I just looked up my Gcal for a year ago, because I knew it was coming up to my first anniversary here in Brussels, but I couldn't remember when exactly. Turns out it's not for a few days - moving day was Friday the 13th, which wasn't an omen of anything in particular, unless you count that the movers broke my "Bio t'y foule" wine glass that I never understood what it meant anyway.
Gcal is how I organise basically my entire life, from little reminders to put something in my handbag to take to work, to travel plans, to organising an international move, and looking at my calendar a year ago reminds me of how stressful it was, but also kinda makes me feel organised and adult, so that's nice. I had forgotten just how much was going on around the move as well - I was in Mallorca three weeks before the move, Tours two weeks before, Brussels for one night the week before and Luxembourg the week after, seems crazy (most of that was booked before I knew I was moving though).
The past year has definitely flown by. On the minus side, I don't really feel any more integrated into the city (i.e., no friends). I haven't been trying, and am mostly fine with it, since I spend all my weekends with Jules and after work I'm pretty much okay just vegging out, but there are obviously times when friends would be nice. I've never really been in the situation before of making *no* friends in a new city, so I'm trying to take that as a sign it's down to lack of effort rather than inherent lameness, but that thought's always floating about somewhere.
On the plus side, oh my god is it better living in a nice apartment, getting paid a decent wage and not having a hellish international commute. We had a barbecue at Jules's place this weekend and invited one of my old colleagues and I found myself going on to another guest about how awful that used to be and then kind of had to bite my tongue because my colleague still does the commute (although she does live closer than I used to). It's been fun visiting a few places in Brussels and around the country too, although inevitably you always end up feeling that you don't do half the things you would do even spending a week here as a tourist. It's a pretty good hub for travelling further afield too - for once, I don't have to tack on a trip to a major airport like Paris in order to have a wide choice of destinations. The cat is way happier to have me around more as well :)
Further to the "not integrating" bit, I don't really have any great observations or insights into Belgian culture. There are probably people (Flemings?) who would hate me for saying so, but day-to-day, things are pretty much exactly the same for me as when I lived in France. Being a national and EU capital, you hear a lot more languages spoken on the street, but everybody speaks French in supermarkets and so forth. It's relatively rare that someone will just start speaking Dutch to me. Honestly, most of the time I feel I could be in any given French city instead of in Belgium.
Anyway, I should be blogging about my trip back to Tours the weekend before last, but I can't find my camera cable, so I'll have to fill you in on this weekend's visit to Bourscheid Castle in Luxembourg instead. The weather this weekend was fabulous, hence Saturday's barbecue on Jules's awesome terrace, and it was still great for our Sunday morning trip to Bourscheid. It's in a fantastic location, perched on a hill 150 metres above a valley where the Sauer/Sûre river loops by.
When we were setting out in the car, Jules promised to tell me the "story of Jules and the Sauer", but only when we got to the river. I was quite excited, expecting a tale of derring-do, or perhaps an embarrassing mishap. When we finally got to the Sauer, he told me that he used to go fishing there a lot with his granddad. "And...?" And that's the story. Not to toot my own blogging horn, but that's why only one of us has a blog enjoyed by fives of people.
|Source - we didn't get this aerial view of it, unfortunately|
So anyway, I'll just recap what it says on the tourist website, which is that the stone castle was started around the year 1000, it underwent various renovations and expansions over the years before falling into ruin as early as the 18th century. The government acquired it in 1972 and has carried out extensive renovations. I always feel a bit cheated by big renovation works, as though I'm seeing a fake - this is one reason I've never been to Warsaw, although it's allegedly quite nice - but I suppose the bones of the place were more or less always intact.
Rebuilt or not, it's a stunning place, and the views from the top are magnificent. Something for everyone who thinks there's nothing to see in Luxembourg -
|Jules amongst the ruins|
|Jules took forever to take this photo, on purpose I think!|
|Some of the castle wall was carved right out of the rock|
Views from the tower of the gatehouse and ruined castle interior
|We climbed up to the top to take the photos of the view below|
|Looking down on the Sauer|
|View from the other side of the tower|
Pale tower selfie
|Of course, the only photo where I was smiling normally was the one adjusting my sunnies (I finally took them back to the shop to get them tightened up on Monday°|
|Tower panorama - we had lunch at the hotel in the valley immediately to the right of the tower|
The reason we actually were at Bourscheid to begin with was because I happened to spot that it was restaurant week in Belgium and Luxembourg, and the only participating restaurant in the Grand Duchy was at the Cocoon Bel Air hotel in the valley nearby. It was pretty much the same as the Dining with the Stars thing we did last year, in that you pay a fixed price and get a surprise menu (except this place didn't have a Michelin star). It's in a beautiful location below the castle, and the food was pretty good and reasonably-priced, at least with the special deal - I didn't see the normal prices.
|Looking back up at the castle from our lunch spot|
|Our salmon entrée was a bit bland, to be honest #wewantplates|
|But the sea bass main was tasty!|
|I don't like crème brûlée, so I was glad that the "revisted" strawberry CB was actually not very crème brûlee-y at all|
Ahhh, so much easier to kick back and enjoy life when the sun is shining and the long summer days stretch on forever. I feel so much more motivated to get out of the house and go exploring, and we really reaped the rewards this weekend. It was great!