Thursday, January 30, 2014

Figuring out regular things

Figuring regular things out that we take for granted knowing in the US is a constant challenge. Today I accomplished two very regular activites:
1. Going to the mall
2. Going to the doctor

This story begins a few days ago when I found out that in Belgium there is a law that stores selling clothes, footwear, and leather products must put their items on sale during the months of January and July. And as the last day of the month is tomorrow I decided to go check out the local mall- The Woluwe Shopping Center.
It was CHAOS- like Black Friday shopping!
This is Zara's "soldes" (sale in French) area. Amongst the chaos I found my replacement for Baby Gap (because I have yet to find a Gap in Belgium).
You may notice there it isn't as crowded here- that's because this area is not on sale!!

My next task was taking Maddie to her new pediatrition, Dr H. I arrived about 15min early (as I always do in the US) and figured out where the office was- it's the second floor of the white building.
 I got to the front door and it was locked. That's strange I thought. So I rang the bell... no answer. I waited a few minutes and rang the bell again... no answer. I then called the number I had for the doctor's office. The receptionist told me she could not let me in because she wasn't actually there, then asked me why I was early, and told me that the doctor would be there at my scheduled apt time and that I should just wait outside. Perfect, I thought, I will just stand here in the rain. Promptly at my apt time (which was 4pm) a lady walked up to the door. Thankfully it was Dr. H. She walked me up a narrow staircase to her office. It consisted of a desk, exam table, and a sink. There was no waiting area, no receptionist, no nurses or techs. She had been a doctor for many years and was very kind. She went through routine medical questions in broken English (I was just glad to find a pediatrition that spoke English at all!). Then she measured and weighed Maddie- in kg and cm of course! I asked her what to do if I had a question or Maddie was sick. She had a puzzled look on her face and said, "Just call me," and gave me her cell number. I then payed her in cash because an insurance card was something incredibly foreign to her. It was so much different than an experience at a US doctor's office- I just had to share! And happily, Miss Maddie is healthy and doing great! 


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mmm, Mmm, Sugar

Today's post is all about food! If you haven't noticed I really like good food:)The Belgian Waffle- displayed beautifully in almost every other shop window, making it so tempting to stop in and buy one.
Now these are no ordinary waffles. The batter is thicker and has much more sugar in it, making it the perfect combination that simply melts in your mouth. There are numerous toppings to chose from and when you can't decide which one you want to try, you just buy two...GENIUS!
Our favorite topping is Speculoos spread.(it is on the waffle on the right)
What is Speculoos you may ask? It is a cookie, like biscotti, used to dip in coffee. They make it into a spread that tastes like peanut butter, Carmel, and Nutella all in one. Spread over a warm sugary waffle -what more could you want!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The castle on a cloud

Ten years ago my older brother Robert served an LDS mission in France. While he was there he visited a place that in pictures looked like a castle floating on the clouds. It was then that I put it on my bucket list as a must see. Today my dream came true as I was lucky enough to visit this castle on a cloud.
 This incredible castle is not actually a castle at all but The Abbey on Mont Saint Michel.
Amazing pics right...that's because they are pics of a postcard :) 

The building of Mont Saint Michel was quite a process starting in 708AD. Additions were built in many other centuries to make it the castle it is today. It was built on a rock island until the late 1800's when a causeway was constructed. Before that it was only accessible by walking across the marsh land during low tide. Many people have lost their lives trying to get to the tiny rock island because the tide comes in like a wave and can rise as fast as 17 feet per second. It is still a functioning abbey and we were able to attend Mass while we were there.
And just a few more pics from the tour of the abbey. 
The street leading up to the abbey with charming creperies and souvenir shops!

The drawbridge leading up to the abbey.
Just call it the stair climber island... There were so many stairs!

As you can tell it was rainy and cold today, but it still exceeded all my expectations!
With seriously wet clothes this is how I looked as we made the drive 6 hour back to Brussels! 
Euro style😉 Back to normal (well kinda normal) life tomorrow!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Proud to be an American

Wow... What a day. I don't even know where to start. We woke up in Caen, France and started our day as tourists. The first main attraction was the castle built in 1060 AD by William the Conqueror (aka William the bastard, because he was an illegitimate child)
It's the really old looking wall in the background:) 

The next stop was Saint Pierre Cathedral.

Finally, the Abbey des Hommes; the abbey William the Conqueror built. It was stunning and what an awesome pic I got from the car window!
After Caen we headed to Bayeux: a small town about 35 kilometers away. It was a stunning town with a beautiful old church.
The church was cool, but it was the food that was really great. We found a small Crepiere and I continued my progress toward my goal of eating chocolate in each meal for the day. Chocolate chaud (hot chocolate) and a Nutella crepe was the perfect lunch! 
The French always seem to make things look so fancy! 

We then set out to tour the D-day beaches. History review- D-day was on June 6, 1944, when the Allied forces planned a suprise attack on the German army. The Germans never expected them to attack the beaches of Normandy due to the shallow coast line. The day before the attack the English Channel was stormy and rough but President Eisenhower made a critical decision to go ahead with the attack. You may wonder why June 6th? They needed a high tide and full moon- and both of those occurred that day. At 530am allied parachutes dropped from the sky and the attack began. Hours later thousands of troops lay dead, but the Allies succeeded, turning the tide of the war. 

We made 4 stops along the coastline
1. Arromanches- where after the Allied forces took over they built a floating dock for their boats, you can see the remnants  of the docks still today.
2. The Atlantic "Wall"- not a real wall but a series of Battery (bunkers) the Germans built to fortify the area.
3. Cimitiere Americain- The American Cemetery- where 9,400 soldiers who gave their lives on D-Day to fight for freedom are laid to rest. 
"I went ashore with 36 other men and only 2 of us are still standing..."
      ~American Solider
4. Pont Du Huc- this place is breathtaking. Huge cliffs dropping hundreds of feet straight into the North Sea. Over 250  US Rangers swam ashore here and used ropes to climb the cliffs while Germans tried to shoot them down from above. 
Don't worry Maddie is shoved inside my coat. It was pretty cold and very windy:)
The pictures do not do it justice. The bravery of the US and British soldiers on this day is beyond words. Take time to thank a Veteran today. 

Our day ended with a delicious French dinner.
French onion soup- fitting, we are in France. But the best part of dinner was Kellen's third course: a plate of French cheese.
After he ate it he stated, "It tastes like the stockyards at the Texas State Fair." Haha... Gotta love smelly French cheese! It was a great day in France!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Our first weekend adventure to...

Today exemplified what a lot of days in Belgium will be like. A morning jog to the park all bundled up with a hat and gloves. Then home to get ready and a quick trip to the market. There are about 6 markets within a half mile of my house, so depending on what I need decides where I go. For example, if I need meat I go here:
It's a man's dream- all the meat you could ever want!

It was so nice to have Kellen come home early from work at about 6pm
Note the scarf- he's starting to turn European (he says it's just cause it's cold)

We wasted no time and headed out for our first weekend adventure to the Normandy region of France. The Drive went pretty smoothly. Except Miss Maddie did not enjoy being in the car for so long:
We finally pulled into our hotel four and a half hours later after about 40 euros in toll road fees. We settled into our cozy hotel room...
...where Miss Maddie gets her very own closet for a room! We are headed to bed now and excited to see what tomorrow will bring!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A day in Bruges

Oh what a day we have had here in Belgium. It was the first time I drove our car, a dark blue Mercades... Wait for it... Station Wagon!! But it's runs like a champ! I have been slightly nervous to drive because the street signs are different than the US. Like what does a red circle with a blue cross mean? And there are often no lane lines in the road.
But brave as we are we ventured out to head to Bruges or Brugge- a city 85 kilometers from Brussels (about one hour drive) As we approached the city we realized the entire drive we had not seen one speed limit sign so we determined you can drive as fast or slow as you want! Lucky us the sun was shining as we walked into the main square-

Then on to hike 366 steps to the top of the Belfry (or the town bell tower) which was built in the 13th century. 
Having to carry Maddie all the way up because our stroller was quite too large, as it always is here. They have tiny strollers!
And the view of Bruges from the top..
Then we ventured to the Musea Brugge:
By this time we were starving so we went to find a cafe for lunch. Ordering Paninni's and fries we found a Parc to eat. Sidenote: we had checked the weather which almost every day includes rain. And it called for 90% chance of afternoon rain. So as we were eating our lunch outside, right as predicted, the downpour began. Why are the weather men always right. We scrambled for our umbrella and found the handle broken off...perfect. Then realized the stroller was in the rain so we rushed to get Maddie covered and warm!! 
Soaked we headed for the car but happened to pass an H&M and what a relief to see a familiar site so we ventured in. Ending up leaving with a much needed new umbrella and some new clothes for a spoiled little baby, thanks to grandma!! Driving home took a bit longer than expected due to the rain and an 8 car pile up. 3 very long hours later we pulled into our house-exhausted and with sore bums. But thank heavens for GPS! Until tomorrow😉

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How to work a washer/dryer.

Good Morning America! It's almost 1800 (they use military time-6pm) which makes it 1000 in Utah and Arizona- our home states! Our day began with our first jog in Belgium. Jogging here is a challenge with a stroller because the streets are cobblestone and I do not yet have a phone that can GPS me to my destination. So we mapped out our course and wrote directions down on a sticky note so we would not get lost. Then we headed towards Parc de Woluwe which is just over a mile from my house. We ran through a quaint neighboirhood and were pleasantly suprised upon arrival.

After arriving home our next task was starting a load of laundry. Seems easy right...well have you ever used a washer/dryer combo machine with 20 different settings and an owners guide in 6 different languages that is 60 pages long? Neither had I. After some reading I started a colors load and the washer displayed it would take 240 minutes. 4 hours to wash and dry your clothes. Wow, I better have really clean clothes. On the upside you don't have to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer! 
We then headed to lunch at a darling Tearoom or Cafe! We tried to order hot chocolate and somehow ended up with regular Coke. Oops! And yes, the balsamic and oil is in a spray bottle- genius! Our lunch ended with a yummy Belgium waffle! That's all for today. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Getting adjusted to living abroad

Grand Place- 21/1/2014
Today our adventure consisted of taking the metro from my house to the Grand Place-the main square in Brussels. Now this may sound like a very easy task to you but when everything is in French it becomes much more difficult. Brenda and I bundeled up to face the 4C (yes they use Celsius, which is 40F) windy weather. Walked 2 blocks to the metro station to face our worst enemy of the day... The metro ticket buying machine. We tried multiple times to buy a round trip ticket. It just did not want to accept our credit card. We finally figured it our and took the metro seven stops to Grand Centre Station. We came up out of the the metro very disoriented and had to ask 2 people to find our way to meet Kellen for lunch. Lunch was at a great cafe. Where they cut a baguette in half and put brie, apples, honey and pine nuts on it! Amazing combination!! Then we walked around the Grand Place taking pics, drooling over the many chocolate shops, and admiring the beautiful lace stores which Brussels is famous for! 
On our way home we stopped at a dry-cleaners. Because I loathe ironing Kellen's dress shirts. I tried to ask how much it cost to dry clean one shirt. This lead to him explaining his price system, in French, for about 5 minutes and Brenda and I just smiling and nodding the whole time. We walked our laughing and decided that the only thing we understood was to dry clean one shirt was 3.50 euros... That's about $5! I guess I will learn to like ironing this year! That's all for today!