Armistice in Ypres

November’s a rough one. The weather has taken a turn for the worst in Brussels and I’m constantly looking for ways to stay motivated. However, Monday was one of those days that made me feel very fortunate to be in Europe this year. Ana and I travelled two hours on a train to Ypres (Ieper), a town on the west side of Belgium for Armistice ceremonies. In Canada November 11th is known as Remembrance Day; we participate in ceremonies at school, at work, and at city hall. Here in Belgium Armistice is a national holiday, so we didn’t think there would be any better way to spend it than to visit a historically-renowned town from World War 1.

IMG_1508The town’s main square was full of ceremony onlookers from all over the world.

IMG_1554

The upper level of Menin Gate, its walls lined with names of the fallen.

IMG_3227Menin Gate

IMG_9769A beautiful splash of colour at the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery

IMG_1559Ypres Reservoir Cemetery

IMG_1815It was a cold day; all the more reason to drink a cold Belgian beer!

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The life.

Currently sitting in a beautiful, enclosed park right off of Brussels’ main shopping street, home of friends such as Louis Vuitton, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Marc Jacobs. Eating delicious 5 euro pad thai that I bought at a small farmers’ market, where I also found amazing and CHEAP organic fruits and veggies to eat on our ten hour bus ride to Prague tomorrow. If this isn’t the life, I don’t know what is.

Antwerp and a few thankful thoughts

We spent all day Saturday in Antwerp, a city about an hour train ride away from Brussels. I had heard from many people that Antwerp is by far the best place in Belgium to spend your time (and money; the shopping is to die for) and they were totally right. Luckily we were able to meet up with some new friends who knew the city like the backs of their hands, so we saw all we needed to see and more! I spent my fair share of money on some new clothes, most of which came from some really awesome vintage store/coffee shop hybrids, which I LOVED. Aside from shopping, we walked the side streets of the main square, bar-hopped after dinner, and ventured up to the roof of a ten-storey museum to see the city at night. One thing is for sure, and that’s that I’m going to be going back to Antwerp many times before the school year is over!

Photo 10-12-2013, 1 59 13 PMAntwerp Central Station; I couldn’t believe my eyes.

IMG_2280A stunning church off of the main square!

09Photo 10-12-2013, 6 57 19 PMDusk.

IMG_2313This happened.

IMG_2310And this.

Photo 10-13-2013, 12 03 28 PMThey are the best.

On a non-Antwerp related note, I think today was the first time since I’ve arrived that I really missed home. I wouldn’t say that I’m homesick, I would just say that I really wish I could have spent this weekend with my family and friends in Burlington and Toronto. All I can do from here, though, is say what I’m thankful for. The list could go on forever, but here’s the brief synopsis:

I’m thankful for my selfless parents who support me tirelessly, day in and day out, in every single thing that I do. I’m thankful for the rest of my family still being an integral part of my life: my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I’m thankful for a relationship that makes me undeniably happy every single day, and I’m thankful for my close friends who are stuck by my side for the long haul. And as much as I wish I could be at Thanksgiving dinner tonight, I am SO thankful for the opportunity to study and travel in Europe for an entire year!

La vie est belle/belge! (I think I’m going to change my blog name to that.)