Follow by Email

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Belgium trip - the last day

It isn't easy shopping in Europe on a Sunday. Many stores are closed on the Sabbath and the streets can be eerily quiet, something that my Taiwan-born spouse sometimes found difficult to understand:

But there is hope for those in need of some retail therapy. Jeff took us on a long walk to a street market that's open every Sunday:

Though quiet by Chinese or Taiwanese standards, it was still pretty busy. In addition to foods, clothing and household goods were also available, and I walked away with several pairs of decent-material socks. Pamela purchased some bread, which we ended up bringing back to China. Best of all, there was no bargaining, which meant there was no shouting or yelling. All in all, it was a very civilized affair:

After letting Amber burn off some of that stored-up energy of hers in a nearby playground, we moved on to a pub and the first beer of the day:

Suitably fortified, Jeff took us on a tour of the grounds of the Katholieke Universiteit van Leuven (KUL), founded in 1425. I know my alma mater doesn't have an old palace on its campus:

It felt more like a park than a school, and many people were out enjoying the beautiful weather:

One particularly attractive stretch that Jeff took us through was the Groot Begijnhoof, containing many red-brick houses lining the River Dilje. Once the abodes of widows and unmarried women known as begijns, the university has converted them into student housing:

We eventually found ourselves in the Oude Markt, the spacious cobblestoned square that is the center of Leuven's nightlife. The cafes were full of people having lunch and drinks...

...which seemed like a good idea. I had a typical Flemish dish called a videé...

...washed down with a beer, of course:

Some retail stores were still open on Sunday, such as this specialist beer shop carrying many of Belgium's 760+ brews:

After taking a break back at the apartment, Jeff, Amber and I headed off on another long walk, this time in the opposite direction, in order to visit a large park. My daughter had a great time there, feeding donkeys and getting to ride on a paddle-boat (and doing her fair share of the paddling):

As for myself, I enjoyed the walk we took past cornfields and horses relaxing in their pastures:

The path took us past an old abbey. Children were running around on the spacious lawn while adults were sitting at outdoor tables drinking beer, with all of this taking place in temperatures in the pleasant 20's Celsius and under an almost-cloudless sky. The only thing that would've made the scene even more perfect would've been to join the locals and have a drink or two ourselves, but it was getting late and the wives were waiting for Jeff and me back in the apartment:

If there was one thing I didn't like about Belgium, it was all the graffiti that could be seen everywhere. Still, some of it was artistic and creative, even if the Chinese didn't make much sense:

For our final meal in Belgium, we had...well, I forget what I ate, but there definitely was beer:

A nightcap back at the apartment. You couldn't ask for more gracious hosts than our friends Barbara and Jeff. It couldn't have been easy putting up with three extra bodies in your home for as long as we stayed there, but they never complained. Our trip wouldn't have been anywhere near as enjoyable as it was without them. I can only hope to return the favor should they make it out to this part of the world before we're scheduled to leave China next summer:

Dawn breaks over Brussels Airport as we wait for our 9:45 am flight to Heathrow:

With time to kill at Heathrow while waiting for our connecting flight to Shànghăi 上海, we had an early lunch, only this time with British food and beer. See you again soon, Europe!:

And that, dear readers, was our ten-day trip to Belgium. It would be too easy, and not altogether fair, to point out all that is right about life in Flanders and Walloon in comparison to all that is wrong with living in China. As Jeff so aptly put it, "Let the Chinese be the Chinese" and not become like Belgians. Still, after too many years of the chaos, dirt and noise of life in Taiwan and China, these ten days in Belgium were quite literally a breath of fresh air. Yes, I drank (and ate) too much, but I was on vacation, after all. My wife discovered a liking for European bread (she wasn't aware that there could be so many different kinds) and Leffe beer, while my daughter quickly picked up the Flemish word for fries. I think the family will have little trouble adapting to Lithuania, provided we arrive there as scheduled in about two years' time. As for China, we're planning on doing a lot of sightseeing before our time here is up (and hope to play host to some very welcome visitors, too), but once my tour here is finished, I hope that will be all, professionally-speaking, in the Mandarin-speaking world. We'll see...



  1. Great write-up and photography of the whole trip! Thanks for taking the time to share with the rest of us sitting at home. Some of that artwork was truly amazing and the look of some of those cities made me want to sharpen up my long axe (or maybe my broadsword) and head out on a quest :)

    1. Jeff is waiting for you and Joe to go visit him!