I really enjoy traveling and seeing new places (for the most part). I mean, I hate packing and I miss my bed while I’m away from home, but visiting a new city, experiencing different people/cultures far outweighs the dreadful packing and uncomfortable hotel beds.
My colleagues travel quite often. Many have been to France, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, India, Japan, Spain, and so on. I traveled to Germany in 2013 and really enjoyed the experience, but recent travels have taken me to Cincinnati and Montreal. I was definitely envious of my colleagues who had the opportunity to travel to more interesting locations (no offence Cincinnati and Montreal), but I also know it’s challenging for A when I travel and can be tough on the boys so I just accepted that traveling overseas was not in the cards for me right now.
Earlier in the year, to my surprise, my then boss asked me if I wanted to conduct an audit in northern France. I definitely did, but wanted to make sure it was ok with A. After discussions with the company we’d be auditing, we set a date for mid-June. A and I discussed and knowing that he’d be out of school, we thought we’d ask our parents if they’d be willing to watch the boys for about a week so that A could join me. It was definitely a lot to ask, but it was also a great opportunity for A and me to experience new cities/countries together. Our parents generously agreed to care for our boys and we began planning.
A has never been to Europe and I’ve only been to Germany once. In the early phases of planning, we agreed that we’d see as much as possible – this is generally our strategy when we travel as we’re not sure if/when we’ll return to a destination. I was also able to rely heavily on colleagues who had lived and/or traveled to the area. We eventually decided we’d try to see Gent, Bruges, and Brussels in Belgium, Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Paris, France.
We arrived in Brussels on a Tuesday with one of my colleagues. After picking up the rental car and getting lost a few times (a GPS you’re unfamiliar with and street signs you can’t read make for a challenging journey), we were off to Gent, Belgium. When we arrived, I couldn’t stop commenting on how beautiful the city was. Stone streets, amazing architecture, a river running though the city, and even a castle. It was breathtaking. We walked around for a bit and decided to eat lunch outdoors along the river. It was wonderful. After lunch, we toured Gravensteen Castle. I loved viewing the different rooms and even getting a look at the torture devices used in medieval times – yikes. It was uncharacteristically warm, but not unbearable. After that, we headed to our hotel in De Panne, Belgium, which happened to be right on the coast of the North Sea. Our room overlooked the sea and our windows remained wide open. It was bliss.
De Panne, Belgium
Wednesday, my colleague and I worked all day. A got to enjoy walking along the beach and checking out the little town while my colleague and I were on site. After a very long day of work, we headed to Bruges, Belgium. Another absolutely beautiful city with sculptures, amazing architecture, and streets lined with shops and cafes. Unfortunately, we arrived late so many of the shops and restaurants were closed, but we found a great restaurant with outdoor seating and enjoyed a nice dinner. I’d really like to return to this city some day and see the Michelangelo sculpture and check out the shops and restaurants. I loved it.
|Doesn't it look like something from a storybook? Stunning...|
To be continued…