Tuesday, 25 April 2006

Easter 2006 in Greece

Highlights of our trip to Greece in April included: a beautiful sunny day spent in Lefkada with John's parents, spending time with John's Aunt Maria and cousin Aggeliki and her boyfriend Evrikos, celebrating Greek Easter in three different churches, and of course, incredible food. To see some selected photos of the trip, click here.

Friday, 7 April 2006

Geneva...more than just watches and banks

M: Seventy-two corn-fed European Law Students Association (ELSA) members wedged themselves on to a double decker bus in Leuven on Sunday night for a 12-hour drive to Geneva. We arrived early on Monday morning where we quickly shuffled into an intimate room for eight at the Youth Hostel, equipped with communal showers (3 for all of the girls) and 2 toilets. Ah, life as a 30-something "youth". I think I will soon retire from the youth circuit, particularly the bit that entails hanging out in hostels...

We visited a veritable cornucopia of acronym-blessed institutions like the UNHCR, UNCTAD, WHO, ICRC, WTO, ILO, WIPO. We also "hit" a reception hosted by the Belgian Representation to the UN, which took place on the top floor of the UN Palais de Nations building with a panoramic view of Geneva, including the imposing Mont Blanc in the distance (which can be seen on my right in the photo above). Very, very, nice indeed. But one stereotype does hold true of the place: the shoreline of Lake Geneva is cluttered with buildings housed with either international banks or watch companies.
We also had time to enjoy an authentic Swiss fondue. Cheese and bread for dinner...YUM! Veggies were not an option - no wonder the Swiss are particularly susceptible to scurvy (OK, bad joke). On Wednesday (5 April), I joined Erica and a bunch of the other students at Cirque du Soleil's Dralion. What great entertainment! I stopped breathing each time the performers were doing something remarkable (like a petite contortionist girl balancing on only one hand).

The last day (Friday), I had planned on starting my tour of the city at that famous Swiss institution, err, Starbucks, then walk around the city to take photos (for John, the blog, and Flickr, of course!) and eventually reunite with Erica and Paaaat. Well, my day started out as planned. But soon into my sightseeing, our digital camera broke. Oh the humanity! I lost my sense of time and space trying to figure out what went wrong and soon realised I had developed a nasty appetite. Hunger-induced panic struck me and I ducked into the first restaurant I saw. It looked like a steak house, without the red velour and mafia types in the back. Little did I know that is was the most expensive, most famous steak house called "Relais de L'Entrecôte"!! I must say, the Belgians do make a better steak frites and for one-fifth the price! I left there feeling like someone had ripped out my pride. Luckily, Erica couldn't have called at a better time!
Our afternoon tour included the beautiful campus of the University of Geneva (and Le Mur des Reformateurs), Place Neuve (and the General Dufour equestrian statue), the Temple de la Fusterie (first building designated for Calvinistic worship), and the Schtrumpfs Building in "Les Grottes" (a fantastical architectural icon that defies description - check out Flickr for pics to be posted soon). I also made sure to purchase some Swiss chocolate delectables to see how they hold up to the Belgians. Having experimented with my palate, I conclude that, although of high quality, Belgian chocolates are indeed superior.

The trip ended with a 12 hour over night bus ride back to Leuven in which I then had to take the train to Brussels and walk the 15 minutes with my suitcase and bags back to our apartment but in time to surprise my husband before he left for work! Fortunately John had no one else in our bed and our marriage remains a happy one...(ha ha, I'm just checking to see if you're still reading this monster missive).

Check out our Geneva photos at this link.

Saturday, 1 April 2006

Mechelen - surprise!

J&M: You may or may not be interested to know that we took advantage of a sunny April Fool's Day and went to Mechelen, a quick 20 minute train ride from Brussels. (I am sure older Belgians, used to a life perpetually under cloud cover, are having real difficulties handling the consistent -- i.e. twice a week -- sun we have been getting over the last two months) .

Aside from the usual Flemish architectural glory we were impressed by the Dyle river and the way the city takes advantage of it (cafes, housing, etc).

This photo shows part of the Grote Markt (Grand Place) and the unfinished Saint Rumbold's Cathedral tower which is almost 100m high and contains two carillons (yes, I have no clue what those are either), each with 49 bells. The tower is listed as a UNESCO World heritage site. To see the rest of our photos from Mechelen, click here.