5.28.2008

Autobahn

A May sunset seen from the autobahn
Upon hearing that we'd be going to Germany, Jess' Belgian office mate suggested we rent a nicer car to travel the long distance. He found us a deal and we were off in a BMW 1-series, diesel engine. Neither of us had driven a BMW and we both like cars and have been driving a truck (extended bed) for the past 4 years, so it was a real treat. The drivers on the autobahn were, like you've heard, fast. Real fast. We began at a leisurely 140 km/h (~82 mph), but after a while Jess realized he was a) in a BMW and b) on the autobahn, so he increased his speed to 160 (100 mph). Riding in the passenger seat, I could handle it. Shortly thereafter an Audi passed us. Then a VW van passed us. And then a Ford wagon passed us. Jess said something to the effect, "A Ford can't pass us in a BMW on the autobahn," and again, he increased his speed. My blood pressure increased as we neared 190 and then 200 (125). These speeds were not sustained for 10 minutes at a time, but long enough to cause me to sit straight up in my seat and Jess to get the desired joy effect. All told, Jess reached 220 (~138 mph) for a bit, at which time I reached a 138 heart rate. It's a ride I won't soon forget.
Our rental car (BMW 118d) and the speed demon

5.27.2008

Bad Kissingen, Germany

This past weekend, we drove 530+ kilometers to Bad Kissingen, Germany, where Jess lived for a few years of his young life. It was a wunderbar trip, complete with visiting the old haus, swimming at the schwimmbad, drinking the Bad Kissingen therapeutic mineral wasser, enjoying some bratwurst, and sitting in a beautiful kurgarten. We spoke a little German (Ich spreche nur ein bissen Deustch) and acted like we understood every word of German we heard during the trip. What a place!

5.23.2008

Parlez-vous anglais?

When I walk down the street, people speak to me in French. Why shouldn't they? I'm in Belgium where one of the national languages is French*. The other day, I was walking to the park, and a man came up to me laughing, saying something I couldn't understand, and finally trying to get a response out of me by saying "Oui?" like "Right?". A few days ago, while waiting at a cross walk, a man in a VW stopped at the light and said, "Pardon" followed by what I believe was a question about where he could find a certain street. And again, while walking home, a woman asked me where she could find a subway stop.

In all of these situations my reaction was the same: look confused, put up hands and shrug shoulders, wish like crazy I'd taken beginning French. I must look foolish.

I thought maybe I'd find respite at a quiet museum where you only have to read, so I decided to visit the Museum of Musical Instruments. However, nothing was in English, except for small notes reading "Do not touch please. Thank you." I tried to read the history of the drum (tambour), piano (klavier), and violin (violon) in French but just starring at the words didn't work. Luckily for me, the second national language of Belgium is Dutch, and since I took some German some years back, I could make out the gist of what the Dutch paragraph was saying. At least that's what I told myself.

Since I'm in Belgium, I should know some French and so I am trying to learn some French phrases, one of which is "Je ne sais pas," or "I don't know."

*I don't want to give you the wrong impression however, English is spoken here by many and everyone is quite nice about it.

5.22.2008

Luxembourg

I got the chance to go with Jess and his co-interns to Luxembourg. We travelled there to see a case argued at the Court of Justice. From what I hear, Luxembourg is all business and no play. If people work in Luxembourg, they usually travel someplace else for their weekends. It was neat to visit the Court and watch the lawyers answer questions of the judges. I also liked watching the translators, or, what they say over here, interpreters.

Outside, 1 of 2 Towers at the Court of Justice, Luxembourg

Inside a hearing room, Court of Justice

5.21.2008

Grand' Place


An absolute "must," the Grand' Place draws as many tourists from other parts of the world as it does people from Belgium and Brussels, each of them strolling happily around a square that was described by Cocteau as "the most beautiful theatre in the world." The Grand' Place sparkles whatever the weather and is sure to cast its spell over you. It is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most remarkable architectural works in Europe.
Brussels Your Guide and Map, 49th edition

360 degree view, in a set of three

5.20.2008

The eats courtesy of Belgium

Belgian Waffles (Gaufres in French), delicious!
Pulling out a snail to eat
Seafood extravaganza, I tried my first oyster from this plate, after adding onion and vinegar, it wasn't bad
Euro-MinuteMaid
Waterzooi, a classic Belgian dish, or so I'm told

Before we left, my sister, who has lived in Belgium before, stated that there is so much good food here, we may gain weight. We've been here for 4 days, and I am finding that she is right. We have had the chance to enjoy many good meals here. I was wrong in assuming that European portions are small, they are not. One night, Jess ordered a couscous dish that could have fed three. Bon App├ętit!

5.14.2008

Belgium is Belgique

Ou puis-je trover un chariot a bagages?

In a couple of days, Jess and I will take off on a grand adventure. What kind of adventure? you may ask. We are off to Belgium for a month and a half, ready to enjoy the offerings of Europe. Jess will be working at his summer internship and I, thankfully, got time off work so I could join him. We are looking forward to it.

You can bet this blog will be updated often (assuming we'll have the internet) with the neat things we see and do. If you please, join us.

5.10.2008

My Name is Asher Lev, a brief review

Asher is Jewish boy living in Brooklyn, NY with his mother and father. Each of them have impressive talents and are striving towards their promising aspirations. His father practices amazing faith and service, his mother strives to learn and reach the goals set by her brother who died too young, and Asher has an amazing artistic talent, a talent that he's not sure he understands himself. This book deals with sacrifice, selfishness vs. unselfishness, humility and questions concerning what happens when you have to choose between two very important things in your life. Is there a way to make it so you can do/keep/practice both?

5.07.2008

Uniqueness

My brother once mentioned the ironic fact that being unique is so desirable that people go out of their way to be different even if it's uncomfortable, more difficult, or somewhat foolish. Take for example, wearing flip flops when there's snow on the ground, liking music that really isn't all that good, or having a high opinion of the artistic talent used to create Duchamp's Fountain. Granted, being unique is what makes us feel like individuals and there's definitely nothing wrong with that. We all create and add to our own identity often. Case in point, blogging. It's just funny when you listen to commentary from npr's Peter Sagal and realize that all of us are not unique in trying to be unique because everyone's doing it. Take a listen to his commentary. It will give you a good laugh.

5.03.2008

May Flora

When one hears the sounds of lawnmowers,
or watches the helicopter seeds of maple trees float,
or smells the breeze sailing down the street,
or tastes barbecue burgers and watermelon,
or feels the cool grass between their toes

It's time to be outside.