Anyway, I'm not here to talk about bathing, I'm here to catch up on the actual outdoor things I've been doing. October was a busy month, or at least the second half of it was, starting with my parents' visit to Brussels. As I mentioned, this was a bit of a nervewracking prospect, since of course it was the first time they were meeting Jules. Well, I think everything went very well. Jules even got through an entire 5-day Madrid holiday with them, which is much more than I think I could manage if it were the other way around!
My parents had been to Brussels before, notably last year when we came to Belgium for the Spa Grand Prix, so this time we mostly concentrated on day trips to get a glimpse of the rest of Belgium. On Friday, we went to Ghent and magically discovered a whole new, beautiful area to the city that we completely missed when we went with my sister back in July. Best of all, the weather, after an initial spot of drizzle, was sunny and unseasonably warm. I really felt like we'd been transported to some southern clime as we relaxed on a terrace sipping wine and eating local specialities (I tried the waterzooi, very good).
|Me and Jules in Ghent|
|Lining up in height order|
The main event was the Ghent Design museum, specifically chosen to appeal to my mum's sensibilities. It was a nice museum, small enough to not exhaust you, but large enough to have quite a lot of beautiful and interesting objects. The cutest thing was the little Playmobile figurines they put in many of the display cases, making a quirky little treasure hunt through the museum.
My parents' visit coincided with Jules's birthday, so we headed out on the Friday night for a nice dinner at a local restaurant. The concept of the restaurant is "slow food", and being run by a couple - the husband cooks and the wife takes care of the front of house - it certainly lives up to the name. However, along with the slow food vibe comes a relaxed, family-style ambience. By which I don't mean that there are children running all over the place (shudder), I mean that from having to ring the doorbell to enter to the small space feeling like someone's set up half-a-dozen tables in their front room, it just feels like you've popped around to a relative's house for Christmas dinner or something. That possibly makes it seem awful, but when the hostess makes sure you've got nibbles and a gratis glass of bubbly plopped down in front of you shortly after you walk in (and keeps topping up your glass throughout the evening), you find you don't mind having to wait quite some time in between courses. We all had a really lovely evening (and yummy food), and by the end of the night there were hugs for all of us from the woman, particularly for my mum, who went back for two or three (you can't keep topping up my mum's glass without such consequences).
|Birthday boy with my mum|
We somehow managed to haul ourselves up and out on Saturday to hit the road for Antwerp, since my mum had commented on an earlier blog post that she'd like to visit. Again, it was a lovely day, and we basically retraced much the same steps as Jules and I on our previous visit, including seeing Saint Peter's church again in the sunshine and doing a spot of (very successful shopping). It's hard to believe that our first, relatively cold and definitely grey visit was in June, whereas this October trip was warm and sunny, but I'm definitely not complaining.
|Just before I passed out|
For dinner, we went to one of the semi-fancy seafood places on Saint Catherine's Square. I suppose this was meant to be a bit of a posher treat, but it suffered a bit in comparison with the delicious food and friendly atmosphere of the night before. The ambience was very cold, and the waiter annoyed me by doing the thing where they keep your bottle of wine in parts unknown and only come to dole it out when they see fit. I know this is supposed to be posh, but it's just irritating. Let me serve my own wine. I suppose there's a way to do it well, but this does not involve me having to flag the waiter down to ask for my glass to be refilled, as was the case on this occasion. The food was fine, but quite a bit pricier than the night before, and I think we all much preferred the fun atmosphere of the other place.
On Sunday, we checked out the antiques market in Grand Sablon, and I added to my (small) collection of Gien faience (thanks, M&D), before fitting in a bit of chocolate shopping - got to be done in Belgium, right? Then I actually can't remember what we did before eating dinner (a nap, I think) at my parents' apartment, which was followed by me getting horrifically sick. I was meant to go back to work for three days between their visit and our trip to Madrid, but I ended up at home sick, which of course probably looked totally fake, but honestly wasn't! I always feel like everyone at work thinks I'm faking illness at the best of times, so that was doubly the case this time. It could have been worse though, it wasn't the worst timing in the world falling between two exciting long weekends. Next time, Madrid...