Friday, July 13, 2012

First and Last Day of School - 2011-12

It is a bit overdue, but here are the first and last day of school (last day in uniform) pictures.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Packin' Up and Movin' Out

Crazy probably best describes our moving week.

The movers showed up to our apartment bright and early Monday morning to start packing us up. It took them just about 2 full days to pack our things and wrap our furniture in preparation to be loaded into the container on Wednesday. We had originally planned on staying in the apartment until Wednesday, but after we were left with only a few kitchen items Monday night and our internet was turned off early,
 we decided to check into a hotel a day early.

The container was waiting for us when we arrived Wednesday morning and the movers spent most of the day loading all of our belongings onto the lift through the windows.

Thursday morning we dropped the kids off at a friends house and finished cleaning the apartment for the inspection that was going to happen that day. We had heard from friends that the apartment inspections were pretty thorough. It ended up taking two inspectors two hours to go through the apartment and we were relieved to be only charged 215 euros for the things they found wrong.

Having already returned the car and with all of our things pack up and shipped off, we felt relieved and slightly strange to walk away from the apartment with nothing but a city trash bag with touch up paint and a Belgian license plate that we had kept for a souvenir.

We stopped by the cafe around the corner for a beer and ended up running into several people we knew and said our final goodbyes. It was a nice way to finish off our last 24 hours in Belgium. For us, that was the way things were while we were here - being outside and enjoying the city as much as we could and randomly running into people we knew who were often doing the same. It was an emotional few days. There is no doubt that we will miss Antwerp.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Our Funniest Pictures

Here are some of the funny pictures we have taken over the past three years:

Acting silly :: Mosel Valley, Germany June 2009

Sleeping in the bike trailer
Christmas Market :: Antwerp, Belgium December 2009

Autovrij Weekend :: Antwerp, Belgium September 2009

Look kids, Paris...

 ...and the Louvre :: Paris, France May 2009

One our early experiences with rain and how unprepared we were :: Luxembourg City, Luxembourg April 2009

Our Royal Tannenbaum :: Antwerp, Belgium January 2011

Chocolate in the Nose :: Middleheim Park, Antwerp, Belgium April 2011

Pretending to sleep on the horse :: Playmobile Fun Park, Zirndorf, Germany November 2011

Colin's first time bowling :: Antwerp, Belgium April 2012

When in Belgium...just kidding, it's empty :: Antwerp, Belgium March 2010

Colin pointing out the statue's birdie :: Gent, Belgium May 2009

Colin's Funny Faces
Big Ben :: London, England August 2009

Marienplatz :: Munich, Germany October 2011

When I told Chloe to go stand next to the bear so I could take a picture, she walked up to it and punched it in the stomach.:: The Hague, The Netherlands June 2012

And the Winner is...

The tourist who wanted to take Chloe's picture because of the color of her hair and Colin who was giving her the look of death :: Marienplatz :: Munich, Germany October 2011

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Grote Markt

Probably our favorite place to go in town is Grote Markt. Since day one, Colin has called the statue in the middle of the square, The Animal Statue and we still call it that now. I love it when Colin says "Let's see what's going on at the Animal Statue". I can't even guess as to how many times I have heard him ask this. We have over 150 pictures tagged Grote Markt that include The Animal Statue taken over the past 3 years!!! In sun, clouds, snow, with Jules, with a vuvuzela, with strangers, running through the water, at the Christmas Market, on a regular day, watching a football game, ice skating and more.

The statue in the middle of Grote Markt is actually called Brabo. The legend is that a giant by the name of Antigoon would tax people crossing the river. People who could not or would not pay, had their hand cut off and thrown into the river. The hero, Brabo, killed Antigoon, cut his hand off and threw it into the river. The name of the city was derived from this legend - Hand- throwing = Ant -werpen(meaning to throw). The story is a little gory, but telling it to the kids allowed them to actually notice several other details of the statue that they would have otherwise never noticed.
The city has been doing a lot of paving work around Grote Markt and while doing this, discovered cellar walls of the old town hall that date back to the 16th century. They have fenced off the area and built a temporary bridge of people to see. From what we know, they will be filling it back in again to complete the paving work. So cool.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

This Past Week

With Coaches Inge and Cindy

Colin has been playing basketball for just about the entire school year. He first started with the youngest group and eventually was moved up to the next level that plays 2 times a week. He is not the best player, but being moved to the new group allowed him to play with one of his best friends from school, Khamrym. The opposite of Colin, Khamryn was probably the best player. She is also American and her dad plays for the Antwerp Giants basketball team. Last week was Colin's last practice and his coaches gave him a special basketball trophy. So nice :)

Last weekend was the Sint Andries run. Sint Andries is a neighborhood right next to ours with an open space (plaats) with restaurants, kids climbing net, basketball court, and a cultural center. We call Sint Andriesplaats, the Rope Park, and it is a place we go often. Colin was going to run in the Kids Run, but the weather was terrible. When it cleared a bit, we went over to see the Bakfiets Race. A bakfiets is a bike with a large box in front of the handlebars. It is completely normal to see parents bringing their kids to and from school in these bikes.
The rules of the race required all bakfiets to be parked in a staggered line along the beginning of the course. The person riding the bike had the run from the starting gate to their parked bikes and then start the course. It was also required that each bike had a passenger in the front. Probably a little dangerous racing your bike with your kid in the front, but they did require them to wear helmets. Helmets are not normal here and my friend joked that there were probably more helmets in this one spot than in all of Belgium. It was so fun to watch and there was a beer stall at the finish line, of course.

 Other than that, we are starting to sort out all of our things, sell our electronics and getting ready for the movers to start packing everything on June 25th. It is coming up quick!!

Friday, June 1, 2012


The Belgians are famously known for their beer and there are over 1000 beers brewed just within Belgium alone. For Christmas, I bought Craig the latest edition of Belgian beer book picturing and describing all of the beers brewed here. The book offers information on it taste, how it is fermented, the temperature at which it is to be served at, how it is to be poured and of course, a picture of the glass it is to be served in. Every beer has it's own glass and you will never be served a beer in a cafe that is not served in it's proper glass. For the most part, many of the beers here are very high in alcohol content. Normally somewhere between 6% and 8%. We have had some at 12% and I know they go higher than that. At this point, Craig has tasted about 200 of the beers in the book. Pretty impressive!!

We thought it would be nice to bring home some beer mementos for the bar Craig wants in the basement of the house that we don't own yet. At this point, we have a fairly large collection of glasses, which are the easiest to find. It has been more of a challenge to find signs and other accessories, but we have managed to collect some nice things.

We took advantage of one the past weekends to make a quick trip to the Duvel Brewery. The brewery is only about a 20 minute drive from Antwerp and down the street  from Craig's work. Duvel makes several beers including one of my favorites, Vedett, and LaChouffe. We managed to pick up a sign, coasters and make a stop in a local cafe for a beer (or two).

Also, now making Duvel Tripel Hop

This past weekend, we drove to Mechelen to visit the town and have dinner at Brewery Het Anker. They brew many beers under the Gouden Carolus name along with several other varieties. They have been brewing beer since 1471(!!!) but did not start using the name Het Anker until 1872.

The weather could not have been more perfect and instead of using our time to explore the town, we found ourselves sitting at one of the cafes on Grote Markt sipping the local beer. Most of the beer in Belgium is very territorial. Even though we were only 16 miles from Antwerp, there was no sign of DeKoninck, the staple beer in every Antwerp bar. Mechelen is obliviously very proud of there local brew and it dominated every menu here.

Brouwerij Het Anker - Stepped Gables surrounded by cases of beer.

Gouden Carolus Classic and Maneblusser
In Grote Markt - Mechelen, Belgium

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Past Few Weeks

There are so many things I have wanted to blog about as we are about to wrap up our stay in Belgium, but we have been quite busy with different things so I thought I would tell you about a few of them.

You may remember this picture ---->

Colin's big birthday present was a trip back to the US for a long weekend. Craig was asked by Michael to be his sponsor for Communion and we decided to book an extra ticket to surprise Colin and the family.

Craig and Michael

One Saturday afternoon, we were invited to a Baptism for our friend's son. The Baptism was held in Carolus Barromeus Church which was designed by Peter Paul Rubens. Rubens was a long time resident of Antwerp. His house is now a museum and a large statue of him stands in the middle of Groenplaats. It was special and beautiful, to say the least. Colin was very interested on what was going on and once invited by the priest, was eager to make his way right up to the front to watch.

One of the side rooms of Carolus Barromeus Church

A couple of weeks ago at school, Chloe's topic was learning all about Mom while also learning about the French artist Niki de Sainte Phalle. The week wrapped up with a small Mother's Day show and painting with mommy. It was nice to be invited into Chloe's classroom and see their normal activities. It was around this time that Chloe realized that she wanted to be an artist when she grows up and she told me that I should start looking for an artist costume for her to wear when she is bigger.

Our future Rubens
Later that evening we had parent / teacher conferences at the school. I have known for quite awhile that Chloe has a close group of friends that she hangs out with. I refer to them as The Gang: Edie, Jan Leon, Brenna and new member Luke. There is also another boy, Jawad, who really wants to be a member of the gang, but seems only allowed to join in occasionally. Her teacher told me that the table they all sit at was named The Power Table by Jan Leon. Pretty dominating for a group of 4 year olds!! Ironically, all of the members of The Power Table, with the exception of Luke, will be moving to America over the summer. I hope they are able to train Luke well enough before the end of the school year to kept the Power Table going next year in Kindergarten 2. Maybe Jawad will have a good shot at obtaining a permanent spot at The Power Table next year.

The following week, Chloe's Teacher, Miss Sarah, got married. She was married in one of the local town halls and was nice enough to invite all of her students and their families. It was our first Belgian wedding and it did not disappoint. The Borgerhout Town Hall was absolutely beautiful. Nicer than most of the churches I have been in in NJ. The ceremony was performed in their wedding hall and the students all had special seats behind Sarah and Pieter. The ceremony itself was relaxed and very casual. Chloe had been talking about Sarah's wedding for a while and was so excited to see her in her dress. She looked absolutely beautiful and it was so adorable to see all of the kids run up to her as she approached the Town Hall for the ceremony.

Edie and Chloe out from of the Town Hall

The Ceremony

More to come...