Sunday, April 6, 2008

Life in Belgium & visiting nearby cities Paris & Koln (Jan 24 - Feb 11)

I thought I'd share a little info about our new life in Brussels. First of all, the countries that border Belgium are The Netherlands/Holland, France, Germany and Luxembourg. Belgium is basically made up of two regions, the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the North and the French-speaking region of Wallonia in the South (Brussels is a mix of both - signs are in both languages). There's also a small German-speaking community in Eastern Wallonia. Brussels is headquarters to NATO and the European Union. There are numerous International companies here as well, making Brussels seem like a melting pot of cultures.

Things have been going well over the last few weeks and I'm starting to feel like this could be our home (of course only for 3 yrs!) Shannon has been busy at Deloitte trying to get his office caught up since they're still working on 2006 taxes. He seems to enjoy it so far and I've met several of his coworkers who all seem really nice.

Since we've been here, we've managed to try some waffles, chocolates, and most importantly beer - it tastes better than any American beer, not sure if I'll ever be able to switch back! Some kinds I've had thus far are the following: Chimay, Hogardaan, Leffe, Duvel & Kriek (and Kolsch in Germany). And you know how there's a Walgreen store on every corner in the States, well there's a Chocolate store on every corner here! They also have wonderful cheese, bread, pastries/tarts, and wine stores which are hard to resist. I'm praying that all the walking I do will offset all the great food that we've been consuming.

If you love old architecture and history, there's plenty of it here. Just outside Brussels, you'll find Waterloo, which is where Napoleon was defeated. There are several very old and unique buildings, palaces, cathedrals, abbeys, statues, ect... within Brussels.

I've been busy exploring the city and learning public transportation. I will begin French classes at the end of February. I've also joined the Americans Club where I plan to volunteer occasionally for different activities they're involved with. I'm attempting to find a job, but I hear it's quite difficult to get a job being a foreigner (part-time would be ideal, so I can focus on French classes...we'll see what happens). Shannon said he doesn't mind either way because now I'm able to cook, clean, laundry, grocery shop, travel planning, ect... while he's at work (I must do those chores if I want an allowance, per Shannon!). Anyway, I've met a few people here and there, so gradually, but surely we're making new friends.

I've learned that Belgium is a very environment friendly city. Recycling is basically the law here. They use 3 different colors of bags for garbage: blue for plastics and tin (don't ask me why these are mixed!), yellow for paper and cardboard and white for regular trash. I'm finally getting the hang of it after the garbage men didn't pick up my black colored trash bags that I brought from the U.S.! They only pick up the colors I specified above. The city also has huge containers for colored and clear glass at certain areas throughout each neighborhood. Another unique thing I've noticed here is that you must bring a sac with you whenever you go shopping because the stores don't just give them to you, you pay for them if you don't have a sac when you checkout. Thus, I always try and stuff a sac in my purse every time I leave my apartment to save myself 50+ cent euro at the checkout since I've already fallen into this trap and was forced to buy several sacs. One more thing that is actually quite disturbing about Belgium. It's not uncommon to come across dog poop on the sidewalks and other walkways. Belgians love their dogs, but they don't like to clean up after them. Also it is normal to see dogs in stores and occasionally in restaurants.

On a brighter note, the last few weekends, we were fortune enough to travel to Koln, Germany and Paris, France as the weather has been really nice. These were both day trips since they're both relatively close to Brussels. We saw a beautiful Gothic cathedral in Koln; we also dressed up for Carnival which was going on that weekend (it felt a lot like Halloween). In Paris we saw the main attractions, The Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, The Louvre, The Opera House, Champs-Elysee's Walk, Napoleon's Tomb and Seine River.

At the beginning of March we will be moving into our permanent apartment (we're currently in a temporary apartment which is very small). We went apartment hunting last week and found a few that we liked; though, some were really bad. You'd think living in an old city, you could find something with a little charm, but a lot of places have been completely renovated or were extremely outdated. I'll upload pictures of our new place once we get settled in.

The Louvre - Paris
Eiffel Tower - Paris
Arc de Triomphe - Paris
Notre Dame - Paris

Buildings in Grand Place - Brussels
Town Hall in Grand Place - Brussels
Famous Manneken Pis statue in Brussels
Restaurants in small alleys near Grand Place - Brussels
Brussels architecture

Cinquantenaire Park - Brussels
Cathedral in Brussels
Saint Michael's Gothic Cathedral - Brussels
Chocolatiers on every corner...yummy! - Brussels
Royal Palace of Brussels
Carnival Week - Koln
Gothic Cathedral - Koln
Gothic Cathedral - Koln

No comments: