Weekend in Watou: Getaway #2

Do you all remember this wonderful weekend?  Well, we decided to go back this past weekend with some friends and had another great weekend in Watou!

We drove into town on Saturday morning and we’re greeted by the wonderful hostess, Jackie, at the Watou Sint-Bernardus B&B!  She showed us to our rooms and we were SO excited to try out a new room in the main house.  We had the room on the top floor.  Each room in the main house is themed – the themes are the different types of Sint-Bernardus beer brewed next door.  Our room theme was the ‘Grottenbier.’

Yum!

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Fittingly, our room was blue to match the beer label.  Check it out.  It was adorable, big, and very clean!

Cute!

Loved this vanity!

View from the bed area leading to the bathroom/entrance way

After we checked in, we were off to visit the famous Westvleteren Abbey.  For those of you who do not know, this is supposed to be the BEST beer brewery in Belgium.  I believe I read that the beer has been brewed for centuries (check out the link above).

I did not really know what to expect, but was amazed at how BEAUTIFUL it was!  Unfortunately, they do not allow visitors to see the brewery, but there is a cafe where you can have some snacks and try the infamous beer.

Note: The beer is exclusively sold at the abbey and you must call to reserve a case when available.  When you purchase the case, you are forbidden to sell commercially…

The abbey!

Of course, we stopped by the cafe for a snack and a drink.  The guys got to try the infamous beer and the gals (prego) got to enjoy nice water/soda.  Yum…:-).  I did not take a picture of my meal (just a Croque Monseur – grilled cheese), but did snap a photo of the local specialty.  For the life of me, I can’t remember what it is called.  BUT, it was described as…chicken in a lemony-like jello…

The 'Local Specialty'

After lunch we proceeded to explore the small towns in the countryside by stopping at some local pubs to play “Bar Olympics.”  More on that next post as it is VERY interesting and I have quite a few pics!!!

 

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London-town recap!

Let me just say a few things before I let the pictures speak for themselves:

I LOVE London.  Remember when I said that Paris was my fave?  Well, London has inched out for the #1 spot.  It’s true.

We used points (A LOT of points) to reserve two nights at the Intercontinental London Park Lane.  WHOA.  Let me tell you that this was an extremely nice hotel in an extremely nice location!  From the minute you drive up to the minute you leave, there are about 5-10 people welcoming you and asking if you need help.  I’m not kidding – I seriously didn’t lift any of my bags! 🙂  The concierge were wonderful and had many ideas at many different price ranges.  The bar was beautiful, drinks and snacks tasty, and late night dessert = delish.  There is a really nice gym and spa as well.  The gym even had free apples (come on, it’s the little things)!  For you guys out there, the hotel is only a block away from the Playboy club!  Joe was pretty pumped as he’d never seen one before, so he went to talk to the bouncer…um, sorry Joe, members only!  HA.  And of course, last but not least, I got to see this guy at the hotel!

Ok, off my hotel high, now onto the sightseeing!  Here are a couple highlights before the pics!

  • Christmas in London = amazing!  I wonder if that is what a NYC Christmas feels like?
  • The city is jam-packed with businesses/people, but yet I’m amazed at how many beautiful parks/green space is available!
  • Very clean city (at least what we saw)
  • Friendly people & police! 🙂
  • Hearty and tasty food!
  • Sooo many Starbucks!! Of course, I was happy, but surprised since that is NOT the case elsewhere in Europe!
  • Lots of wealthy people in London-town.  Holy apartments, brownstones, and Bentley’s!
  • New words learned – ‘Scallywag’ or ‘He has his fingers in all the pies’ (guy who is a player), Knobhead (jerk, idiot), and ‘lovely.’  Everything is quite lovely in London!
Ok – and now, the highlights!

Hope you enjoyed – I sure did – one of the best weekends here in Europe.  I still can’t believe I get to see all these amazing cities.  I know that I’m a very very lucky girl and of course, I have to thank Babe for bringing me here.  🙂

London, baby!!!

LONDON, BABY!  Anyone remember when Joey Tribbiani said that over and over during the Friends London trip?!?!

Joey = Me, Chandler = Joe

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I AM SO EXCITED to be going to London this afternoon!  Many pics to come I’m sure!

But first, let’s finish our wonderful trip in Banbury, UK (about 30 minutes from Oxford).  Let me start by telling you that everyone here has been SO friendly!  Everyone says hi, good morning, how are you, etc.  I get a lot of “isn’t it lovely today” or “how are you love” or “is the hotel treating you right?”  It’s amazing and so different from Gent!  (Not that Gent people are mean – they just don’t interact with strangers).

So – we had the pleasure of staying at a beautiful hotel in the city center, Whately Hall.  We’ve had excellent service and as I mentioned the other day, the included breakfast is great!

Sorry for the pic quality!

Most of my days here (unfortunately) have been spent writing my paper in our hotel room.  Who doesn’t want to write about descriptive statistics, box plots, and correlations/covariances?!  Yes, fun I know.

My days..oops Perez in the background & not my paper?!

I found the cutest coffee and sandwich shop close to the hotel (unfortunately I don’t know the name).  She was SO friendly and made the most delicious grilled veggie and hummus sandwich.  We got to talking and I tried to make it seem like I knew British english.  BOY, that didn’t last long.  I tossed in the word “quid” for money…and she was like, um, you mean cash?  Fail.

I also took a break yesterday to go to a spin class.  OMG.  I have not done one of these since the USA (I’m really not up for gym classes in Dutch in Gent).  At times I thought I was going to die…ok, not really, but it was TOUGH.  I haven’t sweat that much since my half marathon in 2010.  It was awesome and is definitely making me miss the YMCA in Milwaukee!

Ok, anyway, last night Joe and I went out to dinner (for another paper writing break – see a trend).  We went to a nearby hotel, The Cromwell.  IT WAS DELISH.  Check out our meal below!

Appy: Blue cheese stuff mushrooms!

Appy: Duck & hoison spring rolls

Joe: Chicken fajita's (yes, I had food-envy when I saw his)

Me: Side salad - funny there are potatoes?

Me: Veggie & potato soup

A great meal!  We finished the night by catching up on New Girl, Revenge, and Modern Family! AWESOME!

Must focus…

So, instead of writing my paper (like I HAVE to be doing), I figured I’d toss out a quick blog post.  Such a procrastinator…

Last night we had an AMAZING meal at one of the cute restaurants in Banbury, The Old Auctioneer.  Joe had been here before and really liked it – it did NOT disappoint!

Down a cute brick road!

We ordered the Grilled Mediterranean flatbread as an appy.  OMG, it was so delicious – the dough was thick, soft, etc.  Plus, the toppings were perfectly well done!

Hands crossed patiently waiting for a slice! 🙂

I then opted for the “Sante Fe” salad.  I was SO excited about this because it was just normal grilled chicken, little corns on the cobs (LOVE), black beans (near impossible to get in Belgium), and tortilla chips.  Yes, I was in heaven.  Plus, they brought out more bread for me (whole grain – yummy).

Loved the wood that the meals came on!

We were way too stuffed for dessert…or “puds” as they were called on the menu.  Hahah – I love British English and the accent.

We headed back to the hotel and decided to watch a movie…Crazy, Stupid, Love.  We both LOVED the movie and highly recommend it.  There were both funny and sad parts – a good mix.  The cast was outstanding (in particular Steve Carrel, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone).  Itunes got a little more of our money last night…man, we are a gold mine to them.

OK…now, back to today.  The hotel we are at offers a VERY nice breakfast (included)!  Joe was happy to see a smorgasbord of hot meal items – like eggs, baguettes, ham, sausages, and mushrooms.  And then, there were tons of cereals, fruit, and toast for me.  I opted for some muesli but added Rice Krispies (exciting) and pumpkin seeds (even MORE exciting)!

Here is my setup for the day…now I HAVE to get to work.

Yea, FB is in the background...so addicted.

Enjoy your day!

As promised…a glance into my first Belgian school getaway

We had our “Opening Session” for the part-time MBA program this Monday and Tuesday.  It was a full 2-day event that included the ‘Communication and Interaction Styles’ course and a nice dinner party.  The hotel, Het Godshuis, was about 45 minutes away in Sint-Laureins and was very nice!  Apparently it is also a nice getaway for the weekend – has a spa, very nice restaurants, etc.

So, I should start off by saying, I really had no idea what to expect.  Obviously, I’ve been to various conferences through my other jobs in the USA, but never one in Belgium.  I won’t bore you with the similarities (i.e. – same conference rooms, break snacks, small talk, ice breaker games, etc).  I think the most interesting are the differences:

#1: We had to share rooms – that in and of itself is not too different.  However, the beds in the rooms were 2 single beds pushed together.  Yup, together.  So, I was shocked by this and was going to propose separating, but then she didn’t so I was afraid to be rude.  So, yeah.  (Note – the sheets and bed spreads were separate).

#2: Lunch on both days included wine.  Enough said.

#3: A wake-up call was previously arranged for every room (see dancing party below…).

#3: The dinner party – oh so many things here!  The dinner came and went with no surprises – a very nice cocktail hour followed by a delicious 3 course meal of salmon, white fish, noodles, and an amazing chocolate pudding with berries.  (Sorry, no pictures of the food – wasn’t about to bust out my camera in front of everyone)!  The real differences started with after-dinner festivities…listed below.

Trivia Game:

  • You were picked to be on a team old-school style.  In other words, I felt as thought I was standing on the field at TW in Tosa hoping to not be picked last.  Thankfully I was not – but per my previous post, there are only 5 girls in the group of 50, so we were picked fairly quickly.
  • The questions included “name that tune.”  Well – they were all foreign…sorry team, not scoring any points for you there.
  • One of the tasks included head-banging.  Yes, who could head-bang the best.
  • Pictionary – You’d think this would be the original, but no!  I still don’t get it, but it went something like you drew an animal for the other teams and then they gave you points????
Dance Party:
  • DJ booth was setup with disco lights – hahaha.
  • Techno played long into the night (free alcohol until way past my bedtime).
  • Almost everyone danced!  I did not expect this…but it was great.  (Another side note – the dancing formation is the same in every culture – people all dancing in a huge circle with those brave enough or those who’ve indulged in a few cocktails going into the middle to show off his/her ‘moves’).
I know there were other things worth mentioning, but I’m drawing a blank.  Seriously, it was a REALLY great time and it was so nice to get to know each other outside of the classroom.  Obviously, I had quite a few laughs!  Honestly, the Belgians do know how to have a great time!

And…some quick catch up!

As you can tell, I’m WAY behind on my blog (about a week)!  So…we’re going to do a week in pictures (like last time) in order to catch up!  Man all this traveling and visiting is really eating into my blog time! 🙂

Wednesday:

My grandparents arrived in Tosa from Arkansas!  I was SO excited.  I have not seen them in 1.5 years!  So…what did we do?  We had the traditional “fall” dinner at home…Mom’s chili.  And, omg was it good!  Mom makes chili with noodles…anyone else do that?  Yea…and I ate it so fast…sorry no pics!

Thursday:

We moved to a downtown hotel for the weekend.  Hello, Hotel Metro!  (We LOVE this hotel – it is where we stayed the night of our wedding)!

We lucked out because the ‘Zen Den’ bar at the top of the hotel was actually open to the public (always closed for private events).  So…we stopped up for a drink and to “relax” in the “zen” area!  Awesome.

A hidden little gem!

Aw, brothhhhhers!

We then ate at my all-time FAVE sushi restaurant…SAKETUMI.  You KNOW I had the spicy tuna roll, Godzilla roll, AND a new scallop roll.  YUM!  Oh, and we ordered 2 helpings of edamame (I ate one myself while the brothers shared…yikes)!  Last but certainly not least…we stopped at Catch 22 for a drink with my BFF Julia and her fiance, Andy.  Again, no pics…so slacking!

Friday:

Friday definitely deserves it’s own post.  And, it will get one very shortly.  Why you ask?  Because, it is in honor my parents 25th Wedding Anniversary!  Here is a sneak-peak at the surprise party we threw!

Aren't they cute?!

Yes, that’s all you get for now! 🙂

Saturday:

A BUSY day! 🙂  The morning was spent hosting a Bridal Shower for my BFF, Julia!  (Am I a party-planner or what…ha)!  We had the party in the common room at our condo building.  Here are some pics of the event and the beautiful bride-to-be!

The spread...

Some may say...the best part of the party (ahem, me)!

The bride's seat!

The bride!!!

And...her gifts! Does she like chicken - I can't remember...

Right after the shower…we hopped on over to Trinity (bar) on Water Street to meet up with the boys…AND…a surprise guest.  My friend, Karen, from DC flew in to hang for the day/night!  Yes, I cried.

Together again!!! Seriously, best day.

And, last but certainly not least: dinner and drinks at our “old stomping ground.”  Aka – La Fuenta…aka…best place for margarita’s (even if you were of a questionable age).  Just kidding, mom….

The marg's...and...only a couple chips left! Thankfully, they are bottom-less!

The gals!

The fam came!

Seesters! They are always picking me up for some reason.

Fave.

After our fabulous dinner and marg’s, we headed to our favorite Marquette bar, Caffrey’s.  Oddly enough, I can’t find a “suitable” picture to post…:-)

SUCH a great trip home.  It went by so fast (as I’m sure it always will), but we are so blessed/lucky/thankful to have such wonderful family and friends.  We miss you and love you all!

 

 

 

 

My new Chicago…

When we were living in Milwaukee and wanted to go somewhere fun for the weekend, we’d go to Chicago.  I LOVE Chicago and hope to live there some day.  When we come down I-94 and the skyline I appears, I seriously can’t help but smile and get goosebumps.  It’s gorgeous.  I often called it my “mecca” and Joe would just roll his eyes.  Since I can’t get to Chi-town in under 2 hours anymore, I’ve found a new “mecca”…

PARIS (not a bad alternative, huh?)!

We’ve been to Paris 4 times since we’ve moved here…almost embarrassed to say that since we’ve only been here 6 months and there are so many other places to see!  Whatevs, it’s true.

Here are some of my favorite things we’ve done in no apparent order (and would definitely recommend to anyone going):

  • Bike About Tours – we did the Parisian Bike Trip and loved it!
  • Sight Seekers Delight Tour – we did the ‘Paris along the Seine’ tour with my parents.  Our guide was very knowledgable and fun.  Definitely recommend doing this one of your first days – you see a lot of things you’d like to return to the next day!  You do a LOT of walking, so be prepared.
  • Le Orangerie Museum – Monet water lilies?  Yes, please.
  • Montmartre area – just walk around and see the painters (watch your belongings from pick-pockets)
  • O’ Chateau Wine Tasting – we did the ‘Tour de France of Wine.’  Very fun tasting and great sommelier, but were not treated very nicely by the bartender upstairs when we asked for directions.
  • Eiffel Tower – light show that starts after dark (along those lines – have a picnic in the park…amazing)
  • Laduree – Go for Sunday brunch or just a croissant/macaroon from the bakery…AMAZING.
  • Just walk and get lost, really!  You’ll see so much…but beware, sometimes comes with map arguments. 🙂
Where to stay (I usually book through Hotwire or Booking.be):
*Note – there are hotels for all budgets.  As mentioned in my previous post, (Luxembourg), I tend to be a diva about hotels…just a precursor to my reco’s.
  • Le Meridien Etoile (Champs de Elysee area):  Good 4-star hotel that is about a 15 minute walk to the Arc de Triumph and Champs.  Jazz club at night is nice, but be prepared to pay a lot for drinks (same with any hotel).  Nice, clean rooms with big beds.
  • Hotel California (Champs de Elysee area):  My fave 4-star hotel so far; it’s literally 2 blocks off the Champs.  Great location, beautiful rooms, and friendly service.  We arrived before check-in and our room wasn’t ready so they watched our luggage for us and we went on our way.
  • Marriott Trocadero (Eiffel Tower): Fortunate to stay at this 5-star hotel by the Eiffel Tower due to our friends’ points!  Absolutely beautiful location and wonderful rooms/lobby.  Great service too – gave us dishes for our picnic.  One caveat…commented on how they noticed we drank a bit one night…busted.
*All hotel breakfasts are ridiculously expensive (think 25 euros/person).  There are so many bakeries/patisseries, just go there  for significantly cheaper.
**Last but not least, eat as MUCH cheese, macaroons, croissants, and baguettes as possible.  It is all seriously delicious!
***If you know anyone going to Paris, I would gladly help them plan their trip!
Now for the most important part – pics!

Relaxing Sunday in Gent…

A perfect, relaxing Sunday in Gent…went for a walk this afternoon and found ourselves at the Marriott bar (very, American).  It’s become our home away from home!  Had a mid-afternoon snack of marinated olives, sausage, and cheese to be dipped in the infamous Gent mustard (see previous grocery post).

As we were walking back to our apartment, we stumbled upon the MOST GLORIOUS BANNER to ever have been on display in Gent.  Do you see the little logo in the lower left corner…we are getting a STARBUCKS!  OMG…I can now call Gent a legit city, j/k…kind of.  Come “herfst 2011” you’ll know where to fine me! 🙂

***Note, I’ve googled the opening of Starbucks and feel like I should mention that the vast majority of “Gentenaars” (i.e. – Gent locals) are NOT happy about this.  They do not want chains coming to their centrum.  Whatevs, Gentenaars, don’t rain on my parade—it’s coming!  OH, and if they have the red Starbucks cups during the holidays, I may pass out from excitement.

Beautiful Luxembourg City!


This past weekend we decided to take a mini-trip to Luxembourg City.  Joe had another 3-day weekend (not sure what this holiday was), but we realized we had been to every country neighboring Belgium except Luxembourg…so…that’s where we went.

We had not heard much at all about Luxembourg.  In fact, most of the people we spoke to did not say good things…more along the lines of, “eh.”  Needless to say, our expectations were low, but I found a great deal at a 5-star hotel (OMG!) and off we went!

Interesting tid-bit:  The country of Luxembourg is only like 52 miles wide and 32 miles long…crazy small.  They speak French, English, and German.  I can get by on English (obvii) and German, so I had high hopes of communicating.  BOY was I WRONG.

We stayed at the Sofitel Grand Du Cal (it was BEAUTIFUL).  Had a non-European style bed – it was huge and fluffy and had tons of thick pillows.  The best part was the shower – it had the “rain” shower-head.  I literally felt like I was standing under a waterfall…so awesome.  Plus, the rooftop restaurant and bar overlooking the town was a good perk.  Here are a few pics:

*I will never deny that I am a hotel-snob…side-effect to the many years of work travel.  I will gladly pay an inflated price for high quality service (to a certain extent, of course).

Like I said, we had no expectations of Luxembourg, but after the first day of walking around the “alt-stadt,” we were SO pleased.  I would rank it as one of my favorite weekend getaways thus far.  It is a BEAUTIFUL city.  We loved the valleys, bridges, and parks.

The second day we decided to take some “tours.”  First stop, the WWII American Cemetery which is home to 5,076 soldiers, including General George Patton.  This was my first experience at a war cemetery and I must say I found it to be a very peaceful and emotional place.  We were both very happy to have stopped here to pay our respects.

Second stop, an English-guided tour through the Petrusse casemates.  The casemates date back to 963 and are essentially tunnels through the ground (some 40km) that were used as both a shelter from war and for fighting battles.  Really interesting, but made me very nervous (fear of bats/spiders/mice, etc).

Overall, we had an amazing trip to Luxembourg.  We would really like to go back to show our families!