Dear Brussels,

Dear Brussels,

I’ve been home for just over a week but I don’t miss you… yet.

Don’t get me wrong, you were the biggest reason for which I became a more grown and refined person over these past eight months. I was just so, so ready to come back.

Brussels, you weren’t perfect, but you were perfect for me.

You showed me multilingualism in a way that wasn’t overwhelming for me, except maybe for when the bus would announce the next stop and route connections in three languages.

You showed me culture in the most unlabelled and nonchalant way imaginable. It wasn’t something I could find by googling “Things to do in Brussels”, it was something that you motivated me to find on my own. And I’m glad that I was able to do just that.

You showed me the most beautiful and comprehensible French language accent I’ll ever hear, along with the most horrendous Flemish accent that I hope I’ll never have to hear again.

You showed me diversity in a new way; a way that was different from Toronto, but still the same in many ways. It reminded me of home.

You showed me the real meaning of a good photo-op. I’ve tried to take photos of the same allure since returning home, but I haven’t had much luck. Is that enough of an excuse to book my next flight back to you?

You showed me rain. Lots and lots of rain. But you also showed me some of the most perfect sunny days I’ll ever see and I’ll cherish them indefinitely.

Brussels, you became my home. So, with that, I give you all of my thanks.

bae

 

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“We’re all a little bit lost here.”

Last week I had a great time at the Brussels Twestival (Twitter Festival), held at Munt Punt Library in the city centre! The afternoon was filled with great speakers and panel discussions about social media, new media, journalism, storytelling; the list goes on and on. I met some really great people, had wonderful conversation and drank a really great latte provided by one of my favourite cafés in Brussels: Karsmakers.

The most noteworthy of presenters for me was Derek Blyth, a British author who has lived in Belgium for the last twenty or some-odd years. What I loved about his discussion was his non-chalant, natural way of speaking to his audience, and knowing that he’s the kind of guy who would be genuinely pleased to read this and see that he was my favourite presenter of the day.

Derek spoke freely and unrehearsed about how much he loves living in Brussels. It was refreshing, since most expats (foreigners living here) think that Brussels is a huge bore and that there’s nothing to do here. And then something cool happened: he said exactly what I just said one line above. To paraphrase:

“We’re all a little bit lost here,” he said, “but Brussels is not boring. So…” he paused. “I decided to write a book.”

Derek talked about his book, The 500 Hidden Secrets of Brussels, like it was his child. His publishers had no hope for the book, which has now sold almost ten thousand copies and is in its third edition. The book is exactly what its title suggests: a list of 500 of the coolest things to see, do, and eat in Brussels that you probably wouldn’t find in any Brussels guidebook. He told us sternly that if we were going to buy the book, to do so at a small bookshop in the city centre such as Sterling or Waterstones (this was for obvious reasons, of course). “Everything you do in Brussels has an impact. When you buy something on Amazon you are not playing a part in the life of the city,” he added.

So I went out to Sterling Books four days later and bought the book. Duh. I spent the night flipping through it and adding new places to my post-it note lists of things to do in Brussels. I got excited when I came across something on the list that I had already done. I’d highly suggest to any expats in Brussels who have stumbled upon this post to consider adding this book to their collection. You’ll definitely find some new things to discover in the city, as rainy as it may be!

The same day I bought Derek Blyth’s book, we also went to the Brussels Vintage Market and the Christmas Market for a little wander. I loved the vintage market and found some really great pieces while Meena made jokes about its “old lady smell”. I can’t take her anywhere!

Since then I’ve found myself in crunch-mode to get my final essays finished before I go back home to Canada for the holidays, but I still have time for the finer things like doing my nails and trying out new recipes!

T-minus ten days until I’m heading home, and I could not be more excited! That said, however, I can’t wait to start a new chapter of exchange in January, full of travelling, discoveries, and school… I guess. 🙂

À bientôt!

From Paris to productivity

We made a very spontaneous decision to go on one last adventure before cracking down on schoolwork for the rest of the semester. PARIS! Yup; we booked last Monday and visited from Thursday until Sunday. I can easily say that Paris is my favourite city so far from the ones that we’ve visited, though I wasn’t expecting it to be as amazing as it was. I’d heard a lot about Parisians’ nose-in-the-air attitudes and the city’s lack of cleanliness, but I didn’t see too much of that while we were there. I was far too mesmerized by the stunning architecture everywhere, and the fast-paced vibe of city (in European standards, that is). We spent a lot of time with Ana’s Aunt, Uncle, and cousin, who live in the Montmartre area. It was nice to feel some familial warmth, even if it wasn’t that of my own family.

Our itinerary was unintentionally packed for the three days of sightseeing that we had. We saw just about everything there was to see in the city, and we didn’t realize how much walking we did until we got back to Ana’s aunt and uncle’s apartment and sprawled out on the couch. Our. Feet. HURT. But it was so worth it!

I’ve discovered the ‘gallery’ option for sharing my photos, which I highly approve of. I only wish I’d been able to share my previous posts’ photos like this! Live and learn, live and learn.

Just click on any photo and you can scroll through!

Now that we’re back to reality, we’ve started to really crack down on studying and overall productivity. In order to help me do these absurd (jk, jk) things, I decided I needed to spruce up my room so that I’d actually enjoy using it as a workspace. Because my room is a bit narrow, it’s difficult to get a shot of the entire thing, but below you’ll see that I brightened it up with some indoor lighting and party decorations (hidden on the left)! Hooray for pretty bedrooms 🙂

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Since our semester’s travels have come to an end, I’ve got a variety of different posts lined up that are non-travel related. I’ll have my head buried in the books but I’ll be around. 🙂

À bientôt!