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Fri Apr 03 2015: Neda's Belgian Birthday!

We're going to Belgium!

We've been looking forward to this for months. Not to see the country, but to spend time with our very good friends, Eva and Thomas. We first met them two years ago while we were visiting Toronto. We really bonded with them during that time and we've been counting down the days till we could see them again, this time in their hometown of Leuven.

Hallo! We are in Belgium!

From Paris, it was an easy three-hour ride to get to their place. As we got closer, I got really excited when I saw the signs for "Leuven". This is because every time we meet anyone from Belgium, I always tell them "We have friends from Belgium, they live in Leuven", saying it as if I had actually been there. Well, now I can!

We arrived to their place like excited little kids, it was soooo nice seeing them again! We really missed them! And we brought them gifts - chocolates from France (which were actually Belgian chocolates) as well as the rain which has been following us since Guatemala in September 2013. You're welcome!

First things, first. Need to get rid of some the weight up top.

Ta dah! Now I am presentable to the Belgians!

I don't really know much about Belgium. I know Belgian chocolates, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Belgian beer and Belgian waffles... and that's it.

I asked our friends what else there is to know about Belgium and they mentioned some obscure musicians. Also something about the French stealing the recipe for Belgian Fries and calling them French Fries. So... just food, basically! :)

The Belgians baked a lactose-free cake and threw Neda a surprise birthday party! How nice!

And presents!!!

We used Eva and Thomas' address to ship all the gear that we've bought online to replace all the stuff that's been falling apart and breaking the last 6 months. They wrapped up all of our shipments like presents! haha!

Third birthday on the road. I can't believe we've been wandering around for so long...!

Communicator installation party! Whohoo!

One of the packages we got was from Sena. Someone from the company contacted us through our blog and asked how our Sena SMH10 comms were doing. I mentioned that we loved them, but they are suffering from wear-and-tear from almost three years of daily use. So they mentioned they would ship us replacements as well as their new action camera. WOW! and COOL! Can't wait to try them out!

Leuven is most-well known for being the home of Stella Artois, so we took a tour!

Artois was merged with a few companies over the years, including Anheuser-Busch in the US, and they bought Labatts in Canada, making the parent company, AmBev, the largest beer company in the world. And they are headquartered right here in Leuven!

Stella is not really our speed, we tend to like darker beers, but that didn't stop us from trying the free samples!

Eva and Thomas mentioned that it is unseasonably cold and wet this spring in Leuven. My eyes shifted side to side guiltily... But the weather did clear up and we spent the day walking around their city.

Tour of downtown Leuven

Leuven Town Hall, looks like it was made of Lego!

Rows upon rows of statues on the Leuven Town Hall

We decide to take another stab at Belgian Beers, this time at a pub downtown

Knowing that we like darker beers, Thomas ordered us some Westvleteren Trappist Ale. Holy smokes, it was good! Had a dark, fruity taste, with a champagne-like carbonation to it.

Westvleteren is now my favorite trappist ale!

There are only eleven monasteries in the world that brew Trappist beer. Six of them are in Belgium. What makes a beer Trappist is that it must be brewed entirely within the monastery walls, not be made for profit and have strict quality control. This makes the output sparse and the resulting bottles very difficult to obtain and thus expensive. Customers who drive to the monastery in Vleteren are limited to how many cases they are able to buy and their license plates are recorded so they are only able to buy once every 60 days.

The beer is *that* good!

Here's to Abbey Beers!

St. Peter's Church

Clock on St. Peter's Church

Eva and Thomas took us to the best Belgain Waffle place in Leuven. A food stand in town!

A real Belgian Waffle has to be eaten plain. That means no whipped cream, no strawberries, just by itself. Also, it's preferable that you eat it on the street and not in a sit-down restaurant with cutlery and waiters. We are eager to eat waffles like authentic Belgians!

Smack Lick!

Leuven is in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium called Flanders. So we have been learning some Flemish words while we are here in Belgium, specifically all the food words. Our favorite word is the expression for "Bon Appetit", in Flemish, it's "Smakelijk", but it's pronounced (roughly) Smack-Lick!

Such a funny sounding word: Smack-Lick!

Eva and Thomas don't realize it, but we have been using Smack-Lick randomly in our conversations now. Just out of the blue, I'll tap on the communicator and exclaim, "Smack-Lick" then turn it off. Smack-Lick.

These boys are kicking the Smack-Lick out of that ball

This strange statue of a giant bug impaled on a giant needle is one of the most famous symbols of Leuven

Relax-time: Crocheting and Needlepoint

Staying with Eva and Thomas was so easy. Having done their own multi-month trip abroad, they intuitively knew that we were burnt out from traveling, so they knew exactly what we needed - namely Internet for me, and a kitchen for Neda and lots of relax time in their house.

Thomas enjoys cooking almost as much as Neda!

Eva and Thomas finished their trip just over a year ago and I had so many questions about how they were settling into their new life, as they are one of the few couples we know who have lived like nomads and then re-entered their old life again. It was apparent that their wanderlust had not dissipated at all. In fact, they were continuing their minimalist existence, trying not to accumulate too many possessions so they could be light and free for future travels.

I saw them as an ideal template for the way we would like to be when our trip is over as well.

Eva and Thomas take us to an amusement park! FUN!!!

Like I said, our friends knew exactly what we needed.

A nervous smile beside me, and how I know our friends really like us!

Thomas is deathly afraid of heights, but he bravely volunteered to accompany me on the Dalton Terror ride, which lifts us several stories above the park and then drops us, leaving us hurtling to ground at the speed of gravity.

You can probably tell by this picture, I am not afraid of heights.

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