Every good and perfect gift is from above...James 1:17

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ahoy, Matey!*

*Some of the language contained in this posting may contain terminology derived from nautical origins which you may or may not be familiar with. (Researched courtesy of my husband.)

We found our sea legs* and boarded The Pride of York for a minicruise for Zeebruge, Belgium. The vessel traversed the cold North Sea overnight. The high seas* were cold enough to freeze the balls off brass monkeys*. The ferry wasn't quite up to Carnival Cruise standards, but we were excited since it was our first cruise. There was an entertainment stage, piano bar, casino and cinema. Abe took a motion sickness pill as he was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea* --how did I get stuck with such a land lover?--which made him a little drowsy and almost three sheets to the wind*. Better than sick. He was hunkey-dory* on the way there and back.

Upon arrival they bused us into the towne centre of Bruges. While in Belgium, do as the Belgees? Belgish? Dutch? Whatever, I wanted some Belgium Waffles for brunch. Since I use the toilet every 5 minutes now and have marked my territory in all of England, I felt the need to wee whilst in the restaurant. The picture above the door showed both a girl and a boy. I'm thinking this is a generic entry way to each respective head* room. There was no hall leading to separate WCs, but a man cleaning in there. There were a couple stalls where he was, a wall, and more stalls on the other side of the wall. Instinctively I shouted, "Oh!" in suprise to see a man in the women's loo and he motioned to come on in, so I went to the other side of the wall. I slowly blew my nose, giving him time to leave since I couldn't fathom* him remaining in there while I was. Pre-pregnancy I had a shy bladder and couldn't go with others around, especially strange cleaning men; my bladder seems to be quite extroverted these days. I tried to pee as quietly as I possibly could. I see buttons, but not a flush handle as we Americans know it. I push a button and this 'arm' reaches out and the seat starts to turn around. It's a seat cleaner! Don't have to be a sweetie and wipe the seatie if you sprinkle when you tinkle. Nice. I finally found the actual flush button and it cleaned the seat automatically with the flush. As I'm washing my hands I notice a couple urinals right by the sink. Oops. No wonder there is a man in here cleaning who, I notice as I turn to leave, hasn't left at all. I say in embarrassment, "I guess this is the men's." I don't think he spoke English. Of course I feel the need to go again right before we leave (I wasn't kidding about every 5 minutes) and I look at the sign more closely. Apparently the women's is on the port* side of the wall where he was cleaning and the men's is on the starboard* side of the wall. Pretty much a unisex toilet. I found in Belgium they don't exercise a whole lot of descretion between the men's and women's...I have a lot of data from frequent visits to back my theory.

Bruges is a quaint town with a canal much like Venice. Of course it's very old and even the renovated buildings are constructed to match. Abe and I did the whole nine yards*. We took a canal boat tour. As the guide chewed the fat* he pointed out the oldest hospital in northern Europe (it's a museum now). We saw The Madonna, which is one of the few of Michealangelo's works to leave Italy. We visited the Basicalla of the Holy Blood which supposedly had some drops of blood from Christ in a big vial. I saw it myself, but I do doubt the authenticity. Knowing the fame of Belgium chocolate we opted for a tour of the Chocolate Museum. As much as I love chocolate, that was the absolute worst and most listless* museum I think I have ever visited. Quite a waste of 12 euros. We now know the ropes* of chocolate history. At the end there was a presentation and a free sample which we just missed. We couldn't even stand around and listen to the presentation again to get the free sample.

No worries. Abe and I hit about half of the chocolate shops, and there are a LOT of chocolate shops, and tried a little from each. And of course we couldn't leave without him splicing the main brace* and trying a Belgium beer. When I ordered a hot chocolate the bartender made fun of me. He informed me the beer is full of vitamins (pronounced with a short i-- /vit-a-mins/ not /vite-a-mins/) and good for baby.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy Hogmany!

Abe and I and The Belly celebrated New Year's in Scotland with our friends Tony and Alison (a couple of the Brits who were in Ft. Worth working with Abe and brought him over here).

We stayed at a sleepy little fishing village outside Edinburgh (pronounced /ed-in-bur-oh/). We traveled around the countryside. The first stop was St. Andrews. All you golfing buffs know this is the mother of all golf. All the famous golfers take their picture on this little bridge. Next stop, a Scotch Whiskey distillery. As usual, would have been a little more fun if I could have participated in the free dram. Loch Ness was too far away, but we stopped by another loch and played in the snow a little. The 3 of them tried some proper Hagis for lunch. When in Scotland, do as the Scots, right? Of course being cursed as a super taster I passed. However, it wasn't as bad as I expected. It is actually like 'lamburger' in a huge roll much like a monster sausage, so it's not like you're really eating the intestines or stomach or whatever it is people talk about.

New Years Eve, or Hogmany as referred to by the Scots, was celebrated in Edinburgh on Princess Street. They claim it is one of the largest New Years celebrations in the world. We walked around the street festival and saw a live concert. They were Scottish bands, but we have actually heard some of the music since we've been here--KT Tunstall and a band called Texas. At midnight they had a huge fireworks ceremony. Great people watching, as it had rained off and on most of the evening and we were on a grassy hill watching the bands in the park. Drunk people sliding down the hill was quite entertaining. Once again, would have been a little more fun if I had been participating in the drinky drink, but this way I got to watch the drunks fall instead of be one. The Scots are nicknamed "Jimmies" by the English. We got a Jimmy hat for the babysitter's sons. Quite becoming on Abraham! One of the locals was a bit offended (it's like saying all Kansans are farmers and all Texans are cowboys). They almost duked it out right there in the take away shop.

New Years Day we toured Edinburgh Castle. It's high on a hill right in the center of the city, above where we were the night before. This castle is still all intact, and they have been adding on to it since the 20th century. Very neat. Unfortunately, I forgot how early it gets dark here and we didn't get many good pictures. That's Abe standing by one of the canon holes.

PS Look what town I found. Randolph, Scotland. Who knew?!