyone was really nice and I met the couple who we are going to the sea with in June.

On to the cheese! There was so much! And I actually have no idea what they were all called and I didn’t try all of them, but I tried about, hmmm, 5 or 6 different flavours. One thing to say about Belgian cheese is that it is a lot stronger than our cheese at home (or at least the cheese I’m used to eating). It tastes so real, less chemicals. I know for sure that I do not like goat cheese. I’ve tried it 3 times now and I don’t like it. It’s like when I gave foie gras a second chance – nope – don’t like it at all. The other cheeses were good, but I think it’s going to take a little time for me to get used to them and to really like them. They’re a lot stronger than I’m used to. We also had a cheese pie which smelled like feet but tasted really good! That’s another thing about real cheese…some of it smells nasty, but you have to ignore that and just eat it!  We also had fresh bread from the boulangerie (bakery) down the street and grapes. You can’t have a wine and cheese party without grapes! I didn’t actually have that much wine. I’m not really a fan, but I will try it some times. Also, when I do drink it I prefer White, but Greg says that with cheese you drink Red. I also had a little bubbles to drink (remember, it’s not champagne if it doesn’t come from Champagne France!).

For me, the best part of the night was the dessert! From the bakery we got two fruit pies (cherry and apple with almonds) and two mousse cakes (chocolate and speculoos –> a typical Belgian cinnamon cookie).

Chocolate:

Speculoos:

And then we got to blow out the candles! Ready Greg?

1 – 2 – 3!

MAKE A WISH!


CHOCOLATE!

Just as a note, today was a good day. Also HAPPY BIRTHDAY GREG!

I forgot to mention something of crucial importance in yesterday’s post, I can’t believe I did that. When we were shopping in Louvain-la-Neuve yesterday Adeline took me to this little chocolate shop called Neuhaus. They have an amazing selection and of course we all know how good Belgian chocolate is! The man working picked out an assortment of different kinds (Adeline bought me some for my birthday, she is spoiling me! But I shared, don’t worry :D) and I’ve spent last night and today trying them and making notes. They have this booklet type thing with all their chocolates, pictures, names, and descriptions. So I circled all the one’s that were in my bag and then checked the one’s I would definitely buy again, and marked the other one’s as being good, but not my favourite. I mean, of course they were all very tasty, but some I just liked better than others. Another great thing about Belgian chocolate (as if you’d need any reason to eat it other than it being from Belgium) is the surplus of hazelnuts in most of it. I LOVE hazelnuts in chocolate. So I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with these treats, but I know I can’t buy them all the time. Mom, I won’t spend all my money on chocolate, don’t worry. ^_^

Now, for those of you who have been following my blog, or who read my New Year’s Eve post, here is the menu from that evening:

Appetizers:
– Wrap rolls stuffed with goat cheese, garden rocket, sun-dried tomatoes and prosciutto  – these were tasty 🙂
– Foie gras toasts with “fleur de sel” and onion confit – not so much a fan…duck liver really isn’t my thing apparently 😦
– Spoons with pan-fried black pudding on a bed of apple dice – not bad, not bad 🙂
– Mini croissants stuffed with leek and diced bacon – Awesome! 😀
– Variety of dim-sum – …I can’t seem to remember this….

Variety of dishes:
– Smoked salmon salad with avocado, pink peppercorn and lime juice – I didn’t really like this. I wasn’t able to finish it, I like my salmon steamed. 😦
– Lobster Bisque – This wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t my favourite. Maybe Dad and Lisa would like it because of the lobster!
– Scallop kebab with vanilla flavoured mashed parsnip – Again, seafood. It didn’t really have much of a taste for me, but the texture was interesting. I don’t often eat scallops.
– duck breast with mango dice and fresh mint – This was good! The duck’s liver I can do without, but the way the meat was cooked was very, very good. The mango was different because of the mint, but still ok. 😀
– Canadian meat pie – This was good too! Adeline made it. It’s a dish out of Quebec. 😀

Desert:
– Passion fruit bavarois with raspberry coulis – Yum! 😀
– Chocolate truffles – Do I even need to comment? 😀 😀 😀
– Choclate-iced éclairs stuffed with vanilla custard – 😀
– Javanais —————\
– Merveilleux ———– I can’t remember which one I had, but I’m sure they were all delicious!
– Lemon cream pie —–/

Drinks:
– Margarita cocktail – I found out I’m not a fan of margarita’s….Let’s just say at first I was not expecting the salt…
– Pouilly-Fumé (Loire) Les Terres Blanches 2009 (white wine, to go with fish) – This was good even though I’m not really a wine person.
– Mercurey (Bourgogne) 1er Cru Clos L’Evêque 2007 (red wine, to go with meat) – I didn’t actually have any of this.
– Bulles Pour Elle/Lui (Belgium) Methode Traditionnelle 201 – I  had the Bubbles for Her. It was good.

So, that’s what I had on New Year’s Eve. Jean was happy I tried everything and didn’t mind if I didn’t want to finish something, which was very nice and understanding of him. The main course was all made of things that they only have on special occasions, so for everyone at the table it was a real treat!

Thank you all for tuning in. I hope you have a great day and an awesome weekend! (I know I will ;))

Belgian…Beer?

Yes that’s right. You all thought that Belgium was most known for its chocolate (which, I guess, at least in Canada, it is), but what you might not know is that it’s also known for its beer. Jean-Go tells me that there are about 1000 different types of beer here. It’s served cold and each type/flavour/whatever has its own glass. I tried one tonight and it was actually quite good! It definitely went down easier than the beer at home. The beer was called Troll. The best way to drink it (and all beer) is in a glass. My glass had the Troll logo on it. And no, I wasn’t at a restaurant or a bar, this was at home. Greg told me that Belgians usually all have a favourite kind and just drink that. I guess it might take me a while to find mine! Jean-Go also says that each beer actually has its own temperature that it tastes best at. Obviously because you can’t have a fridge set to different temperatures, they’re all just the same cold. I also had wine with dinner last night, white wine. We had lots of cheese as well! More to come on wine and cheese around January 15.

Today they took me Louvain-la-Neuve, a university city about 30 minutes away from my new home town of Wasseiges. We walked by the only Subway that Adeline knows of in Belgium. They said that the only fast food chains from North America are Subway and McDonald’s, but there’s a Belgian chain that is quite good (although I can’t remember the name. I’ll get back to you on that). This city is only about 30 (?) years old, and was basically built around the University. It is only in the last little while that the number of regular citizens out numbers the number of students living there (sort of remind anyone of Waterloo with the two Universities?). Anyway, we went to the mall there (which is also the only large size mall around for a while) and I bought shoes! They’re really cute. I wanted the black one’s, but there were none in my size so I went for the tan. Before going to the mall, Adeline, Sylvain, and I stopped at her other brother’s house. That’s Charles, he’s the one that gave me the panda beanie toy when he was in Canada….almost 14 years ago! I met his wife and they were both very, very nice.

I also played with Bastien for a while today (which was hard because of the language barrier). He’s the most articulate 2.5 year old I know! I feel like he might think I’m ignoring him when he talks to me, because of course, he doesn’t understand that I don’t speak the same language as him….yet! He has the most amazing laugh.

So, to end, while France has amazing wine, Belgium has great beer! So does Germany, but I hear they drink theirs warm and I don’t know if I could handle that. (Greg was very adamant that cold beer is the only way to go…having only had Canadian beer cold or semi-warm, I have to agree). Also, having tried one kind of Belgian beer (and I’m sure I’ll be able to try many more), Canadian beer will be lost on me. Not that that’s a bad thing or that I drank that much in the first place. Don’t worry, I’m not going to drink that much. One, once in a while isn’t all that bad, and I’m experiencing culture!

 

Well, I guess that’s it for today. A few firsts, there will be many more.

Signing off,

Holly

                                                                                                                                      

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