Summer Send-off (in Belgium !)

I’m not gonna lie. I had a fantastic summer.

No work. Lots of travel. Still got paid (thank you bankruptcy settlement).

Mid-September I started a new job and you’ll be happy to know that I have been paying the price for my idyllic summer.

Nice to meet you up-at-6-am-with-a-45-min-one-way-commute.

Long story short, I’m still re-adjusting to working life and my other half has that whole ‘I need to finish my PhD’ thing going which means there was little motivation left for the blog – despite the fact that we had a fantastic trip with our friends through The Netherlands & Belgium!

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Side note: the new job is going well. I’ve been there for a month now. And yes, I must learn Dutch for real this time! I’ve started with a tutor – so hopefully there will be more speaking soon. Right now I do a lot of listening… 

Ben & Jen’s visit concluded our summer of visitors. Our first few days were spent in Leiden and Amsterdam where Holland greeted our guests with beautiful weather nothing but rain. We stayed in a lovely Airbnb in Leiden city center which had the cutest garden we were never able to use.

At one point it hadn’t been raining for a while, there was blue sky, nice temperature, so we thought “Hey! Let’s sit in the garden!”. We were outside for literally a minute before it started raining again – blue sky and all.

We did eventually get a break in the rain and were able to wander around Leiden.

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We also spent a little bit of time in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, Jen picked up a stomach bug on the way to Europe, so she had to sit this one out.

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While showing Ben around, Shane and I were able to get in some ‘Amsterdam firsts’ too.

We went to a local brewery that we’ve been eyeballing for a while, Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Good beer + cool location (in a windmill) makes it a pretty popular hangout.

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We also made it to the Foodhallen, which is an indoor food and drink market located in a converted train depot. We all really enjoyed the Foodhallen because it has anything you could ever want – food and alcohol alike.

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Bitterballen variety plate. Not pictured – the ‘Monkey Balls’ (aka: bacon wrapped meatballs) – which were gone before I remembered to take a picture.

After a few days in The Netherlands, we rented a car and headed to Gent, Belgium with one slight detour on the way. A little backstory, when Shane and I visited London we walked across the upper portion of the Tower Bridge which has the glass floor. Up there was a small exhibit of famous bridges around the world. One of these bridges was the ‘Moses Bridge’ located in the south of The Netherlands. It’s called the Moses Bridge because the bridge itself cuts through the mote around Fort De Roovere. When you cross the bridge, you’re walking through the water – get the name reference now?

Anyway, I needed to see it, but it is in a location that isn’t necessarily easy for us to access from Groningen and particularly so without a car. Luckily for me, it was essentially on our route to Gent, so we stopped!

And boy was I disappointed.

IT WAS FLOODED.

(insert reaction inappropriate for a blog post)

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I don’t wanna talk about it anymore.

Next stop – Gent, Belgium!

Note to anyone visiting Gent. If you see the sign below don’t drive any further or all the grandmas walking in the streets will glare at you while shaking their fingers.

Turns out, Shane was driving in a pedestrian only zone. In his defense, this was the only sign and generally the road color changes when you enter a pedestrian zone. Not so in this case. Oops.

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Once the car was safely parked, we headed off on foot to see Gent like everyone else we passed in the pedestrian zone earlier.

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Waffles were a necessity, naturally.

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Belgium day 2 took us by train from Gent to Brussels for the day. I was particularly excited for Brussels because we scheduled a beer and chocolate tour which was 5 hours of awesome! If you find yourself in Brussels I can’t recommend this tour – The Brussels Journey – enough!

It’s advertised as a two part tour: part 1 – chocolate, part 2 – beer. I honestly expected that during the chocolate portion of our journey that we would have one, maybe two pieces of chocolate per place.

NO MA’AM! (or sir)

In each of the 4 chocolate shops we tried 4-5 pieces each, and our guide – who I unfortunately can’t remember her name because she was FANTASTIC – knew. her. chocolate!

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You know what else our guide knew about? Beer.

Living in Holland, we have tons of Belgium style beers. Dubbel – Tripel – Quadrupel. After three years did I have any idea what that actually meant? Nope. But I do now! And, in keeping with chocolate portion of our tour, the beer part did not skimp on the tastings.

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Additionally, this tour was also part walking tour. As we made our way around the city we were able to see some of the major sites – like the the Grote Markt and Manneken Pis.

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Manneken Pis is surprisingly small and has so many outfits! Over 200 to be exact – enough to dedicate an entire museum to them. As you can see from the pictures below, when we passed by Manneken Pis during the morning he was wearing one outfit.

HE CHANGED CLOTHES by the time we went back with the tour in the afternoon.

Magic I tell ya.

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That night, we said by to Brussels and hopped on the train back to Gent.

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The next day, it was back in the car and back to The Netherlands. This time, to Den Haag and the neighboring beach, Scheveningen.

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Den Haag city center.
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Scheveningen Pier.

It was a little chilly and a little rainy, but the beach was a nice backdrop for our last evening with Ben & Jen.

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And of course, even though it’s really cold they had to at least touch the North Sea.

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And that’s a wrap on Summer 2017!

As always, thanks for coming to hang out with us, friends! πŸ™‚

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Tot ziens,

Whitney

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We are two Americans living in the Netherlands with our fat cat, Meatball. The Shwits is a diary of our time abroad!

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