Friday, November 1, 2013

Antwerp, Gent and Brussels, Oh My!

When my sister asked me to tag along with her to Belgium, how could I have refused such an offer?

My birthday was yesterday. Yep, a Halloween baby. As a birthday present, my dear sister let me come along while she worked and I played. Och, aye, and I played hard.

We stayed in Antwerp (Atwerpen/Dutch) and I toured everything I could.

From the beautiful cathedral:

To the fun markets:

To the beautiful churches:

I could have lived there in a heartbeat. The rich history and architecture was simply breathtaking. To be honest, the pictures didn't do the country justice. My mouth dropped repeatedly at the sights.

My sister decided to take me to Gent for one day. Apparently, there was a castle there she wanted me to see. Oh, boy. A castle indeed. This was the castle they used in the TV show The White Queen. This awe-inspiring structure was built in 1100. You read that right. 1100. Needless to say, I was in heaven and didn't want to leave. Could you imagine the inspiration to be had? Even if I do have a Scottish fetish, a castle is a castle.

I learned a lot of things from my trip and thought to share.

1. Americans eat like crap. Seriously, we do. Everything is so fresh over there. No preservatives. The Belgium people cook everything according to what's available that season.

2. I'll never look at Olive Garden the same way again. With Italy being so close, this was the first time I had authentic Italian spaghetti. Enough said.

3. With all that Belgium chocolate one would think there would be a weight problem. Nope. Men, women and children all ride bikes and/or walk everywhere. The country is entirely flat for an added bonus. Let's not mention the fact that I stowed 20 pounds of chocolate in my luggage on the way home. I gained 20 pounds just looking at it.

4. The typical Belgium woman: skirt above the knee or mid-thigh, black tights, ankle or boots to the knee, nice top, jacket and a scarf. Men and women alike dress up their attire with scarves. Scarves, scarves, scarves, everywhere you look. The motto is even "Antwerp...It's all about the fashion."

5. Belgium people would never survive Pittsburgh in the dead of winter. While I was in Antwerp, we had 65-70 degree weather. I was the ONLY one in short sleeves. Seriously. I looked. The Antwerpians had winter coats on for goodness sake. The temperature there was killer for this western PA girl because every store, hotel, museum and restaurant kept the thermostat 75 degrees or higher. I swear the outside cafe's were a blessing. One hostess actually asked me if I wanted to sit closer to the heat lamp. Are you KIDDING me?

This was definitely the trip of a lifetime, and I'm so thankful to have shared the experience with my sister. I can't think of anything better than spending a girls-only week away with your closest friend. Castles, cathedrals, history and chocolate. What could be better than that?