Monday, May 30, 2011

My Belgian Birthday

All I wanted for my bday was: Waffles, Chocolate, Beer, Fries, Music, Sun, and to celebrate with FRIENDS

Yesterday was my birthday and Brussels organized a huge weekend festival for me: The Jazz Marathon. There was over 100 free concerts in the public squares outdoors  and inside clubs across the city. Ok, maybe it wasn’t all for me, but it was perfect way to spend my birthday.

My birthday always falls on/near the Memorial Day holiday weekend so I’ve gotten used to celebrating it over a few days. Now Belgium does not celebrate Memorial Day, but I was still able to spread the celebration across Saturday and Sunday to make it last longer.

Saturday evening I met a group at one of the outdoor squares for the Jazz Marathon. We were so close to the Marcolini chocolcate shop I had to stop in and get some. Marcolini is said to be one of the best chocolate shops in the world and it's located right in Brussels! Unfortunately the prices are not really student-budget friendly so I hadn't been there before. If you're wondering, normal sized chocolate bars run about 9€ ($14)! So this definitely was just going to be a little tasting, we got 5 little pieces of chocolate (each about the size of a key on the computer) for 2.70€ ($4). My choice was dark chocolate with citron (lemon) which is my new favorite.

After the chocolates, we headed to another square where the band did Michael Jackson songs! It was such a fun night singing to his 70s and 80s hits and listening to the group's French monologues between each song.

On the way back to the train station we stopped at a waffle shop and had a Brussels waffle. The Brussels waffle is the same as the Belgian waffles we usually have for breakfast in the USA. (Note: it’s not my favorite that is the Liege waffles with the crystallized sugar inside.)

On Sunday I was back in Brussels at the big square – Grand Place. We arrive just as the music was starting at 3pm and since the sun was so warm, we just sat there for hours. Sitting there in the sun I had my Belgian beer & fries.

It really was such a nice relaxing weekend and I had a GREAT time with my friends. I’m not sure where I’ll be next year on my bday, but I will always remember my big 31.

But if I do happen to forget where I was, here’s my birthday picture in front of the Manneken Pis (thanks for the idea Grandma Irene!).

See you later!

PS. View all the pics online by clicking HERE.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I love Paris in the springtime.

Paris is lovely in the springtime. As you may remember I spent one day there in March and I vowed to return again, well over Easter break I did. I went there with a few classmates and fell in love with the city.
The temp was 25C (~80F) and there were people out everywhere! The parks and the streets were filled with people. Actually, every place I went to was filled with people. So many people that the queues outside the Louvre and at the Eiffel Tower were hours long. I decided that I didn’t go to Paris to wait in line and I vowed (once again) to return. I think I’ll never go up the Eiffel Tower because when I do, I’ll probably saw now I’ve done it all in Paris and I don’t need to return. L

Even though I didn’t do the “big ticket” items I did get around and see the city.

I went to the Eiffel Tower at night and took a boat tour. (I had a lot of fun playing with my new camera this trip!)

I went to the early Easter mass at Notre Dame and it turned up that it was a special mass for the Boy Scouts. The place was packed and I had to sit on the floor. (I thought of you Katey & Mark!)

An alumnus from last year’s class and fellow American invited us over for Easter brunch – THANKS AGAIN ROB (I’m so upset I forgot to take a pic of the event!). The menu was a mix of the best of USA, France & Belgium: French toast, crepes, mimosas, jello shots, can o’ cheese and chocolate fondue. Delicious!  Similar to my new Thanksgiving Tequilla tradition - I think I will have to make Easter jello shots next year. I wonder if mom still has those jello egg molds?

After brunch we took a hike up to the Sacré Cœur for amazing views of the city. We found ourselves in a swarm of people which was far worse than being at the mall on a Saturday afternoon!

Later that night a few of us went to Bar Hemingway at the Ritz. This small bar was a hang of Hemingways and was named after him. To say this place was exclusive is an understatement; I’m surprised they didn’t kick us out. Cocktails here ranged from expensive to really expensive to extremely expensive (one was 500 = $750).  We each ordered one drink and took about 3 hours to drink it, just to get our money’s worth!  Drinks for ladies come with a rose I guess Hemingway sure knew how to treat a woman.

This brings me to my last day in Paris. Easter Monday is a holiday and I found out too late that the museum I really wanted (d’Orsay) was closed but we found l’Orangerie open that’s home to Monet’s water lilies collection. I was shocked to discover that these paintings are huge and so much more beautiful than the pics in a book.

Before I left Paris I set out to find the Statue of Liberty Replica…or the Statue of Liberty. It was an item marked on my tourist map and I wanted to see it for myself. Here it is!
It’s 1/5th the size of the original and faces her bigger sister to the west in NYC.

So these are my highlights from Easter in Paris 2011. I apologize that this post is longer than normal, but as you can see there is just so much to do in Paris. The first time I visited the City of Lights it was for 1 day, this time it was for 3 days, next time I think I’ll need to spend a week there. Hopefully I can fit that in before the end of the school year!

Au revoir!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Home sweet home

Well it’s about time I show you my little studio. While I wanted to show it to you months ago, I never quite got around to it. There are many reasons you haven’t seen it before, either I was too busy with school, off travelling somewhere, or my place was just a mess. Yesterday when I was grocery shopping I picked up a 6 pack of TP and I realized, this may be my last purchase of TP in Leuven. Who knew TP would bring on so many memories?!?!?
So there’s no time like now to share with you pics from the place I have called home for the past 8 months.

When first arrived in Leuven I walked around with a classmate for 2 days looking at studios. There were some that were so small I don't know if an adult would fit and some were so unpractical with a shower in the kitchen. My most favorite one though was one we never saw. We saw the Mt Everest stairway and said, no not worth it. After all those, I found this stuido: ground floor, near shopping, grocery and laundry.

Bedroom area
Fridge, office and dining area

Living area

Kitchen area with bathroom door open

As you can see it's not that big and the kitchen is essentially in a pass through to the bathroom. But it's home. Some weeks I was on campus from breakfast through dinner so I really didn't need much more than this. There are only 2 things I really wished I had - an oven and a freezer. But if you can find that in a studio in Leuven you're lucky.

My large things were provided by my landlord - bed, closet, desk, & table. And I was able to buy many things from last years student's (lamps, storage drawers, ironing board). Everything else was purchased in 2 mega trips to Ikea.

And that's it, this is my home. While I do love it, I definately hope my next place is bigger and has interior walls. :)

Happy Sunday everyone! See you later!