Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lunch in the Grande Place

 Last weekend Kyle and I went to Antwerp for the day.  We visited Reuben's house and the Antwerp cathedral (more on those in another post).  While in Antwerp, we had lunch in the grande place, because that's where one has lunch when in a European city.

If the weather is nice, you can sit outside and enjoy views of the city hall, various guild buildings, a fountain and/or a statue.   This was the view from our lunch table. Notice we could see all four of the above items.

As we were in Belgium we were offered the traditional Belgian menu items pictured on our placemat - mussels, fries and beer.  Kyle had a beer and fries.  I had a few fries.  I will note that Kyle and I have both tried mussels and don't find them worth trying again.  They don't taste awful, just nothing special.

I indulged in my favorite European lunch - bread and brie.  This restaurant served it as a sandwich with honey and walnuts as well.  Kyle had a sandwich on a baguette.

While the food in Grande Place restaurants is never anything terribly special, you can't beat the views and the opportunity for people watching.  And the chance to say - I've been there.  While all Grande Places have charm, unless you are eating in one, you tend not to linger long.  You walk in, admire the pretty buildings, snap a couple of photos and are on your way.  (I've been to Brussels' Grande Place three times now and probably spent less than an hour total there and most of that was spent waiting in line to view the flower carpet).  When you stay for lunch (particularly a European paced lunch) you spend much more time in the Grande Place and can watch the tourists move through, take a closer look at the beautiful architecture and soak in a bit more of the atmosphere.

I'm grateful that I'm not running through all of Europe at a high speed pace trying to check off as many sights as possible and have the time to stop, take a break and just be here. I think that's when I enjoy being here the most.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Plaza Suite

As we open this week, I should probably blog on this a bit.

SHAPE Players' fall production is Plaza Suite by Neil Simon.  The play has three acts that all take place in suite 719 of the Plaza Hotel.  Kyra and I were both cast in the play.  Kyra plays Mimsey Hubley, a bride who has locked herself in the bathroom on her wedding day.  I play Muriel Tate, a married woman who has gone to the Plaza Hotel to meet her high school boyfriend who is now a famous Hollywood producer.

Over the past few weeks I have been keeping busy with rehearsals and helping with the set (thus few blog posts).  The volunteer who used to help with set construction moved this summer so there is as much to do, but fewer trained hands to do it.  Thus Thomas (the set designer and builder) has taught me to use some of the power tools - circular saw, nail gun, staple gun and drill (already knew some drill skills).  I've also done a good amount of painting as one look at my clothes will confirm.

Rehearsal wise, I've had a lot of fun.  I most definitely prefer the shows with a smaller cast.  I guess I'm selfish that way - I like to have more time with the director, more time to run lines and the calmer atmosphere of a small cast.  Plaza Suite is essentially three small shows that share a common setting.  So in some ways we are functioning as three separate shows.  Full run throughs allow us to see what our fellow cast members are doing but otherwise we don't rehearse together.  I've seen a good amount of act 3 solely because I bring Kyra to rehearsal and then sometimes stay to watch.

The show is set in 1968 so the costuming is fun.  Yes I will post photos - keep an eye out for them.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lille Flea Market

On the first weekend in September, Europe's largest flea market is held in Lille France.  Lille is just about an hour's drive from our house, so Kyle and I decided to check it out.

There are vendors all throughout the streets of Lille and they do sell everything.  As one would expect, there are lots of antiques - furniture, china, toys, linens, books and more.  You can even find plenty of mounted antlers if you are so inclined.

In addition to the antiques there are vendors selling cheap cosmetics, shoes, candy and other dollar store type items.

The big food item at the Lille market is mussels.  Restaurants hold a competition to see who can create the largest pile of mussel shells.  They have big bins to contain the shells and then let them pile up through the weekend.  Imagine millions of people, hot sun and unwashed seafood shells and you will know why Kyle and I opted to attend early on Saturday rather than late on Sunday.

I did buy a few things.  Those things will just have to remain identified as things, as they were all gifts.  And the recipients read this blog.

All in all a fun day and an opportunity to experience another part of Europe.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

You know you've accepted life in Belgium when...

Last weekend Kyle and I went to Lille France for Europe's largest flea market.  I need to write a bit more on that but I have a more pressing blog inspiration today.

This fall I will be teaching a couple of beginning jazz classes to students ranging in age from 8 to 18.  In order to do this, there is a bunch of paper work to be completed.  One piece of the paper work is a background check.

In the US this involves filling out a piece of paper, writing a check for the fee and waiting for the report to be mailed (snail or email) to whoever wanted it.  Maybe a ten minute investment of my time - tops.

In Belgium, I had to personally go to my city hall during their very limited business hours, hand over my ID watch them tap at their computer keyboard for 15 minutes and then receive instructions to come back on yet another week day during very limited business hours to pick up my report.

So yesterday I went and began this process.  It wasn't until I was driving home that I realized that I thought nothing of this!  I wasn't moaning and groaning to myself about limited hours, about paying for parking, about how nothing in Belgium is a one step and you are done process.  I simply accepted it as the way life is.  And really, I'm still not really bothered by this, it is just what is done.  In fact, as I was walking out of city hall I was thinking to myself, "well that was easy."

Go back and read my Belgian ID blogs and you'll see how far I've come in accepting how bureaucracy is carried out here.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tanks in Town

A guest post from Kyle who really really wanted to write this and bugged me for days.....

Tanks in Town – Commemorating the Liberation of Mons from the Nazis

Mons was occupied by Nazi Germany from May 1940 until September 2, 1944. The liberation did not involve a battle, but rather reconnaissance elements of the 3rd Armored Division drove into Mons and stopped for a bit before taking up pursuit of the retreating Nazi forces. The Army Major leading the American tankers signed the city’s registry with his name and tank number. After the War, the US Army gave that tank to the City of Mons, where it was parked on the main square. Forty years later, with the tank in disrepair, the city passed the tank to a WWII vehicles enthusiasts group, which began to commemorate the liberation by having several dozens of WWII-era jeeps, motorcycles, half-tracks and tanks “invade” the city of Mons every year on the weekend before Sep 2; thus was born the “Tanks in Town” tradition. They drive in on the same route 3rd Armored followed, parking for the evening on the main square.
Our whole family went down to see the drive in. The neatest part was seeing the bigger tanks drive up the narrow cobblestone streets without hitting something. It had rained much of the day before and most of the tanks were covered in thick mud where they had chewed up the ground at their muster point outside of town; some tanks--all covered in mud--were towed in on trailers, presumably having become disabled in the mud. The loud engines and gas and diesel fumes were enough to give Melissa and Kyra a headache. It’s really neat to see all these vehicles being preserved by families committed to preserving history and acting it out each year.