Wednesday, September 22, 2010

the bulge


Thanks to my ever growing belly:

I can no longer see myself close-up in the bathroom mirror without my glasses, unless I stand on my toes to get my belly over the countertop.

Being submerged in a pool never felt so good. And light.

Some of my maternity clothes no longer cover my belly all the way.

Mr. Yin and I have free entertainment watching my belly move as if an alien were living inside of it.

When I'm in a group of people and my Edible starts throwing a party (maybe it's a tantrum?!) in my womb, I wonder if other people notice the movement. And sometimes I wonder if she invited Homer, Arthur, the Peach and the Bit* over to party with her. At the same time.

Mr. Yin's single male friends who we haven't seen all summer, stare. The female ones squeal with delight.

*Cousins scheduled to arrive around the same time as Edible.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bruges


After Brussels, it was Bruges, Belgium for us. Via the local train.

A tiny medieval town. In its heyday (12th-15th centuries) it rivaled London in terms of commerce and population. And thanks to its canals, has also been called the Venice of the North. Turns out it's a World Heritage UNESCO site.



Charming. Old churches and guilds and windmills and beautifully preserved Gothic architecture and dragons everywhere. And religious statues on the corner of every building.


Some of the religious statutes were more modern than others...


Priest watching over the vial of Holy Blood, you could get up close and touch it if you wanted.

Curiously, there is a church there called the Basilica of the Holy Blood because they have some of Jesus's blood. The story goes, in 1150 King Baldwin III of Jerusalem gave it to his brother-in-law, Count of Flanders Diederik van de Elsas who brought it, triumphantly, back to Bruges with a grand procession. And to this day, they reenact its arrival every year. It's not always on display, but it was when we went so we got a close up view. Like I said, curious. It was the first of many relics we'd encounter on our trip.

Bellissimo, Michelangelo.

We also caught sight of our first (of many) Michelangelo statues. Madonna of Bruges in a little church called, appropriately, Church of Our Lady. It's allegedly the only Michelangelo statue to leave Italy during his life time. That's how affluent and influential Bruges was in its day.


Mr. Yin in the B├ęguinage where they will let him visit, but not live.

One of my favorite things we saw in both cities of canals were these little cloisters of white houses bordering big, green courtyards. Begijnhof in Amsterdam or B├ęguinage in Belgium. Catholic women who wanted to serve God, but not retire from the world by making official vows lived here from the 12th century on. They're incredibly peaceful and lovely. I wanted to move in, but they won't let Mr. Yin live there.

We did decide if we had to get married again, we'd do it here.
(A note on the special hanging pouch: I carried the camera case and Mr. Yin carried everything else--snacks, water, guide book, etc. in his European man purse. So I didn't have to bug him every time we walked into a building, I tied my sunglasses on to the camera case. Not cute, I know. But neither is anything else I'm wearing. And it worked.)

The bitty Bump and me trying to get inside the Town Hall.

The main square in Bruges is just about as Gothic as it gets. Guilds and churches and cobblestones. So cute. We don't have many pictures of it, however, because it was Belgian Independence Day and they had rock concerts going on every night. The stage was set up right in the middle of the square blocking all good photo opportunities.


Our little street.

We stayed in a great bed and breakfast, run by a couple about our age and their two-year-old. It was down a road, just off of the main square. For breakfast, they would offer you coffee, tea or chocolate milk. Seeing as we were in the land of delicious chocolate, I opted for the chocolate milk. And was delighted every morning when it was hot chocolate. Mmm. Belgium and its chocolate.

The view from our room. The tower in the back is in the main square.

Old school wind energy.

We loved wandering around and discovering beautiful architecture and curiosities not mentioned in our trusty guide book. Most of it was just there, no signs or explanations. Just a lot of cute quaintness.

I think Rapunzel might have lived here. Either that or it's the Guild for Watchmen.

Mr. Yin in time out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

remember?

Remember how my baby sister made my wedding dress?

remember how cute the Bun was two years ago?

remember how green New England is?

remember how sharp Pomp looked?

remember how funny my brothers are?

remember how handsome my husband is?

remember how I wore a chi pao because now I'm Chinese?

remember how Mr. Yin ordered a special side of ribs?

remember how Gabe made the trip at one month old?

remember how I changed back into my dress because I loved it so much?

remember how we had sparklers?

remember how much fun it was to pretend you were Harry Potter?

remember how we were supposed to make a grand exit, but we couldn't leave?

too many people we loved. we couldn't say goodbye.

Yeah, July 4, 2008, you were a good day.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Brussels



First train ride with our Eurail pass.

I was super excited to ride the train. Some romantic idea I've always entertained about having a Eurail Pass and watching the countryside pass by. The first train ride definitely felt like a dream come true. (Like most of this summer.)

First thing we did upon arrival in Brussels? We got lost.

But getting lost sure helps you figure out the lay of a city pretty quickly!

The state of the room we were initially given.

When we finally found our hotel, our room was not made up. Kind of weird, right? But this is the THRID time this has happened to us this summer. Just this summer! (First in Pendleton, OR, second in Vancouver, BC.) They fixed us up with an exact replica, but with made beds and clean towels. Whew.

The beautiful St. Michael's Cathedral from two very different angles.

We took a (very) long walk to the town center and took tons of pictures of St. Michael's Cathedral on our way. It has two towers just like Notre Dame. Churches are a great place to rest, they're (usually) free and (usually) cool inside. Cool as in, chillier than outside.

In the town square we witnessed a crazy game, the likes of which we'd never seen. We still don't know what it was, but it was fun to watch. It seemed like an open air mix between team handball and jai lai. But without a wall. So more like glorified team catch, except more handball than catch. No idea what it was, even after some research!

Mr. Yin eating mussels like the locals.

Before heading back, we enjoyed some mussels in Brussels. They were tasty.



Our next day in Brussels was a Monday. Nothing in Brussels is open on Mondays. So we took a walking tour of the city. Lots of lovely architecture.

Mr. Yin enjoying his sandwich near the flea market.

Remember, nothing is open. And I'm pregnant. And that means you have to use the facilities frequently. And now was one of those times. We walked through a huge flea market and grabbed a delicious sandwich for lunch. And I still had to pee. Especially after drinking my Fanta.

Unlike Amsterdam, we couldn't find any pay toilets. Not where we were anyway. I tried at a church, but was turned away. Finally we decided to backtrack and go to the Palaise du Justice. On the walk there I decided peeing is not a privlege--as stated in Urinetown, it is a luxury.

Let's just say the Palaise du Justice did not disappoint.

Edible and I with our chocolate samples, and our lovely photographer in the mirror.

Chocolate terracotta soldiers!

We sampled some delicious chocolates. We opted for the ones that don't export: Neuhaus and Wittemen. They were hard to find, but well worth it! Neuhaus was the Yin family favorite. Mmmmmmm.

Next stop? Mannekin Pis. A statue of a peeing cherub that people sometimes dress. We were lucky enough to see him arrayed in his beekeeping finery.

Me enjoying my Belgian waffle in front of Beekeeper Manekin Pis. I honestly didn't want to stop eating to pose.

Close(r) up of Manekin Pis and his beekeeper getup.

On our way we stopped for a Belgian waffle with strawberries. Oh. My. It was one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten in my life. I'm not exaggerating. So tasty.

On our walk to St. Katherine Square we happened upon a European Festival! We sampled foods from all over and watched a very energetic Lithuanian dance. And I got to use a port-a-potty, called a Toi-Toi.
Me, feeling more pregnant than I look, in front of the Armory Museum.

Our last day in Brussels we headed over to the Armory Museum. Mostly for Mr. Yin. It was chock full of stuff from all the wars and battles over who knows how many centuries. It's so interesting to see a war from the context of a different country. They have their own heroes we've never heard about. And it's always interesting to see how they viewed the US. Mr. Yin loved it. I had to sit out the WWII (and probably most interesting) wing because it had a glass roof and no AC! Wandering around would have led to me needing smelling salts and a bucket of cold water to my face. So I sat and people watched and fanned my face with my museum map.

And that was Brussels! We left that afternoon for Bruges, and were smart enough to get the half-price summer tickets for the train. Hurray!




Monday, September 6, 2010

Amsterdam


Our arrival in Amsterdam was an early one. When the streets belong to the cops, and the janitor with the mop. (Except there were no cops.)

First thing we did? We got lost. (Shout out to Brenner! But it's true.)

We were trying to find our friend Norma's flat.

We counted it as a private orientation to the city.

Amsterdam is a charming, lovely city. It has more canals than Venice. And people ride bikes everywhere. I could definitely live there.

We caught the major sites: Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Musuem, Rembrant's House, Anne Frank's House, the Hermitage in Amsterdam, Heinekin Brewery, and lots of little charming museums in between. We loved strolling along the canals and watching life go by.

The lovely canal where Norma lives.
We happened upon this public art and dedicated it to Mr. Yin.
It's such a beautiful city, we were surprised to come across this huge park (just across from the Rijksmueusm) that was full of trash. The World Cup finals had happened on Sunday, and this was Thursday! Norma told us the coming home celebration had just happened. Thursday was cleaning up day.
Please notice how we're wearing pants and hoodies. Absolutely perfect weather. (And me with my snacks and poochy belly--please cut me some slack in the fashion department, we were traveling light and I mostly packed clothes that would stretch--not quite yet fitting into maternity clothes--not knowing how big I would be by heading-home time!)

Talk about crazy architecture: Art Deco and Art Nouveau in the same building. And planned that way.
Rijksmuseum. Wherein dwells Rembrant's "The Night Watchmen". The museum undergoing some major renovations, but we still spent hours there. I can't imagine it being any bigger!
We went on a canal cruise. A nice break after walking all over the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.
Shutters and house boats!!
Mr. Yin and I enjoying our beers at the Heinekin Brewery Tour in our traditional garb.
Let it be said, I did not "ride" the Brew You ride. (It's less a ride and more a movie that you experience with movement and sound and smell.) There was a special seat for me and it might have been more fun to watch the group of people get brewed, everyone swaying and bobbing at the same time.
Me pouring (fake) beers for everyone. Good times.
Me and the bikes. And the obelisk. It commemorated something.
The bike I want when we live in Amsterdam. Yes, it's a bike, not a trike. And people use them for hauling kids and groceries and whatever else you need to haul. Edible will love it.
Mr. Yin inside Rembrant's print studio.
Our last stop before heading out: Anne Frank's House/Musuem. No photos allowed inside. So this is us with her statue outside the museum. We had to stand in line so long to go inside that we didn't get to enjoy our Dutch pancakes. Instead, we packed up to catch our train.
Off to the train station. This time we did not get lost.

Amsterdam, we love you. Norma, you are the best and most gracious host ever!