A Little Bit of This…

Here and there and everywhere… Or maybe just to Antwerpen and back…

This past Friday, Ema, Becca and I traveled to Antwerp, Belgium — our first trip outside of Brussels of the three weeks that we’ve now been living here. Baby steps…

But, previously this week, on Tuesday night to be exact, Becca, Erica and I saw Hozier live in Forest National — a multi-use arena right here in Uccle. For some miraculous reason, at which we’ve only guessed the reasoning behind, concert tickets are beyond cheap here (compared to the U.S. of course). So, although we’d been repeatedly warned about staying away from large crowds (sorry Mom) and although I hadn’t planned to spend money on a concert while studying abroad, we purchased the Hozier tickets a week beforehand and I, personally, experienced one of the best concerts I’ve ever been too. For those readers who don’t know, Hozier is an Irish singer and songwriter who’s music is a wonderful blend of rock and soul. His most well-known song is Take Me to Church. Anyways, let’s just say that I go through my music in phases — as do many others — and Hozier was a nice long phase — so I was able to sing along with every single song that night.

What was great about these tickets was that the entire stadium was ‘general admission,’ so if you had the will – which we did – you could just push your way towards the front of the stage. Furthermore, being able to see Hozier in person gave me an even greater appreciation for him as an artist. He is extremely modest (although it was apparent that he knew that we’d want an encore); he said “Thank you very much” about twelve times). Plus, he sounds even better in person than he does online… which is not common with most artists.

On Wednesdays, I have my internship with the Jane Goodall Institute Belgium (as well as Mondays). I’m beginning to get into the groove of things and I already really appreciate having this opportuny to experience different areas and levels of the environmental world.

This past fall semester, I interned with the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, a non-profit organization based in New Paltz that works to preserve land within Ulster county, New York. Of course, I learned a significant amount business-wise, but I found that what I appreciated the most was the different network of people that working there brought me into. I learned about the land, the history and the people of the area in those short four months than I had the entire time I’d attended SUNY New Paltz.

I am one of four interns at JGI Belgium (Ingrid needs all the help she can get!) and one of my fellow interns, Jade, is from Belgium (outside of Brussels) and has already taught me so much — such as the custom of kissing on the cheek when greeting someone. I’ve only worked at this internship for two days thus far and I already feel exposed to so much more than I’d imagined. The world is much bigger than we think…

Anyways, onto Antwerpen before you and I fall asleep… There is this online rideshare website called Blablacar suggested to us by our host mom, Berengere. It is on here that we found a €6 round-trip ride to Antwerpen, a city an hour outside of Bruxelles, with Antonio. Antonio, of course, had great ratings and five stars so we felt safe contacting him about sharing his daily commute to work in Antwerpen with us this past Friday. This ride alone was a wonderful experience, as we learned all about Antonio and how much more life has to offer. Antonio, of Sicily, Italy, quit his computer engineering job and simply traveled around Europe for three years until finally resettling in Bruxelles, Belgique (I enjoy using the French version 🙂 ).

So, Ema, Becca and I arose at 6AM Friday morning to meet Antonio at the metro station of our previous homestay (it was most convenient for each of us) by 7:20AM. He dropped us off at around 8:30 right outside the city center, and from there we began our days adventure (didn’t intend to rhyme). One thing we’ve discovered about Europe (or what we’ve seen so far of Europe) is that stores and restaurants have limited hours for which they are open. Stores open around 10AM and close around 8PM and restaurants open late and close between “regular” lunch and dinner hours. This has been difficult for us as we are usually hungry for dinner around 5:00PM and restaurants don’t open until 6:30 or 7…

Above is the Stadhuis or Antwerpen City Hall, just one of the many beautiful buildings in beautiful squares that we’ve seen so far. Below is the square from another angle.

Having woken up early and without time for coffee, we each agreed that some coffee and wake-up time was needed (also to allow the city to wake up, as it appeared to be a ghost town at that time of the morning). We settled for the only coffee/croissant place that was open and planned out the rest of our day. As you will see from the photos below, we sort of just followed our feet and the magnificent architecture, of course.

For dinner, we were able to find a popular and local restaurant that stayed open during the in-between hours, which worked out quite well because the entire restaurant was reserved, but reservations didn’t begin until 7PM and we were there to eat at 5PM. I had vegetarian lasagna, which I regret not saving a picture of, because it was some of the best lasagna I’ve ever eaten (sorry Mom, sorry Grandma Gantley 🙁 )! Ema had beef stew which was cooked in a local beer, authentic fries, and a colorful salad. Becca got the vegetarian wok, which seems to be a popular thing here, as there are signs for wok all over and wok mixes in the grocery store.

Anyways, we enjoyed a warm and cozy meal, Ema met a fellow Croatian, and we took the comfortable ride back home to Brussels with Antonio. — with whom we hope to travel again!!

Next week, we will take our next step by leaving Belgique altogether and going to Amsterdam, Netherlands for a weekend! After that is Berlin and then Copenhagen — with another small day trip in between! (We’ve just booked our flights so I am pretty excited if you couldn’t tell)

Well, that’s all for now folks.


Hello! My name is Katie, I am an English major and double minor in Environmental Studies and Law and Politics. I am very excited to be living in Belgium with a host family for four months! I will be studying politics, law, and French whilst abroad and I hope to discover Europe and more about myself in the process!

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