Did I tell you I went to Brussels, and I was going to post about it about a month ago, even though I went in January? (this is me chuckling) tehehe oh life
I went to Brussels about five months ago, er, at the beginning of January… haha My life had gotten a bit hectic with apartment issues and it worked that I had a couple days in between apartments, so I decided to go on a trip. I had five days to figure it out, and being the absolute worst at making up my mind, I took three days to decide, changed my mind after booking an entire trip to Lille, asked multiple people for advice, and then finally decided on Brussels, just two days before I was set to leave.
Since it ended up being so last minute, I jumped on the train by myself and set out to drink lots of beer, eat frites, and do a bit of exploring. I arrived not knowing what language was spoken or if euros were used. :-D But I did know where I was staying! In the taxi to the apartment I was staying at I asked the driver in French which languages were spoken in Brussels- French and Dutch. Pas de problem..c’est facile! And, the Christmas decorations and market were still up! It was fate! I did want to have another Vin Chaud..
My trip started with the best thunderstorm I’d experienced in months. I’d gotten to Brussels around 6pm and decided to wander around for a bit before heading to bed. It popped up all of a sudden. There was thunder, hail, wind, and lots and lots of rain. It was amazing! I love a good thunderstorm! Before running for cover under a store awning, I’d happened upon a traveling circus and a store that only sold bonsai trees.
Right before I headed to bed I planned out the next three days I had there: tomorrow, a 4 hour highly rated beer tour. The next day, a day trip to Bruges and Ghent, and then just a bit of wandering and some work before I headed back to Paris.
The next morning I set out for the center of town to the meeting place for the tour. And wow was blown away at the Grand Place. On each side of the square was a different style of architecture. The buildings looming above you. And oh so beautiful in their design.
Seconds later I met the Brad Pitt look-a-like tour guide for the soon to be solo beer tour. Yes, I was well on my way to drink lots of beer in lots of different bars for the next couple of hours… No complaints here!
I think we tried 7 kinds (it got a bit fuzzy toward the end), starting with the lightest and most bitter. Our first stop, an old marionette theater/bar visited by the king and queen of Belgium several years ago called Toone. We walked down a road and then a small corridor past an overgrown garden to the entrance to a bar not so many people would know about.
There was a resident cat and marionettes hung along the walls. A neat place to stop off the Grand Place for a drink.
The first beer on the list- Taras Boulba, a pale ale brewed locally in Brussels…. and what I would learn was my least favorite. Too bitter for me!
Next up, a private residence which I was told along the way on my let’s note this again, SOLO, beer tour, that guests always found it creepy when walking to it…. but then cool once they were there…
He was right- it was very cool and set up for chocolate, cheese, and beer tours with a long table.
We had two beers there and one that will be my go-to summer beer.
Gueuze Girardin – one I don’t remember too well, because I was in love with the other beer. Maybe I should have been taking notes…? It was again, too bitter for my taste, and very carbonated. Love the big bubbles in the bottle.
Hello there! This is Stefan, my guide for the day- extremely knowledgeable about beer, and also working on a script for a tv show!
I forgot to mention that the private residence was the home of the owner of the touring group who happened to join us for a glass while asking me questions and winking at his counterpart.. It ended up being a very one-sided conversation as I tried to change the subject.
So you’re American? yes.. Living in Paris? uh hum And I heard you’re a pastry chef? yes That’s fantastic! (wink) oh wait- not a wink by me, by him And you’re traveling alone? uh hum So you must be pretty independent? haha I guess so!
And then we ate cheese. A soft cheese, with pepper and radishes on top. And talked about more important things like beer.
Like my favorite beer on the tour, Gouden Carolus Tripel– before we got to the darker beers that is. Light, fruity, refreshing but as my research tells me- elegant and complex. ;-) I’m definitely going to be scouting this one out this summer!
I also learned that each beer has a glass specifically made for it to enhance it’s flavor. And that the foam plays an important role– with the smell, taste, and feel of the beer! *See I did learn something! :-P
A bag of chocolate on the way out and a taste of barley. I didn’t eat the two together. And we saw the girl version of Manneken Pis doing her thing.
And on to Deliruim Cafe where I was too distracted by putting celery salt on cheese to remember how the beer was.
Saison – a complex farmhouse ale that was quite delicious with the cheese.
Another bar, another beer- this one made by monks. I must say, if I were a monk, I would be a trappist monk.
Westmalle Trappist Tripel – Brewed at Westmalle abbey, which was founded in 1794. The recipe of the beer was constructed in 1934 and is a strong pale ale. There are only 10 monasteries that brew beer (6 in Belgium, 2 in the Netherlands and 1 in the US). For beer to be called a “Trappist Beer” it must be brewed in a Trappist monastery and not for profit. So you can feel mighty good about drinking a lot of this beer!
Onwards, past a dog doing it’s business (I’ve never quite got the meaning of all the peeing statues…?), and to another bar for two more beers, one with a very saintly name..
Tripel Karmeliet – fruity, yeasty, and like wine, it matures in the glass.
And on to that saint-like beer, the darkest of them all… St. Bernardus Abt 12, and with the most alcohol content of them all at 10.5%. What a doozy! I did tell you I liked dark beers. And it was pretty glorious.
There was another Trappist beer after that and some saucisson and some cheese because he knew the bartender, and a stop in a smoke room with Baroque paintings on the walls. A taxi, and a very bad headache. I was in bed by 8…
And the trip to Bruges and Ghent I planned on taking the next day… with a 8am start, it will be on my next trip to Belgium.
I did do other things in Brussels besides drink beer. :-D
There was a cool carousel.
Frites & Waffles.
An ice sculpture exhibit.
A light show in the Grand Place. I really liked that place. :-)
And of course.. the famous Manneken Pis. Sadly he was not wearing a costume the day I visited.
Tips for Brussels:
– Do the beer tour! Lots of fun, lots of beer!
– Absolutely get some chocolate. I liked Neuhaus the best and believe me I tried a lot of chocolate.
– Visit Bruges (I heard it’s amazing).
– To Eat: Frites & Waffles! There are two “battling” french fry places right off the Grand Place.
– How long to stay? You really don’t need more than two days in Brussels, unless you’re doing day trips.
– Where to stay? I 100% recommend staying with Elf and Garret.
– Get lost? There are super handy green posts all over the city pointing to the nearest attraction, making it easy to wander around without pulling out a map.
I’m still recuperating from having my tonsils out which has given me quite a lot of time to scrounge through the internet while I’m not watching the entire series of Castle. I’ve found some super cute Easter things that I wanted to share with you!
When we were little, we would have huge Easter egg dying parties. My mom would hard boil dozens of eggs then we would all sit around the kitchen table taking turns dipping them in a huge array of colors. Now this method for hard-boiling eggs without the water looks pretty ingenious:
Ideas for dying eggs: Check out 40 Different Techniques on Martha Stewart including these beauties that I might be doing even when it’s not Easter.
haha how cute!!!
A different technique to peel an egg at Panna that’s super similar to peeling an avocado. I really do like my hard boiled eggs whole though, so I might go with the method at the end of the Alton Brown video above. Panna has some other great cooking videos as well!
Beautiful Hot Cross Buns from Poires au Chocolat– Each year she makes small tweaks on the previous years recipe. These look fantastic and there is a video for how to shape and roll the dough.
And a peek at the Easter table my mom put together this morning:
Happy Easter! Joyeuses Pâques !
*Heads up #1: I’m currently taking quite a bit of painkillers so if something sounds a bit weird- you’ll know why… :-D
*Heads up #2: I’ve tried to keep anything gruesome out of this! So don’t worry! There’s just one paragraph but a warning before it!
*I’ll try to update this as my recovery goes on!
I’m on day three of my tonsil and adenoid removal! The later I didn’t realize were coming out until I was having a pre-surgery chat with one of the nurses the day before. oh of all the surprises.. I knew I had to have my tonsils out though so after meeting with the doctor to confirm, I decided to have them out just one week later. Why hold it off? I’d really just rather get it over with. And, there wasn’t ever going to be a good time. And if I’d scheduled it a month from now there would be all that build up to surgery.
A week build up was enough too. Just researching what foods to eat and I was reading horror stories about how awful the two week recovery was. agh no thank yoU! I’d also seen my little sister have her’s taken out about a year ago. So after reading all those articles (or really just two before getting grossed out) I thought I’d put something up on my blog- nothing gross with straight forward tips for anyone else that might have to have theirs out pretty soon!
How did I know I had to get my tonsils out? After a super super bad case of tonsillitis about this time last year and one very fun visit to the doctor in Paris with Jenni. Well, after that my tonsils never quite went back to normal and I kept getting sick every 1-2 months with something throat related. I think I went back to the doctor two more times and then always had throat losages on me. I had trouble running, sometimes breathing, just really not that fun. So I kind of had resigned myself to getting them removed once I was back in the states. A quick 15 minute visit to a nose and throat specialist here in the states, and yup it was confirmed.
What to do before getting your tonsils out?
- Get lots of rest, eat lots and lots of food (bulk up like you’re a bear going into hibernation).
- Ask people for advice, but let them know that you’ll be comparing war stories afterwards.
- Have a couple pairs of comfy clothes ready to go! Clean sheets and a clean room (trust me, you’re not going to want to look at it for two weeks).
- Figure out what you think you’ll want to eat.
- Ask friends for movies/tv series to borrow and grab some books!
What should I eat? I put this question on facebook and got some pretty great responses (thanks friends!). So you’re throat is going to hurt (I’m comparing it to being super similar to my first case of tonsillitis, that’s how bad that case was..). You could also compare it to a very bad sore throat. With pain killers, it’s manageable though. The first day you’re going to be starving! (see above tip about eating as much as possible before the surgery). You want to eat things that are smooth and easy to swallow. What me and my parents decided to do was a trial- so not buy too many of one thing until I figured out what worked. Obviously it’s going to depend on the person too.
Here’s what I’ve been eating and drinking- the milder the better! Either room temp or icy cold:
- Lots and Lots of ice water- it helps with swelling and feels good! You want to keep your throat as (well there isn’t really a great word for this so why not throw them all out there..) wet/moist/lubricated as possible. We stuck a big jug of water in the fridge. Also, one of the biggest problems with the surgery is dehydration because people don’t want to swallow.
- Pudding- It has the perfect texture but is a bit too rich/sweet for me. So I’ve just been eating a little bit of it.
- Applesauce- the smoothest kind you can get.
- Scrambled eggs- on day two I really wanted some protein to hopefully help with the recovery. Cut into small small pieces and it’s ok! Just drink lots of water with it too.
- Mashed Potatoes- super similar to pudding for me. Awesome texture, but a bit too rich!
- Chicken broth and rice- this was a suggestion from a friend. Delicious! Especially when your mom makes homemade chicken broth! You don’t want it very hot though. Room temp!
- Pureed potato soup
- The usual: Popsicles, Jello
- Warm green tea with honey (we’re going to try adding ginger as well) and Chamomile tea
- Ice Cream/Sherbet
- Do exactly as the doctor says. ok sounds silly but really!
- Avoid citrus.
- Swallow a lot- this is what my doctor said to do to get well ASAP. Keeping those muscles working is a really good idea.
- Keep track of your pain medicine. another duh tip! but might as well include it!
- Saline nose spray- really great! Helps with just about everything.
- Plastic cups- you’re going to be a bit weak so anything that makes it easier is a plus!
- Sleeping- propped up, as much as possible, and a humidifier helps! Also, sleep as much as possible. At night, it was hard for me to get in more than 3 hours in a row.
- Before surgery, ask for extra pain killer- my mom said this helped me get through the first day.
- Straws- eh, not a fan.
- It’s going to be hard to chew.
- Brush your teeth! You just feel better. Be careful though.
- Try not to talk too much!
- Socks and different blankets are good. You’re probably going to be a little chilly.
What to expect:
First Day (maybe skip this paragraph if you tend to not do well with surgery/needles/etc): I tend to freak out a massive amount before getting any sort of IV. Like really freak out. It’s probably not normal but ooooo well. Just imagine a scary movie with a crazy lady looking around with wide eyes at multiple nurses, and the doctor calling out for the anesthetist to come quickly with a cocktail (probably the only occasion where that particular word sends chills down my spine). Then multiple syringes later (why do they do it where you can see it?!) and me refusing as much as possible to go under while being told to take deep breaths. Pretty? no but ya.. then I got my tonsils out. *sheepish smile*
After surgery, in an attempt to be the best patient ever – I drank lots of cold water and ate a popsicle. good idea! and then we got home and I just kinda lounged for a bit, drank more water and was surprised that it didn’t hurt too too much (it was definitely because of the extra pain meds the doctor gave me). In and out of super sleepiness but not really sleeping because I never really been able to go to sleep very easily. Anesthesia though just always makes you feel a bit bad though so I did throw up once. But that’s it. phew. I felt surprisingly ok though just really weak from the stress of it all. It was really hard to sleep that night though because I would wake up every couple of hours.
Second Day: Exhausted!! Because I didn’t get enough sleep and probably overdid it chatting with friends the day before. And then there was the steroids. I hate taking steroids and antibiotics. The pain though, was still tolerable. Lots of naps to get through a queasy stomach after each of the six steroids, and I was ok. Again, super similar to the tonsillitis I had (which will tell you how bad of a case that had been…).
Third Day: I got lots of sleep last night. phew! Helped a lot! But my throat just hurts… :-( Looking forward to when I can have my next pain medicine! :-D 30 more minutes!
So moral of the story- it’s not as bad as you make it out to be in your mind or those awful stories you hear (or *maybe I’m just not to the worst part yet!). But keep looking forward to the point a couple weeks from now where you’ll be better!
I foresee lots of boring days in the next week and a half so feel free to leave TV, movie, or book recommendations! Or any other tips for surviving a tonsillectomy without dying in bed. haha :-) Laters!
*Updates! Yup- I was pretty right. The worse was yet to come. The first three days were a piece of cake compared to days 4-8.
Fourth Day: I was feeling ok and had committed to making an elaborate chocolate dessert for a group. I’d purposely made them before I’d had the surgery so I wouldn’t have to work on them while I was recovering but I just wasn’t pleased with them. I ended up piping little dots of chocolate chantilly on 20 individual chocolate cheesecakes then made three lemon tarts and then later that evening decorated them with whipped cream. To say the least, I absolutely overextended myself. I was exhausted! and hurting! I was also stressed from a project I’d decided to keep working on while I was recovering.
Something I didn’t mention above is that it’s hard to sleep. I’ve been waking up every 2, 3, or 4 hours if I’m lucky. So a tip is to sleep often, and as much as possible!
Fifth – Seventh Day: Feeling pretty crummy. Day’s 4-7 are what they say are the worst days because the healing process starts. Why is it painful when you’re healing? Well.. it’s your throat and there’s scabs. It’s just not too much fun. I actually felt like I was super sick these days. A lot of the problem too is the extra pain medicine they have given you during the surgery has worn off at this point and the energy stores you had from the days leading up to the surgery are gone. So you’re tired and hungry most of the time. On Day 7, I was super nauseous because of the pain medicine. The nausea medicine helped but boy did it make it difficult to eat. So throw in a movie. Drink lots and lots of water. Don’t eat anything that isn’t smooth or you’ll get what happened on Day 8..
Eighth Day: All seemed to be going well until I started coughing. Possibly because I ate some refried beans that my parents had brought back from lunch or maybe because of the scabs not sure. But my throat was scratchy, and irritated. And oh ya, pretty painful! We had also decided to change my medicine from the hydrocodone to extra strength Tylenol because of the horrible nausea I was having and how upset my stomach was. I reached a point though in the afternoon where the Tylenol was not working at all and because of the dosage, I couldn’t start up the hydrocodone again until 11pm (almost 4 hours from then). What helped? Two milkshakes and throat losages. The hydrocodone at 11 was a lifesaver! I was even able to sleep more than 4hours.
Ninth Day: I’m feeling better! My throat kept drying out while I was sleeping, but it actually allowed me to sleep more than normal. The humidifier is super helpful for this as well. My dad woke me up at 5 for another bout of medicine then it was back to sleep till 11. The huge thing today: I no longer feel like I’m sick which makes the pain in my throat manageable. I’m just weak and still a little tired. So catching up on Game of Thrones (yippee!!) and eating popsicles and drinking lots of water.
More to come!
I’ve been back in the US for just over 2 weeks now. It feels like so much longer though. I miss France like crazy even as things are slipping more into normal here. I’ve been busy and bored. It’s a weird discombobulation of things- working part time at my marketing job, working on projects, baking and cooking like crazy (thanks to the ridiculously awesome stocked kitchen we have and a gift of a ton of flour, sugar, and butter courtesy of mi madre), and I have a super cool new job – helping with catering at a well-known B&B! Thanks for the reference BMcD!
But I’ll have days were I’m not really doing anything and the France-sickness sets in (it’s a new deadly disease sweeping this part of the country). I start looking for a stinky cheese and a bien cuit baguette to munch on, Coeur de Pirate is turned on full blast, the dogs are taken on wildly long walks which I come back from and think of how far that could have gotten me in the city, or I’ll contemplate wearing all black. But mostly I think about my friends and the life that I miss so much across the ocean. oh and pastries like this pretty rose flavored religieuse from La Duree. :-)
But how was the trip back? You know I always have a good travel story. They usually range from missed alarms, forgotten passports, or close to flat tires but this one.. this one might just surprise you!
I bought my plane ticket to Dallas just a month before I was due to leave the country. A good bit of procrastinating ended up saving me $200 on my plane ticket annnd I even got a direct flight option. A sign of good things in my traveling future?
About a week before I left I started going through my things and deciding what should stay in France. A good amount of wine was involved. An early morning trip out of the city and they were stashed at a friend’s place. Thank you Jess and Vincent!!!
Four days before my flight I had a dinner party. We had enough plates but Julien, The Frenchman’s friend, had to drink wine from a juice cup. sorry! I made a salad with brie (that had been highly discussed at the fromagerie earlier in the day), pistachios, honey, and mache, lemon roast chicken, potatoes, and for dessert individual moelleux au chocolat with salted caramel. yum! And close to 5 bottles of wine. There were roof top pics with the Sacre Coeur as the backdrop, far too much French for my brain to comprehend all of it, and a bottle of wine that just had to be finished at the end of the night. ;-)
Then I was down to three days and contemplating packing? Especially because I had to narrow down what had come to France in two large suitcases, a backpacking backpack, and a carry on and what I had bought in France, to just one large suitcase and a carry on.
The next day I packed and repacked for a solid 4 hours. This is how the apartment looked:
Then did some errands aka. tea and chocolate shopping for mom, a last amazing pastry for me in the Tuilleries from Fauchon, and champagne with the chefs at La Fabrique where I did my stage. Then drinks and charcuterie with the girls before a mad rush at the end of the night to bring two bags over to Jenni’s that would absolutely not fit in my suitcase.
The next morning I was up at 5am, struggling to repack once again, double checking that I had my passport, and soaking in my last view of Paris. The plan as I’d told my friends the night before would be to see if I could make it to the elevator and the door leading to the street with all my bags. That would decide if I would take a taxi the full way to the airport or just halfway and catch the bus in between. A Zeus level struggle later and I was on the phone with the taxi company. There was no way, I was even starting to question my ability to walk through the airport!
I made it though. In a bit of a daze because me and early mornings never work. Up first- check in my massive, probably overweight, despite checking it 4+ times, bag. As I was waiting in line, the attendant took a look at my carry on and said umm I’m not sure that is going to fit in the overhead. Do you think you could make it smaller? A quick sure! and no more questions. I didn’t even have to attempt to show him that indeed it was going to fit.
Speaking of weight limits- let’s get to my checked bag. The one that was 2.5 kilos over. The lady just smiled at me and said “just be careful next time, or there will be a $60 fee.” as she slipped a “heavy” tag on to my bag.
Next was security and I was one bag over the two bag allowance, and you know the situation with my carry on. My purse got caught for a security search. Maybe it was because I decided that a liquids bag wasn’t necessary for this trip or that I’d entirely forgotten what I had in my purse? The security team was in the middle of training someone and being extremely thorough with the items that were stopped before mine. I was waiting and waiting until a new security guy happened to come through and call me over. A very quick search through my bag and I was suddenly being asked how old I was which then spurred a conversation with another security guy in French about the age range of women they would date. Needless to say, I was passed through without anymore questions.
An hour and a half wait and I’d had coffee, orange juice, a muffin, a chat with the Frenchman, ran into an older couple from Texas whose daughter lived in Paris with her husband, texted with friends, and gone through my Facebook feed too many times to tell. Then we were lining up about to board, and I was joking with my seatmates about my carry on and if it would fit. It didn’t until I took out two binders and two books. The same bin opened multiple times throughout the flight. My seatmate urged me that it was not my bag, but hers. I care to disagree though…
A little while into the flight and I was looking in my purse for my chapstick and happened to unearth pepper spray and a wine bottle opener…? Good job security man, good job.
The rest of the trip was uneventful- lots of flying, watching the overhead bin above us open, three glasses of wine with my new found friend in the seat next to me, looking out the window, and changing the movie to be in French, because it was incredibly boring in English. A super speedy walk through customs and I was in Texas!
This little guy was waiting for me at home. :-)