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January 2009
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March 2009

Valentine's Day

    Logo

Brussels was full of love today, Valentine's Day, and there were lots of fun events going on in the city.  They were giving out Elixirs of Love (basically chocolate milk) and chocolate candy.  And at 3:00, the Love Balloon event:

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 You wrote a love letter on a note, put your address on it, and tied it to a balloon.

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What did our love letter say?  Poopie loves poopette, of course!

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oops........a few let theirs go before 3:00.

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un, duex, trois.....me letting go!

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There were cheers and excitement from all!

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It was an absolutely perfect day for such an event.

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The idea is that if you find a card in the street later this week, you are to drop in in the mail so the love letter can get to it's rightful owner.

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Our beloved Smurfs (Le Schtroumpfs) were there - did you know they are Belgian?

They were created in 1958 by Belgian cartoonist Peyo.

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Even the Love Bugs (old and new) were out with BIG bows.

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guessing this little one may have been a bit chilly.

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they were so colorful in the steets

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A fun day!

and Yes, D was my date, despite not being in any of the photos!

 


London: the Super Bowl bet and the BIG snow!

D was asked to speak at a conference in London on Tuesday, February 2.

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How quintessentially British (and cute!) is this doorman?


We had to stop by and visit our favorite Londoners - Dave and Allison for the weekend.  It was the Super Bowl weekend, a perfect time to visit since the Steelers made it to the Super Bowl!  As everyone knows, the Steelers BEAT the Ravens in the playoffs. 

Purple copy Dave and Allison are HUGE Ravens fans.    Since we were going to be together for the Super Bowl we made a bet prior to that playoff game.  Who ever's team won the playoffs and advanced to the SB, the losing couple had to wear the winner's team logo gear all day on Super Bowl Sunday.  Did I mention Dave and Allison are HUGE Raven's fans and they particularly dislike the Steelers?

 

We arrived to find Arizona logos throughout the house NOT Steelers - where is the love?

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We didn't care....they had to wear our Steelers Shirts!  A big shout out to Don SR who mailed us two Steelers jerseys from his private collection as we did not have anything here.  Thanks Don!

Well......At first Dave refused to wear the Steelers gear (note his "I'm getting sick look")

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as soon as he put it on...here is what happened........


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Don't worry Don, we made sure nothing got on the shirt.

Allison & Emma were good sports.  Look how good (and comfortable) Allison looks in our colors!

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After Dave cried in Allison's arms, she consoled him.....

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and I gave him some Steelers cheers.....

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he then gave in and gave us a BIG smile (sort of).

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We hit the Boar's Head pub for lunch Sunday afternoon.

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And a BET IS A BET - they had to wear the Steeler's gear to the pub.  Friends of D&A - did you EVER think you would see this photo?   

Dave and A in pub 

okay so that wasn't the real photo.......but we will have him converted by the end of the night!

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We enjoyed the traditional pub food, fish and chips with mushy peas. 

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and cottage pie sometimes called steak and ale pie. 

Similar to what we call Shepard's pie.  All was very yummy.

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but the beer?  D is not convinced of the British beer, too weak and warm.  He likes his Belgium beer!

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As we left the pub, the snow started.  We headed back to the house to prepare for the Super Bowl.......only 10 hours away!  Remember - England is a 5 hour difference from the US, so the game did not start until 11:30 PM ending at 4 AM!

D had to have his game wings - they bring the Steelers luck you know.  Allison, being the gracious hostess that she is, made the famous Pittsburgh Primanti Brothers sandwich with french fries, coleslaw and more to help bring in the Steelers spirit.  And we had Chex mix thanks to Aunt Martha!

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Yes, we all made it to 4 am to see that incredible catch!  What a game!  D's joy that his boys brought home one for the other thumb!

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Tessa even woke up for a cheer.

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One last photo at 4 am!  Even in the wee hours Dave remembered to cover up the Logo.   And then something happened.....

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I call this Dave's Happy moment...when he converted to being a Steelers fan.  Quote from Dave, " man, that was one incredible catch - I can see why they truly are the Best.  I am even going to join their fan club!" 

Dave happy


With the "big" snow, there were no trains running within the city or into the city so we had to stay another day with D&A.  Dave took off work and we had a fun day playing.  We took a long walk in the morning.  The boys had fun building their snow friend (we were not sure exactly what it was).

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  There is a beautiful old cemetery near the town center.

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D & D were inspired to create the RIP snowman.....our creative husbands  :  )

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One thing we do not get in Brussels in grilled food.  Dave was so sweet to grill dinner in the snow!

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We had to get a very early start the next day for London to get D to his conference on time.  He got there at 10:30 and he spoke at 11:00.

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I had a lovey day shopping the first day and then a fun visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum the next day. 

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D had fun too!

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Colorful Chinatown

China town

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With the driver on the lefthand side, traffic runs opposite for us.   Thank goodness for the constant reminders on the ground at all crosswalks.

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We had some really good food as always, but this one - Polish & Mexican?  We'll have to try this combo on our next visit.

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and my favorite London icon - the red telephone booths.

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We love London!


Saudi Arabia - D on his own!

D was asked to speak at a conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on January 26.  I was hoping D could write this, but he is busy with work so you are getting my interpretation.  He did not have many photos (we know who takes the photos), but the few he took gave a good overview of what it was like.

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The Middle East is part of his territory.  For obvious reasons, I chose not to go.   ALL women, regardless if you are Muslim or a westerner, MUST be completely covered when out in public.  The black dress they wear is called an abaya.  They must be covered in full except for the eyes.  According to the law, they are allowed to expose both eyes out of necessity.

They must walk 5 steps behind their husbands.  They must also be accompanied by a man at all times, BUT if that man is not your husband, father, brother, or son, you can be arrested. 

Another thing he found interesting about the women is that every restaurant (even McDonald's and Starbucks) have the family section that women and children MUST sit in.  It is screened off from the rest of the restaurant and is always in the back.  Men can sit in the family section if they want.  Women CANNOT sit in the front. 

Oddly enough, the person running the conference was a woman (from Germany).  But, even she had to sit behind screens at the hotel during breakfast.  And they had to get special permission from the Saudi gov't for her to sit in the conference audience with the rest of the attendees (all men).  Still, she had to sit in the back. 

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Sunday is a work day in Saudi so he traveled on Saturday.  His hotel was in the newer part of the city.  There were very modern building with very expensive car dealerships; Lamborghini's, Porsche's, BMW, Mercedes, etc.

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Shopping malls are large and there are plenty of them.  But D said most were high-end western stores.  Shopping is a big activity there.  We were guessing because drinking is forbidden so there are no bars and because it is so hot and humid. 

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The old juxtaposed with the new.

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  A mosque in the newer part of the city,

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On Sunday he had some free time in the morning so he took a taxi to the old part of Jeddah.  The ancient part of the city had interesting buildings, but was rather poor; and was a stark contrast to most of the rest of the city which had a very wealthy feel. He said he was THE ONLY westerner, but he felt safe.  However, he did not feel comfortable taking photos unless it was obvious he was taking it of a building.  

  

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No one spoke English.  I asked him how he was able to get a cab back to the hotel, he said that was not a problem.  Every cab that drove by thought he wanted a ride (being the only non-Saudi) so they slowed down to pick him up.  He just waved them on.  When he was ready to go back, all he did was raise his hand.  

 

 

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I found the buildings fascinating and very different from any we have seen in other countries.

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    I read that all of the windows are covered so that men cannot see the women inside.  

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It was a fascinating trip for him.  All I can say is, I am glad he is home!

 

 


January Snow in Brussels

We had a beautiful snow a few weeks ago.  I ran out with the camera to take photos as it does not snow here very often.  I sent a few to my mom and she commented that our Blogs are about all of our travels and she never realized how beautiful it is in our own back yard.  So, here you go......our neighborhood in the snow.

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The Grande Place - a 20-minute walk from our apartment.  The trees were left from the Christmas decorations.  The center is usually a big open space where they hold markets, festivals, musical events, etc.  

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More of a "dusting" of snow.  But it stayed around for 5 days, they said that is the longest they have had snow on the ground in 20 plus years.

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The cathedral - about a 5 min walk from our apartment.

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This park is directly across from the cathedral.

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A sculpture in another park.  We have many parks within 5 minutes of our apartment.

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This is just down the hill from us.  It is one of the paths we take when we walk to the city center.

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I guess we forget how beautiful Brussels is as we walk these streets everyday!

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