Monday, April 21, 2014

Our Easter in Brussels

We decided to take a last-minute jaunt to Brussels for Easter, the main reason for which was that we wanted to attend an English-language church service. There was an Anglican church in Brussels that had a traditional service, so we decided to go there. It is only a little over an hour by train, so it isn't a bad trip. This time, I booked a hotel near the church instead of way out as I am prone to do, although it probably would have been better this time to just get a cheaper, far away hotel. Anyway. We stayed at "The Hotel. Brussels," which was a pretty fancy place. They were out of rooms with big beds, so we had to go Rob and Laura style, but that ended up being fine. They also had a little baby bed for Sadie, which she mostly didn't mind, although she ended up not sleeping in it.

When we got in, I was starting to get a bit of a headache, and although I thought there was some aspirin kept in the diaper bag, there wasn't, so I went across the street to the pharmacy. In Brussels, they speak French and Flemish (or Dutch? is there a difference?) so I was excited about using my French. I asked for a mix of tylenol and aspirin, basically, and what he gave me was tablets you dissolve in water and drink. What is with these European medicines? Anyway, I took some and we headed out to see a bit of Brussels.

First stop was the Delirium Cafe--basically a beer bar. We had a few beers and Sadie managed to hold it together for most of the time. It really helps when we can sit outside. While Belgium doesn't seem to have quite the obsession with running the radiators that Germany does, I think she does better in the fresh air. After we had a few drinks, we headed to an Ethiopian restaurant we wanted to try. We generally get Ethiopian food in every city we visit, if possible. The place was really good, although I ran into a problem with languages: basically, I would start a sentence in French and then slip into German by the end. And I couldn't stop saying "bitte" instead of "s'il vous plait." I don't know how people who know multiple languages keep them all straight! Anyway, the restaurant had some of the best ketfo we'd ever had. Sadie had a little bit of lentil and did really well. Hunter mentioned that it was one of the best travel days he'd had. That was all about to change.

As we headed back to the hotel, I was on my last legs. My headache hadn't gotten any better and really had gotten worse. I took a bath and tried to take some more of the aspirin and then just got into bed. This migraine was kind of a wake-up call. Spring is coming, which is a time when I always get more headaches. I think last spring I missed a day of work almost every week because of headaches. Now that I have a baby, I can't afford to just lose days of life--it isn't fair to Hunter or Sadie. I've lived with headaches for so long that it seems so normal to me. It's hard to imagine there are people who haven't experienced them. Just to give an example of how it feels, if you are lucky enough not to live with this: I looked at a staircase and wished I could fall down it so I would be knocked out and possibly taken to the hospital, so they could take care of me and I wouldn't have to function anymore. I saw this satirical magazine cover once, saying that the cure for migraines was like, eating kittens or something and I was like, that's no joke. I'm pretty sure any migraine sufferer would eat a live kitten if they knew it would just make it go away. So anyway, that night was pretty rough because in addition to me being basically useless, Sadie was not in a very good mood. She seems to be teething, and also had caught a small cold so Hunter was really stepping up and taking care of the whole family. She likes looking in the mirror, so Hunter did that to entertain her a bit. A picture:

We woke up the next morning, and while I didn't feel amazing, going to the church was the whole reason we made the trip, so I got myself and Sadie dressed and ready. Sadie wore a pretty pink dress that Hunter's dad gave her for Christmas. I got a few pictures of her in the baby bed before she got it (the dress) wet/dirty.

People are always commenting on how pretty her eyes are!

I was hoping I could get something to eat/drink before church, but that didn't work out, so I definitely wasn't feeling great. Add to that Sadie's desire to constantly make noise and the church experience certainly wasn't ideal. I actually got up to take her out, but a deacon (or something, I don't really know how Anglican churches work) told me not to worry about it. It was pretty hard to hear though, at least for us, so eventually I did get up and just sort of paced in the back to keep her quiet. We were able to take communion, and the--priest? Do you call Anglican clergy priests?--was super nice about Sadie's noisemaking. It wasn't the optimal church experience, but I'm glad we went. We grabbed some pastry on the way back to the hotel room, where I needed to collapse back into bed. I wasn't sure if I'd be up to doing anything else, but decided to sleep a little bit while Hunter went to find a store to get some Belgian beers. It turned out to be closed, but he did bring back a big box of Neuhaus chocolate. When I got up, I decided I felt well enough to go to the "Grand Place," have lunch, and take some pictures.

We ate at one of the restaurants right on the square, which is obviously a more expensive option but the square is really pretty so we wanted to take advantage of the beautiful view and sit outside.

It was quite crowded; there were a lot of people and even some scouting groups. After that, we walked around the city a bit more. There are a bunch of museums and things, but we just stayed outside, looking at the architecture. It was a really nice day to be walking around. I hope we can go back, and I would like to see the Magritte museum in particular, but just admiring the city was fun for this trip. One thing we saw, which is a weirdly famous attraction, is the "Manneken Pis." Basically, it's a statue of a kid peeing? It was super crowded but we did manage a picture:

We sat down by a fountain where Hunter got some pics of Sadie and me.

I think this next one is in front of the old palace--there are just so many nice buildings I can't keep them all straight:

We also walked through a park and then it was time to get our bags and head back to the train station. I was glad I had felt well enough to walk around and see a bit more of Brussels. Although anywhere you go you can probably use English, it was fun to practice my French. I did slip into German sometimes, but usually people didn't just respond to me in English, which made me feel pretty good. I'll be going to Paris next month, so I'm hoping to be able to use a lot of French there. 

And now, some bonus pics of Sadie opening her Easter presents (which we did on Monday):

Happy Easter, everyone!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Week Alone With Sadie and Our Trip to Dresden

Last week I had Sadie all to myself while Hunter was at a conference in Dresden. I was pretty scared about it, because normally when Hunter gets home he can help take care of her and sometimes I can even take a shower or something by myself. However, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Sadie got a little more independent, so she could entertain herself while I cleaned up and I even made some progress on cross-stitch while we watched TV together. I'm glad Hunter is back this week, but I survived everything--even the solo plane trip!

On Friday afternoon I flew from Cologne to Dresden with Sadie. This wasn't so bad either; people were constantly asking if I needed help, and since Cologne is not a huge airport, going through security didn't take very long. The flight to Dresden is a bit less than an hour, and Sadie did get a little fussy once they gave me food--she really doesn't like when other people eat and she doesn't get to! Hunter met me at the airport and we headed to the hotel. Since Hunter made the reservation this time, the hotel wasn't out in the middle of nowhere. He got us a hotel right in the middle of everything, and for some reason they upgraded us to a deluxe room, which was huge!

After we rested for a little bit, we went out to get dinner. Dresden is pretty near the Czech border, so in addition to signage being in English and German, some of it was in Czech and I think maybe Russian? The restaurant we went to was Saxonish/Bohemian (Dresden is in Saxony). The food was pretty close to German but I think maybe a bit more flavorful. The thing I got was beef with a gravy and cranberry sauce and some pretty well-cooked brussels sprouts. We had brought Sadie's portable high chair with us and she got plenty of admiration. We were giving her little tastes of our food, but then the waitress offered to bring her some mashed potatoes. Here she is having a taste:

They had some tasty looking desserts on the menu, but Sadie was getting pretty impatient by the end of things. We found a bar that had outdoor seating because we thought she would like it better, but it didn't go super well. For one thing, they took FOREVER to bring my my drink, and Sadie wasn't too much happier outside than inside. It had been a long day so we went back the the hotel.

Saturday, I wanted to go to the transparent Volkswagen factory. It's a giant glass factory where they make the Volkswagen Phaeton, which costs like 100,000 Euros. I had kind of expected there to be lots of machinery and stuff, but actually the cars are mostly handmade, except for the parts where they really need a machine to do it. They seem pretty fancy; the tour was really half sales pitch and the guide was a bit of a goofball, but it was still interesting to see. Here is a picture of the factory from the outside:

After that we grabbed some lunch. We went to a Vietnamese restaurant and got a fried banana for Sadie so she wouldn't feel left out.

We walked around a little bit. The interesting thing about Dresden is that like half of the architecture is just gray Soviet bricks, the other half looks old, but is in most cases recently restored. I took this picture of a sign on a church:

The basic gist of what it says is: "In 1933 there were 4675 Jews in Dresden. In 1945 there were 70. We remained silent as you were disenfranchised and killed. [we didn't see you as our brothers and sisters?] We ask for your forgiveness and peace."
Hunter told me a more exact translation but I don't remember all the words so I did the best I could.

This is just a hardcore looking dude on a building that I wanted to take a picture of:

Saturday afternoon, we went to the Zwinger, which is a set of galleries. They had a math/science one that was, sadly, not open, and a porcelain one that we didn't have time to go to. The only one we looked at was the paintings one. It was primarily old masters, and they had some really cool stuff. I think the star/most famous painting in their collection was this Raphael. They also had some cool Mannerist paintings, which I didn't even know what that was before but I really liked the style. They also have some of the grotesque type of Dutch still lifes, which I like, and it's always kind of fun to see paintings of like, a Nativity but everyone is wearing like 18th century clothing and is white or whatever. There is a big courtyard outside where Hunter took some pictures.

 A clock

And then of course he took some of Sadie:

Look how cute she is when she cries!

That night we went in comparatively early and watched a DVD. We ate dinner at a random restaurant and asked for some bread for Sadie. The waitress asked if we wanted [cream cheese with herbs] on it, and after she left, the person sitting near us commented on how ridiculous that was. She is a baby!

Here is a picture Hunter took of Sadie in the hotel room:

On Sunday, our flight didn't leave until 6:30, so we had some time to look around. We had gotten tickets for the English tour of the opera house at 3:00, but we had a lot of time until then. The first thing we did was to check out this big golden statue.

We had heard about a Dostoyevsky monument, so after walking around a bit more we went to see that.

A view of the city as we walked over the bridge


We had lunch at a Swiss type restaurant for lunch. Of course, Sadie got admired by nearly every person who walked by.

And then in the afternoon, we saw the opera house. It was basically destroyed, but was rebuilt to look exactly as it did before. The tour definitely gives some interesting information about how they did it and it is really beautiful on the inside. It would be great to see an opera or ballet there sometime! I didn't realize they would allow pictures, so I left my camera at the coat check :(

Well, that's basically what we did! Next trip we have planned is Paris at the end of May when my mom and sister come to visit!