Thursday, August 27, 2009

Southern Yankee's European Vacation Part 2

Enjoy part two of my decade-old-journal. And if you missed, part one, you can find it here.

Friday, April 30th, 1999

The days have all melded together. I figure it's a different day because yesterday I was on a plane and today I am on a train. I've had dinner and then breakfast. But, my outfit is the same. Jeans and a bright pink t-shirt with a navy blue cotton cardigan

The ride to Brussels is smooth and slow. Green lush grass lies to each side of the train, sometimes scattered with neighborhoods, sometimes with wooly sheep. I see one particularly fat sheep with two babies close behind. The sun is bright and the grass is the greenest green I have ever seen. We are told the weather is unusually beautiful for this area.

We pass one neighborhood that is so lovely I am sure it will never leave my mind. Boys with cherry red shirts play soccer on a field atop a hill, high over the pure white houses with deep, chocolate brown roofs. It is so picturesque and reminds me of a photo you would see in a guidebook.

We pass alternating neighborhoods and sheep. I am surprised at how often and how many sheep we see. I drift in and out of sleep (must be the sheep) until we finally arrive in Brussels. We are the last people to get off the train and are a little surprised to see all the signs in a foreign language (though I don't know why this should surprise us). Most of the signs do have English somewhere, so we do manage.

At some point while in London, we realized that we needed to walk along the left side of the sidewalk instead of the right. But in Brussels, it switches back to the way it is done in the U.S. so once again, we adjust. We wait in line to get our passports stamped and I am annoyed that they stamp mine on page 13 rather than next to my stamp from London on page 5. We go down an escalator and Anita and her husband Johann (pronounced "yawn") are waiting for us. They kiss S. and they shake our hands as V. and I introduce ourselves.

They ask us about our flight as they lead us to the car parked along a downtown street. We pile our backpacks into the trunk and the three of us girls share the backseat while Anita and Johann roll down the windows in the front seat of their tiny car. Driving in Brussels is crazy. The streets are extremely narrow, the cars go fast and everyone cuts each other off. This part of Brussels is not beautiful, but we do pass an amazing cathedral with young students dressed in black shorts and leotards, obviously outside for gym class. The weather is warm and sunny, the first nice day Anita tells us. It is unusual. V. and S. and I keep nodding off in the car due to our jet lag. We need a good night's sleep.

The drive to Terneuzen takes almost two hours. When we reach the border of Holland, I can't stop looking out the window. There is lush green grass surrounding either side of the road. The road signs are painted in primary colors, houses have thatched roofs and look like gingerbread houses. Tall trees closely line the street. Some houses are in rows, but Anita and Johann's house is a single home at the end of one these rows. It is bright white, tall and made of brick. I love it instantly.

One of Anita's sons, Louie, who is 18, answers the door. He is smiling and friendly and takes us out into the beautiful backyard for some Heinekens at the picnic table. Our pampering begins here. Anita and Johann join us with drinks and cigars. We stay out there in the cool sunlight and watch Anita's hens run around the yard until it is time to shower for dinner. Johann has carried our bags to our rooms for us. V. and I share a room with two twin beds and a TV. S. takes the single room with a sink.

Anita is an amazing chef. She teaches cooking classes and has made us lasagna. Dinner is delicious. The lasagna has the freshest cheese, peppers, sausages and tomatoes I have ever eaten. We also have wine and salad and ice cream with homemade syrup and traditional Dutch cookies. Tea comes with sugar and no milk, tiny spoons made of coiled silver and a teapot complete with a basket and cozy.

We must have been dozing off at the table because Anita sends us to bed at 9:30 when it is still light outside. She urges us to leave our dirty laundry (which we are happy to do). We watch some American shows on TV and drift off to sleep.

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