|Breakfast on my birthday on Monday, surrounded by my presents.|
|My present from Oli and Miguel duly placed on one of my bathroom shelves.|
|The street in Camden where Suzy will be moving to on 20th February|
|The birthday cake moment after lunch|
|Suzy in blustery Brighton where she went for her interview on Monday, my birthday|
|Steak and chips for my birthday dinner at La Txitxarerría with Oli and Eladio|
|Suzy's card and present arrived on Tuesday|
|Bare Biology's Lion Heart Omega 3 fish oil|
Wednesday was a quiet day. It was windy and cold on my walks but thankfully it didn't rain. It was so windy that when I went to the hairdressers for a blow dry for Brussels I had to put a headscarf on to protect my hairdo. I wasn't sure how long it would last in Belgium as rain was forecast.
Finally Thursday came, the day of our flight to Brussels. We would be staying with Sandra, my great friend from Nottingham University and her American boyfriend Jeffer. Actually we would be sleeping at her Mother, Magda's flat, which is in the same block as Sandra's. Adele, our other bosom friend from Nottingham, would be coming on Friday with her French psychiatrist husband Bernard. The last time the 6 of us were together was at our home in Madrid in May 2014 so there was lots to catch up on. It was going to be a fabulous 3 days away from home with our friends.
We were up at 5, left the house at 6, drove to the car park at my office and from there took a taxi to the airport. Our flight was leaving at 08.50 and arriving in Brussels at 11.50 where dear Sandra would be picking us up.
It was sunny when we arrived and as soon as we exited the airport there was my darling friend Sandra who I can only describe as my soul sister. We are so alike. If possible she is even more bubbly than me and the most fun person to be with. She just bursts with personality and charisma. She remarked that even if it had been 1.5 years since we had seen each other, it didn't feel like that and she was right. We just carried on from where we had left off. It's always like that with her.
|Sandra, my soul sister. She's so special.|
Our friends Adele and Bernard were not arriving until Friday so the plan for Thursday was lunch and shopping at the recently opened M+S on the Waterloo Boulevard, one of Brussel's swankiest avenues. Indeed it was. Lunch was good but the fish and chips Eladio and I had were not as good as those served in the UK; although I wasn't complaining. It was just great to be there.
|Sandra and Eladio - lunch at M+S on the day of our arrival.|
We came home to a cup of tea with Magda after which Eladio and I rested, or rather I unpacked, set up my pc and dealt with all my emails.
Dinner was at 8 at Sandra's. The table was beautifully laid and we sat down to a delicious and enjoyable dinner together; friends catching up and enjoying being together.
|Sitting down to dinner at Sandra's flat on Thursday night.|
Friday 12th was also my dear brother George's birthday, a date I can never forget. He would have been in his element with us in Brussels as he spoke English, French and Spanish. He also spoke good German and could get by in Russian. The other day Eladio commented how lucky I was to be bilingual. I thought about it and replied that actually I was nothing compared to George or my parents, who spoke many more than I did. I still regret my Mother never having taught us Russian and I also regret never having learned French properly. I can understand a lot of it and get by too but it's not good enough. In any case when the 6 of us are together we always speak English, although of course there are odd incursions into both French and Spanish. What I do love about our group though is the mix of nationalities and languages; Hungarian, Italian, French, English and Spanish. Both George and I were brought up on a totally multi cultured childhood and I think I have passed this on to my girls who love it too.
Anyway, back to our stay in Brussels. On Friday morning I was up early, had a cup of coffee at Magda's lovely flat and wrote my blog. This week I wouldn't be able to write it on Sunday, so instead I wrote a bit each morning so it would be ready for publishing on Sunday from Belgium.
|The view from Magda's terrace|
|Magda's open space flat, very similar to Sandra's.|
|The walk in the forest on Friday morning.|
We went back to the flat for more greetings, as well as our traditional exchange of presents too! Then we were off again. This time we took the bus into Brussels.
|On the bus together. I couldn't remember the last time I had been on one.|
Our destination was the area of Chatlaine. It's a market area but it wasn't on when we went. Adele and Bernard, being the museum types, visited the Horta house and museum whilst the rest of us walked the streets. Jeffer commented he had been there 5 times! No way were we visiting the usual sites such as the Grande Place, although Eladio told me secretly he would have loved to. There are some nice shops in Chatlaine and I bought 2 lovely scarves for Oli and I. We met again at a splendid cafe which also sells home ware called Lulu. Here we enjoyed coffee and tea and sundry cakes.
|Coffee and cake at Lulu in Chatlaine.|
We were having an Indian take away for dinner from an Indian catering company that serves the very typical Indian tiffin lunch boxes. But before we sat down to dinner, there was time for an aperitif. Eladio took this photo of us enjoying some champagne Adele and Bernard had brought from Brussels to celebrate our reunion.
|Aperitif time before our Indian dinner on Friday night.|
|Sandra left, me and Adele right. Friends since our University days at Nottingham where we graduated in 1980.|
|Our Indian tiffin lunch box dinner on Friday night at Sandra's|
Eladio and I went to bed early and were disappointed we could not watch Netflix outside Spain. Instead I continued with the book I started recently. It's called Whiteout and is Ken Follett's latest.
On Saturday we were going to Bruges. Eladio was really keen to go and so was I. Bruges, the medieval city of bridges is the capital and largest city of West Flanders and is a bit like a miniature Amsterdam with its canals and bridges. It is called Bruges in English and French, Brugge in Flemish and Brujas in Spanish. We set off in 2 cars and arrived at around midday. It was bitterly cold and unfortunately began to rain just as we arrived. We had to park the two cars which wasn't easy and met up in the beautiful Grand Place. It seems all big Belgian towns have one.
|Eladio in the Grand Place of Bruges on Saturday with the horse and carriages behind him.|
|The Belfry in the Grand Place|
|Me, very warmly dressed up, by the pretty coloured houses in the Grand Place in Bruges|
|Sandra and I by one of the countless bridges overlooking the canal in Bruges|
|Michael Angelo's Madonna and child in the church of Our Lady in Bruges|
|Lunch in Bruges on Saturday|
|Me in the chocolate shop in Bruges|
We were to have dinner again at Sandra's flat and at my request Magda made us Hungarian goulash for dinner. I love goulash and remember having it every day when I was once in Budapest with Eladio many years ago. To have goulash made by a real Hungarian who knows how to make it would be the best possible treat from Magda. And she is a good cook I can tell you. Here she is sitting down at the dinner table last night, not looking 90 but more like 80. Thanks Magda, it was delicious. It came accompanied by a cucumber salad with yoghurt.
|Magda at dinner last night|
|Magda's delicious homemade goulash which she made for us for dinner last night|
After dinner which was followed by the chocolate we had bought in Bruges and wonderful ice cream, including my favourite flavour, pistachio, we continued watching PK, waiting for Sandra's part to come on. I had seen her part on FB but was looking forward to watching it on the TV together with my friends. But that was not to be as unfortunately and to my shame I fell asleep, spoiling the party of course. But it was 10.30 pm and I had been up at 06.30 so hopefully my friends understood.
And today is Sunday, our last day together in Brussels and it is still raining. Our flight is later this evening so we have nearly a full day left to enjoy our stay with our friends. I am now writing from Magda's flat, as I have been every morning since we arrived, so as to be able to publish this week's post early and be free to enjoy our last day here. Thus I will leave you now to get on with my day. You will hear all about the end of our stay here in next week's post.
Meanwhile, friends and readers, I hope you have enjoyed this post and I look forward to writing again next week.
Cheers from Brussels