Thursday, July 30, 2009


No work, no guests, no trips...
Due to the unusual circumstances, last Saturday was dedicated to Belgium.

1. Favorite Market
We slept in Saturday morning and consequentially missed our favorite waffles at our favorite market, so we decided to try the frites.
I had told my mom that Belgian fries weren't that good. I was wrong. I had forgotten that we live in the Turkish ghetto of Belgium, and as such anything in our terrain probably couldn't, and shouldn't out of respect to the Belgians, be counted as "Belgian".

These are Belgian Frites. These top McDonald's.
This is serious.

2. Shopping
Purchases, not pictures, for proof. Sorry.
3. Brugge

4. Ghent

We went to this college town to partake in the summer festival that we heard was terrific.

After a good beer or two or ten, it probably is.

We stayed long enough to hear the band sing the worst rendition of "Zombie" and pack in this delicious brat.

What a great way to celebrate our wonderful first 10 months of marriage.
First day in Belgium.
Jet lag does exist.

And I couldn't end without giving some pictures from our Falafel-Fun Fair Work Party.

After work we (yes we, I pretend I do stuff here) grabbed a Falafel at Mr. Falafel and headed to the Midi Fun Fair.

The ones (minus Benny) who braved a ride which I am so sad to say I didn't get a picture of.

It was like a giant windmill that had rotating seats on the very tips of the blades. The windmill then spun around taking us close to 150 feet in the air and went 80 mph. It was the scariest thing I've ever been on.
That may have been partially due to the fact that it was at a temporary fair at Midi (an area I was told to stay far away from at night) and included rides like these:

A children's African Safari ride.
Yes, that does say Negresco.

And this children's ride,
Jetboob...or bob.

Yes, they have been blurred.

We love Brussels.

Friday, July 24, 2009

philip lambert

Belgium really ought to thank Al and I. We have successfully managed to bring 4 extra tourists here who otherwise wouldn't have come. "Successfully Managed" may seem like too strong a description, but do you know anyone who travels to Belgium? I wasn't kidding when I said I had to google text Belgium to see if it was it's own individual country.
Of the two Complete Guide to Europe traveling books I've read, both completely skip out on Brussels, and I don't think it was a coincidental accident. But, I must say, even though it's the smokiest and sightseeing-limited-est of the Western European countries I've seen,
it most definitely has it's charms (and warfs).

Court and Wyatt came home with us after Paris and were here for Belgium's National Independence Day (though no one is quite sure from whom they claim their most recent independence). We decided to join the ward for their kayaking outing to The Ardennes - the beautiful forest area of Belgium.

Although it ended up taking 13 hours rather than the 6 we were planning on, it was beautiful. And if nothing else, it helped me miss this place a little less:

Al, Jim and Malcolm with the Sunfi on Torch Lake, MI 2007

Wyatt and Courtney
Indeed, Wyatt did have a pretty severe asthma attack that evening... sorry.

It was almost this much fun.

It was beautiful, though.

If any of you know anything about me, you know that my weakness is...
adventure fantasy novels. I love them. I think I actually believe them. I've begun The Lord of the Rings Trilogy which I will now refer to as LOTR.

I couldn't help myself from picturing young Smeagol happening upon the ring on this very river. Ages ago of course.

Wyatt and Courtney in Bouillon (like the chicken broth), one of the many detours Philip Lambert (coordinator of the trip + our chauffeur, never make that mistake yourselves) treated us to on our way home.

It's a pretty safe bet that our car, which included the four of us with 45 year old Brother Lambert (who we unfortunately didn't get a picture of), was the last to arrive in Brussels that night.
After all, who doesn't need 2 power naps and a convenient store break on a 1 and 1/2 hour drive home? However, we couldn't have made the trip without him, and for that we owe him our thanks.

We finished the evening with a wonderful fireworks display and some tasty waffles.
All in all it was a fabulous Mystery Independence Day.

Just a taste of what Al and I do for fun sans friends, fam and favorite TV shows.

P.S. Anyone know why my pictures won't enlarge? I download them through the blogger tool. I'd love any tips.


growing, growing, gone.

These two came to visit.

They kind of planned their trip while they traveled, and for a while it looked like we might not get a chance to meet up with them.
Saying I was bummed about it would be a total understatement.
Thankfully, everything worked out for the best (at least mine, and hopefully theirs).

So last weekend we were Grow-ing it.
*Dad, my driver's license says Anne STEWART Grow.*

Alex and I took a train Friday night to Paris and met up with Courtney and Wyatt Saturday night. It was Al's first visit and my third. It was so fun to see his reaction to the city.

Pastry, Seine, Notre Dame.
Let the Parisian Love begin.

The Mona Lisa
As disappointing as ever.

Napoleon's Coronation
Couldn't be disappointing.
This one's for you, B-ry.

Winged Victory
A favorite.

This (above) reminded me of this (below).

Sacre Coeur
The hour nap on the grass was most enjoyable.

Totally worth it, even after the money rape they pull for tickets.

Some more Growing.

Rental Bikes a.k.a. The best thing that ever happened to us.

2 almond croissants, 1 apricot pastry, 2 lemon crepes and 2 Nutella and whipped creme crepes later
we actually made it to the top.



Wednesday, July 15, 2009


So, I've been a little lonely during the days here. Now, I don't want this post to be seen as a complaint, or a cry for help. I'm living in Europe and traveling the world with my best friend. Trust me, I understand how wonderful this is and I really am totally enjoying it. All I'm saying is that the days by myself have been a big adjustment for me. It probably wouldn't even be that big of a change if I could say more than "Bonjour" and "Merci" to my many wonderful (or so I choose to believe) neighbors. Consequently I watch the clock probably a little too anxiously and and a little too frequently throughout the day waiting for 6:30. I'm not used to this no-friend, no-conversation thing.

In any other circumstance I wouldn't consider my relationships with the local shop keepers "friendships", but desperate times call for desperate measures and in order to keep up my social well-being, we're going to call them my friends.
I give you a recent conversation I had with one of my "pals".
Me: "Bonjour."
Pal: "Bonjour."
Me: "Sugar?"
Pal: "Huh?"
Me: "Uh...salt?"
Pal: "Ah Yes." Gives a nod of recognition, and turns to go get the salt.
Me: "Ok, wait!" Both hands out in front of me in a stop gesture. "Now, the other" swaying my shoulders left and right and making hand motions to suggest the opposite of salt - somehow.
Pal: Surprisingly, gives another nod of recognition, and turns to get me a bag of sugar.

Clearly, we get each other.

Now, on to my next item, honey. I'll have you know, I usually look up the French word for the items I want to purchase beforehand if I think I won't be able to find them, but the sugar and honey were spontaneous purchases.

Me: "Honey?"
Pal: "Huh?"
Oh no, here we go again.
Me: "Sweet, syrupy....sugar" (cause we already had that one established) all the while making big hand gestures like I'm pulling taffy.


As stated earlier, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Me: Hunching my shoulders, lifting up my right arm so that my hand is directly in front of my face, pinching my thumb and pointer finger together and squint my eyes (you know, using proper ASL etiquette to gesture something small) and then move said hand all over the place and loudly let out a, "Buzzzzzzzzzz."
Pal: Again, a nod of recognition and a smile, "Ah yes!"

He gets it. I get my honey.
And a friend.

You can only imagine how excited I was to meet another shopkeeper who spoke English. He was real friendly at first and we were talking a little bit. I was thinking I was making a new pal.
Finally he asks: "Where are you from?"
Me: "America."
English Speaking Store Employee: "I hate America."
So much for friend-making.
Me: Nervously laughing, "Oh! Oh."
He's from Afghanistan.
He did later say that he liked American people, however I frequent that store a little less often.

Cassie and Chelsey came to visit us. Need I tell you how big this deal was?
Unfortunately, Chelsey and Cassie arrived Sunday night so Al wasn't able to do any of our day outings. But we always joined up for the evenings, of course.

Day One

We (Me and friends) left the house around noon and took a train to Brugge.
It was pretty great.

Imagine a quainter, more picturesque Amsterdam.
Or, as we called it, The Shop Around The Corner Town.

Me with friends on a Canal ride.

Before we left for Brugge that morning I reminded them that they might want to bring their umbrellas. Chelsey didn't want to bother with such extra weight ("hands free 200...9") and said she'd just enjoy the rain if it came. Notice: her head is covered by an empty plastic bag that she found on the ground.

Honestly, the best chocolate I've ever tasted.

Or they.

Like I said, pretty great.

We then hopped on a train back to Brussels around 6:00 and arrived a half hour later, just in time to meet up with Alex. We searched the internet for a restaurant, since Alex and I had only been out once prior to their arrival.

We ended up at this place.
It was delicious.


Friday, July 10, 2009

independence day elsewhere

This was the first time I have ever been out of the country, or even out of Provo, for The Fourth of July. The summer after my graduation I spent a month in Africa and came home just shy of a week prior to the big day. That was the most memorable Fourth I've ever had. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for America. Africa was definitely the poorest and most desolate place I have lived or even visited. London and Brussels don't even compare to Ghana. However, every single time I leave leave the States, no matter where I go, I'm constantly reminded of how blessed I am to have grown up in America.
Secretly, I was slightly dreading The Fourth. I was worried I'd be a little sad to not be home, or even in America for the big day. Thankfully, it was a Saturday so Al didn't have to work and I didn't have to be alone. We met up with some Americans and non-Americans alike and took a train to the beach.
So nice.
As much as I totally love old European cities, Belgian chocolate, Belgian waffles, old churches, museums, and beautiful, old streets, it was a real treat to go somewhere that had no traces of Europe. And with the right imagination, it could be mistaken for America (nude swimmers made this a little more difficult, but thankfully those were only children).

Magnum Ice Cream, yum.
Totally un-American, but we could not resist.

Alex, Me, Lani, Lauren, Steph, Lauren, 3 other guys and Tristan
"Okay, Americans on the left, Non-Americans on the right (except for Tristan), please."
It wasn't purposeful, but perhaps we were feeling particularly proud to be Americans and stuck together that day.
There were a number of "School House Rock" numbers sung.

Me, Lauren, Lani, Steph & Lauren
Steph is from BYU and works with Alex. She met these other girls from BYU in her ward in Brussels.

We got home around 8:30 and in order to top off the American day we decided to hit up Transformers despite the many, and should-have-been-heeded warnings (Rebb).
We couldn't help ourselves, especially Al. Let me preface this.
When we were training to Italy, we drove through the most beautiful places I've ever seen in Switzerland. In the most persuasive way I could think of, I desperately tried to convince Al that we needed to live in Lucern Switzerland for some period of our lives.
"Eh. I don't know."
"What?! Why not?"
And then, of all the reasons not to move to Switzerland - far from family, far from beedies, questionable job conditions, foreign language he responds,
"There aren't any movie theaters."
Are you kidding me?
Movies over the most beautiful place in the world?
Granted, when he asked why I did want to move there, besides the fact that it was beautiful I said,
"To farm."
That being said, you can imagine how exciting this trip to the movie theater was after a month long absence.
On the metro I looked over and this is the face I saw:

Genuine joy.

Even though the flick was pretty, no, really bad, it did help us feel pretty American.
Not to mention they had this in theater.

We hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July.

Love America!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It feels so good...

Scott Crandall was in the Mother Land for some secret business affairs and asked if we wanted to go over and visit him. Yes, yes we did.
So, Friday evening we hopped on a train at 8:30 and arrived in the St. Pancras station around 9:30. We then went searching for the hotel Scott was staying at. Al was getting a bit tired of searching for the hotel and I don't blame him. It was late, we were tired, and carrying luggage. But I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't ecstatic wandering those streets.
Finally, we were almost to Hard Rock on Piccadilly when we heard "Breathes!". Naturally, I didn't respond and walked right past Scott but Al wouldn't have missed a call such as that.
We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and immediately made our way to Waterloo station to catch a train to Wimbledon. With a couple of sleeping bags and one "camping blanket" we headed to The Wimbledon All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club around midnight, picked up our "Queue Card" from a Wimbledon steward and set up camp for the night.

No, that's not us. We prefer natural, star-filled, sky covering.

Unfortunately it was one of the busiest years they've had in a while because Andy Murray (some big shot English tennis player) was playing the next day. So, despite our best efforts to get there early (12 hours early mind you) we were numbers 2458, 2459 and 2460. Needless to say we didn't get the kind of tickets we were hoping for, but still saw some excellent matches.

It should be a surprise to no one that Al slept like a baby.

Recognize this guy? Rebb...


Jalena Jankovic, looser. Come on JiJi, come on.
Melanie Oudin, 17 year old, American winner!

James Blake and Mardy Fish doubles.

Gilles Simon

Best Egg McBritishMuffin ever, Strawberries & Cream, Pizza, Iraqi Cuisine and Park Lane Hotel: Thanks Uncle Bain and Scott. We totally owe you guys.

London Town

Evensong at Westminster Abbey

Kellee & Mairin
London '07

Hyde Park

Hare Krishna parade on Piccadilly.
I say Hare, you say Krishna.
Let me see your Hare Krishna!

Trafalga Square good to be back.