Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Night out in Mons

Abi and Jacob had a sleep over at one of our neighbours on Friday so freeing Allen and I up to go out. We've wanted to eat out in the Mons Grand Place, just the two of us, since we moved to Belgium. So nearly a year to the day we managed it! We got the bus in, so we could enjoy a few beers. When we got to the Grand Place it was packed as Belgium were playing Crotia in a World Cup qualifier. They had put up a few big screens and all of the restaurants and bars had put make shift beer taps outside of their premises. As we got there Belgium scored so there were loud bangs and fireworks going off! We managed to find the place we wanted to eat - Steak on A Rock (not it's proper name but that's what all the NATO people call it). It was empty so I had to ask if they were serving food, they were so we sat in a booth and ordered. We got the food before our beers! They bring you raw meat and then you cook it yourself on a hot rock. You also get a portion of chips and a salad all for 16 euros, not bad for Belgium! A little bit later the place filled up - it was half time! It then emptied and refilled at the end of the match. We enjoyed three different types of Belgium beer and will definitely go back. Might take the kids, but at a lunch time, as they do more child friendly food then! Caught the bus back so a great night out.

Got Jacob and Abi back at 10am on the Saturday and went off to the pool on base as had arranged to meet friends there. We had 10 kids in the pool and then 8 back to mine for lunch. They then stayed  afterwards to play and we dropped the final one off at 4pm.

We then had a swim meet on Sunday in Brussels - bus at 7.50am from the base

, so a very busy weekend. Jacob and Abi did really well. Jacob knocked 8 secs off his 100 free style and 5 secs off his 100IM. Abi was in two relays and they won both and she knocked time off her back stroke - this amazes me as she looks so relaxed when she swims it! Two swim meets this coming weekend.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Junior afternoon out September

We also had the Thursday afternoon off prior to the Friday whole day off (our Paris trip) so, as Thursday after school, is a Junior meeting (Girl Scouts) we decided to do a trip to Paira Diaza. We had a fun time exploring the whole park. We'd taken a packed lunch. We finally got to see the elephants having a bath, we also went back to the scary bird show! The girls all enjoyed the afternoon as did the parents.

Paris September 2013

Jacob and Abi had a Friday off for a Teacher training day so we decided to make a long weekend of it in Paris. We looked at staying in a B&B but the two I wanted were both full so we booked a place on the main train line in to Paris that had a pool. Unknown to us we had stayed there 3 years ago - on our return from the Falklands. It had been done up and they had added a very good Italian restaurant. We had all of Saturday in Paris. We did the sewer tour - interesting but smelly! I thought the best part was how they cleaned the sewers - some are cleaned using a huge wooden ball that pushes all of the rubbish along the pipes. After we had a walk around and found the Ethiopian restaurant that we had googled. I have to say a good thing has come out of the Simpsons - a few weeks ago Jacob and Abi watched an episode where the Simpson family ate Ethiopian style so, since then, they have wanted to go and eat proper Ethiopian food. We had a huge plater and ate it with

pancakes - no cutlery. It was delicious and the whole family loved it, will have to look for an Ethiopian place in Brussels as Paris is that bit further to travel to! We walked around the Eiffel Tower and Arc De Triomphe. I also managed to meet up with  an American friend from Girl Scouts and go to an event where Abi got to do some crafts with Girl Scouts based in Paris.
The children swam each day and on the Sunday we popped to an outlet mall that was very close to the hotel. We then drove back to SHAPE stopping for lunch on the way. So quite a relaxed but fun long weekend was had by all.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Colour Run

Last weekend Allen, Abi and I joined in with the Brussels Color Run. Jacob was going to be there too but he was invited to a birthday party and he decided he would rather go to the laser tag party in Mons.

Jacob had a great time at the party and also playing at a friend's first. Allen, Abi and I went on the train to Brussels along with a few people we knew from SHAPE. We were all dressed in Tutu's, kindly made by an American friend of mine. Having checked in we got a T-shirt, number and head band. We then had 2 hours to wait until the race! There was lots to see so we found a spot to sit, Allen and I had a little drink before the run and Abi played and ran around - I'm amazed she could then run for most of the 5km!

We were one of the first waves to run. At each kilometre they threw a different coloured powder paint, 1km = pink, 2km = blue, 3km = orange, 4km = green. At the end they gave you a piece of fruit, a drink and a packet of powder paint to throw during the colour burst.

We had a blast, all managing to run most of it. It was good as we knew lots of people so could stop and say hello along the way. The colour blast was amazing but scary too - I couldn't see Abi while it was on. We were covered in powder but pleased we had taken part.

We got the train back - with some strange looks - think tu-tu's and paint covered people! We then squirted our t-shirts in vinegar and put them in the wash. It worked so we now have proper colour run t-shirts. We finished our day with a roast dinner at one of the neighbours, so a very good day was had by all!

Girl Scout Camp August 2013

Abi and I took part in our first American Girl Scout camp. We went to a site just outside Brussels. It's a site especially for any Scouting groups. I went up early and pitched 11 tents with Paul, a husband of another leader. Abi was then delivered to camp by another parent. The Friday was a great day weather wise, that lasted until 10am Saturday, from when on it rained until about 7am on the Sunday!

We had a brilliant time. Abi was in a tent of 4 from her Junior group. I was in a tent with 3 other ladies. I had a blow up bed and was fine. They got to do loads of activities and we all ate very well. I learnt lots of new American ways to do things and I taught them a few British things too.

We got home on the Sunday lunch time very tired and ready for a shower but both of us had an excellent time and would do it all over again.

Other bits summer 2013

We did a variety of other things over the summer. We popped back over to the Netherlands as Jacob and Abi had Orthodontist appointments - they both need braces but not for another year. We stayed with Chris and Matt (our old neighbours), it was great to catch up.

We also went to Namur on the train. It was a bit of a dirty city but did have some good views from the Citadel. We had a good walk around and found a good bar near the river.

We did a few visits to Paira Diaza too - the wild life/gardens park near us.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mum and Dad's summer visit 2013

Mum and Dad arrived on the same day that we returned from Scotland. I picked them up from Soignies train station as they had got the eurostar over.
They got here in time for my birthday. Abi and I had made cup cakes which she then decorated. We went into Soignies to the tea shop that I like for chocolates and tea. We then had a nice lunch at home. In the afternoon we went to the huge canal lift. Dad was very impressed with the machinery involved. We then went out to the Turkish restaurant down the road. So I had a fun relaxed birthday and got some great gifts too - you should be able to see the necklace that Abi bought me.
While Mum and Dad were here we went out and about locally. We went to Waterloo as they had not done the tour there. We also spent the day at a local lake where you can swim. Jacob and Abi obviously went in for a few hours but I stayed safely on the side as all I could smell was ducks! We played cricket and boules too. It was lovely and sunny and it was a fun day out.
We also went into Brussels for the day and went and saw the Royal Palace. Not as good as Buckingham Palace but it is free so is worth a look, we were quite impressed! The week flew past and it was good to spend time with Mum and Dad.

Scotland Summer 2013

So we had two weeks in Scotland although we left before my birthday so it'll be the first birthday in a while I've not celebrated in Scotland! We had a great time up North. It was relaxing and we did day trips out and about. I enjoyed fruit picking, as did Abi. Allen wasn't keen on the bugs! We played a bit of tennis and spent time with the family. Allen and I got to go away for 3 nights. We spent our actual anniversary at the Peat Inn in Fife. It's a brilliant restaurant and hotel too. We decided to have the 7 course tasting menu. A bit risky for me as I'm not that keen on meat but it was delicious. We chose our own wine, you could also include wine, but they had a good bottle of New Zealand wine we know we liked. They made us a special plate to eat with our coffee. It was a lovely evening, we've been meaning to go there for years so I'm glad we finally made it!
The next 2 nights were in Edinburgh. We stayed at the George Hotel, which is very central. We had a relaxing time walking around and eating very well too! We did a bit of shopping and also looked at a few flats as we're thinking of buying something else somewhere in Scotland! We had a brilliant three nights away and are very thankful to Marion and Allen's sister Louise who entertained Jacob and Abi for us, enjoying a trip to the beach and a dip in the sea too. I then went off to meet up with Ruth, Ali and baby Blake in Birmingham, another fun weekend of catching up and shopping! We returned to Belgium and on the same day my Mum and Dad arrived on Eurostar.

UK visit Summer 2013

Our 3rd holiday of the summer was to the UK. We got the over night ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle. We got the better cabin this time and it was a 100% improvement on the one we had the previous year. We had a separate double bed and we had breakfast included. We are allowed 3 trips home a year so I'm not sure why we didn't book this cabin last time! We stopped over in Newcastle as our friends, the Knights, have now moved up there from Cambridge - on our blog this time last year. We met Jacqueline, Richard, Henry, Charlotte and Emma when we were in the Falklands and have kept in touch. Richard is now working at Newcastle Airport. So we had a fun day with them, finishing off with a BBQ at their house. The boys DJ'd and had a lot of fun. The girls got on well together too. It was lovely catching up.
The next day we had a trip to the Metro Centre - a huge shopping place on the edge of Newcastle. We got all of the school uniform sorted and the kids were allowed off on their own and they then met us for lunch. I asked Jacob what he wanted to do for his birthday this year and he said shopping with Henry in the Metro Centre!
We said goodbye and then headed up to Scotland to stay with Grandma Melrose for two weeks.

The Mertes Leaving party

At the end of July we went over to the Netherlands to say farewell to our friends Nadine, Phill, Haley and Kayden. They are back off to the States after three years in the Netherlands. We have done lots with them - time away to Cochem, a brewery trip to Chimay and a visit to Playmobil land to name but a few. We will miss them lots but know we'll see them either in Europe again or when we visit America. They are off to Norfolk Virginia so Allen will see them quite a bit as he travels that way every three months. I'm glad we have Skype so can keep in touch. The party was brilliant, the kids loved the water guns and the glowing decorations later on. We enjoyed the company and food too. We stayed over so partied late, fun was had by all.

Normandy with the Hull's

Our second holiday of the summer was to Normandy. We met up with Anne, Pete, Emily and Vicky at a Siblu holiday park just outside Bayeux. I drove over and it took about 4.5 hours. Allen wasn't with us as he'd gone off to America for work.
Our caravan was a few down from Anne and Pete's so it worked really well. We started with a BBQ at ours on our first night. I'd brought loads of stuff with me in the car so it was great fun.
On the site there was a pool that was covered, the weather was good but there was quite a strong cool wind. Also on the site was a playground, boules court and a bar. We made full use of everything but did eat in as the restaurant was very limited. Everyone got on very well. We did a few day trips out. One to Arromanches. We had lunch at a great restaurant and walked around. It was a little cold so I took Jacob and Abi off to the 360 cinema. It tells you all about the landings during the second World War. It was very interesting and Jacob and Abi were amazed by it. When we came out the weather was beautiful. On the way back we stopped at a cider farm and bought some local produce and also popped to a farm that makes ice cream. We all had a few flavours and also tried lots too! I bought a few tubs to take home for pudding. I am not an ice cream fan but he rhubarb was delicious. We also visited Bayeux. I'd never done the tapestry before. It was excellent. We had a lunch out and a walk around the cathedral and a look around the town. It is a beautiful place. We only stayed Monday to Friday as Allen flew back in. It was lovely to catch up with the Hull's and explore Normandy a little more.

The South of France

Our first holiday of the summer was to the South of France. We got the train from Soignies to Brussels and then our fast TGV to Beziers. It took 6.5 hours to get there and was very relaxing. We'd taken a picnic and a bottle of wine to enjoy on the train.
When we got off in Beziers we had to wait a while for a taxi but we didn't mind a bit as it was lovely and hot. We got to our Eurocamp, on the coast. It was a 15 min ride from the train station. Our caravan wasn't ready so we left our bags and headed off to find a place to eat. There was a restaurant right outside the gate of the camp so that's where we ended up! It was great and after a good meal we went back to get the keys and be shown to our home for the week.
It had air conditioning, thankfully, as it was a hot week! The camp itself was quite big, there were two pools, two water slides, two kids clubs, a variety of playgrounds, tennis courts and of course the sea!
Abi enjoyed both kids clubs, Jacob wasn't as bothered. They both loved the sea and went in loads - way too cold for me. We ate out every night and thoroughly enjoyed a very relaxing week. The weather was perfect and we returned looking nice and heathy. I'd recommend using the train and I'm sure, if we go to the South again, we'll travel by rail.

Leeds Castle

Jacob missed his trip to Leeds Castle in Kent with his class due to being sick. He was very upset about this so we decided to go for a night and visit the castle the next day. Mum, Katharine, Matthew and Amy wanted to join us so we all met at a Premier Inn in Maidstone. The hotel was fine but the town itself was a little rough. We had a good meal out at a buffet place that served a whole variety of food so good for the varied palettes in our party!
So we had the day at Leeds Castle on the Sunday. It was a beautiful day, sunny but a little chilly. Allen went off to do work on his masters, plus a bit of shopping! Jacob was studying castles and also had to do a project on them so we took lots of photos. There was a maze to go through, the actual castle to visit, a play ground and huge gardens to explore.
It was a good place to visit so I'm glad we made the effort to take him and it was great to see the family too.

First two weeks in June

The first two weeks in June were busy ones! Jacob and Abi both had school residential trips away. Jacob went to Luxembourg and Abi went to De Panne (Belgium coast). Jacob was also meant to go to Leeds castle for a day trip but was sick - hence us visiting Leeds castle later in the month - see a later blog! Over this time we also had a Brownie day in Brussels, a Junior trip to an adventure park and Fathers day. All the trips away were fine, it was very peaceful in our house for those two weeks.
The Brownie trip to Brussels was fun too, we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, after we visited famous sites in Brussels and the girls were given some money to spend on chocolate!
The adventure park was excellent, it's called Durbuy. We got to do a ropes course, shooting, archery, Kayaking and go-karting. A busy day but worth the trip.
Father's Day was very relaxing. We cycled to our favourite lunchtime restaurant here, it was a lovely sunny day. My pedal fell off on the way home so that was quite tricky but we made it back safely!

Marion's visit in late May 2013

Grandma Melrose came out for a short visit in May. The weather was lovely so we did a few day trips out. I took her to Ghent. It's only just over an hour from here and is an easy rival to both Brugges and Amsterdam. It's set on canals and isn't too big to walk around. We had a superb lunch in a small square and did a bit of shopping too. There's a large castle in the middle but we just had a wonder around. It was a beautiful place to visit though and we will go back.
We also took Marion to Pairi Diaza, it's a local park about 20 mins from us. We have a season pass. It has great gardens from around the world and also lots of animals too. Our favourites are the elephants and penguins. It was a gorgeous day weather wise so we were very lucky.