Belgium is where we are going today

Belgium is where we are going today

Who hasn’t heard of Belgium chocolates? Me, until about five years ago.  I was in Portland attending a conference with a friend and was wandering around the downtown shops.  My eyes the words that sprung CHOCOLATE on its glass door.  The small store invited me to come in with its simple “come in” sign.

A tall, thin man, standing behind the counter, wearing an apron over his light blue shirt and I struck a conversation immediately about their speciality.

“What is special about these chocolates?”

“We fly these chocolates from Belgium…The chocolatier crafts the chocolate…giving them a complex flavor,” he excitedly campaigned for every morsel of white, dark, and milk chocolate in the house.

I sunk my teeth into one of their most popular selection.

“My gosh! What have I been putting in my mouth all this time?”

“It is smooth on the inside and on the outside. The fillings are creamy and not too sweet.”

“I got it. You don’t need to tell me anymore.”

I almost wanted to lick my finger.

“Pack a dozen for me and another half dozen for a gift, please.”

I came home and licked off every bit of  chocolate on my hand as I thanked the people who were finest in their craft.

Couple of years later, I believe the store closed.  But I still dream of chocolates from Belgium.  Since I am taking a break to drink a cup of coffee at this time. I am going to do some research on travel dreams. These are places, activities, and foods on my bucket list that I have never tried or want to try again.

Going back to chocolates and dreams, Belgium is where we are going today.  I got to get to Belgium first. Let’s see if somehow I get to Belgium what will I do.

Learning about Belgium and what it has to offer

Of course, I would want to go visit a chocolate maker, so I can have a fresh batch. But hold on, what does Google say about what to do in Belgium while I stuff myself with only Belgium chocolates?

Google tells me that there are few places to see in Belgium, castles for starters.

I have never visited a real castle.  The Gravensteen castle looks like a castle that has stories to tell.  That’s because it was built in the 10th century.   Then there is the Gothic Cathedral and Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.

After doing some research about the places to visit, I see that I have more than three reasons to go to Belgium now.  In addition to those sites, I would like to go to a real chocolate house, and taste house made Belgium chocolates.

How would I plan this trip to find chocolates?

Since I would probably go as a long weekend trip,  I am thinking of going for three days four days max.

The dream trip I am planning is assuming that I have reached Brussels andI  have checked in already in a downtown hotel for the first night.

I reviewed at the map of Belgium and goggled the distance for my first two sights.  The maps said it is 1 hour and 9 minutes by car.  I wondered if I could take the train that, since I love trains.

Yes, there is a train, time varying from 1 hour 16 minutes to 1 hour 27 minutes. Since this would be a very short train trip, I will take the less expensive fare and ride the scenic train to another destination.

My first touring site will be the cathedral.  According U.S. News, the cathedral viewing is free but the archeological site requires an admission fee.  I might add that on the tour.

I figured that tour alone would take up to lunchtime since I like to read and take pictures of places I like to visit.

After all that walking, by lunchtime, I might just get a cup of coffee and Brussels local dish.

Then after lunch, I would go the castle and see if I could spend the night in it. If I can’t I will return back to the hotel. Gosh talk about a shock going from a castle to a hotel? That’s ok. Chocolate will soothe the jolting disappointment.

If the night is not going to be spent in that well-known castle, I wonder if there are other interesting accommodations in Brussels like tiny houses. It remains to be seen, whether the second night will be in a hotel, a castle, or a tiny home. I still vote for the castle. (Remember this is a travel dream, you can go anywhere for a few minutes).

Now, the second day of the tour, the plan is to grab a quick breakfast.  After that, I will have to start doing some street talking with the locals.  I would have to start striking a conversation with the locals to direct me to the finest chocolate houses and or the chocolate emporiums.  I don’t mean fancy, I mean real, real good chocolates where you can smell the dark rich flavor before even you see it.

You might ask why don’t you just look at the Apps. You were using search engines and Apps to get you there earlier.

Friends, let me tell you. I know the apps and the books are great at providing recommendations but sometimes I find that there are hidden spots that just where only a few know about which are only shared amongst the locals.

After getting the information, I will rush to the chocolate house by taking a taxi, unless I can walk there. I assume the best chocolate house is going to be in someone’s house, near a castle, like a retired chocolatier who only serves chocolates on Sundays for the joy of pleasure.

By late afternoon my tummy will be full of so much sweet that it would like a lick of sour.

What do the locals eat in Belgium?

If I don’t have any word of mouth for foods from the locals, I would rely on the search engines.  At this time, a search in Google tells me that there are variety of foods to eat in Brussels.  Of course, the Belgian Waffle tops the list.  How could I ever forget that? That was my favorite at the good old breakfast place before the easy and fast breakfast café’s took over?

But no, I won’t eat Belgium waffle for lunch; I will save the best for the last day.  It will be a spur of the moment decision between mussels and the Belgium deep-fried shrimp for lunch.  I think my tongue wants something shrimpy, shared with a good glass of Belgium beer.  Then the plan  would be to go to local pub for that taste.

After I find a pub to have lunch and strike more conversations with the locals about their life, their town, their hopes and dreams, I would do some minimal shopping for people back home.  With the full lunch I had hours ago, I would be probably too full to eat dinner unless it is going to be chocolates

By day four, hopefully, I would had made some friends by then. My friends would have given me a good sense of the place. Art and architecture, new and old around town is how I would spend it after Belgium Waffles. It’s almost time to return

Now, I better check out and go back to work until my next virtual tour come knocking in my travel dreams.

P.S. I did find a box of chocolates in the meantime. Thanks to my friend’s mom.

Box of Chocolates

 

Where to today? What about Greece?

What about Greece?

Ever since I was introduced to Greek mythology as a kid, I always wanted to tell Zeus that he scared me and wanted to warn Pandora, “Dear beautiful girl,  DO NOT OPEN THAT BOX Pandora.”  All those drawing of those creepy monsters inside the box scared the bejesus out of me and they will be a nightmare for you too.  I wanted to yell at Cupid, saying stop pointing that sharp arrow at me, kid, and kid put on some clothes.  Didn’t your momma every tell you how to dress, atleast to put on a shirt?

Mythology made me fall in love with Greece, so has its concept of democracy, and the gyro.

If I go, this is how I would like to spent my time there.

I would fly to Athens to recover from the jet lag the first day.

Then I would figure out the go to gyro hut or palace.  A train trip from Athens to Olympus National Park would be ideal to not only silently dispense my belated warnings but also to hang out and admire the plants and animals growing in the vincinity.

Moving on from Athens, I would hang out at every archeopological and historical site for weeks. Not only would I want to read about how they built all those buildings but I would want to know how those ideas were born to them, well enough to express it and to execute those ideas, especially back in those days. Who talked about freedom back then?  Or verbally spoke about self thought, back then? Who talked about man’s weakness and their god’s weakness too, back then?

Sunset

Once I had my fill for their riches of their history, I am sure I will crave the best sunset in Greece. I have noticed over the years, working in the the cubicle life, I have not seen enough sunsets.  I caught a few spectaular sunrises, when I was looking out the window on the bus taking me to my office.

Actually, the most spectacular sunrises I saw were on the bus to work.  I didn’t have a camera on me to shoot the pictures.  Even if I did, I would have forgotten that I had carried it.  I still remember the most splendid one, like yesterday.  It was right at the corner, on a hill, on the Magnolia bridge.  The view of the pretty Seattle skyline, blinking with a few lights, the magnificent Mt. Rainer silent in the background, pink skies hovering a round ball, the sun just breaking its fresh rays above the clouds, and the blue water below glorifying the sun. Most of the people on the  bus looked up from their smartphone or their book or magazine and couldn’t put their head down.  Breathless, I would say would be the word.  I love to see sunrises but the color of the sunsets, reminds me of Autumn.  They come so fast, and leave faster.

From my research, Santorini would be a very good place to go see sunsets.  After the sunset, I think I would wake up in a fishing village.  Perhaps, talk to the fisherman or fisherwoman about letting me do one catch.  I am confident that he or she would know how to do a good fish gyro.   Fish gyro, I think that sounds good for dinner tonight.

For the best Santorini sunsets, I escaped to Pinterest and pinned them on my travel dreams board.

Greek Food

Speaking of gyro, I found a very good gyro around town. I have noticed, that I talk about food a lot. Yea, I probably should do a food blog?

Anyway this place I used to to go to quite often serves a vegeterian gyro that is out of this world. They also have good chicken gyro, and Greek rice and good Greek salad.  Their pita is soft and salty and warmed just right that it is not hard or chewy.

Greek gyro

Greek gyro

If you are in Seattle, stop by a place called Nikos, Nikos.  It’s been while since I been there but every time I am in that part of town, I make an effort to stop.

 

How about a road trip to Alaska? or Canada?

Road Trip Planning

My friend said, he wouldn’t mind going on a road trip and asked me if I wanted to come with him to Oregon to visit a friend he knew for a long time.

Well, I didn’t want to just come along.  Both he and his friend in Oregon are musicians. They like to get together and orchestrate music for hours. His friend usually invites other musician friends.  Initially it seems like it’s just me, my friend and his friend in Oregon and his wife.

Then the house gets packed with six to eight people, all with some kind of artistic background.  First we eat usually some homemade meals. Then people talk for a few minutes. Before the night gets dark, one of them will grab the guitar or the flute, and start strumming on the guitar or blow the flute.   Then the other person will start playing the piano, and then the next will come in play the tambourine.   The house changes to a music hall. Couple of times, I have watch and enjoyed. Since I don’t play, I thought another trip might be too soon for me.

He said, well, why don’t you plan another road trip.   May be I will go visit them just for a night and when I get back, may be we can go somewhere where you want to go.

“You have been talking about wanting to go somewhere, why don’t you plan one?

My past road trips have been fun. Some where quick weekend trips others were weeklong trips.

Something grand came to my head, like How about Alaska?

“Wouldn’t it be great to do a road trip to Alaska?

Yes, cruises are great but I wanted something less commercialized.  For some reason, I thought, , it would be better to take a smaller ferry boat/

When I googled how to get to Alaska from Seattle, here is what I found:

We could drive to Bellingham and take the ferry from Bellingham to Ketchikan. The ferry leaves every Friday at one time.

It looked like, once you get to Ketchikan, you can decide to go to Juneau, Skagway, or wherever the ferry stops. I wanted to see the beauty of Alaska and catch a train in Alaska.

If we were to follow through that meant, we needed at least 2 weeks. Two weeks, couple of day for driving there and back and then we had to take in account of taking the ferry to the destination, then driving from the arrival site to the original site.

I asked my friend, “What do you think of Alaska?”

He said, “I think you can file that under your travel dreams.”

Road Trip Deal

Our Road trip discussion continued a few weeks later.  How about Canada?  I asked him, how about going to Banff or Jasper, Canada. I read incredibly good places to go hike around there. So what we can do is either drive to Vancouver or get on the train to Vancouver. The train will drop us off at the Canadian Rockies and then we can plan.

He looked at me, like, girl I meant a quick trip and something very affordable. But what does he decide to do?   He went along, I think just to see what I would come up with.

“Sure, you do the research and tell me what you find out.”

“Let me get to it, immediately.”

I still did thorough research, though I have done that research before because I thought about many summers ago.

After my research, the train was not going be an option due to a few reasons. I opted to do the research for a car trip and camping for few day and picked out a few places where we can stop and where we can stay.

I gave him a quick run down of the trip.

We can go as far as Jasper or even Calgary.  If not, we can go see Lake Louise, and camp out there.

“What happens if we take the train”, he asked.

“We will be dreaming.”

“I am in between jobs, how about something more locally, you know not such an extensive trip,”

“Ok, how about Portland?”

“Always loved Portland?”

He gave me a dream and Portland.

Going to Portland

Roadtrip to Portland

I think. I will just plan every place I want to go as if time and money is not an issue.

So here goes to travel dream trips, bravely

Doing research on travels started to be therapeutic. So I will probably start researching some of the places that I would like to go and how I would get there as part of my therapeutic experience.