Travel is My Second Hobby!
Here is Why…………
Most of the time it seems that we get so much more out of something than we ever thought we would.
What’s an example?
Homebuilders meet people with a new mortgage, a plot of land and fabulous ideas. Hobbyists meet people who indulge in the same pastimes.
And travellers see a whole new world, filled with new ideas and exotic foods,
and make lifelong friends.
I like to sew. I may need to sew on a button while travelling so I think it is important to be able to take your hobby with you when you’re away from home.
And it’s useful. I only needed to pack a needle and thread to do this.
But getting away is what this is about. Welcome to my second hobby.
Travelling: The Art Of Flying In Comfort
Two kinds of people wear jeans when they fly: the underdressed and experienced travellers.
First time I flew overseas I wore my Little White Suit.
In my twenties, I started a 30-year travelling spree, the first 20 years being the most hectic. So little time…..
Back then no one wore jeans unless they were members of a motorcycle club.
But marketing changed all that.
Now we have designer jeans. For me, they are like loungewear. I love their casual-well-dressed look of them.
They grew on me when I started flying around the world.
After several trips, two things stood out to me, within the first three years.
The first was that there is a Coca-Cola sign and a MacDonald’s everywhere no matter how remote the town or village.
Second, wherever I was, designer jeans were the “thing”, no matter how indigent the people were.
Not the ones with tears in them so your knees stick out.
They have their standards, after all.
Outside of North America, not as many women wear denim.
The young European females in the 80s did bring it back for a while but these are women who have been brought up differently, in a classical fashion.
I love how we wear denim in the west but we have always had more use for it here…… because our land was settled by cowboys.
I am proud to wear denim.
Who ARE These People?
Everywhere I went I accrued some information. It told so much about the people to see how they walked about, how they gathered, how noisy or quiet they were, and if they had churches and parks.
What was shopping like here, besides the fact that I could not understand the sizing system? Were there high-end stores and glitzy malls or windows boarded up?
I had no idea that I could get so much out of travel, other than just visiting someplace different.
Now This Is A Plus!
Like Food! Never, ever did I give any thought as to what I would eat when I got there. It never occurred to me that this would be a highlight of travel.
To preface my thoughts, I am an adventuresome eater. Won’t eat roasted bugs, or reptiles and pets.
But I will try veal for the first time, papoutsakia and moussaka.
Not steak tartar (raw, ground steak, spiced and served with toast). (Ugh!)
The seafood available was superior to what I was used to back home.
I never had this kind of luxury before.
The Belgian Lifestyle:
We moved to Europe and our home base was Belgium. Since we were moving there, for five years, I wondered where it was exactly.
I did not know that Antwerpen was the diamond-cutting capital of the world!
I lived in Antwerp and a highlight for ex-patriots was to see as much as you could of a country, to understand the culture.
Historic tours were freely accessible.
I visited a diamond cutting business that occupied a downtown office tower in Antwerp.
Diamonds were in boxes and in little mounds on tables – each like a hill of beans!
“But”, our guide told us, “you would not get away with one tiny stone as the security would pick you out before you neared the exit”……
Didn’t give it a thought.
And everyone dressed so well. They spoke about their clothing with respect. They knew the make and model, straight cut or bootleg, high rise or low rise, and everything about the pockets.
And these were the boys!
I learned from the Belgians that you buy the best quality you can afford, for everything.
The best quality of what?….. a pair of shoes, TV, nail polish, floor tiles, Walkman, you get the idea.
I spent my life looking for the best deals.
It was nice to have a balance.
As we lived there it was an important part of the culture to visit the restaurants.
There were so many places to go to that it was hard to make a decision.
I don’t think I grasped what the average wage-earner took home, but our evenings were filled with young people, suggesting which restaurant to try.
“This is what people do here,” they said and they loved to treat us.
After much discussion about food, a restaurant was chosen.
There was a yard that looked like the demolition of old mansions.
It was so interesting as you walked down the aisles of these scrap heaps, past stacked doors and wrought-iron fences.
We tripped over corbels and heavy wood panelling.
We heard music in the background.
On a nice summer evening, your table of ten would be under an open sky with the remnants of salvage around you.
And this place had live music, a full professional kitchen, and indoor plumbing!
Not all places we visited had indoor plumbing so this is important.
And some places, even for young people, had classical music orchestras.
That did not stop anyone from getting up from their tables and dancing in the aisles.
Houses Were Lined Up!
Some wore evening gowns and some were wearing designer jeans.
Pity; I cannot remember the name of the restaurant.
I could not help but notice how the houses looked, with their shutters closed up around nightfall.
It was depressing and dark, and foreboding…..they were lined up along a street, gloomy; like pencils in a box.
I had to live in a country for two years to understand the reasons for the people’s habits.
That was my threshold, as, before that, I probably didn’t have enough information to give an informed opinion.
Late in my first year, I was invited to one of those gloomy homes.
As I entered the boarded gate from the street I walked into a little courtyard with a pretty garden, with bistro tables and chairs by the front door.
There was a hanging flower basket and plants along the wall.
My new friend saw my mouth open; agape!
This was so pretty, private, and restful.
She said that westerners always had that reaction at first as the house looked totally unremarkable from the street.
Their taxes were so high that people only spent money on the inside while continuing to do general upkeep outside.
And So, Inside…..
The interior was gorgeous. It had been updated very shabby-chic as only the Europeans do so well.
Country farmhouse sink in a new kitchen and nice appliances in the 50s style.
I loved it and every home held a unique interest.
But she had me at the courtyard. I wanted to sit there all day!
Is that why they had this pretty little space? Partly, and for privacy.
They really did not understand the western inclination toward space that we don’t use.
Nor do I, now.
Dinner By Candlelight:
These people knew how to make the most of what they owned. They could not just go out and buy everything.
They were used to scarcity and learned to improvise.
Turn off the lights held a whole new meaning, but then out came the candles, some music, and wine.
I never felt as if I was deprived of anything in their world.
My soul was enriched just to be there.
They Did It Guy-Style!
Everybody cooked so well in Belgium, especially the men.
They all knew how to set up a gourmet table for a party of ten or twenty.
That included hors d’oeuvre, soup, and a hot meal.
THIS is the way to a woman’s heart!
I learned the correct way to slice a tomato and about the “witloof”, chicory, time of year.
We ate “moules” – Belgian mussels stewed in a pot with celery, leeks, and garlic.
The whole pot of mussels was set down, on a great wooden table, family-style.
No one ever appeared shy to proffer large servings of the main dish.
There were big salads to share and as much bread and frits (french fries) as you like.
You could choose to eat any type of cuisine worldwide if you ate somewhere in Belgium.
The small mom-and-pop eatery on the corner served the most wonderful food.
It was a matter of self-respect and pride.
Don’t Forget The Mayo!
My only regret is this: the condiment of choice in Belgium, Holland, and France is mayonnaise.
As we walked along the promenades in the evenings there were “Pom-Frit Carts” everywhere.
French-fry stands are just like hot-dog stands.
A cone of frits would be served with mayonnaise if you wished.
I said no to mayo for two years!
When I finally tasted it I beat myself up for waiting so long to try it.
I only have to smell that intoxicating aroma and I want mayo with my fries, made the European way.
Who can compete? You will always have a fine dining experience no matter where you eat in Belgium.
And the bread!…. don’t get me started.
My next blog: The Charisma Of Greece!
Hi Corrine !
Apparently I’m going to have to spruce up my ‘robe’ for when you visit here next ; no more Value Village slacks !
The references to Greek eggplant remind me of Toscana, back when it was still open – back when anything was still open .
Et pour moi, je pourrais faire mousser de la mayonnaise sur presque tout.
You write well .
In a very shabby-chic style.
I am enjoying the Reads.
You NEVER wear VV slacks! I am glad you enjoyed the blogs; my next is about Greece. (Your French is impeccable). Watch this space.
Omg, how I remember those restaurants and the Frits! Today, we always ask for mayo with our fries, but rarely do we find them like in Belgium. And the mussels, I never developed a taste, but Larry did and only loves them with a Belgian sauce.
We had so much fun, didn’t we?
O Rykken we did not see that experience for the privilege that it was. It was idyllic. Greece on the next blog.
Oh yes Belgian food was exquisite in its own special way! How about Sundays playing Squash and drinking warm beer! Then out to Chinese restaurants with many rounds of fine wine. I can transport myself to that time and all those places. Those were the days!
Yws Elaine, this is what I am trying to convey. One wouldn’t know this unless you went there. And look at the lifelong contact it has given us!
Such lovely narratives on your amazing travels Corrine! So many amazing adventures you have experienced!💙
Hello Cheri, so happy to hear from you. Have you read all the blogs? Have a new one coming up about living on the border of Detroit. Watch for it!