Saturday, February 28, 2009

Marike Jager in Den Haag

While Laura's mom was visiting in January, she was interested in taking home a CD from the Dutch music scene. We popped into a music store and all really liked the first CD the store clerk suggested, "Cecilia Trigger," by a Dutch artist named Marike Jager. Both Marike herself and her album have since been nominated for an Edison Award, which is like a Dutch Grammy. Laura and I decided to go see her play at Paard von Troje in nearby Den Haag (The Hague) on Thursday. The venue was nice and the show was a lot of fun.

Also, because I know you're wondering: many/most Dutch music artists actually sing in English. So, although we had very little idea what she was saying when she spoke to the crowd in Dutch between songs, we could definitely enjoy her English lyrics.

Umm, excuse me, could you help me out?

I hate to ask these questions. I don't want it to seem like we are couch potatoes over here. Really, we aren't. But it's cold. And it gets dark early. We can't be some place fascinating every day.


What happened to Lipstick Jungle? Where did Dirty Sexy Money go? When did Pushing Daisies disappear?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Art In Situ

For the best art in Milan, get out of the galleries and head to the Il Cimitero Momumentale. The cemetery was created in 1870 and it still used today. The Italians do cemeteries just like they do life - over the top.

The tombstones, plaques, and family buildings are lavishly decorated with sculptures, candles, flowers, photos, and inscriptions. The art ranges from weeping angels to gruesome grim reapers to modern sculptures to scientific themes to Gothic arches to sculptures of the entire last supper scene.

Photography was frowned upon, so I could only snap a few shots with our little camera.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene...

Verona, a short day trip from Milan or Venice, should be visited for so many reasons that have nothing to do to with Romeo and Juliet.
  1. The train ride through hundreds of acres of vineyards and beautiful countryside

  2. Roman Ruins - city gates, an arena, and a theater
  3. Beautiful Bridges with lovely views
  4. Picturesque squares with plenty of sidewalk cafes to enjoy the local wines: Amarone & Soave
  5. Sweeping views of the Italian countryside from the handful of towers
  6. Walks down narrow cobblestone streets and staircases
  7. The castle on a hill
  8. Stunning and diverse architecture

Just so ya know...

The word "panties" over here is a catch-all phrase for leggings, tights, hose, stockings, and boot socks. It, however, is not the word for your favorite PINK boyshorts, Hanes Her Way briefs, or VS string bikinis. I thought I would let you know this; it will spare you some embarrassing, awkward moments.

Like when the sales girl tells you that tunic looks great on you and can be worn with or without panties, there is no need to turn a rainbow of reds and have horrifying images of Brittney Spears pass through your head.

Or when a guy says he likes your panties, he's not being fresh - just complementary.

Oh, and panties are the accessory around here, so you better stock-up!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Dinner We Did NOT Have

I know that just because the gelato stand is open from 8am to well after 10pm, that does NOT make it a breakfast, lunch, and dinner food.

I know that just because gelato comes in fruit flavors, with nuts, is made with milk, and sometimes has a few pieces of vegetables in it, that does NOT mean you can make a well-balanced meal out of it.

I know that just because my mom lives on the other side of the ocean, that does NOT mean I can eat as much as want.

I know this, so I would NEVER suggest a progressive gelato dinner.

We absolutely did NOT use our 24 hour metro card to travel all over Milan to get to the best gelatorias. We absolutely did NOT make up rules for the event (1 cone per gelatoria, 2 flavors per cone, no repeating flavors).

We did NOT start out at Chocolate Gelatoria Artigianale. I would NEVER order and have enjoyed a cone of pink grapefruit and manderan orange, because pink grapefruit is NOT my favorite flavor of gelato. Matt did NOT start with a kiwi and pear cone. And we would NEVER, having full cones in our hands, look so longingly at the banana that the owner would give us each a generous free taste.

We definitely did NOT hop back on the metro and rush to get to stop two. We were NOT disappointed to find out that our second stop did not have the sour cherry gelato, shaped into flower blooms. No NOT us, we had had our fill of gelato.

We did NOT continue our party to stop three: Chocolat, a sleek gelato boutique with a generous seating area and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Matt definitely did NOT pick a nutellone (nutella and marshmellow cream) and dark chocolate cone. And I most certainly did NOT end up with half my hot pepper chocolate and giandula chocolate cone all over my face, hands, and cast - because I was NOT eating gelato for dinner. We do NOT like chocolate, or gelato for that matter. No, NOT us!

Having already had two cones and chocolate, we did NOT continue on to our fourth stop. Our last stop was NOT Riverino, a modern gelateria with brighly colored plastic furniture and marble print like art on the walls. I did NOT finish my dinner off with a Moreno and Loenardo cone, while Matt did NOT try the Contessa and San Lucca flavors.

And we absolutely, positively did NOT have more gelato the next day. NEVER would we try a coconut and chocolate cone with people watching on the Piazza del Duomo.

And no, I do NOT have a sweet tooth...


Milan is wonderful in its own unique way, but it isn't a city that lends itself to lingering. So off we went to Bergamo for the day.

The lower town of Bergamo was nothing special, but the Citta Alta was made for a postcard. We took the funicular from lower Bergamo to the upper city and stepped out into a hilltop town, complete with a city wall and cobblestone streets. We wandered down the narrow lanes, gazed up at bright church facades, and found our way to the main piazza. We grabbed un etto of focaccia pizza and a cold beer and had a lovely picnic in the sun. (We love - and miss - the sun.)
After having our fill of anchovy & mozzarella and prosciutto, blue cheese, & walnut focaccia, we took the next funicular up to the old village on the next hilltop. The hilltop was filled with old farms, gorgeous villas, and breathtaking views of the Italian countryside. Of course every hilltop needs a castle to defend it and this one was no exception. The best thing about this castle was it was basically a free city park to roam and explore. Imagine being a school-age boy in Bergamo and having your very own castle to run around in every afternoon.You can find the rest of our pictures from Bergamo here.

The Non-Fresco, Dan Brown Got Totally Wrong

I can think of a few works of art and a sampling of monuments that didn't quite live up to the expectations. When you have heard about a masterpiece, studied it in art history and history classes, and accumulated anticipation, sometimes you are going to be disappointed.

While Leonardo's leading lady can leave you wishing for more, his Last Supper leaves you fully amazed. I sprung for a guided tour for this visit - normally I avoid tours like the dog poop all over Europe's sidewalks. However, I did not have time to do all the research and create an audio tour for such a quick visit, so I happily shelled out the extra €3 for commentary and prayed cameras weren't allowed.

After proceeding through a series of humidity and pressure regulated rooms, we were suddenly face to face with Christ in Leonardo's masterpiece. The huge non-fresco (the guide was adamant that the Last Supper is NOT a fresco and this is the main reason it is so difficult to preserve) spanned the entire back wall, making it seem as if the room extended into the dining room of The Last Supper. The perspective and depth of the mural truly draws you into the painting and the emotion depicted on the disciples faces makes you feel as if you were there.

While the guide pointed out each of the apostles and explained their role in the story, I tried to determine if it really was John or Mary Magdalene. My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by her passionate explanation of why Dan Brown got it all wrong. She asked us that if we took nothing else from her talk to take this: John, being the youngest disciple, was historically portrayed with a feminine face to show his youth. No conspiracy, no hidden tales, just misinterpreted historical symbolism.

If the mural alone did not impress you with Leonardo's genius, you only had to turn around to compare it to a mural painted on the back wall by a contemporary of his. There was no comparison to be made. Well except that since the back mural was an actual fresco, the colors had retained their brilliance and intensity.

More pictures of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie can be found here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Duomo & Piazza

Our trip to Milan started with a visit to the Piazza del Duomo - the square in the center of town. With Carnival coming up next weekend (Milan starts celebrating just as the rest of the world's parties are winding down), the square was a festive scene of children in costumes, confetti, silly string, friendship bracelet con artists, and the fashionable Milanese. The piazza is also the site of MTV Italia's TRL (that's "Total Request Live" for the older crowd). It seems the TRL crowd got really rowdy when the Jonas Brothers visited.

We grabbed lunch at Luini Panzerotti's - just around the corner from the church. After our travels, the warm stuffed calzones where like heaven on earth. With our bellies full, we set out to see the 4th largest church in Europe.

Every inch of the exterior of the Duomo is covered in spires, statues, gargoyles, and pointed arches - an over-the-top high Gothic facade. The pink marble was sparkling from its cleaning in 2008 and really gleamed compared to the surrounding buildings.

To truly appreciate the spires and statues, we climbed to the Duomo rooftop. Instead of walking through a forest of trees, you are walking through a maze of spires and statues. The main body of the roof is slightly angled and offers an amazing view of the Milan skyline. Some say you can see the Swiss Alps on a clear day - the question is when the last clear day was. The air is so hazy in Milan that even the closest buildings appear faded and dull.

The Piazza del Duomo is the place to people watch on a sunny afternoon. In a five minute gelato break we saw (around noon on a Sunday):
  • 7 women wearing stilettos - and we are talking 4.5+ inch heels that tapered down to a very small point. Remember it is too late for the walk of shame and too early to be dressed for dinner. My favorite wearer was a sixty plus year-old lady with knee-high patent leather stiletto boots on and a full length fur coat!
  • 7 men with man purses - if is a Gucci man purse, does that make it better?
  • 15 women in fur coats - not just fur collars or fur trimmed, but real, 3/4 to full length fur coats. I really liked the fashion sense of the women wearing combat boats, purple hose, a floppy hat, and a full length fur coat.
The piazza is the place to see and be seen - just pray the pigeons don't poop on you.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Return from Milan

Laura and I spent the last four days in Milan, Italy ("Milano" if you're Italian) and the neighboring cities of Bergamo and "fair Verona," as Shakespeare was known to write. It was a wonderful trip filled with sunshine, Roman ruins, and Renaissance masterpieces, all of which we'll share with you in the coming days. But for now, I shall whisk you off to the Milan Malpensa airport - where we "lay our scene," and a bizarre one at that.

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This tale of woe opens with Laura and I presenting our tickets to board our return flight from Milan. Laura, who as you will recall is newly and temporarily handicapped with an arm cast, was asked if she had a doctor's note to go along with her malady. This was a surprising question since no one had previously taken any interest in her cast - including security in both Amsterdam and Milan (the latter of whom confiscated our wine opener) and the employees responsible for us boarding the outbound flight from Amsterdam (on the same carrier, easyJet). Laura's answer, of course, was that no, she didn't have a doctor's note. And why would one be necessary?

"We can't let you board the flight without a doctor's certificate."

This was news to us, since she had already boarded a flight three days prior with no such thing.

"If you hadn't waited so late, the airport infirmary could have given you a note."

Well, if we had been informed the airline wouldn't serve the mildly disabled without a note, we surely would have gotten one. But this was all news to us. But there was a loophole - the overwhelmed ticket attendant called the captain to see if he would overrule the requirement and let Laura on the flight.

The answer was, of course, "No." At this point, fellow passengers in line nearby were starting to take notice of the situation with both curiosity and sympathy. Laura and I were starting to get worried about not being able to get home. So she did the natural thing: she asked the ticket attendant for scissors.

"I'm not telling you to take the cast off."

Laura's reply: "I'm not going to be stuck here." And with that, she began unraveling the soft outer layer of her cast while the ticket attendant looked on, aghast. As Laura pried apart the hard plaster layer, the ticket attendant (and others in line nearby) grimaced in imagined pain. But Laura was not deterred, as she pulled the last of the cast from her hand and gave it to the attendant to put in the garbage. The attendant watched in horrified silence as Laura, with her arm held close and her fingers bent awkwardly, scooted underneath the divider to join me in line. We boarded the plane with no further complaints from the ticket attendant or the captain.

What can I say? Laura's a trooper, folks.

After returning home, we found the rule in some fine print on easyJet's website:
You are not permitted to travel within 48 hours of having your cast fitted. Plaster casts that have been fitted for less than 48 hours need to be split. The split need to run along the entire length of the cast which must have been done prior to check in.

In all cases, passengers travelling [sic] with broken or fractured limbs in plaster are required to travel with a medical certificate confirming fitness to fly and the date that the cast was fitted.

The rule doesn't seem to be concerned with the cast being used to wallop fellow passengers (which was our initial assumption), but instead for the well-being of the person actually wearing the cast. Of course, Laura had been in the cast for well over 48 hours (as evident from the dirt, gelato, and pasta stains all over it), the cast was split by design, Laura was obviously fit to fly since she made it to Milan in the first place, and her injury didn't meet the usual definition of "broken" or "fractured."

So thanks, easyJet, for making Laura's next treatment that much more interesting, since the doctor will surely be perplexed about Laura's missing cast. (And please, doctor - can we get a note this time?)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Last Day of Indoor Competition

Yesterday was the last day of the indoor competition season. Since my arm is still in a cast, I adopted the role of team photographer for the day.

You can find the rest of the photos here. The team won all four games and was very pleased to end on such a high note!

Delft Blues Day Two

And back we went.

After enjoying dinner at the Ruif with Matt's lab mates, we all headed to the Stars & Bars for the second night in a row, this time to watch Memo Gonzalez & the Bluescasters perform. The place was packed to see Memo perform on his harmonica. I am not sure if he was "three hundred pounds of Texas dynamite" or not, but the band did play a nice mix of country and blues.

When Memo took a break, we headed back to old town and to De Waag to hear Professor Deaf & His Eardrums. We knew the Professor (dressed in a graduation gown and mortar board) must be good when we saw the place was so packed that the crowd was bursting out the doors. We squeezed in to listen to the eclectic group, with their funny hats, play a range of instruments.

The music was good, the atmosphere was excellent, and the draft beer was better, so we stayed a few hours to listen to bluesy-jazz music. We stayed all the way to the end - long enough to hear the encore of Elvis hits. Although our group of friends headed on to the next performance, we headed back home. Matt was due to play 5 frisbee games the next morning and it was time to get some rest.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

While the holiday is known and celebrated over here (unlike Halloween), Valentine's Day is a much different affair. There is no monstrosity of candy, flowers, and over-priced fixed dinners, but rather subtle window displays and a few heart themed offerings.

Tonight we are not going off to a romantic dinner for two, but rather out with a group of Matt's lab mates. When Matt inquired as to the lack of Valentine's plans, most responded that their girlfriends/wives had no interest in the holiday. Even in strolling the market today, while references to Valentine's could be seen, there was no mark-up in the cost of flowers. Not even for a dozen, long-stemmed, red roses - they were still just €8.50 (compared with $50 to $100 in the US delivered).
Unfortunately, this also means there are no heart-shaped Reeses' in stores. I just hope they still have Cadbury eggs at Easter.

Delft Blues

This weekend Delft is hosting the Delft Blues Festival - a musical play on their fame of blue Delftware. Bars and cafes all over town are hosting solo, duet, and group performances, with free entry. We took this as an opportunity to visit places we might not have frequented otherwise.

We started by celebrating Valentine's day (a day early) with dinner at De Zeven Zonden (The Seven Sins) and music by Bluesinn. The atmosphere was cozy and unique; the dinner was delicious and unique. The restaurant was filled with these wonderful custom made light fixtures, in fact most of Europe is filled with wonderful custom made light fixtures.

I opted for the special Bluesmenu and was not disappointed. My dinner started with a kangaroo carpaccio with a mango sauce; I wonder if they import the kangaroo steaks or if there is a kangaroo farm somewhere in the Netherlands. Regardless, the carpaccio was wonderful - it almost made me wish Matt had ordered the kangaroo steak for dinner. But neither of us were disappointed when we got our dinners, completed with the perfect roasted potatoes. Here in the Netherlands, they put bowls of potatoes on your table just like an Italian restaurant would put bread on your table in America.

It was strange to be sitting in a restaurant in the Netherlands, eating kangaroo, while listening to Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown and Walking in Memphis. You never would have known it was a Dutch blues band up there and not blues trio out of the south.

After licking ever bit of yogurt ice cream and strawberry Indonesian cake off our plates, we headed off the Stars and Bars - probably the only country-western bar within an hour train ride and the CLEANEST bar and pool hall I've ever seen. Charley Cruz and the Lost Souls - a pop/country/blues band was supposed to be playing, however, I think they let their kids perform the warm-up act. The teenagers were pretty good, but I didn't care for the beer on tap and time is relative thing here so we headed home after the warm-up group. But we might be back tomorrow to hear Memo Gonzalez & the Bluescasters - straight from Dallas, Texas.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Screams in the Night

It was the kind of blood curdling shriek you can only imagine hearing on the darkest, stormiest night, probably in a graveyard; the kind of panicked scream that signals imminent, life threatening danger; the kind of high-pitched wail that could only conceivably come from a person being attacked by a werewolf or having their brain eaten by a zombie.

Late last night during Ultimate practice, when I heard that kind of howl unexpectedly come from Laura in the TU Delft Sportscenter, I naturally thought, "Where are the zombies? Where's my chainsaw!?" But alas, there was no zombie mangling to be done on this night; instead, what Laura had on hand was a severely dislocated little finger. Laura might not have been scared of any creatures of the night, but the little finger on her left hand definitely looked like it was scared of the rest of her fingers.

With the help of some teammates, we were quickly whisked off to urgent care to give Dutch health care and our Dutch insurance a test drive. After Laura got her little finger straightened out (I mean that literally, of course) and had it x-rayed, we learned from the doctor that she actually had some bone chipping in the finger. This means she got the "VIP upgrade" from a splint to a cast, which she'll have for at least a week (but possibly more).

Meanwhile, Laura wasn't the only one to injure herself last night. We were at the hospital from midnight to around 2:00, during which time Laura was one of an astounding four people to get plastered. That's four people, in the middle of the night, in a pretty small town, in a hospital that was mostly empty otherwise. "Go hard or go home" is taken seriously here.

With her bright new cast finally complete just after 2:00, Laura and I were ready to set off for home. Of course, we had no idea which direction home was because we had no idea where in town the hospital was - this is what happens when you trade four wheels for two. We sheepishly asked a nurse to pinpoint our location on Google maps and we set off on the (thankfully) short hike home.

No zombies to fight on the walk home, either. (Maybe next time.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sometimes We All Judge a Book by the Cover...

...just like sometimes we judge a drink by the glass. You know martini night with the girls wouldn't be nearly as much fun if those festive, bright-colored drinks came in boring tumblers.

Belgian beer makers are snobs about their glasses, too. And rightfully so, it's not like they are serving Miller Lite over here. Sometimes when I go into a bar I want to tell the bartender I will have whatever comes in "that glass". But that would be so un-beer-sophisticated of me.

So instead I spent hours pouring over Belgian beers and glasses on the internet to find out the name of the beer that has a monopoly on "that glass". You know "that glass"; it the one with the bulbous bottom that needs its own wooden stand to stay upright. The all too collectible glass that sometimes requires your shoe as a deposit, that is "that glass". And I wanted a beer served in "that glass".


Kwak is the beer that comes in "that glass". And the Beerhuis on the Water served it in "that glass". It was a definite on our list of sites to see in Gent.
The beer was nothing special, but it came in "that glass". Maybe next time they will give a Duvel served in "that glass".

Soups On!

When we find a restaurant we like, we keep going back. And that was definitely the case for the gem we found in Gent this weekend - the Souplounge.For €3.50 you got a huge bowl of just-made, homemade soup with rolls and an apple! To start you get a choice between four bases; our choices were tomato, mushroom, broccoli, and a word I couldn't translate. Then you either ask for all the toppings or choose between chicken sausage, fresh parsley, fresh chopped veggies, grated cheese, and croutons. We picked broccoli and mushroom and took it with the works.

Nothing could have been more delicious! Perfect for a cold day spent walking around the old town center!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things...

As I biked in the rain to recharge my laundry chip card, I had to remind myself why I liked living here. I thought I share my favorite things with you, too.

Bike rides by windmills and cold Belgian beer
Fresh milk and cheeses and the holidays here
City parks and playgrounds with plenty of swings
These are a few of my favorite things

Hot savory crepes and sweet waffles galore
Warm chocolate muffins and walks by the shore
Fresh baked bread that is fit for the kings
These are a few of my favorite things

Bright colored mittens and scarves of all sizes
Boxes full of chocolates and other surprises
Markets full of bright flowers and rings
These are a few of my favorite things

When the wind blows
When the rain stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The New Walkabout (and Snoring)

On our travels, particularly during our hostel stays, Laura and I have met a wide variety of people. We're not the most outgoing couple, but luckily we can rely on the close quarters of a hostel room to spur conversation. We'd be remiss, after all, not to swap travel tips and stories with fellow travelers. We've had nice conversations with people from Scotland, Slovenia, Wales, Israel, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, England, many others I'm forgetting, and of course Canada and the US. But most of all, we meet lots of Australians.

The aboriginal tradition of the walkabout is alive and well in a more modern form with Australia's youth. On almost every single trip we take, we share a bus, a hostel room, a table, or at least a "G'day mate" with Australian backpackers, who are always among the most friendly people we meet. They are typically spending many months in Europe as part of a gap year (usually time between finishing school and getting a job/going to college).

I think it's really cool that there is some kind of cultural predisposition to travel among the college-age Australians and I'd love to understand how it has come about (comment below if you have insight). But of course, I also find it a little troubling that we don't encounter more US travelers, considering the United States has 15 times as many people as Australia. Do we lack the same sense of adventure and curiosity? Are we too focused on developing careers? Or do we tend to just travel within our own borders?

In a marginally related note, we encounter almost as many snorers as Australians during our hostel stays. The award for the worst ever snoring, however, actually goes to the lone Welsh guy we've met, in a hostel in Cologne (Germany). He snored as if he was alternatingly coughing up and then swallowing his own lungs and when it started, I actually awoke scared for his life. Had I not had toilet paper earplugs at my disposal, I might have woke him up with an attempt to dislodge his internal organs from his breathing path via the Heimlich maneuver. Instead, one of his buddies, accustomed to but not happy with the racket, threw a shoe at him. (He awoke with a GRRRUMPH, and all was again right with the world.)

Monday, February 2, 2009


On one of our many escapes from the bitter cold while in Leuven this weekend, Laura and I ducked into a Belgian comics shop. The Belgians love their comics, so there was much on offer, such as the Dutch language version of the X-Men, "X-Mannen." I should have felt nostalgic for the long-ago days of comic book reading, but instead the visit got me thinking of more present day concerns - like the strange powers I seem to have developed since coming to Europe.

Ever since winter descended on the Netherlands, I have gained the ability to harness static electricity. Well, I don't so much "harness" it - that implies an aspect of control - but I do transport it everywhere I go. It is as if I bathe in electrons. They happily zip through my hair and clothes, waiting until I approach a metal fixture. When this happens, they build to a frenzy and the air ionizes with a mighty ZAP. As the electric arc forms, I inevitably find myself cursing the day these powers first manifested themselves (following a freak accident involving a balloon and a fleece blanket). But with great power comes great responsibility, or so they say.

As if being a vessel for transport of static electricity weren't enough, my cells have also mutated; I'm thoroughly convinced they now contain chlorophyll. There is no other way to describe the intense, joyous boost of energy that I now feel when stepping from a cold, shadowy street into a bright beam of sunlight. It makes me feel as if I could jump tall buildings in a single bound. Unfortunately, the earth's yellow sun is not a regular visitor in the Netherlands, so my cells must largely make due with normal Dutch sustenance like Grolsch and stroopwafels - at least for a little longer.

Anticipating Antwerp

We left Leuven Sunday morning with plans to hop off the train in Antwerp and spend the day there before continuing home. Our list was long and I was ready for a more exciting day. Unfortunately, Antwerp was a little colder than we had bargained for, but we were here and we were going to see it.

We started our day with a walk through the general and live animal markets. I had thoughts of buying a lamb to bring back to our apartment to snuggle with when it is cold, but all we found were live birds and bunnies. And while I am now okay with fresh from the farm, don't need be refrigerated eggs, I think I will pass on the fresh from the farm chicken that still needs to be killed and defeathered.
There were also tons of beautiful birds needing new homes and they were tempting. But then I remembered that we have enough trouble sleeping between the wind and the fireworks and don't need to add a squawking bird to that orchestra.
Next we were off to the Mode Museum; Antwerp claims to be the fashion capital of Europe and this was their fashion museum. I think Matt only agreed to go in to escape the howling wind. The current exhibit features Maison Martin Margiela, a fashion company created by a Belgian stylist in Paris. The exhibit was wonderfully done and the clothes, for the most part, were beautiful and original. My favorite concept was how they would make a shoe and then cover it in another color. As you wore the shoe the second layer of paint would wear off and the under color would show through. This ensured no two pairs were alike, since the paint would wear off based on how often you wore them, how you walked, and what you did in the shoes.

Since we were in an art mode, we decided to see the local art. And by local art, I mean graffiti. Antwerp has something going on. There is a park where graffiti is legal and encouraged - hopefully this saves the rest of their 300 year-old buildings from spray paint.
I don't really understand Europe and the graffiti. You are lucky enough to have dozens of buildings in every town that would make the historical register in any US city and, yet, you allow them to become covered in graffiti. And it isn't even good graffiti - not even graffiti good enough to grace the 34th Street wall in Gainesville. I wonder if what Antwerp is doing is working. Now if they could just do something about the dog poop on the sidewalks!
By now our hands were frozen and our cheeks were pink from wind burn, so we headed into the warm oasis of a Portuguese restaurant. Lunch was lovely and dessert was divine. I don't know what it was, but it was a lot of chocolate, banana, whip creme, pastry goodness. We were warm, full, and not ready to go back outside. And upon leaving the restaurant to re-enter the frigid city, we decided Antwerp was only an hour and half away by train and we would finish our list on a warmer day.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lovely Leuven...Seriously

In a country known for chocolate, that has over 300 micro-brews, and considers waffles acceptable food for three meals a day plus snacks, it is impossible to have a bad visit. We made sure we experienced all three during our visit:


We snuck Galler's chocolate bars into the movie theater - way better than over-priced M&Ms. The dark chocolate with Grand Marnier filling is to die for and the milk chocolate with sweet coffee filling is absolutely delish! (Sorry about the lack of chocolate photos, but we didn't think it was wise to call attention to the fact we were sneaking food into the movie theater.)

We visited the Domus Restaurant and Brewery, where we sampled all three of their brews: Con Domus, Nostra Domus, and their special winter brew - Engel. My favorite was the Nostra Domus - a dark beer with a light flavor; the Con Domus was too bitter for me.

Forget a sandwich for lunch, I enjoyed a Belgian waffle with warm cherries and a side of whip cream. My pants are thankful we aren't living the land of endless waffles.