Category Archives: travelogues

Snowboarding with sand

Sandboarding is hugely popular in Vina del Mar. The group I was with was keen to try. After my morning, I was keen to watch.

It’s just like you think – snowboarding except with sand. There are giant dunes and the only way to get to the top is by foot making the climb up in sand a little more difficult than it seems.

Here’s the climb up:

real sandboarders

Me climbing to the top sans sandboard:

sandboarding

Here’s a shot of the actual sandboarders at the top:

the climb to the top

And once you get to the top, and peek over, here’s the spectacular view – well worth the (exhausting) walk up:

the view at the top

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First Snowfall of the Season

This is the continuation of a story about my trip to Belgium some eleven years ago…

My first full day in Bruges was the first snowfall of the season.

When I arrived at the hostel, no one was in the six person room, so I dropped my bags and headed out on my own to explore.

Bicycles are a huge part of the way of life in Belgium and a little snow didn’t stop the locals from riding their bikes through Bruges.

As I walked through the countryside, near the windmills high on the hills, I saw children and parents alike sledding down from the windmill starting point.

When I returned to the hostel later in the day, I went to the room to see if anyone was there that I could hang out with for the night. Funny enough, there were a brother and a sister. And they were from New Jersey. More specifically, from the town next to the town where a good friend of mine had grown up. Small world. Two Canadians soon joined and the five of us headed out into the snowy evening to sample Bruges finest beers.


Belgian Food is more than Beer and Chocolate

During my time in Brussels, I remember visiting the Grand Place, the main square, the Mannekin Pis, a famous landmark (Google it!) and the inside of many bars and chocolate shops…Belgian beers and chocolates anyone?!

I saw many attractions but this post will be solely about food, which, let’s be honest, is an attraction within itself.

First, frites…you could get a paper cone filled with French fries, and before it was handed over, it would be topped with a big squirt of mayonnaise on it.

To some, including the boyfriend, it sounds disgusting when I tell this story, but I remember it being absolutely delicious! Perhaps I imbibed on too many Belgian beers but even sober it sounds delish!

Second, chocolate shops were everywhere. At the end of my trip I had some Belgian money remaining (this was before the Euro) and I just went to a chocolate shop in the train station, I gave the shopkeeper my money and together we filled a bag of chocolate for my train ride home. This served two purposes – getting rid of Belgian money and an edible souvenier.

Third, waffles…I only had them once but they were more of a waffle on the go rather than what we do here in the US, loading them up with fruits and sweets. I remember them being thinner and lighter.

Fourth, beer. The array of beers was incredible. Each beer would be poured in a specific glass with the brand label. The shape and size of the glass was created to ensure the best taste with that particular type of beer. I went into a shop and brought a few bottles and their respective glasses home with me. And not just to London, but these bottles (unopened) made it back to the States with me many months later.

Fifth, I wrote a post about Belgium about ordering fondue in a restaurant and out came mozzarella sticks. A pleasant surprise.

And two other points to note. I have written before about my McDonald’s currency exchange plan. Belgium was the only country where I never saw a McDonalds. Or a Starbucks.

A country known for fries, chocolate, waffles and beer…how could you go wrong in Belgium? Though as I write this post, I have to wonder how prevalent heart disease is in Belgium. Or the increased incidence found in travelers.


How I Picked Belgium, or rather, How the Travel Agent Picked Belgium for me

In December 2000, I was working in a small legal publishing office in London. I had only started the beginning of the month and was still getting to know everyone.

As December had progressed, we had holiday drinks, holiday lunches and a holiday party. If you are curious for the number of parties we had to celebrate, this was in 2000 and the start of economic troubles were not going to surface for a few more months.

In random conversations, officemates were asking one another what they were doing for the holidays. I simply assumed we had a long weekend. The day before the office closed, I found out it would be closed until the New Year.

Sidenote: Do you hear that US-based companies? Giving your employees the week off between Christmas and New Year’s is totally the way to do it.

I wasn’t expecting a visitor from the States for another week and most of my flatmates had gone home for the holidays. So, what’s a girl to do but get out of town for a few days!

After work that day, I promptly visited the closest student travel agency (my university ID did not have dates attended and since I had just graduated, I still looked just the same). I met with a lovely woman who was tending to my last minute travel needs and I told her that I had never been anywhere on the Continent except a long weekend in Paris with a friend just a few weeks before.

I was open to anywhere. I had three (or four), I can’t remember, days, I’d be traveling alone and anywhere would do.

She suggested Belgium via the Eurostar, and I said let’s book it! My early morning departure was booked for Boxing Day, the 26th of December and I only knew I needed to pack warm clothes.

I spent Christmas in my flat making a scrapbook of my time already spent in London from October til December. We did not have television and the internet was a commodity onlyy found at internet cafes, so I amused myself with the radio and my own creativity. Imagine that!

On Boxing Day, I left on my first solo trip to a place where I knew no one and I didn’t really know much about my destination except Belgian beer and Belgian chocolate…and already I was sold!


Boxing Day

Today is Boxing Day across the pond…and throughout the Commonwealth.

When I lived in London over Christmas of 2000, Boxing Day was like Christmas Day. Everything was closed. Which would be great if you had no plans.

Except that I had booked an early morning Eurostar train to Brussels, Belgium. At the time I lived in Battersea (just south of the Thames, and also where Prince Harry just visited the police department after a friend’s recent robbery).

I had to book a taxi and pay whatever Boxing Day holiday surcharge because the tube (subway) and trains were closed. The only way across the river would be to take a taxi or swim. I clearly chose the former.

And let’s be honest, had the tube or trains been running, my departure was so early that I probably would have paid the taxi anyway – remember, everything was closed, so no traffic, and I could sleep a little bit longer!

Once on the Eurostar, you would have never known it was a holiday. It was packed with people! I remember speaking with a fellow American who was en route to visit her boyfriend’s family. I had told her that after Brussels I was headed towards Luxembourg or Bruges, I did not know which. She had told me she had visited both and she highly recommended Bruges over Luxembourg.

I kept that info in my back pocket and did act on her advice.

After a day in Brussels, I bought a train ticket to Bruges for the following day.

Note: Bruges was AWESOME and ultimately became one of my favorite cities that I have discovered in Europe. Will elaborate about my experience in the wonderful city in future posts.


For Shame!

Boy did I goof. Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the boyfriend and I went to DC for a weekend trip back in October. And boy did I mess up. I overpacked. The horror!

I broke several of my packing cardinal rules.

Problem 1: packing the night before

Problem 2: packing after dinner (and wine) with girlfriends

Which led to problems 3 and 4…

Problem 3: Not packing outfits that worked with the shoes

Problem 4: Not packing for the right weather

Not only did I overpack, but I packed for frigid weather. That weekend we were there, the weather was gorgeous.

I also packed non-practical outfits. Yes, on our departure day I wore my tall boots so I did not have to pack them, but I had not taken into consideration that the jeans I packed – did not work with those boots. Which means, the boots could only go with limited outfits. Thankfully, I had packed my trusty Converse to go with the jeans. While the boots paired with my leggings, I only packed one thing that actually looked normal with leggings, being leggings. The rest of what I packed made the leggings look like pants. Big no no.

On top of that, this was the boyfriend’s first trip to DC since he was a kid. Did I remember the camera? Of course not. Do either of us have smartphones? Nope.

So at the Lincoln Memorial, we did what any tourist who comes to a place unprepared, we bought, oh yes we did, a disposable camera. Stop laughing.

Let it be known I only was recently weened off of disposable cameras in the past few years, so I had no shame. Though it was hilarious looking around us – not one single person had a disposable camera. People had smartphone cameras, small digital cameras and high-tech cameras. Not us. We had the very desirable Fuji QuickSnap.

Hey, it did the job. Well, we don’t know yet because I just finished the roll and mailed it to be processed.


Shhhhhh

The boyfriend and I went to DC for a weekend trip back in October to visit old friends.

We took Amtrak down and we were pleasantly surprised when we accidentally found ourselves seated in the only quiet car on the train down.

Hallelujah!

I had a book to read and plenty of magazines to catch up on and I was excited for the silence in which to read. there were several people who needed to be continuously reminded that this was the quiet car.

Because the train was full the boyfriend and I were not seated next to each other. I had been behind on checking my voicemail, and later received a few calls during the ride, so I simply wanted to listen to them.

As I dialed, I felt like his eyes were boring holes into my head as he must have been fearful that I was going to <gasp> make a call. If only the poor guy knew we were on the same quiet loving team. In fact, he was so keen on his quiet that when the conductor came around collecting tickets, I could see my seat partner exchange a look with the conductor and then nod his head to me.

Just to piss him off, I checked my voicemail twice, during the two hours I spent sitting next to him. I was never going to make a call, but with plenty of reading material in front of me, I wouldn’t have wanted to!