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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.

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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..

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium

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. 

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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.

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Filed under SPREAD THE MUSIC

The Belgian Coast Post

I see that snow post and I raise it with a beach post. This one’s been in the works for a while, I don’t exactly know why, but it makes me really happy, so I’m unveiling it this week when I’m in much need of a vacation…on a beach…with the Croatians.

Vedran and Antonija are expecting little Elza any day now. And can I tell you, I’m stoked. I can’t freaking wait to meet this little girl who is already a big part of our lives. I won’t tell you how I practice holding her because that would be weird. Anyway, all five of us went to the beach back in February. It was the loveliest of lovely days. We started off with homemade American pancakes (from scratch!), then road tripped to the coast because Vedran scheduled for the sun to be there..he has a knack for that. This adorableness is what ensued, so go ahead and fall in love with their little family of 3..

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Yep, he did jump. Yep, he did get soaked. | And then Elza got hungry….

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And that’s the last we ever saw of the red beret from France. Also, I’ve decided that Ostend is Little White Dog Central. So, there’s that.

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium

Ypres: Ee-pruh, like Oprah

So, we have this book. It was a wedding gift from Mr. and Mrs. Smith. A travel book for the Benelux region (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) and our plan is to highlight everything we mark off and keep notes in it, so that it’s completely filled and then when we head back to the states, we can give it back to them along with a book from another area of the world and say ‘ tag. you’re it.’ Wouldn’t that be fun?!

Totally. So, Sunday we opened said book to a random page. Ypres, Belgium. Never heard of the town in our lives. Let’s go!

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Driving up, it felt like any ole country suburb. Then we got to the gates. A brick wall lining the city. Like back in the day, with a moat and everything. Once you entered the city, the entire town had the same medieval feel.. complete with ponies (ok, they’re rides for the Christmas market, but still).

Christmas market in Ypres, BelgiumYpres is known for its horrendous battles, the worst being WWI. Every last bit of the city was torn to shreds. They rebuilt it from the original plans, so its a fairly new old town (props to the travel book for the info). There are war monuments and cemeteries on many corners, the biggest being the Menin Gate that that the British built in the city.

Menin Gate in Ypres, BelgiumMenin Gate memorial in Ypres, BelgiumMenin Gate memorial in Ypres, BelgiumMenin Gate memorial in Ypres, BelgiumYpres, BelgiumYpres, BelgiumSt. Martin's Cathedral in Ypres, BelgiumAnd this just clicked in our heads, the British gave the rose window at St. Martin’s Cathedral as a gift too.. There’s some sort of love affair going on with Britain and Ypres.

Ypres, BelgiumYpres, Belgiumphoto-3photo 2The center of the town and skyline are dominated by Lakenhalle – or the Cloth Hall, one of the largest commercial buildings from the middle ages. The complex includes a 70m belfry that is one of the 56 inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It was built to keep watch for threats to the town. Oh, and was tall enough to throw cats from. Really. The thing was used to throw cats from the top, and now they celebrate the tradition every three years (now using stuffed animals).. makes sense.

Christmas market in Ypres, BelgiumWe’re crossing things off Mr. and Mrs. Smith.. Get ready!

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium