Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ray and Gil in the Netherlands and Belgium

We are SUPER excited with our coming trip, Gil and I are traveling to Belgium and the Netherlands next Wednesday, September the 27th and staying for 7 days.
The only bad news, is that we are flying American Airlines, UGH, well, life isn't perfect, but we sure know how to make the best of it, a Valium, ear plugs, a comfortable eye cover mask, and that part of the trip can just be erased from memory or prevented from ever entering our happy brains.
We fly into Brussels and take the "BULLET" train into Amsterdam.

Fast Train from Brussels to Amsterdam
Netherlands and Belgium

I have never been in one of these super fast trains and can't wait to try it.
I ride the Amtrak Acela all the time between Boston, Providence, New York, Newark, Philadelphia and Washington DC, but it's only called fast, because it doesn't stop in every little town along the way, but it's nothing like the bullet trains in Europe or Japan.
The train ride between Brussels and Amsterdam is about 1 hour and 30 minutes, not bad.
Gil and I will have no car for 4 days, which is making me a little paranoid, I know, I am bad. But I like to go wherever I want, whenever I want and I am not used to share my space.
How is that for an Americanized Brazilian brat? ;)
But all kidding aside, Gil and I will be in good hands. Let me explain WHY we are going to Europe next week.
See, when I was a Rotary Exchange Student back in 1989, I lived in the US for one full year, in Oklahoma, and in the middle of my one year living here, I went on a 45 day trip with 57 Rotary Foreign Exchange students from all over the world.

This is the route of our 1989 trip around the US, it included Toronto, Canada and Cidaud Juarez, Mexico

I made friends from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Denmark, Finland, Turkey, France, Italy,  Argentina, South Africa, Sweden, Spain, Mexico and a TON of Brazilians, mostly from Sao Paulo state, 1 from Parana state and 1 from Minas Gerais state and I know I must have forgotten to mention a country or two.

Rotary Exchange Program Summer Bus Tour USA-Canada-Mexico 1989
I am the dude in the far right, skinny, with HAIR, wearing those God awful yellow sweat pants and my friend Miguel from Curitiba right next to me in the green polo shirt.

Me, Daniela, Miguel, Luciane, Ana Luiza,  and Marcio walking across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
I know, PINK sweat shirt, you are thinking that was so gay of me, let me clarify something, I am gay, and hate PINK, HATE pink with the passion.
But have you ever been in San Francisco in the summer wearing nothing but jeans shorts and a T-shirt? No! I have! You would cry like a 3 year old little girl.
Then you try to cross the Golden Gate Bridge on foot and freeze half to death, IN JULY people!!! JULY!
Alex, you would freaking turn blue and die in under 30 seconds.
Well, I was skinny, very HOT I know, and had all my hair still on top on my HUGE HEAD.
We went to one of those touristy stores in Chinatown and I bought the CHEAPEST sweat shirt the dimes, nickels and quarters found in the bottom of my JEANS backpack could afford, and apparently PINK wasn't a popular color, it was the cheapest, on sale for U$5,00 bucks, so PINK sweat shirt it was.
I thought it was the right price to use it one afternoon going across the Golden Gate Bridge. :)

For the first time since 1989, our group has re-organized, and Facebook played a fundamental role as a tool to make that possible. We have our own Summer 89 Bus Tour Community, and we will meet in Amsterdam to see each other after our trip of a lifetime, for the first time in 23 years later.
How cool is that?

Folks are coming from all corners of the world, you can imagine my level of excitement.
So, our friends from Amsterdam and the UK are preparing canal tours, bus trips into the interior areas of Holland, Cheese tours, Clog Factory, Cycling Tours, Canal Tours, a picnic at Vondelpark, Heineken Tour, Ann Frank and Van Gogh Museums, you name it!
However, we would love to hear from any of you who might have any experience in Amsterdam and and principally BELGIUM, and might want to share some tips, and recommendations with us.
That would be great! Principally because we don't have any locals guiding us thru Belgium.
I love when you share tips, when I was in Houston, Ginger from Flowers and more shared an awesome Persian restaurant and Bakery in that city, it was probably one of my favorite places to eat in this country EVER!!!

Our dear fellow blogger Sara, from Our Crazy Happy Life also one of my favorite Oklahoma Cowboy fans ;) , gave me a great tip on the BEST MEXICAN FOOD I ever ate in my life, that was my last night in Houston. Thank you so much Sara, I will treasure that for life.
I still crave Mexican Food, living in Rhode Island you get no Mexican Food what so ever, you might as well be in Sao Paulo, there seems to be more Mexican options there, ok, Ray, here you go side tracking gain.
Ok, so, please don't be shy, and share any tips, restaurant, hotels, scenic routes, small charming little towns, anything you think we could visit and enjoy as much as you did.
Again, talking to Ginger on facebook, she told me about the awesome little town on the coast of Belgium, called Bruges, it's on the coast. Colin Farrel was in a movie called "In Bruges (2008)", a cool action thriller. HERE is the link to "In Bruges".
So, needless to say, Bruges is on our travel plans, thanks again Ginger.

I love History, so I will enjoy Bruges, and have been doing a lot of reading about it all.
We also included Ghent on our trip, because besides the fact that Ghent is an awesome historic little town, it is where the BELGIUM WAFFLE was invented! You think I would miss that! Not in a million years, Belgium Waffle making class included. MAX Restaurant in Ghent, Belgium is the place where Belgium Waffles were invented, a couple of centuries ago, the same family still runs the place, several generations down.
Reading the reviews is so entertaining, they go on to mention that the restaurant has a line up front every morning, mostly Americans, waiting to eat Belgium Waffles for breakfast.
The owners often get irritated and have to explain every single day, that Belgium Waffles are not eaten for Breakfast, they don't even have the Waffle Iron and oven turned on until about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, about the time they start serving the Belgium treats.
Belgium eat Waffles plain, with just a coat of powered sugar, with coffee, as a mid-afternoon pick me up snack. No whipped cream, no fruit, jams or syrup, but they keep all these items for American tourists, who insist in eating Belgium Waffles the American way.
The Americans describing the experience often mention how light the Waffles are and that only one won't suffice, you should order many of them if you are hungry. :)

One thing that made me literally sick to my stomach was to read about the recent History of both countries and discover that most towns near the border with Germany look modern, everything is pretty much new, because they were all completely destroyed by the Germans, during the Nazi invasion of WWII.
It makes me sick to remember I am part German, it makes me sick because I can't believe HUMANS allowed this to happen. It mostly makes me sick because I come to realize, it is very possible that this could happen again. You don't understand how Germans were brainwashed by the Nazis? I have one word for you: "Tea Party", ok, that is two words.
And I am not saying Tea Party folks are Nazis, but they have a similar level of stubbornness, ignorance and may I dare say, racism, that Germans had in the decades preceding that horrible war.
One more thing before I get carried away in "side tracking land", despite the fact that I am part German, my Paulista grandfather fought in Italy and helped defeat the Nazis in that country.
Yes, in case you didn't know, Brazil had a significant participation next to the United States and the Allied forces and played an important role in defeating Hitler in Europe, and that makes me feel a little better about the whole thing of being half German.

Back to our post's topic, I wanted to explore all of Belgium, but because of our short time, 4 days, we will concentrate in the towns that were better preserved from the Nazis destruction, and visit the regions closer to the sea, where our greatest and best friends forever, the British, helped defend from the BASTARDS Nazis, Tom, your people are awesome!!! Please thank your grandparents for me when you see them again!! :)

No, we didn't have enough time to learn Dutch, but I heard they all speak English very well over there, so I am not too worried about that.
Belgium mostly speaks French but most people also are fluent in English.
Gil knows a little French and he lived in Louvain-la-Neuve, a small town just outside of Brussels, Belgium, when he was 19 years old, we will definitely include this town in our trip.
So, please, please, share any tips you might have for us for Belgium or Holland.
We will most definitely post pictures and a post trip post.

Thank you



Anonymous said...

Have a great time!!! I am so looking forward to read about your experience there. Your blog is just amazing :) J

Anonymous said...

Dear Jela,

Thank you!
Welcome to our blog!! Good to see you here.
We will take a lot of pictures. And write posts about our trip, both Amsterdam and Belgium.
Thanks again.


Danielle said...

Wow, how exciting! Your vacation posts will definitely be a pleasure to read. :)

Anonymous said...


We are as prepared as we can be, even got an extra memory chip for the camera and the smart phone... ;)


Alex said...

Woohoo! I'm very jealous! :D

And thanks for the shout out!!

Make sure the take a lot of pictures! Weird side note, my Brazilian friend who lives in Campinas as also in the Netherlands right now and will be there for the next few months!


Renato S. Alves said...

Que legal! Fico feliz por vocês. Eu recentemente me apaixonei pela Bélgica porque meu Senior Project consiste em projetar uma mansão para o Primeiro Ministro da Bélgica. Um trabalhão danado...Entre dias e dias de pesquisas descobri um país incrível. Quem sabe um dia eu não vou também com meu Bobbys Vanila.
Ah, muito legal ver uma foto sua, colocar um rosto em um nome.
Abração e aproveite bastante!

Tracy said...

Hi Ray,

This sounds like an amazing trip you and Gil have planned! I have a good friend from Couchsurfing I met here in Sacramento who has been living in Belgium in Antwerp for over 4 years. His name is Geoff, and you can email him with any requests for recommendations/advice about Belgium.

Boa Viagem!


Anonymous said...


We will take tons of pictures and will have lot's of new opinionated views of the world to share here... :)


Anonymous said...

Ha! Renato! Please, that is not how I look like at ALL!
The picture on the Golden Gate bridge was taken back in 1989 when I was 17 years old.
I still had all my hair, I was skinny as hell no matter how much I ate.
I am sure there might be a more recent picture of me somewhere on the blog, it not, I will probably add some from our week in Europe.



Peg said...

We just got back from Amsterdam a few days ago! We had a great time, and I've been writing about it if you want to take a look:

Our favorite was the boat ride/tour through the canals of the city,and the street art (grafitti). It was a really laid back atmosphere, nobody rushing anywhere, and everyone from the b&b owners to the grocery check out clerks spoke English.

We saw the sex museum (of course) which should have been called the "Big Display of Porn Through the Ages", we loved the Amsterdam history museum, which is huge. The Hermitage was a bit boring. We decided not to go inside the Rijks Museum because it's under renovation and has only a very limited number of paintings on display, but we did enjoy the museum square where it's located. It's a nice big park with the Van Goh museum, lots of shops and cafes, and the famous Iamsterdam letters you see all the tourist photos of. (Yes, we posed with the letters, lol).

Hope you have a great time, and let me know if you have any questions or if I can help with more info!

Tom Le Mesurier said...

Hi guys - can't believe I've only just seen this now! I guess you're there enjoying it at this very moment. Sounds like you've got a great trip planned - Amsterdam is such a beautiful city. Just watch out of the trams/bikes! ;) It always took me an hour to 'tune-in' to them - if you can survive that first period you start to develop a survival instinct!

Looking forward to hearing all about it. Ah yes, and I'll be happy to pass on your thanks to my grandparents next time I see them (hopefully not for a little while yet! ;)

Amber O'Malley said...

You are going to love Belgium! I have been to Belgium several times, as I have some close friends that live in Mol, a small town outside of Brussels. I just sent them a message for some tips for you.

Also, don't forget Antwerp (Antwerpen). Leuven is also a gorgeous city to visit. I've been to Bruge also - love it. Did anyone also mention that Belgian waffles are nothing like the waffles in the US? They are more like donuts. You can get plain or dipped in chocolate. They are amazing. And Belgian chocolate is the best! :)

Anyway, when I hear back from my friends in Belgium, I'll let you know what they say!

Amber O'Malley said...

Woops...looks like that trip should be finished already. I'm too late! :(

Well I hope you enjoyed anyway!

American Heart Brazilian Soul said...

Hey Peg,

Thanks for the tips, we did have a great boat tour of the canals. I will write about all that we did soon.
Good to hear from you.


American Heart Brazilian Soul said...


Oh brother, we weren't kidding about the bycicles and trams almost running you over. :)
From time to time I would just fell the wind of bycicles zooming by really close to just hitting me, they are fast and HUGE bikes, the Dutch are super tall and their bikes are gigantic. I felt like a midget... :(
Good to hear from you Tom.


American Heart Brazilian Soul said...

Dear Amber,

Ha, thanks, we were already back.
But, we will be going back, several times, we had a very short trip and Belgium deserves a lot more time to visit.
You are not kidding about their Waffles being different, they are nothing like the ones we eat around here, and they eat them in different times, not for breakfast, we learned a lot about Waffles. We will write about it soon.
Please do share any tips you might have because we WILL be going back to Belgium. :)
Thanks for droping by.