Friday, April 23, 2010

The Ash Has Passed! U.S.A Bound!

Who would have thought I would ever live in a place where air traffic was at a COMPLETE standstill due to a volcanic ash cloud? case you are having trouble pronouncing the Icelandic volcano's name, check out this video.  Its been quite a news adventure here in the United Kingdom, but it sounds like the ash has passed, and we can now travel freely again.  

I am headed to New York, North Carolina, and Las Vegas over the course of this next month, and while I am so excited to see my family and friends, I really will miss this place.  That's hard to admit, considering the mess of a time we have had with the house we live in, getting unpacked, and trying to have all appliances functioning, as expected, at the same time - hasn't happened yet.

It's been difficult because there is a level of customer service, a sense of urgency and the "get in done now" mentality that we have in the States, that really is lacking in the UK.  Things take much longer to get repaired and no one is really concerned with our issues, the way we want them to be at least.

There have been days these past few weeks, where it really was not easy or fun at all.  There were days when we both have said and thought "What in the Hell were we thinking moving here?!?".  There have been days when we forgot about the awesome opportunity we have here and focused solely on the things that were going wrong.  Being the ultimate optimist, this is not what I would normally recommend, and sometimes it takes both of us to pull ourselves back on track and focus on all of the amazing things we have going on in our lives (living/working abroad, home finally rented out in NC!, traveling the world together, wedding in 5 months) - there are so many life experiences that we are getting to share together - and we try our best to remember that on those days when nothing here in the UK seems to go our way.

While its been tough some days to adjust, there is no one else in this world I would want to share this experience with, and there is no other place I would rather be than in Cambridge, UK where the plumbing sucks, internet is unreliable and the food can be rather bland :)

I would like to ask whoever reads this blog to remember this on your tough days - it really doesn't matter where we live, or how much $ we make, we each have our WTF days, and its ok to have them and to feel that way.  But, its important when those days arrive, we remember the awesome opportunities that have come our way, the amazing people that we are so fortunate to have in our lives, and the funny/sad/adventurous/inspiring stories we create AND live everyday!  I, for one, cannot wait to tell our children about our time abroad.

I look forward to my travels over this next month, but oddly enough this crazy place is starting to feel like "home" to me, and I look forward to returning here in a month! Of course, I do hope all the repairs are made before I return!

Safe travels in your daily journeys and adventures :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Brussels, Bruges, Ghent Trip Report

Here is a trip report i posted and some photos from our latest reflections to follow in next post :)

We spent a 3-day weekend in Brussels last week, we loved it! Here is what we did:
Day 1:
We took the Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels at 620am, so we arrived Brussels very early Friday morning. Leaving the train station was easy, exchanged some pounds for euros, and quickly caught a taxi outside of the station. We stayed at the Marriott in the city center, near the Bourse (see my hotel review for more on Marriott). After arriving, we checked in, took a quick nap, then headed out to explore:
Walking from Marriott, we passed the Bourse, then headed to Grand Place, b/c of limited time, we didn't do any of the museums, but we did spend time in Grand Place using a tour book we had to read about the different buildings (hotel de ville, maison du roi, le renard, maison des ducs de brabarrt, le cornet, maison des brasseurs, maison de boulangers). We also looked to find the swan and fox in the grand place also.
From there we headed down rue charles blus, and rubbed the statue of everard 't serclaes for good luck! After passing the statue, we popped into Dandoy and purchased some biscuits to munch on over the weekend and saw the mannekin-pis. Afterwards, we grabbed lunch, and found the eglise saint-nicolas for a quick photo and also took some photos around the place saint gery. From there, we walked back toward grand place down the rue de bouchers(which is pretty cool) and ended up at the galeries royales de saint - hubert and did some window shopping and went into agora place where we took a photo of the statue of charles buls, had a waffle, and then purchased a smal box of chocolates from Leonidas. i also purchased a lace handkerchief for my wedding day while we were out. after this we were pretty exhausted, we ate dinner later that night at a great argentinean restaurant just off of the grand place, took some awesome night time photos in the grand place and enjoyed the great weather.
saturday - we woke up, grabbed a quick breakfast, and toook train to bruges - we LOVED this day - its worth it, really. after leaving the train station, we walked down the main road and stopped at the begijnhof - this is definitely a place to see, its so peaceful. we walked through the museum which was great also. at the exit, are some great photo ops of the river also.
from there we headed into town, we first went into the Church of Our Lady, where we saw Michaelangelo's Madonna and Child, and some other very nice artwork, this was a nice stop. after this we headed toward the markt. once here, we checked out the belfort, we didnt climb it b/c the line was quite long and our time was limited. we grabbed lunch in at a place around the markt and just took in the sites. we took briedalstraat (the st that connects burg to the markt) and arrived at the burg. we took in the sites here and read about each of the buildings in the square. we walked through blinde ezelstraat and took some more great photos along the river, grabbed a waffle and headed to the train station.
we took the train from bruges to ghent, but i have to tell you that our time in ghent was VERY limited. we walked around some and saw some of the main buildings in the city, but the construction in the city while we were there was horrendous - so many of the paths we needed to walk to get to places were through construction sites, so it didnt make for great photos and i am sure it took away from the beauty of the city. after seeing bruges, we were disappointed, and i am sure also a bit tired - so we took the train back into brussels. that night we grabbed dinner at an italian restaurant called latini in st catherines place - very good food here.
sunday - we woke up and took the subway to the atomium in brussels, we didnt go into the tour b/c our time was limited but it was decent photo op. i think this whole area would be great for children, or if you have more time to spend in brussels, but if your time is very limited, i dont know if i would put it on the must see list.
we took the train back into the city and got off at the parc station, we took photos of the royal palace, walked to sablon and really explored some more of the city streets. we stopped and took photos of the st michael cathedral, grabed lunch, and one more waffle for the road :) we hung out in marriott lounge, ate our waffle and had coffee, then took a taxi back to station to head back to london!
whew! ok, so we did a lot this weekend but it never felt rushed, i really enjoyed bruges and brussels and wish that we would have a better experience in ghent, the construction really doesnt give tourists the best experience i assume.
hope this review helps people out there who are looking to spend a weekend in this cool city!