I’m in the very lucky position of having lived in Europe on two separate occasions. The second is right now – during my time in London. The first was nearly twenty years ago, from 1992 to 1994, when I (along with my parents, of course) lived in the town of Ramsdonk, in Belgium. My parents were there on work, and I was there mainly to sit around and barf. In the years since, I’ve returned to Belgium many times, visiting those who once were friends of my parents and now are friends of mine.
The oldest of those is Kasper, who I first met when we were both less than three months old – his father was a colleague of my mother’s. In the intervening years, their family has come to visit ours in Scotland (1998), we’ve gone to visit theirs in Belgium (2002), I’ve spent three weeks with his family in Belgium (2004), he’s come to Chicago to spend a month and half with my family (2008), and both families have spent time in France together (2009). It’s been a few years, though, and so my first stop upon finishing term last Friday was Gent, where he is currently at University. And our first stop was the Dulle Griet, which is a pub named after a cannon, and home to the most obscenely enormous drink I’ve ever encountered.
The drink is so large, that they take your shoe as collateral, and hang it in a basket on the ceiling. When you finish your drink, you hand the glass back and they winch your shoe down from the ceiling and return it to you. No word on what you do if you have to go to the bathroom mid-drink …
Despite our shock at the size, we did indeed manage to finish the drinks (though it took us more than a few minutes). Kasper even had the temerity to hold his drink with one hand. With my shoe on the line, I was taking no such risks.
Anyhow, beyond the drinking, it was lovely to be back in Belgium and get a chance to detox a little bit from the academic environment at the LSE. Although there’s plenty of friends and fun to be had, I found myself – like everyone else – so caught up in the spirit of what I was learning that I could never really relax. There was always reading to do, always writing to do, etc. I loved it, but I’m glad to be on break. I’ll stay in Belgium for a few more days, then head north to Scotland to visit my grandmother and various aunts and uncles. My family is also flying in from Chicago, and we’ll spend Christmas together. From there, it’s off to Paris for a week, then Oxford, and then back home to London! An amazing – and lucky – life. Tot ziens!