Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Diary of a weekend in Brussels

(One of the few photos where we aren't eating or drinking)

Friday 25 May

10.20pm: Aj, Brenton, Mtk and I arrive at Brussels National. Quickly jump on train into the city and congratulate ourselves of successful mastering of the public transport system and simultaneous fare evasion.
10.40 pm: Arrive at the hostel and commence drinking. I drink Frambroise (raspberry flavoured beer) until realising its only 2.9%. I switch to white wine.
1.00am: Group decides we need late night Yiros-style snack at nearby Turkish place. Realise the owner is the greasy looking guy in Brasil soccer shirt that has been sitting watching our group in hostel most of the night. Mel decides to strike up a conversation with him. He tells us that Western women are sluts who offer to make f**k in exchange for food (or something thereabouts). Later he obviously feels guilty and comes over to show us a photo of his son. Strange.

Saturday 26 May

Approximately 3.00am: Drunk/stoned Frenchmen on the roof below our window wake us with inane chatter and sporadic guitar playing. Brenton yells at them, and they go away.
4.00am: Frenchmen are back. Brenton yells again.
11.00am: Group awake feeling tired and hungover. Decide to eat at first available opportunity. Wander into Brussels city centre. Check out large parks and Royal Palace. Then walk over to the central touristy district and sample chocolate at the various shops.


1.00-3.30pm: Lunch. Mtk and Aj have mussels in Brussels. Brenton and I have pommes frites with mayonnaise. We feel very touristy but decide it has to be done.
4.00pm: Stumble around until we find Grand Place, the magnificent central square of Brussels. Discover there is a jazz festival going on. Have a wine and listen to some jazz for awhile.


6.00pm: Nap time.
8.00pm - 1.00am: Resurface for some dinner and discover a delicious Greek restaurant called Mykonos. Gorge ourselves. Then move onto a bar that features a 'beer degustation'. Ingest much beer and stumble home. See Turkish guy from last night, who appears not to have been home to change his outfit. Yick. Leave cans of beer by the window to spray on Frenchies if they wake us again.

Sunday 27 May

12.30 pm: Surface and decide to find some waffles. Half an hour later, feeling sick but satisfied from waffles and chocolate.
2.00pm: Visit an amazing Museum of Musical Instruments. It was located in a fantastic Art Deco building that has somehow been renovated to resemble (from the outside) a giant sheet of music. Or perhaps all the Belgium beer has gone to my head. In the museum, we get a set of headphones that automatically play the sound of each instrument as you walk past it.



4.00pm: Meet up with Mtk's high school friend for drinks at the bar on the top floor of the Museum. She gives us a bit of a walking tour and we eventually settle at a cafe for another drink and toastie snack.
7.00pm: Leave cafe and move on the restaurant for dinner - we decide to stick with what we know - back to Mykonos for more delicious Greek.
8.30pm - Have eaten until we can eat no further, so move on to a pub on Grand Place for some drinks.

Monday 28 May

12.30am: Appetite has returned. We get some delicious waffles with strawberries, cream and ice cream. Retire to the hostel for some beer. Strike various drunken poses round the city on the walk home (pictured - Abbey Road on the marble tiled zebra-crossing).


2.30am: Bed time.
3.30am: The Frenchies are back on the roof and louder than ever. I wake up first and try to talk to them calmly and rationally to convince them to go to bed but have no luck. Mel goes next and yells at them in her teacher voice. Still nothing except stoned laughter. Brenton wakes up and unleashes a torrent of abuse that probably wakes up half the surrounding neighbourhood. But it works - the Frenchies shuffle over to the far side of the roof but unfortunately none of them fall off.
11.30 am: commence the long journey home after a sleepless night.
2.00pm-rest of day: sleeeeep. Phew.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The new arrival

Well, sorry for the lack of posting lately - but Brenton has just arrived and so I have been busy showing off my newly acquired London-savvyness to him. This has involved such activities as leading him around on the Tube, demonstrating how to use the Tesco self-checkout and pointing out obvious landmarks like "that's Big Ben" or "that's the London Eye".

I feel like quite the London expert (despite everyone else I know being far more London-savvy than I am).

Unfortunately, despite my attempts to cram in as many highlights as I could in the first few days and thus convince Brenton that London is a go-go, the weather Gods were not on my side and it was rainy and cold. Despite that, we managed to fit in Trafalgar Square, Southbank, the Tate Modern and Porky's Cafe in Covent Garden (obviously not my pick).

We also briefly stopped by the Walkabout so the Brenton could be assured that there will still be a way to watch AFL over here - I have a feeling that the 'Walkie' is going to get much harder to avoid. But I'll still do my best.

Naturally, now that I have gone back to work, the rain has stopped and the sun is shining again. But Brenton has been doing a good job of exploring the city and has figured out some stuff that it took me at least two months to do. I am choosing to attribute that to all the London knowledge I have been imparting on him! It's only logical really.

Below is a photo of Brenton looking across the Thames (not posing at all!) and featuring the dark and thunderous sky that greeted him on arrival.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Leprechauns made me do it....

Here is a brief run down of my weekend in Dublin:

The Irish People



The Irish people were jolly and lovely. They were the friendliest people I've met and had absolutely no problem chatting to strangers. This made for a lot of random encounters, including a friendly gay chap who Kate and I never found out the name of (we were too busy drunkenly asking him if he was 'the only gay in the village?') and a very nice group of young men who were Afghan war veterans and talked constantly about the war and didn't need counselling at all.

We were also very chuffed with the plethora of compliments we received, and decided that there must be some weird lack of women in Dublin, as there was quite a noticeable gender imbalance. Then again, we were hanging out in Temple Bar, which any self-respecting woman would steer well clear of - I will expand upon that later.

Touristy things


We managed to fit in a fair bit of cultural stuff and visited Trinity College, the beautiful St Stephen's Green (above), the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin Writers Museum and the Guinness factory. While I could only manage one sip of my complimentary pint of Guinness before wanting to throw up, the museum section was very impressive and had a touch of Willy Wonka about it, including big mysterious gates and a glass elevator.


Stag and Hen Central

As I said, we were staying in an area called Temple Bar, also known as the Stag and Hen night capital of Europe. And not only was everyone there for that purpose, a large proportion of these groups were hilariously costumed, including gangsters, doctors, fire women, pirates, pink ladies and angels. I'm sure most of them thought they looked pretty hot, given how they were swaggering around the pubs in their ensembles. They didn't.



I'm not sure how it came to be that Dublin claimed this dubious title, but I suspect the increase in cheap flights from London has something to do with it. Turns out you can still spot a chav, even in a different country!

Interesting times

It turns out that we were in Dublin during an interesting time in Ireland's political history. The city (and country) was gearing up for an election, and additionally, today has been a rather momentous day in Irish history with the commencement of power sharing in Northern Ireland. You certainly felt like you were in an interesting political environment when you were walking down the street and saw things like this:


Odd reaction to sunshine

Sunshine is obviously something that the Irish don't experience very often. So perhaps that's why when some finally arrives, it is peoples first instinct, wherever they may be, to strip down to their underwear and lay out in the sun for a while.

Exhibit A:


Exhibits B and C:


And this was outside a Cathedral! I would be interested to see what kind of restraint would have been shown if they were at the beach.

A reminder of home

And finally, I got very excited when I saw this little reminder of home:


I know its just a traffic signal thingy, and probably lots of cities round the world have the same ones, but it's so Adelaide that I had to get a photo!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Sammy


My little dog, Sam, has succumbed to the borag. He was diagnosed with cancer a couple of months ago and unfortunately it was aggressive. My kind parents didn't tell how much he'd deteriorated because they didn't want to upset me. But he had to be put down yesterday.

These are the things I remember about him.

Sammy was my family's dog. He arrived when I was 16. I remember I was swimming in the pool and the rest of my family arrived home with him. He was a tiny little thing - the runt of the litter. It turned out he had some kind of worms and needed medical treatment almost immediately after. He was sick many times over his life, and had to have several major operations. He teetered on the brink a few times, but he always survived and seemed to go on, which made me think he would always recover from his strange illnesses.

Sammy was a happy dog and he loved being around people. He was always the first to greet you when you got home, bounding up to you with his tail wagging. He loved going to the racecourse and rolling around in the puddles. I feel like I should have taken him on more walks, as I know how happy they made him. I used to take him to Concordia College and he would love wandering around smelling the plants (and trying to eat the garbage). He got so excited when he was taken for a walk that he'd be pulling so hard on the lead you had to jog to keep up with him.

He loved eating, like all dogs he downed his food in five seconds. When he was little, we used to feed him table scraps, and he got really overweight. So we had to only feed him once a day. One exception to Sam's affectionate nature was if you went near his food, or his bed. Then you would get a glimpse of angry Sam who would snarl at you.

Of all of us, Sammy loved my Dad the most. He would follow Dad around to the front garden each morning to collect the paper. When Dad went out, Sam would often wait by the gate for him to get home. When Dad was outside cooking the barbie, Sam would be sitting at his feet. Dad didn't lavish him with attention like the rest of us (especially the kids), so when it did come, Sam was extra happy.

My Mum had never been into pets, she agreed to get a dog because she knew we all wanted one. But she loved Sam as well and nine years later I think she was nearly a dog person!

As Mum just said to me on the phone, Sam's death is the end of an era for my family. Now there's only my parents and my brother in our house, my sister and I are both far away. They're not going to get another dog, because the time has passed. Everyone has grown up, and he was part of our childhood. But he was one of the Chalkes and we will never forget him.

Bye Sam, I will miss you.