Visitors and Visits

We were elated to host our first couple of visitors a few weeks ago. Jennifer was one of the first people to befriend me when I moved to Austin in 2001. Jennifer came to visit us and do a bit of touring Europe on her own. Ty is one of Todd’s coworkers. Ty was able to visit with us for a day before he had to leave for Germany. Both Ty and Jennifer arrived on the same Sunday, so we made a group outing to the Botanical Gardens in Leuven.

We took a small detour on our way to the gardens. We discovered a section of the wall that surrounded Leuven originally. I swear I could walk around the city every day and still never find all of these little surprises.

A detour along the old city walls…

Leuven’s botanical garden is the oldest one in Belgium. The university created the garden for its students of medicine in 1738.

The walkway was flanked by these incredible wisteria vines! I couldn’t help but remember a basket my mom made from wisteria vines when I was a teenager.
An overcast day made lovely with a stroll through the gardens.
A peek through the gate at the gardens beyond.

Although Ty had to say goodbye on Sunday evening, Jennifer stayed with us for a few days before leaving to explore more of Europe on her own. We had a great visit exploring some of Leuven together. The tour, of course, involved the flavors for which Belgium is most famous: waffles, fries, beer, and lots of chocolate!

Jennifer and I tried a couple of geuze beers (sours) and the kids got waters

We also braved Brussels -which was exciting as we took intercity trains to get there and public transportation to explore. I found Brussels absolutely fascinating. It’s almost like 2 cities meshed together; one old and the other modern. When we came up from the train station in “Bruxelles Central,” it was almost like winding our way back in time. We started at the Grand Place and were surrounded by the most amazing buildings, many of which are decorated with gold. I’d seen it at night, but it was incredible to see in daylight!

Hotel de Ville: also known as the Brussels Town Hall. And my favorite photo bomber…
That is gold on the front of those buildings!
A door within a door! At the base of the Hotel de Ville you can walk through the large open doors. Some of us wanted to sneak through the smaller ones, though.

We had a delicious lunch of mussels (partially for the fun of saying “mussels in Brussels”) and Jennifer was kind enough to share some of her mussels with Laine. Laine loved them! We walked through the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. You know it’s going to be a big church when it honors 2 saints. It is massive! After a brief tour of the cathedral, we walked through the Parc de Bruxelles to the palace where the king lives. The Belgian flag was raised on the palace roof, meaning the king was in the country that day. Laine wanted to meet him, but unfortunately he couldn’t fit us in for a meeting.

A quick rest by the fountain in the park.

From there, we caught the metro rail to another vital area of the city. The European Union offices are as architecturally different from central Brussels as it is possible to be. Lots of glass and steel…

The European Union

Once we finally located the door to Parlamentarium, we learned more about the history of Europe and how the EU came into existence. The kids were given a “treasure hunt” to try to find answers to various questions. There is a LOT of information there and I would love to tour it again. There’s an entire room dedicated to a history timeline of the 1900s through present day which I could have stayed in for hours.

Looking for answers at Parlamentarium. You can see some of the timeline on the wall behind us. So much history in one place!

We ended the day with a train ride back to Leuven and picking up dinner on the way. It was a fantastic (first) chance to explore “the capital of Europe” and I’m looking forward to going again soon.

We’ve gotten the “guest room” idea figured out, so let us know when you’d like to visit and we’ll be sure we have the room ready.

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