The Easter Trip Part II: Belgium

We left Wageningen on a Thursday afternoon the minute Brian was finished with his conference. Traveling to Bruges by train would have been a long and complicated journey (6-7 hours with something like 6 changes and a ferry!), so we decided to rent a car and drive, cutting our travel time down to 3 hours and our cost in half. The drive was beautiful. Beautiful Highway Driving Unfortunately, this part of our trip was marred by a little accident. We didn’t realize until we dropped the car off in Bruges that Brian had left both his passport and his drivers’ license at the rental place in Arnhem! Quelle horreur! Luckily, the lady at Ace Rent a Car was veeeery nice and helped us contact the guy who rented us the car (and failed to return the documents), who promised to overnight the two document to our next and last hotel in Brussels. So off we went with lighter hearts to discover Bruges. And discover it we did.

Starting with beer in crazy shaped glasses

Starting with beer in crazy shaped glasses

Then we ate *some* chocolate (ahem, ALL the chocolate)

Then we ate *some* chocolate (ahem, ALL the chocolate)

And we basically wondered around among the other tourists and looked at all the cool architecture. Bruges is just as cute and quaint as everyone says it is. I don’t care if it is nothing but tourists, I think it’s definitely worth a visit. Plus, these aren’t like the crazy party tourists in Amsterdam. These are the romantic weekend or family tourists. Much calmer.

So we walked around Bruges for one afternoon/evening and the next morning/early afternoon and took a 3pm train to Brussels, our last stop.

Brussels was….well, let’s just say it wasn’t our favorite stop on the trip. I’m not really sure why that is. We could have been getting tired of traveling and wishing for our own bed. We could have stayed in the wrong part of town. We were right by the main downtown touristy area, right off the pedestrian shopping streets, a short walk from the Grand Place, their big square. And we never really were able to find a cute little neighborhood off the beaten path, which is our secret to happy traveling. So we just rubbed shoulders with THOUSANDS of tourists the whole time we were there. It was hectic. While Brussels does have some good museums and attractions, but overall it just felt like a big, gritty city. We found ourselves missing neat, orderly Denmark.

But we did see some really cool stuff while we were there. I’m a huge Art Nouveau and Alphonse Mucha fan, and Brussels is like the capital of Art Nouveau. So we got to see some cool architecture and even an entire museum exhibit dedicated to one of my favorite eras in painting, the end of the 19th century.

We also went to the Musical Instrument Museum, which is just what it sounds like. But the cool part is they send you in with a little listening device that’s activated by RFID tags in front of some of the instruments, and it lets you listen to a song featuring the instrument you’re standing in front of. How cool is that!

Our favorite part was visiting the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, the King’s royal greenhouses. These are only open to the public for 2-3 weeks every spring, and we happened to be there at the right time. They’re HUGE art nouveau glass structures filled to bursting with blooms and blossoms of every kind.

And that is our trip. We flew out the day after visiting the greenhouses. That was kind of a nightmare. We didn’t get back home until midnight. But we made it and gladly fell into our own bed. Poor Brian had to get up and go to work the next day, but I slept in and “recovered” from our strenuous traveling 🙂

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The Return

The Grand Place in Brussels

The Grand Place in Brussels

Well we’ve just returned from our first official Easter Holiday Abroad. See, the Danes get three days off for Easter: the Thursday and Friday before and the Monday after (what they call Second Easter Day, hilarious). Which is a lot of days off, even for Europe. So over Easter, everyone goes on holiday. It’s kind of like spring break in the US only the whole country is off at the same time.

Brian and I wanted to take advantage of these extra days off since he has so few vacation days this year. He was also scheduled to be in The Netherlands for a conference the week before Easter, so we turned the whole thing into a 10-day long European extravaganza that took us from Amsterdam to Wageningen to Bruges to Brussels.

It was our longest trip abroad since we’ve moved to Denmark, and I’ll have many more details and more posts in the days to come, but I just wanted to take a moment to talk about returning to our newly created home as a brand new expat. Because it’s a little surreal.

It probably didn’t help that we didn’t get home until midnight last night. But when we pulled up on the train, walked to our apartment, and opened our front door it sort of felt like I was in a dream. Or like I was trying to remember a dream right after waking. Everything was almost familiar, but I found myself reminding myself: yes, this is your living room, yes, your walls really are that white, yes, that is where you keep your sugar and flour.

And today, my first day back to real life, I keep finding myself in the middle of that feeling you get when you walk into a room and suddenly forget what you’re doing or why you’re there. Again, I have to consciously tell myself: this is what you were doing before you left, this is what your routine used to look like.

I think it’s different for me, a “trailing spouse,” than it is for Brian, the working spouse. He has a routine to go back to, to immediately fall back into. (Whether that’s good or bad is up for discussion since he had to get up at 6:00 this morning and go to work while I got to sleep in and sleep off some of our travel from yesterday.) Whereas I don’t really have a routine. Or the one that I do have is set by me. So it’s harder to slip back into it, I think.

But of course, it’s coming back to me, and really it’s almost normal again now that I’ve made my usual gym-library-grocery store trip. And of course I’m busy editing all our photos and coming up with lots of topics to post about (Things I Learned in Brussels, Why I Love Danish Public Transportation, Why The Netherlands Shouldn’t Actually be Called Holland, etc. etc.). But until then, I wanted to post this small observation.

Happy Belated Easter Holidays!