It appears spring has finally arrived. It’s about damn time.
Our first “warm” day was April 15. Warm being a huge overstatement. But everything’s a-flourish and the endless winter has finally…ended? I hope. The tulips are late, the asparagus is late, doubtful we’ll taste local strawberries before we fly out. But the ones from Spain and Morocco are good, the sun is out, the blooms are bursting, the bees are back and so are the spiders.
I know it’s spring because one day there was a spider web running from my computer monitor to my desk chair when I arrived at work. And I worked the day before. (If there’s anything you should not be when you live in Germany, it’s afraid of spiders.)
Here’s what we’ve been up to:
We found a chicken lurking in the field behind our house. We moved pots to find worms to feed it. Jacob lured the chicken into our backyard by dragging a stick on the ground. Then tried to poke the chicken with it.
We went for ice cream on a day not warm enough for it. So we sat inside then worked off oh, 1% of calories consumed on the playground. I would have taken a picture but the first ice cream of the season requires undivided attention. If you’ve had German ice cream, you understand—chocolate, stracciatella, vanilla and walnut eis with fresh strawberries, chocolate and whipped cream. What? You need to go potty? You broke your arm? The building’s on fire? Shhh, Mommy’s eating.
↑ What I didn’t bring home from Tongeren.
I went to the Sunday antique market in Tongeren. Still not overly impressed with it. Some vendors have some very nice things and it’s interesting to look, but it kinda ruins it when you see the beer glass you paid 50 cents for with a 20€ price tag or the coat rack you paid 8€ for for 45€ (esp. when yours is better). Not a lot of bargains. I did finally get the French champagne bottle drying rack I’ve wanted. But did not get the creepy boy (it had freaky glass eyes set-back in its head) or mannequin or an old prosthetic leg.
And after Tongeren to Boon, Tilquin and De Cam on the Toer de Gueuze—the ones we didn’t make it to last time. How I wish gueuze from the vat outside was every weekend.
Frohe Ostern from Germany!
Instead of hunting eggs in the snow in Brighton, we’re home watching movies and eating giant zartbitter (dark) chocolate rabbits. Jacob decided said “zartbitter” means “fart better.”
We had to cancel our trip to Brighton. Wednesday the ferry company announced in an e-mail that the French dockworkers had a planned strike. Our boat Thursday would be cancelled, and we could call to reschedule. So I did. And they charged me 10 pence a minute to tell me I had to call back because customer service was closed until 8 a.m. local/9 a.m. our time. Obviously too hard to type the operating hours in the e-mail.
These strikes ALWAYS go on, so we slept in. I got up about 8:40, checked the internet and saw the French had called off the strike at 2 a.m. ALL FERRIES RUNNING AS SCHEDULED. Only 1 news article published on this—published at 8:30. To make it, we had to leave in 45 minutes and had nothing packed (because the ferry wasn’t going to go). Woke Matt up, told Jacob 10 times to brush his teeth and get some clothes, took a super fast shower, told Jacob 10 times more times to brush his teeth and get some clothes (he is so me), called the ferry company and frantically started throwing some stuff into a bag while on hold.
Fifteen minutes before we had to leave and an operator finally picked up. Thank goodness we could reschedule the ferry crossing at no charge. It’s what we really wanted in the first place. It was to be the coldest Easter in England since 1910—snowing and only a high of 43 (on 1 day!) in Brighton. Going to pay about 50£ more for the hotel, but it won’t be snowing in May. We hope.
M O R E P H O T O S
From Easter 2013. Shot March 31
Marrakesh is a confounding place. Pick a superlative; they all work. It’s both extremes, simultaneously. A crazy, beautiful, chaotic, fascinating place. To me, Marrakesh is this picture.
Matt relaxing on the roof of our luxurious riad. Beyond the wall a roof of plastic tarp, old tires, a clothes line and a sea of satellite dishes in the distance. Palaces and shanties.
When someone asks how our trip was, it’s hard to answer. “Interesting” doesn’t cut it. Maybe the question should be, “Would you go back?” Absolutely.
I’m afraid I won’t have time to sort thru the 1000 odd photos I took before we venture off again. But I’ll get to it while my mind is still full of tips and thoughts on what was and what was not true in what we read beforehand. Matt’s number one tip: wear sneakers. The shoeshine guys are relentless.
Three new pieces of art for only 10€ each! I found these at a nearby Dutch thrift shop—one of my favorites for buying art. They usually have some great pieces, and art is one of the few things they have that’s not ridiculously overpriced.
These three are oil on canvas, large—the biggest (third picture above) measures 31 by 43 inches—and signed “Margriet 02.” And they are awesome. At least I think so.
Here’s where we stand with the budget:
Original art budget: 100€
Previous purchases: 59.50€
Cost of these pieces: 30€.
100€ Budget remaining: 10.50€
What is this?I once heard the advice: Spend $1000 a year on art. Only I don’t have an extra grand laying around, so I wanted to see what I could do with just 100€. I love a challenge (and an excuse to go shopping!). Of course it doesn’t hurt that Europe has the best thrift shops.Take a look at what I’ve bought so far.
Carnaval in Binche, Belgium is a really different experience. I’ve wanted to go since seeing pictures of these guys—the Gilles. Imagine 1000 of them in those creepy masks…
The masks are wax and, according to the tourist office web site, worn on Shrove Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. Eight-thirty, a two-hour drive away, after a long weekend in Hamburg wasn’t happening so we went for the afternoon parade. I had hoped for the scary masks, but they are only worn in the morning. Big ostrich feather hats are in the afternoon. Still, no less cool. Look at this thing!
The history of carnaval in Binche is little unclear. It’s roots date to the 14th century, and it has been recognized by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” The festivities run Sunday to Tuesday, culminating with a parade and party thru the night.
We arrived in Binche roughly as the parade was starting. There’s no real advantage to getting there early, as the groups are all dressed the same, and the procession lasts close to 3 hours. Except maybe for parking. People park crazy and everywhere, but we found plenty of space in a dirt lot by a roundabout on the outskirts.
Gilles of all ages march in the parade. I just love this little guy (and in case you missed it, this mustache guy):
The Gilles dance to drums and brass bands, then throw blood oranges to (or at) the crowd. It’s difficult to tell. The oranges fly fast and hard. (Don’t stand outside a bar; drunk people seem to be a popular target.) You really have to pay attention or keep your head down or, better yet, stand at the front with kids where they hand them to you.
We came home with a couple dozen blood oranges. The oranges are considered good luck. People who needed the most luck had nets.
At one point Jacob said, “Can we go home? It’s raining.” Nope, orange juice. We stopped in a restaurant and when someone opened the door an orange flew in, hit a table and hit a table and hit me on the back. Easy to see why they put chicken wire over all the windows. Note the screened in balcony in the last pic below.
I’m a bit disappointed that we won’t be able to go back. If we were moving to Belgium, we’d be very close to Binche, and I’d be there next year at 8:30 a.m. Stupid Nato restructuring.
M O R E P H O T O S
From Shrove Tuesday Carnaval. Shot Feb 12, 2013 in Binche, Belgium
A little something to brighten the day. Because this is what we woke up to this morning:
A winter wonderland. As in, we wonder where the the heck spring is.
Seems weird when there’s 5″ of snow on the ground, but the bright spot in what’s been a dreary, gray winter is…daffodil season! And it gets even better when they are 40 for 1.89€. (Thank you, Aldi.)
The glasses I’m using as vases are the best thing I never knew I bought. Story goes like this: At a thrift shop in the Netherlands. They were having a sale of glasses—10 for 1€ or 50 cents each. I had four glasses in my basket, and I HAD to leave immediately so I wouldn’t be be late (again) picking up Jacob at school. Being cheap that I am, I grabbed six more glasses (with the intent of re-donating them) and dashed to the checkout.
It wasn’t until I go home that I really looked at them. Six souvenir glasses from the 1964-65 World’s Fair in NYC. 10 cents each. Unbelievable. One of my favorite thrift-shop finds.
And, no, I won’t be re-donating them.
It’s funny when you see someone in crazy costume and they have a crazy mustache. This was one of the guys at Carnaval in Binche, Belgium. Look for more pics and a post on that soon.