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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

If this is Christmas

This year, as nearly every year, we had dinner at our house the evening of the 24th. Christelle arrived on Friday afternoon from Ronse. Sacha with Sharon and baby Jolijn came around four in the afternoon on Saturday, and then Stavros, Jenny, Alexandros and Irini arrived around five from Bloemendaal, bringing the wine for the cellar and the dinner. Haut-Medoc Chateau Ramage La Batisse 1997 and Muscat de Baumes de Venise. So the house was quite full with parents and kids. All the presents we bought were already under the Christmas tree then all the others put also their presents there and the piano room was full of packages. Guido, Annemie, Stefan, Bart and Tom arrived around six and last Filiep and Guy around seven. With Herman, Nona and I we were 17 for dinner, excluding six months old baby Jolijn.

Sharon decided that baby Jolijn was sick. Sacha looked on internet for an open pharmacy in the area and went looking for medicines. Tom decided to go to sleep from 6 to 7 in Sarah’s room. He was pale and cold not feeling well at all. Philiep and I had a bad cold.

Because everybody was a bit early we started to drink beers, white wine and colas but at 7:30 sharp champagne for everybody and opening of the presents. We said no presents this year but somehow everybody got something from somebody. After a couple of glass of champagne everybody was feeling better and the baby soundly sleeping

Dinner was on time at 8:00 sharp. Every year is the same menu. No surprises and everybody like it. Salmon and foie gras to start then lobster soup. This I buy already made so it is simple. I cook the main course. Beef Wellington, green beans and creamed potatoes. This year the potatoes were not cooked enough, still a bit raw. Then cheese and Christmas cakes with coffee. By midnight it was finished. Annemie drove all her men back home. I was told the next day that Tom got sick on the way home. Filiep and Guy left a bit later. Everybody else stayed for the night.

For breakfast on the 25th we were Herman I and Nona; Stavros, Jenny, Alexandros and Irini: Christelle, Sacha, Sharon and baby Jolijn. I am glad that all the bedrooms are ready; the house is fully functional now.

We had good fun and even if some of us were a bit sick it was nice to be all together. We all missed Sarah terribly. We also missed Laurent, Gilles and Christiane. Maybe next year we will all together.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Der Fliegende Hollander

There is always a kind of anticipation when I have to go to the Opera. This time it was for Der Fliegende Hollander. Bert came as usual from Den Haag to Brussels. We bought two abonnements for the season, last summer, and it is always a pleasure to go to the Opera to together. Always elegant and funny, he is the perfect gentleman from books and movies. Before the Opera we eat at the Café de l’Opera, Place de la Monnaie, right in front of the Opera. This café restaurant is very romantic inside. It is all in red velvet and dark ceilings with little lights on the walls. The waiters are very well aware of the nature of the business. Everybody has to be out in time to go to the Opera.

We eat every time the same: filet American, fries, beer and espresso. This time we had time after the early dinner to go for a walk to the Grand Place to see all the displays of the Plaisirs d'Hiver . Every winter Brussels puts on a fantastic show to celebrate winter. The Grand Place is full of big balls with lighted Christmas trees inside and silver balls reflecting the lights on the City Hall. Magic.

Finally we arrived at la Monnaie and with great expectation we were ready. Wagner always gives you an introduction a bit too long for my taste. Half of the people started to doze off. Finally it started. A dark scene with dark music. The entire chorus on the floor half asleep. We dozed a bit more. It took a good hour for the orchestra and the singers to get our attention. We were all reading the text on the top of the scene to understand what was going on. I had never seen this Opera so everything was new to me.

In the second half everybody woke up with the singers the chorus and the orchestra all going and the spectators enjoying every bit of it. It all ended the way Wagner ends his pieces with the Opera house shaking on the orchestra going full blast and all of us on the edge of our seats. There was no interval so we had two and a half hour of non interrupted music. I seriously think that is the only way to do it. On our way back home all the way to Lasne we were still under the influence of the music. You feel this physical change in yourself. It is scary.

I cannot remember any melodies or arias but the music was in inside my all body not only in my head.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Walking the Distance

We, Herman and I, reserved last June to go to Nieuport this week-end. And instead of Herman, working in Boston, I was lucky to get Annemie to come with me.

We joined in June “Les Compagnons del la Dyle Romane". It is the walking club of Wavre. Every three months they send me a bulletin with all the activities and we did not do anything at all. The only thing I did was to send a reservation in June for December hoping that by then we have our act together to go walking.

Well even without Herman it was a lot of fun. It rained all week and a hundred times I told myself what a stupid idea to go walking in the rain in December. Everyday I look at the weather report and you get a mixed feeling. It will be raining and cloudy, could get better but maybe not. Changing weather. Good luck.

The meeting was on Friday evening at the Hotel, Floreal Club, in Nieuport Bad. I arrived first; then Annemie after she finished with her last patient. She has less distance to drive. She already lives in Flanders where the coast is. From my house in Brabant Wallons it is about 140 km.

It is the kind of hotel where you make your own bed when you arrive. There is a kitchen and a nice bathroom. Normally it is for family holidays. People come for one or two weeks in the summer. Just remodeled, everything was new and very well made.

We had dinner with my new walking group. We did not know anybody. It is always awkward in the beginning. That is also the reason I did not want to go alone. My new group was about 40 people and there were two other Dutch speaking groups. This week-end is organised by the hotel. I was told that they started some years ago with a walking week-end to fill up the hotel in the winter. Now there is so much demand that they have to organise three walking week-ends every winter. Marketing tip for seaside hotel in the winter. So in total we must have been about 120 walkers.

The dinner was fine. The members of my new Club were very friendly and with small talk they put us at ease. After dinner during coffee a disk jockey gave a party mood to everybody. People danced till 1:00 am but Annemie and I went to bed early to be fresh the following morning.

Up at seven the next day. Big Nordic breakfast at eight. Everybody ready to walk by nine. The weather was stunning. Blue sky, no wind, a big sun rising from a low fog. With 2°C I was all covered with Sarah ski jacket, Micrografx hat, gloves, double pants and good walking shoes. The morning walk consisted of 10km. in the countryside with a return via the Nieuport beach. The walk was led by a guide in the front for the fast walkers and one in the back for the slow one. We were lucky.The group was quite homogeneous and we more or less arrived all together with an average of 5km per hour.
After a good warm lunch, at 2pm the group of 120 walker took two buses and went to France. Not too far, just across the border, we walked another two hours from Zuydcoote to Bray Dunes in the dunes by the sea in a natural reserve called “Dune Marchand” following for a while “la Grande Randonée du Littoral”. By the time we arrived by the sea it was sunset. Dramatic pink colors when the sea and the sky become one.

Happy and tired we took the buses back and got ready for a great dinner, with candle lights, starter, fish and to finish delicious hot crêpes with apples and worm chocolate. Again a big “Soirée Dansante” but Annemie and I were dead tired with every muscle sore went to bed by 11pm and slept like babies till the next day.

This morning, after again a big Nordic breakfast, we left the Belgian coast to go back home, happy of our walk by the sea.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

One more year

December 4 is my birthday. I am always looking forward to my birthday. One more year gone by and one to come. More than all the presents I receive the biggest surprise I look forward is the year to come. Full of expectations and thing to do. I have a long list of TO DO things. Books I want to read, people I need to visit or ask to come to visit us. Trips to take, lots of dreams and projects.

This year my birthday was in the weekend. It makes things easy for everybody.

Last year we went to “Comme Chez Soi”. This year we celebrated with a good dinner at “Villa Lorraine”. A very chic restaurant in Brussels. Herman, Nona and I well dressed were welcomed by the parking man. Arlette, the lady at the wardrobe, took our coats. And then we were allowed to enter the restaurant. It is a very formal and grand place, with large tables, comfortable chairs, and lots of lights, crystals and silver. Lots and lots of waiters of different grades and uniforms floating around. The dinner was delicious and the wine, a Meursault 1999, even more. The service was perfect, not too fast not too slow.

Herman bought me my very first digital camera. I know, I am one of the last to convert. It is a beautiful Nikon Coolpik S1, slim silver colored and perfect for my purse. I still have to get used to it and take a few shots. I look forward to use it. Nona gave my two huge books on Leonardo da Vinci one with his paintings and one with his drawings. Very nice books. I am very happy.

I received phone calls all day Sunday. First of all was Sarah, from California, then Bert and Peter from Den Haag, my cousin Dedi and Countess Gallina from Milano. Emails from Danilo, London, and Simone, Brussels. SMS from Filiep, Guy and from Annemie. A birthday card from Christelle.

So many ways to wish Happy Birthday. Thanks to you all.

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