Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Category Archives: Belgium

Reunion in Liège

The trip to Durbuy that I wrote about last week was actually a side excursion outside of the main trip that took place in Liège during my last weekend in Belgium. Seeing that Yi-Shiang and his family live in Liège, and that there are quite a few IDS-FunMat students in Liège, I figured I’d take the opportunity before I left Belgium to visit them. After all, it’s not so far from Louvain-la-Neuve (LLN), only 2 hours by train.

Ara and Alina found out that I was going to Liège, and decided to tag along as well. Then the group snowballed. One LLN IDS-FunMate joined after, and soon we almost had the entire crew from LLN going together, with a total of 8 people! The group would have a reunion (for some new guys, it’ll be the first gathering) with the people in Liège, about 7 of them. It certainly became a massive LLN exodus and a long awaited post-training school reunion!

I arrived in Liège on Saturday and stayed overnight while the other LLNers joined on Sunday. Yi-Shiang and Janet kindly hosted me in their home for the night. As they live on the 9th floor of a high-rise building, I was able to see the residential area of Liège from a high place (definitely included in the next “From high places” post 😉 )

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How small is the smallest town in the world?

Speaking of extremes, I’ve been to a few “extreme” places in Europe: Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point on mainland Europe, and Nijmegen, the oldest city in the Netherlands (debated by Maastricht). For this post: the world’s smallest town – Durbuy, Belgium.

HOLD ON. I think Hum, Croatia would kindly like to disagree. Perhaps ex-Buford in Wyoming, USA would disagree as well. There really isn’t much factual evidence that Durbuy, Belgium is indeed the smallest town in the world, although that is the small Belgian town’s claim to fame. Maybe it USED to be the smallest town in the world, once upon a time, but not anymore? Who knows?

Just how small is the “smallest” town in the world? A car ride into the hidden little place (thanks to Yi-Shiang & co.) would show us what it’s all about!

Durbuy is literally hidden in the forests. I think we were driving for some 20 minutes between rows of trees surrounded by tiny creeks and rivers, as if we were venturing into an unknown existence deep into the innermost parts of the woods. And suddenly, out of nowhere at all, the town emerged from behind the trees. I felt like we found the entrance to Narnia or something. First impression of Durbuy: it reminded me of another small town that I’ve visited, but I can’t remember which one… >_<

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A little place called Brussels

When people ask me what my favourite place is in Europe out of all the cities I’ve travelled to, I never really give a straight answer. How DO you answer this question, when each place is so unique, so charming? Yet, I always ALMOST say Brussels, because that’s what comes to mind when I think of places that I really love.

So then Brussels became sort of my de facto favourite place in Europe, just as it is the de facto capital of the European Union. It’s right in the middle of Paris and Amsterdam, two very popular cities, but ironically, these are two of the most overrated European cities in my opinion. Brussels lies there, unnoticed and often overlooked by travellers, but what a gem it really is! I’m lucky that one of my co-tutelle universities is in Belgium, so I have plenty of chances to go to Brussels, which is just an hour away by train from Louvain-la-Neuve, my university. It’s not quite a place I’m super familiar with, like Bordeaux, yet not JUST a tourist destination for me either.

I realize, though, that during the two and a half years I’ve been in Europe, I’ve had six sessions in Belgium and countless visits to Brussels, yet I’ve only written about this beautiful place once or twice. And it deserves much more attention than that.

I stopped by Brussels the night before my departure to Lisbon, and the view at Mont des Arts just swept me off my feet. All I could say was…wow. I love cities in the night, and Brussels got me completely mesmerized. Never thought I’d see a rainbow at night!

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A few hours in rainy Antwerp

A trip to Antwerp was long overdue. I’ve been meaning to go every single time I was in Belgium, but it eluded me time and time again. After I go back to Bordeaux next week, I don’t know when I’ll come back to Belgium, so I decided last Friday that I’d make that trip to Antwerp on Saturday, rain or shine. Well, it rained, and it rained hard. (Not that I was surprised – I had no hope of a sunny day when the weather forecast boasted a 80% chance of precipitation.) It wasn’t the best condition for going on a day trip, but hey, I wasn’t going to back out. Let the rain fall!

Antwerp is located in Flanders, the Flemish region of Belgium. It is the second largest city in Belgium, after Brussels, and it has one of the largest ports in the world. Antwerp is one of those Belgian cities, like Ghent, whose name is different in English, Flemish, and French. Respectively, the names are Antwerp, Antwerpen, and Anvers.

I had wanted to stay in Antwerp for the whole day, take a stroll around the city, maybe a nice promenade along the Schelde river, but the rain ruined most of the plan. As a result, my umbrella died (it was half broken already) so I got a new one, and my shoes and socks were soaked. Yuck. Definitely not pleasant to walk around with wet feet. So instead of leaving in the evening, I went back to Louvain-la-Neuve in the afternoon to escape the gloom.

I played around with today’s set of images on Picasa, in order to make them look better than they really are, due to the grey skies which show up horribly in photos. Being in the rain all day also trained me in the “skill” of single-handed picture-taking, absolutely necessary in order to stay somewhat dry for the day!

Arriving in Antwerp central station, it was almost 11:30 in the morning. The train station itself is a grand attraction in Antwerp. From every angle, up and down, left and right, in and out, it looks and feels more like a sophisticated museum than a train station.

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Sherry’s European adventures: Belgium, Paris, and Bordeaux

Well, after months of planning and anticipation, the sister is finally here to visit. I meticulously planned this trip so that when she arrived, she would be visiting Belgium when I was still there. Then we’d head to Bordeaux with a short stay in Paris, and in the end, we’ll fly back to Canada together, for MY vacations. This way, she would get the benefit of experiencing a little bit of both countries while I’d have some company for the long trans-Atlantic flight 😉

It’s been almost three weeks of hopping between cities, most of which I’ve been to already, and I wanted my sister to get the best out of her first European adventure. It certainly wasn’t easy for her to be away from home for so long, all by herself, and it wasn’t easy to plan a feasible route for her, but I enjoyed the process of showing some of the places I loved and exploring new places with her. Of course, food was a big part of our adventure, as you’ll see later! So let’s start with…

Belgium

I was finishing my 4th session in Louvain-la-Neuve when my sister arrived, and she got to stay with me there for a full week. I brought her to Bruges, a popular tourist destination that I didn’t like when I first visited, Ghent, like Bruges but much more lovely, at least to me, and of course, Brussels, the European capital. Chef tagged along as well, triple the fun!

Sista time! Sherry is 9 years younger than me – quite a huge difference, no? Almost everyone told us that we don’t look alike, and most would agree that I am more like my dad while my sister is more like my mom, both in terms of physical appearance and personality. Do you think we look anything like each other at all? 😉

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