Mechelen, man

Via our friend Doris we’ve found out about this awesome map of Brussels made by Use-It. It’s a free little guidebook of sorts made up by young locals to point out some of their favorite spots in the city, keeping you in the cool, not too touristy parts. We’ve been whipping out our Brussels one every once in a while to get some ideas on new places to try out or areas to stroll through, so we were excited to find out that they’re a Europe-wide sort of thing. In Belgium they’ve got all the big cities – Antwerp, Bruges, Gent and Leuven – but also a name we hadn’t seen come up all too often: Mechelen. So one slow Sunday we figured we’d give it a go and visit this place that finds itself about halfway between Brussels and Antwerp.

Now that we’ve built up this map you’re probably assuming that we’re checking off all the hot Mechelen spots. Well, no. Who knows what happened (ok, it was because Doris hand delivered the Brussels one and the tourist office doesn’t find itself in our living room) but we ended up in the town mapless. Comme d’habitude. Our first stop was St. Rombold’s Cathedral, mainly because we could spot the tower from where we parked and figured it’d be in the center of town.. And if that tower looks a little unfinished to you, it’s because it is. They stopped when the town ran out of money way back in the 16th century and it’s stayed a flat-top ever since. Inside we found a corner full of gossiping statues, presumably talking about whoever went broke.

IMG_1383IMG_1390IMG_1386IMG_1396IMG_1393

Cleanest. Belgian. Town. Stuff was almost shiny, and the city had flowers almost anywhere they could fit them. It did have a little emptiness to it though – the place felt like it was made for way, way more people. But it was a Sunday, sunny, and holiday season so it’s not too far fetched to think that the residents had vacated their pristine little town for the beaches. The extra space gave Annie some time to practice her cartwheels. Or maybe all the locals are at the spots we should have known about if we had our Use-It map..

IMG_1412IMG_1407IMG_1398IMG_1408IMG_1415IMG_1414

Advertisements

13 Comments

Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium

Visitors Itinerary | Kent

Visitors Itinerary | Cantillon Brewery | Brussels, Belgium

Last week, J’s grand little, Kent, from college came to visit. (kinda adorable, right? the boys didn’t appreciate it, but don’t tell me that kinda adorable stuff if you don’t want me to cling to it. I mean, guys..in college..having little bros to look after. in sorority, totally normal. in fraternity..s’cute. okay, I’m done.) We lunched at Belga in the sunshine and toured the Cantillon Brewery. The inevitable frites were of the Jourdan variety and I created another Andalouse fan – s’not hard. 

Visitors Itinerary | Cantillon Brewery | Brussels, BelgiumVisitors Itinerary | Cantillon Brewery | Brussels, Belgium

He had hit all the must-dos in Brussels while we were at Werchter, so our work was easy – patio hop. We hopped downtown to St. Gery, stumbled upon Place St. Catherine, and finally made it to the Britxos Jazz Night that we’ve unsuccessfully planned for every Monday that we’ve lived here. 

Visitors Itinerary | St. Gery | Brussels, Belgium Visitors Itinerary | St. Gery | Brussels, BelgiumVisitors Itinerary | Place St. Catherine | Brussels, Belgium Visitors Itinerary | Place St. Catherine | Brussels, Belgium

It was worth the wait. I don’t know if I’ve eaten so well in my life since we’ve met Chef Alex (see, favorite). He surprised us with reserved seats in his perfectly and wholly instagrammable venue (that’s how I determine how much I love someone’s decor these days.) The table was filled with new and old friends that made the night a dreamy one. Acoustic guitar and jazz horn playing in the background, I think we tasted the entire kitchen in tapas. They also make a maniac of a mojito. I’m in love.

Visitors Itinerary | Britxos | Brussels, Belgium
Britxos Jazz Night Britxos Jazz NightVisitors Itinerary | Britxos | Brussels, Belgium

The next morning, J had to go to work, so before Kent left town I took him to the best bagel shop we’ve found in this city – Karsmakers. Seriously. If you’re only slightly a fan of bagels and coffee, this place is worth checking out in Place Lux. Although, after all that, neither of us got the bagels, but the coffee and patio were enough..

Visitors Itinerary | Karsmakers | Brussels, Belgium

5 Comments

Filed under VISITORS ITINERARY

We found the secret

The other weekend we had brunch (yes! the real kind! finally!) at Alex’s swanky Secret Garden. It may not seem like much, but we had all but given up on finding a proper brunch in this little country that we’d moved to. Yes, we’ve found locals (numerous) who’ve sworn that they had the absolute best brunch spot for us, but here, brunch typically just means a late breakfast.. you’ll have a piece of bacon if you’re lucky (proper bacon, i.e., not just a piece of ham that you have with breakfast). So, that’s what makes Alex our favorite chef ever. Allison did a fancy feature of it here. And here’s our completely un-fancy rendition of the fête..

La Britannique | Brussels, BelgiumLa Britannique | Brussels, BelgiumLa Britannique | Brussels, Belgium

11 Comments

Filed under LIFE

Rocked Werchter

85,000 people. 79 bands. 69 countries represented. 39 years of the fest.
And four days of complete Montgomery music bliss.

Close your eyes and imagine it :: your (maybe red polished) toes dancing around in the soft, green grass. the perfect breeze. the summer sun shining against your shades as it heads down in the distance to frame the stage. the stage that’s lit with reds and blues and spotlights highlighting the band. it’s one of your top bands, maybe singing their most fantastically obscure song that you thought you were the only one who knew the words to, but you aren’t. there are people as far as you can see (which is actually not very far when you’re the height of A, but still) who all know the words. because these are music fans, devoted to the art. you’re all swaying (or jamming out…whatever your style is) to the beat with your hands waving. and you belong here. amongst the most hardcore festival goer of them. it’s a love. and it’s why you brave the heat and the crowds and the port-a-potties. and why the walls in your home hope to overfill with posters that tell too many stories* and hang as badges of honor from every festival you’ve been to together. 

Rock Werchter, BelgiumRock Werchter, Belgiumafterglow-37-e1373465491469 afterglow-44-e1373465502411Rock Werchter, BelgiumRock Werchter, BelgiumVampire Weekend at Rock Werchter, BelgiumRock Werchter, BelgiumRock Werchter, Belgium
Rock Werchter, BelgiumRock Werchter, Belgium

The Lumineers’ frontman, Wesley Schultz, likes to remind the audience to put down their phones at their shows and just be here. Such a wonderfully small, but powerful reminder. Music is big. So here’s a few of our favorites from the weekend – be freeeeeee. Pick up some drinks, invite some people over, and pretend like you’re having a dance-off with Régine..

*stories like that 2011 Bonnaroo trip where the two of us set up our blanket waaaaay in the back of the field and had a complete and total jam session listening to Arcade Fire. At the end of the set, we weren’t finished jamming and some young guy hopped on our blanket and asked what we were on. Completely sober (take note kids). I was pretty proud of our dance skillz that night. Those are the best kind of jam sessions.

10 Comments

Filed under SPREAD THE MUSIC

It’s a Dutch name

Werchter Swag

one
J: I’ll take those.

two
J: I pull them off.

A:

three
J: Okay, let me explain why I do in fact pull them off.

We get a lot of searches for Montgomery Fest 2013 and it’s my favorite. Please tell me you’re a musician or lighting/sound/stage/farm coordinator and are looking for someone who wants to make a festival, because I would plan the crap outta one. I have so many ideas…(call me Bonnaroo.)

Anyway – Rock Werchter! (It’s Dutch. Stop butchering it, Green Day.) Geez. So much yelling. Day one fave was Vampire Weekend (Ezra Koenig agrees 4 July is funner in Belgium) and runner up was Laura Mvula – check her out, spread the music. I could go into the comparisons of Roo, but both have pros and both have cons and don’t even mention another festival, because it can’t touch this.

Also, it’s so fun that J’s Alma Mater is as patriotic as it gets, so those are my go-to shirts for days celebrating ‘merica. Geaux ponies.

I’m heading back for day two on my own since J can’t come til after work today, so I’ve gotta sign off asap if I want to make Gary Clark, Jr. and fingers crossed the tram, train and bus combo I have to take to get there are on time!  If you’re out at the fest and see a little girl hard core wiggling to the beat, please come say hi.

Happy Friday!

1 Comment

Filed under SPREAD THE MUSIC

Visitors Itinerary | Jordan

Welcome Jordan. You might remember her sweet dance moves from here. She hails from Dallas, where the we all met post grad at work and bonded over crazy long hours and dreaming of retiring in Europe immediately (at least that’s how I remember it). She knew the work Annie and Justin who were total opposites and then the dating Annie and Justin who somehow, strangely worked despite polar responses to life and then the night I picked her up for Girl’s Night and she flipped out when we sat down at the table and saw my shiny ring finger, but I couldn’t exactly tell her in the car, so I was waiting for the right timing and that was a fun night. Anyway, it’s now my mission in life to make this a reality, because really, Europe looks good on these people down here…. 

Fete de la Musique | Brussels, Belgium

Because it wouldn’t be a true Jordan visit if we didn’t hear a little live music, we headed to Parc Royal to check out the Fête de la MusiqueAaaand it was just what we needed to go from this (left) to that (right). Asap:

Excited friends a la airport | Brussels, BelgiumContent friends a la Place Jourdan | Brussels, Belgium

Necessary.

Also necessary, we consumed a whole lotta Belgian beer, chocolate, and much-needed girl chat. It was better than Disney World.

There was a trip to Bruges, where we climbed the tiniest stairwell in all of the land. Smaller and taller and smaller and smaller. Finally. The top, where those bells ring all of a sudden no matter how close your ears are. They don’t care.

Belfry | Bruges, BelgiumBruges, BelgiumBruges, Belgium
Visitors Itinerary | Bruges, BelgiumMontgomeryFest | Bruges, BelgiumBruges, BelgiumIMG_1321

And then, we went all touristy in Brussels and plopped down in the middle of Grand Place with the messiest kind of waffles. The kind that you find in your hair at dinner later that evening.

There was a lot of walking and chatting and chatting and walking and maybe some slight getting lost (although I might have been the only one who knew it?) and a mildly inappropriate tourist attraction and a very, very inappropriate tourist attraction.

Grand Place | Brussels, Belgium Grand Place | Brussels, BelgiumGrand Place | Brussels, BelgiumBrussels, Belgium

So, here’s the deal. I’m totally in love with all of the fantastic ladies (and gents) we’ve come to know and call friends in this sassy area of the world, but, ya know, sometimes you just need some home cooking. I’m sorry, Jordan. I just compared you to cooking. But, it’s just soooo GOOD FOR THE SOUL. Laughing about shenanigans we got into back in Dallas (if she’d let me, I’d start uploading embarrassing photos because they make me happy, but I’m sorry. and also, you’re welcome.) and understanding the same cultural references and just sitting and enjoying good ol’ friend time. BUT, I’m getting carried away, I didn’t have to choose!  We threw together a fancy schmancy Girls’ Night! And, in general Girl’s Nights make me a happy one, but this one. This one was a special sort. Plus, my hubby crashed the party at the end, so it was the best kind of night. 

Place Luxembourg | Brussels, BelgiumBrussels, Belgium

And THEN, we finally made it to Chalet Robinson and found the best grilled chicken caesar salad in this country, probably. I mean, we had to travel via ferry to the island and were surrounded by freshly pressed business people and dogs, so the stakes were pretty high. But, worth it to meet this stud..

Chalet Robinson | Brussels, BelgiumChalet Robinson | Brussels, Belgium

And in case there’s any suspicion that I went mean girl up there, the guy gave us candy after our lunch. And if you must know anything about me, it’s that candy is the way to my heart (ahem, American candy). Which must mean that Jordan knows me pretty darn well, because that little chica flew to Spain and then to Belgium with at least two pounds of it in tow. These are the kind of people you want in your life.

Chatelain Market | Brussels, Belgium

Aren’t you happy we prettied this blog up with Jordan photos? Now, THAT was necessary.

Til the next overseas adventure, friend!

13 Comments

Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium, VISITORS ITINERARY

JuneFest

Photo Jun 28, 2 56 51 PMPhoto Jun 28, 2 53 30 PMPhoto Jun 28, 2 54 07 PM
Photo Jun 28, 2 54 31 PMPhoto Jun 28, 2 54 50 PMIMG_1190Photo Jun 28, 2 57 27 PMPhoto Jun 28, 2 55 56 PM

man, we miss the headband // party over the canal // ‘ello Mr. Fox // poolside at Knokke-Heist // A craves velvet // peep-hole // Brussels got deep // best time of the year

More random adventures on instagram at: montgomeryfest

8 Comments

Filed under LIFE

Recipe | Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad via MontgomeryFest

It’s one of the more common questions about living here that we just didn’t see coming: “What do you guys eat?” Not like we needed to scratch our heads or anything to find an answer (even after mentioning waffles and fries), just one that was unexpected for us. Which, really, shouldn’t have been. Grocery shopping was one of the things that while basically the same, feels completely different as compared to back in the US. Yeah, it’s all still sorted into aisles and we pay at the check-out counter, but little things like different brands, different names and different packaging had thrown us for a loop when we first arrived. Our first few trips would take at least 1 to 2 hours and would maybe yield two meals for us. And it wasn’t just grocery shopping, the entire dining experience is different here, where the idea of a fast casual meal is almost scoffed at, making it difficult to simply swing by a place and grab something quick for dinner.

But we’ve managed to stay (get back up?) on our feet, and have both gotten a lot more comfortable experimenting in the kitchen, eagerly awaiting the seasonal change in the produce aisle to find out what we have to work with. With summer arriving and the brief heat-wave in Brussels last week (really, felt like the tropics) we needed something that was a bit on the lighter side and didn’t involve the oven heating up our A/C-lacking apartment anymore that it already was.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad via MontgomeryFest

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 9 ounces grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 7 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup parsley, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook one cup quinoa in approximately two cups water for 15 minutes or until there is no liquid remaining in the pan. Set aside and let cool. Add garlic with olive oil and red wine vinegar and mix well. Add in grape tomatoes, parsley and feta cheese, then salt and pepper to taste.

We originally got the idea for this guy from Ms. Stewart but made a few edits to make it our own – mostly switching out the bulgur for quinoa (we like the texture that the quinoa adds, but we’ve used couscous in the recipe with decent results too), and subbed a lot of garlic for the little bit of shallot (ok, and really, we just use a garlic press instead of mincing, but it just doesn’t sound as nice. And while we’re being honest, it’s really more like 5 cloves in our house but we realize that’s probably a little much).

2 Comments

Filed under LIFE

Bicycles at the Bois

Humans on Wheels Parade in Place Flagey, Brussels, Belgium

On the way back from a Friday evening toddy at our favorite Irish pub patio, we noticed the streets of Flagey were being blocked off by police…in Flagey…that never happens. Some sort of humans on wheels parade was a’happening. Hundreds of ’em. Hundreds!. First, the rollerbladers. Then, the skateboarders. Then, the bicyclers. Then, the standby ambulances. We had so many questions. Although, with our daily experiences in Brussels, that’s usually the case.

As well as normally. Which I learned last week is synonymous with usually in this country. J says he hears it a lot at work, but I heard it for the first time on our visit to Knokke. Justin: ‘What time is check out?’ Front desk: ‘It’s normally 11am.’ Buuuuut….., nothing. It’s just that it’s normally 11am period

Oh, okay.

Mind you, this was the same lady who told me ‘this is the nicest part of Belgium’, after I asked her to recommend a reasonable resto for lunch while I was in a (modest) swimsuit coverup with 8 percent wet hair. I’m serious.

Normally I don’t judge the pretentious (but this time I made an exception).

And, we’re back –

Perhaps those humans on wheels are what sparked the bicycle idea the following day. We may never know. We drove to the edge of the Bois de la Cambre, because we’d most likely not want to walk the short walk back after getting on a bike after…I don’t know how many years. 

afterglow-28-e1375043351447 photo-jun-15-4-55-34-pm-1-e1375043152337Bicycling in Bois de la Cambre, Brussels, Belgium

That is one part worry that I’ll run that huge monster of a vehicle into a tiny human on light pink rollerblades | One part trying to keep my headband perched atop my head | And one part chatterbox that J should know by now doesn’t stop just because he has the camera out.

Bicycling in Bois de la Cambre, Brussels, BelgiumBicycling in Bois de la Cambre, Brussels, BelgiumBicycling in Bois de la Cambre, Brussels, Belgium

If only I had skateboarding skillz.
If only.
Then they could maybe make up for my lack of cupcakes from scratch baking skillz that did not improve any today, but the sugar high from the batter was worth it because, let’s be honest, the batter is the best part. Sorry Winne…next time I’ll add more sugar (hehehe) (and, yep, like Winnie Cooper….don’t you just want to meet her parents?! #jealous. But one time at a bar in Dallas, someone called me Winnie Cooper and I will forever hold it in my heart.)

May the force be with you.
(and with me because Anthro is having their annual sale and I’m not evening going to check out the site except to grab the link for you even though I already know the link and it makes me go to the .eu site anyway when all I want is the .com site because I feel more comfortable there and just LET ME GO TO THE .COM, but, really, I’m NOT going to even tempt myself, but if there were a surprise box in the post with the two words Anthropologie and Montgomery on it, I’d be one happy, happy girl. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller….) (Seriously, bye already.)

9 Comments

Filed under LIFE

Why Belgium?

Brussels watercolor via MontgomeryFest

Nine months into this jig seems as good a time as any to add a why to this adventure. Leeeeeet’s start from the beginning:

At about the time of our fourth date, we got into the life goals and aspirations chat as two people do and discovered that we both craved seeing the world. A little insight :: I’m from little ole South Louisiana where I’m the youngest of five and the only one to leave the city, much less the country. So, this handsome boy who talked about music festivals (another weakness of mine) and a wanderlust that matched my own was getting a fifth date, fer sher. Fast forward to the next year when we were surrounded by wedding talk and what to do, what to do..

And since you must know, the plan, simply put, was to see the world. Soooo, how do we do this thing? Well, since we’ve yet to become independently wealthy and can’t just drop everything and buy a hut in Bora Bora, we’ll have to go the career route. J’s firm offers (and by offers, i mean if you beg and pester and do HR’s job for them, they eventually give in – I used to work there…one of the reasons I don’t anymore) “tours” to another office, sort of like an in-house job offer to another location within the firm. So, after we got that set into motion and poked and prodded it along, all while planning a wedding, we decided to regain J’s citizenship to Belgium just in case we find an opening anywhere in the European Union…this way, I can bypass the whole tourist visa deal….so now i get to volunteer for super cool organizations like Buddy Werking. The Belgium thing was a total coincidence – crazy, right? And, if you’re counting, that’s three big life adjustments going on for us at once.

And then, there was an opening in Brussels. Hmmm..okay, what do you think about Brussels? Don’t know anything about Brussels. Isn’t it supposed to be boring? Let’s pro-con this thing:

PRO
– it’s small enough so that the travel is light and he’s home every night (biggest pro – the offices are based by country… in the US, he would be gone for 3 weeks in BS and the smell of his unwashed shirts and gchat videos could only do so much)
– we’d get to experience Europe as locals (well, that’d be anywhere we moved)
– doesn’t Europe have WAY better work/life balance (this one is key)

CON
uuuuh, didn’t you say it was boring?

AND THEN, we were all – All right. Let’s do this thing.

After what seemed like fooooorevvvver getting ‘maybes’ and ‘we’ll sees,’ we finally got a ‘probably.’ We didn’t technically get the 90% until 2 weeks before which was convenient (and actually not very convenient at all) because over in America there’s this two week thing that i had to give my job…that I loved. We booked our one-way flights the week before we moved. Livin’ on the edge people.

So, without having any pre-notion of Belgium, we boarded ship. Well, technically we boarded flight and our stuff boarded ship. And, y’all! As we quickly came to realize, this place is anything but boring. I mean, you remember this right? We’ve been having the funnest time discovering this little-big country with a random trip here and a random trip there, here a trip, there a trip, every where…you get the idea. Besides being the capital of Europe and all of the EU institution liveliness, it’s also the center of Europe (was that planned?) so, we have our choice of destinations.

I think I counted 6 tangents in this post, maybe a new personal best, but probably not. 

Anyway. The travel thing. Business travel is fun…for like 4.8 trips and then, it’s lame. Sorry. ’tis true. Which is what makes tiny, little, travel-from-coast-to-coast-in-a-day Belgium puuurfect for the inseparable couple. (yeah, yeah codependent embrace it) As fun as Australia would be, neither of us wanna be doing these adventures on our own while one of us is traveling to clients and the other is lady lunching by the sea!

SO! This + this + this is actually how MontgomeryFest came to be!

13 Comments

Filed under Belgium, MOVING