First Days

Corner Building DowntownWell, we made it. And we made it no worse for the wear… more or less. We are mostly just tired and should win some kind of award for napping (quantity, quality, and length — TRIPLE THREAT!) but other than that we are in one piece. We are currently living out of 1 big suitcase, 2 touring backpacks, 2 carry on roller-boards, and 2 personal items in a funky little hotel behind an Indian restaurant near my (Tracy’s) school. We have walked close to 20 miles in the 3 days we have been here and although our feet are tired, our hearts are happy.

On Friday, our plane arrived right on time. We went through customs with only 1 question, “You are living here?” (read in an indifferent French accent) and were able to quickly collect our luggage. Around 8:00am, we walked out to find Catherine, HR from ISB, at the arrivals area with a cute little sign to welcome us. She called a car to drive us to the hotel and gave me my welcome bag. I haven’t started work yet, but let me tell you, I love my job! My ID and city transportation pass were all ready to go and activated along with a pay-as-you-go phone, 15 euro of talk time, a mug, a thumb drive, a pen, a pad of paper, a Discovering Belgium coffee table book, and best of all, a box of truffles from Leonidas Chocolatier. Welcome to Europe for sure!

We arrived at the hotel and were able to check in very quickly and easily thanks again to the care of my HR department. Because we hadn’t been able to fall asleep on the plane, we decided we would take a short nap and then do some sight seeing. We slept until 1:00pm and decided we are sloths. We walked through some parks near our hotel and eventually came upon a Carrefour shopping center (like a Walmart or Super Target) with a tavern in the lobby area. Can you imagine if you could get a beer before your Target trip? BAH! We ate some sandwiches and returned to the hotel. I slept again which I knew was a bad idea but I was so exhausted. We decided we needed some sunlight and went for a walk to find my school. I think it will be fairly easy to get to from wherever we end up living and I feel less nervous about arriving for my first day of orientation on Wednesday.

Caught ya!

We stopped for pizza at a corner restaurant and learned just how very French this part of town is. We figured it all out with lots of pointing at the menu and still got a pretty good meal out of it. We still sit for quite some time after the meal is over and are learning to be more assertive about getting the check. In many of the countries we have visited in Europe, we’ve discovered that if you don’t hunt someone down for the bill, they’ll leave you there all night. We promptly went to bed upon our return, around 10:30pm and were both awake by 3:00am…

On Saturday, I bought my first non-food item in Belgium: a French-English word-to-word dictionary. Best 4.95 Euro I have spent! We have decided that, although in the tourist areas we can survive on just English, we are going to register for a French class so we can thrive in all areas of the city (minus the Flemish speaking ones, however).

Cathedral Cathedral Inside

That day, Alex thought it would be a good idea to do a walking tour (to the tune of 9 miles) to get a feel for the neighborhoods surrounding our potential apartments. Our relocation agent has made appointments to view the apartments on Monday and Tuesday but will be driving us and we felt like it was important to see the surrounding areas, too. Alex is prioritizing pub(s) and I’m concerned with having a good grocery store, pharmacy, and train or tram station nearby. In our 10+ years together, we have vacillated between realistic and ambitious; yesterday it was my turn to be realistic, I suppose. We ate lunch at El Cafe which was funky and fun. I ordered in French and asked for the check in French which was probably awful for the waiter but felt good for me. Now I know how my students feel when they first move and have to suffer through the embarrassment of trying a new language! When we got back to the hotel, we watched The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and noshed on our leftover pizza from the night before.

in the Galeries
On Sundays, pretty much the whole city closes down so we decided to ride the train to Central Station and walk around the downtown area. We stopped in a beautiful cathedral and listened to the service for awhile. Then we sat in the sun for a bit in Grand Place and gathered some materials on upcoming events in Brussels. I am SO SO excited that we are here just in time for the Carpet of Flowers! It is in 2 weeks and I can’t wait to see it! We walked to our favorite waffle place, Waffle Factory.

Liege Waffle LunchWaf Alex+Waffle=Happiness




Because it was our 3rd day here with no waffles, we decided it was imperative to make up for lost time and we each ordered a “Full Meal” deal. Hold on to your hats, folks. This inlcudes a savory stuffed sandwich waffle, a Liege waffle with pearl sugar, and a drink. I picked a croc-waffle (like a croque monsieur) for my LunchWaf and Alex picked one with bacon, mozz, basil, and tomato. Basically, the hot pocket of Brussels. GENIUS. The classic Liege waffles were amazing as always, too. We walked 1 block over to see little Mannekin Pis and took the train back to our hotel.

Grand Place

Alex Gazing

There’s the rundown. 🙂 We are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the language, being in a new city, and living out of suitcases in a small hotel room but are having fun at the same time. 2 new teachers at ISB who are staying at our same hotel sought me out and introduced themselves and we had breakfast with them this morning. It feels great to already have made some new friends who are new to Brussels, too. (They’re Canadian!). I’ll sign off here but know that we are doing just fine and will update after the apartment hunt.