Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Holiday

First off, signing up for the Brussels 20K definitely has had the desired effect. I feel as though my runs have a purpose now and I have managed to put together a more or less consistent training regime. Each week I go for one fast 6-8k run, one very slow and very long run (to which I add a k or two per week) and one interval training run. This week I discovered a running track where I can do my interval training so that people don't think I'm a nutter when I randomly burst into 30-second sprints. The longest run I've clocked so far has been 13k so I've got some way to go...

My courses begin again tomorrow after the two-week Easter break. I think I certainly made the most of it! Touring around Amsterdam with my parents was such fun (despite the cold and windy weather). We went to the Rijksmuseum, strolled around the artsy/fashion district and went out for some fabulous meals. It was lovely just to sit together and catch up. Here we are about to dig into our Indonesian rice table:

(outside the Rijksmuseum museum)

There were only two lowlights. The first was that we couldn’t stroll aimlessly since there was an endless stream of bikes ready to run us over at any given time. The second occurred as mum and I were calmly sipping our fresh mint teas in a nice café. Suddenly, I saw a mouse poke its head out of the kitchen! We were able to maintain our calm initially, but once we saw a second mouse scurry across the floor we were too creeped out to stay. The weirdest thing was that the servers were completely unphazed - they looked at us with astonishment: of course there are mice, they retorted, this is an old building!

The following day we set off for Brussels on a high-speed train and met up with my Uncle Michael and Aunt Claudette. I got to play tour guide to four willing victims. I'm not huge on touristy things so I showed them the essentials on the first day (making sure to stop at Pierre Marcolini - the most high end chocolate shop in town - to pick up my Easter treat) and we went out for a fabulous meal that night, enjoying kirs beforehand:

The following day I took them on a tour of my life: we picked up lunch at Place Jourdan market and I invited everyone home to consume it at my humble abode. In the lovely afternoon sunshine I managed to get them to walk all the way to the ULB campus and then further along to Bois de la Cambre where we rewarded ourselves with tea and hot chocolates. As a child, I was known as Annabel "are we there yet?" Busbridge but now the tables have turned - the adults were now the ones asking the question.

(mum and I in front of the law building)

(enjoying a break in the sun)

Since we had seen most of Brussels, I decided to take the group on a tour of Antwerp on their last day. Antwerp is a world leader on the fashion scene so us ladies had lots of fun window-shopping while the brothers chitchatted. We also went for an enjoyable "alternative" lunch at Lombardia and for a lovely walk along the water. The port in Antwerp is Europe's 4th largest. We ended our sojourn at this incredible Italian restaurant in Brussels that I'll be dreaming about for a while to come... truffle ravioli...oh my...

(us at Lombardia)

I didn't have time to feel an anti-climax after my family's departure because I set off for London the very next day. I took the bus (oh the life of a student...) but the 7.5-hour drive wasn't actually as painful as I had forecast. We drove through lovely French and English countryside and I had a completely unique experience: our bus drove into a train compartment to cross the English Channel. We weren't allowed to leave the bus and it was so strange feeling as though I was in a train while sitting in a bus! I was also happy that the large shwarma-consuming men that hopped on at Lille found places to sit other than the one next to mine. In short, I had a fabulous week in London. I met up with cousins, aunts, second cousins...I saw 23 family members in all. A highlight was spending Passover with my Jewish cousins - even though I was ready to pass out by the time we got to the eating part, I did enjoy participating in a proper Seder and listening to all the lovely Hebrew songs.

(Seder #2)

Back in Brussels I began to feel the postponed anticlimax setting in. Luckily, it was only fleeting - one of my housemates had planned a huge party for the next evening and I had a great time. I feel so lucky to have found this crew. I contributed devilled eggs and homemade dark chocolate ginger bark to our dinner. After a few sangrias and mojitos, we headed out on the town.

In effort to squeeze the last drop out of my vacay, I thought I'd take the opportunity to host an official housewarming party for my supper club crew. We started with an experimental summer appetizer of watermelon, feta and mint leaves speared with a toothpick (which I declare a success despite the lack of summertime weather – it is NOT fair that Montreal is warmer than Brussels at the moment!); followed by mushroom risotto served in cooked pepper bowls, a cinnamon-infused sweet potato boat and a funky side salad. After an adequate pause, out came the "pièce de résistance": pavlova and chocolate bark. The conversation, wine and company was lovely and I feel adequately rested and ready to get back to work.

(please ignore my posture in this pic and concentrate on the colour composition of the plate)

I now have my exam schedule in-hand so it's starting to sink in that I'm not in fact here on an extended holiday. I have two assignments due this week. I had better get on that...