Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Belgium: The Coast and Brugge

Last week after our visitors left, I knew we needed to get away for a few days because 1. Hannah was off school for the half-term break, and 2. We tend to mope around the house for days after visitors leave.

It’s pathetic, really.

So, while Shawn zipped into work for a few hours to finish some things up, I packed our bags.  My morning was slightly thrown off, however, when I realized that I’d been bitten by a tick and wasn’t able to reach it to safely remove it by myself and ended up at the doctor’s office. 
But that’s a story for another day…

When Shawn got home from work, we set off.
We drove three hours to a little coastal town in Belgium called Oostend. 
This was the first time we’ve been to the North Sea.

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We rode up and down the boardwalk on this bicycle for four.  Shawn and I pedaled and the kids rode up front.  I felt like we were part National Lampoons and part Willy Wonka.

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This is how Finley rode most of the time.  He loves the wind on his face.

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The next day we went to Brugge, a picturesque little town that’s known as the Venice of the North because there are lots of canals.  Most of the town has been unchanged since the 16th century, so there’s much history to be learned.  I’ve been wanting to visit Brugge since we moved to Luxembourg, and I’m not sure why we waited so long.

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We had booked a bicycle tour through the town, but when we arrived we were told that it had been cancelled for “lack of interest.”  I said, “Well, we’re interested.”  That was a no-go so we did the next best thing: a carriage ride.

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The belfry is the most famous landmark in Brugge, with a narrow, windy staircase that goes all the way to the top.  Shawn read in our tour book that the belfry slants slightly to one side.  Hannah was concerned.
“Is it going to fall over?” she asked.
”Well, it’s been standing for about 700 years, so probably not today,” Shawn told her.

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Once she was assured that the tower wasn’t going to fall, she and I climbed all 366 stairs to the top.
When we looked over the edge, she said, “Oh wow!  You can see the whole of Brugge from here.”

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There’s no way anyone would want to carry a baby all the way up those winding stairs, so Finley and Shawn waited for us at the bottom. 

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Next we went to Church of our Lady to see Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child.  This is his only sculpture that left Italy during his lifetime.

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m not crazy about European chocolate.  I know.  I think, however, that there’s some kind of law or something saying that one simply cannot go to Belgium without eating ALL THE CHOCOLATE.  So, I decided to put aside my chocolate biases and expand my chocolate palate. 
After visiting about six shops and tasting the samplings, we stumbled on this gem:

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It’s a precious little family run business that had the best caramel/chocolate pralines ever.  We bought a box, and embarrassingly, they didn’t last much past the drive home.

So if you’re planning a few days away in Belgium, rent a family bike, climb the belfry and taste all the chocolates. 

You won’t be disappointed.

I promise.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

That Time We Had Teenagers at Our House

Last week we had some visitors here in Luxembourg.  Shawn’s cousin and his college roommate/BFF were spending the first part of their summer break traveling around Europe and our maison was the final stop on their itinerary.

Now, listen.  It’s been a long time since we’ve hung with the 19 year old crowd, and I wasn’t sure we’d be able to keep up.  (We’re just about to cross from the smack-dab middle and into our late 30’s, but I like to think of us as still young, and perhaps even a bit hip.)

Here’s a little recap of their visit.

The boys arrived in Luxembourg from Paris on the high-speed train.

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Hannah was over the moon excited to have them with us and take them to her favorite restaurant and show them around the city.

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Since they had yet to tour a castle, we couldn’t let them return to America without seeing the Chateau de Vianden. 

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Hannah put her cousin in the medieval guillotine. (I think that’s what it’s called?)

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After staying in hostels around Europe, these boys were in moderate to severe need of a home cooked meal.  (And also some clean laundry.)

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I stayed back in Lux with the kids while the guys headed to Rome for a few days.

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When they returned, we took them to the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial, where over 5,000 American soldiers are buried.

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It’s hard to believe that this guy was the ring bearer in our wedding nearly 14 years ago, when he was just about Hannah’s age.  It’s also hard to believe that he has a beard.

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During the month of June, the city of Luxembourg is hosting an exhibit (much like the elephants) called “Jouez, Je Suis a Vous” which means, “Play Me, I’m Yours.”  There are 16 pianos around the city, each decorated by community groups or schools, and anyone can just sit down and tickle the old ivories.  Clearly, a duet was in order!

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Now before anyone goes getting their knickers in a twist, please know that this is legal here.

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Perfectly legal.

To E and K – thank you for visiting us.  We loved having you in our home and showing you what our life is like here.  Come back anytime!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Better Late Than Never: Finley’s First Birthday

I’m terribly late in posting this, but here’s Finley’s first birthday!
(He’s 14 months as I type this.)

As I said earlier, I had some drama with my laptop but now it’s fixed.
Apparently all that was needed was a new (cheap) power cord that Shawn brought back from the US and she’s ready to chug along again.
And also, for the last I don’t know how long, I had to have the laptop plugged in at all times because it would not hold a charge.  And now it charges right up.  Who knew?

AAAAANNYYY-WAAAAAAY…
Back to the birthday boy.

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He’s really looking more and more like a little boy and less like a baby.
At his one year check-up he weighed 21 pounds, 5 ounces and was 29 inches tall.

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Being far away from family when your little one reaches such an important milestone is hard.  On that day, there was nothing I wanted more than to have all of our loved ones gathered in our home to see Finley on his first birthday.  Our little family and a few of our close friends here in Luxembourg celebrated with cupcakes that Hannah and I made.  She said that we should make green icing since Finn’s birthday is on St. Patrick’s Day.
I couldn’t have agreed more.

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At first, he was hesitant.

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But once he figured out that THIS TASTES GOOD, he was shoveling it in by the fistful.

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He also got spoiled with gifts from friends here in Luxembourg, and packages sent from America.

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Happy first birthday, Finn Man. 
We love you more than you know.