June 7, 2011

Photos from a packed couple months, part 1: Easter Vacation

Though the Easter vacation was almost two months ago, I still want to talk about it, because it was amazing. My host family and I went to the Belgian coast, and we stayed at a beach house in little town called Duinberg. This break was in the middle of April, and two weeks long-- long enough to get a great feel for a classic Belgian vacation, and to go to London as well. In this post, I'll describe it, even though it's a little out-of-date....

Duinberg, Knokke-Heist, West Flanders, Belgium
On the Belgian coast

 Classic scene of the Belgian coast-- appartments, the dike, the cabanes, the beach, and then the sea off in the distance

Scene from my bike, looking toward the port of Zeebrugge

On vacation at the Belgian coast, you can rent tons of different kinds of wheeled vehicles that you pedal along the dike. The ones with four wheels are called cuisses-stax (pronounced kwees-stacks


It kept striking me how beautiful everybody was, well-dressed and polite, walking or riding along the dike. 

Everywhere you go here, you hear two languages-- French and Dutch. You can never tell which one a group of people will be speaking until you hear it... 

You go everywhere on your bike-- it is completely flat on the coast. 



Classic breakfast at the ocean...bread or pastries (in the paper bags), chocolate sprinkles (in the yellow box), and...

...tiny shrimp on pistolets (small round pieces of bread) with butter. 

Scene from nearby our vacation house

Sluis, the Netherlands
A twenty-minute drive away

Knokke, the town where we stayed, is very close to the Dutch border. One afternoon we went to the little town of Sluis and wandered around for a little while. 

Dutch cheese

 wooden shoes,


and of course, a windmill....

 Just five kilometers across the border, and things really change-- you can tell you're in the Netherlands for sure. 


Le Coq/de Haan, West Flanders, Belgium
Visiting my AFS counsellor

At another point in the week, I biked to the little town of Le Coq (in French)/de Haan (in Flemish), about 15 km south of Duinbert, to visit Elsa, my AFS counseller. We toured around, and rented a cuisses-stax

Elsa, my AFS counsellor, and her boyfriend Vincent on a cuisses-stax

Then we went and got ice cream, and I got this picture of a stack of Belgian waffles...complete with Belgian flag. 

London, England 
A three-day trip across the channel

My friend Trey (another American AFS exchange student) and I took the bus from Brussels to London, for a whirlwind three-day trip. I could fill this post with pictures, but Google has only given me so much space. So here are some highlights. 


Back to 
Duinberg, Knokke-Heist

For the last few days, I returned to the coast, thanks to the Belgian train system. 

I took a walk on the beach with some other fellow American exchange students, and took a bunch of pictures there too. Throughout the entire two-week-long vacation, the weather was AMAZING. Everyone was on the beach in swimsuits, though normally in April people are still bundled up against the wind and the rain. 

A Belgian sandcastle. Belgians build their sandcastles seriously, with full-sized shovels. However, they sacrifice aesthetics for force...the goal is to be able to stand on it as long as possible as the tide comes in.

 You can also "buy" crèpe-paper flowers, in shell-currency. You have to find a bunches of a
 specific type of shell (kind of like a little clam shell), and then pay the flower-makers-- generally girls between the ages of five and twelve years old--using this shell as money. Some of the flowers are beautiful-- I would have paid real money for them. I managed to find 15 shells, and got a little tiny flower. The ones you see in these pictures would have cost me 50-70. 

The next day was Easter-- I found the breakfast table filled with chocolate eggs, pistolets, and easer decorations. 

The bells of Easter had come (instead of the Easter bunny) and hidden chocolate eggs all over the yard. It was a battle between my host brothers and me to get as many eggs as possible. 

Later on in the afternoon, my host dad and I played a game of mini-golf. I'm horrible at it, but the golf course was very pretty, and it's another classic thing to do at the coast. 

Finally, in the evening, we pulled out the cerf-volant-- the giant kite. It was a beautiful evening on the beach... we spent a couple hours flying the kite, throwing frisbees, and wading in the water. 

The sunset over the North Sea was a great way to finish off my Easter vacation. 



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