Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Belgium Continued

Thursday May 11, 2006
Seeing the Sights
Thursday morning we rose early, 6:30, and headed down to the restaurant for a fantastic breakfast buffet. There was so much food we didnt' know what to do with it all. There different kinds of cereals, fruits, mini pancakes the size of loonies you sprinkled icing sugar on, bacon, eggs, different kinds of cheeses, little round potatoes, and this yummy yogurt. The yogurt in Europe is so different from North American yogurt. It's much thicker, creamier and tastes delicious. We stuffed ourselves full and then headed outside for a morning walk. Our coach suggested stretching our legs and also, if we were outside, we couldnt' go back to sleep.
We wandered down a bike path that twisted and turned along the highway and then branched off into a park. We stopped on a bridge overlooking a dried up river bed-thank you human expansion-and took some nice pictures. The sun was shining and it felt nice to get out after being stuck in airports and on airplanes. There are bike paths and pedestrian paths along the roads. The bike paths are red and where you walk is grey. This keeps the bike traffic and pedestrian traffic from merging and killing each other. )Everyone bikes there)!
After our walk we returned to the hotel and were given bus passes so we could head down town and actually see some of the city. The man who shuttled us down there told us of the legend that had given the city its name. I can't spell it, so I won't try, but essentially the myth goes a little something like this.
There was an evil giant guarding the river that flows through the city. He would not let anyone pass unless they paid a hefty price. If they couldn't pay...um, I forget he ate them or something. :) One day, (now this is where the myth can differ), either a Roman general or another giant, not sure which one, decided that enough was enough. The general/giant confronted the evil giant and managed to kill him. He cut off the evil giant's hand and threw it into the river. So, the name of the city litterally means-hand throwing. Or something like that.
We walked around the square that was lined with different shops and the hugest church I have ever seen. Apparently it's one of the biggest in Europe and it took 170 years to build. Even after that it wasn't totally completed. The spire was huge and the bells would chime every fifteen minutes or so. On the hour it played a song, but the quarter of an hour noises reminded me of a huge magic wand sound you would hear in movies. Christena lifted me up on her shoulders-and the other totally blind swimmer-to we could see the sculptures that were on the pillars overhead. (Once I get the pictures I'll post them on my Photo Bucket).
There were plenty of people walking their dogs along the cobble stone streets and wonderful smells of restaurants and chocolate shops wafting on the morning breeze. We found the fountain that was the tribute to the defeat of the evil giant and got more pictures. The fountain is of the victorious standing over the fallen giant and there is a spurting hand. I don't think it's supposed to be anything gruesome-just water pouring out of the hand. There are little sea creatures celebrating too. :)
We went into a chocolate shop after much debate with the shopkeeper. She said she didn't want Jetta in the shop, so I opted to stand outside. She must have felt bad or something because she relented and said I could come in. I just went in the front door and tucked Jetta behind a plant and asked her to lie down. That way she was out of the way and not causing a scene. Between the five girls that I was with-Tenie and I included-we spent close to 200 euros in that store. I am sure she was glad she finally let me in. :) Our bags were so loaded down with chocolate it was rediculous! The Belgian chocolates are nothing like the ones we have here. They are filled with real cream-some flavoured some not-and you have to refridgerate them to keep them longer. They are extremely creamy and taste heavenly. Tenie and I bought some for ourselves, which I had on Thursday and Friday, but refrained from until the meet was over. The first thing I did on Sunday upon returning to the hotel after my competition, was eat a chocolate.
We also stopped in a tapestry shop. They had a replica of the "Captive Unicorn," not sure if that is its exact title, and since i love unicorns I bought it. Belgium is famous for its tapestries and there is a certificate of authenticity on the back. Christena got her mom a pillow with a rose on it and her little sister a wallet with cats stitched on the front. Another girl that was with us purchased a purse and it too came with a certificate of authenticity.
We stopped in at a tourist shop and bought a few postcards to send back home. It was the first place I had gone where they did not give me a hard time about Jetta. There was a lot of herchandise of the little "pissing" boy that has become Belgium's pride and joy. There is a statue-very small in a back alley on some building-of this little peeing boy. There are many mixed stories of whether he was real or not and a sculptor just sculpted him or not, but there is an entire museum dedicated to the 650 costumes that have been made in his honour. Christena bought her Grandma a snow globe of him because her great uncle had sent a postcard home of the peeing boy during the second world war and it reminded her of him. We made a few more purchases-which I will not mention here because we have not given all of our friends their presents yet-and headed back to the hotel for a very tasty lunch.
That afternoon, we went back to the pool and trained with part of the American team. There were no mishaps with Jetta this time...thankfully. We had a great supper of seafood stew and then tried to stay awake until at least 8:30 this time. It sort of worked. Jetta was so jet lagged that she was sleeping in five minutes of returning to our hotel room. My poor Jetta. Stay tuned for more adventures tomorrow. :)


Expat Traveler said...

Such a great story! The chocolates are making me want some! But of course they are harder to find here too. My favorite Christmas present was some hand made chocolates. They were incredible but from a Swiss chocolatier, but of just as high quality to say the least. I would have spent some time in that shop too!

L^2 said...

Hey Girls,
Wow, so exciting! I never get to go anywhere. :-( I Can't wait to hear about more of your adventure - today's part made me hungry for chocolate too! :-) And I'm glad everything got straightened out so Jetta could be with you.

Jess and Jetta said...

Expat Traveler:
The chocolates were amazing! I'm sure hand made chocolates could definitely measure up.
Oh, and I can't find your blog entries anymore. Can you help? lol
Laura and Girls:
It was such a relief. I was worried that I would have to leave Jetta in the hotel room and that would not have been very productive. I have started looking into the guide dog laws for South Africa already since that is where the World Championships are in December. I am a little worried about getting Jetta in.

nyasha said...

sounds like you are having a great great time!!! by the way, on your next outing to town, ask around for the café/restaurant "le Pain Quotidien" - i am totally addicted to it everytime i go to Belgium. By the way, where are you, in Brussels or elsewhere?
Good luck in the competition!
Save me a chocolate!

Jess and Jetta said...

We were in Antwarp? I don't think I am spelling that correctly. We already returned home otherwise I would have made sure I had asked for that cafe. The competition went well. :) Thanks. As I will illustrate in the next instaulment of our trip.
PS: We have two boxes still in the fridge! lol

Expat Traveler said...

What do you mean can't find my blog entries?

my blog is on the link. Here it is again...


If needed maybe you can figure out my email on my profile page.

nyasha said...

you can check out this link for the coffee shop i was telling you about. There were TWO in Antwerp :)

nyasha said...
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nyasha said...
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nyasha said...


Jess and Jetta said...

I will check it out.
And I can't find your entires. I can get to your blog, but somehow I can't find the entries to read them. I'll try again though. :)
Sorry for not continuing my adventures in Belgium. I went away this past weekend and haven't been able to continue. (The next instaulment will come soon). :)