March 29, 2017

Destination Next: Belgium!

I started 2011 with a challenge to myself: to travel more than ever before. To travel further, to travel better, and to do it all with my dignity (and bank account) intact.

Outlining this year’s escapes last December, there were a couple of destinations I’d already planned to visit in 2011, but I needed to get the ball rolling on a trip in late winter or early spring. The details refused to gel in my head and inexplicably, I couldn’t nail down exactly where I wanted to go.

So why not choose a place I don’t want to go and start from there?

6th Street Cityscape – Austin, Texas © John Rogers via Flickr under Creative Commons License

One of the benefits of travel blogging has been, for me, a greater sense of adventure, a willingness to do things I hadn’t before, to travel to places that haven’t always intrigued me. And that’s exactly how Austin entered the picture.

For some reason, I’ve always had this negative impression of Texas. Maybe it’s the big hair, big oil, big money reputation that gained traction with the television drama “Dallas” in the 80s. Maybe it was the hubris of undergrad classmates from Texas who felt their state was so awesome! it should be its own country. Whatever the reason, I had no intention of visiting Texas any time soon.

And simply because I’d decided against it, I thought I’d give the Lone Star State a shot. With a couple of college friends calling Austin home (and loving it), and discovering that city’s reputation as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” the sun began to rise and cast a soft, warm glow on Austin.

Tempted By the Fruit of Another

But it was not to be. Not yet, anyway. While searching for airfares to Austin, I stumbled upon a too-good-to-be-true airfare to a city that’s been on my bucket list since early 2007 when it made an appearance on my “1000 Places to Visit Before You Die” desk calendar.

Suddenly, I was planning a trip to Iceland. My mind was as good as made up, but a case of the nerves kept me from actually moving on the making the trip happen. Would my ten days there be enough for me to really experience Reykjavik and make a lazy circuit of the island on the Ring Road? No—it would end up being a slap-dash, high-speed run through a landscape that deserves time and attention. Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t have enough time or money to truly do Iceland justice. Another time, then. Again, I was left in limbo.

“Where shall I go? What shall I do?”

I felt exactly like Scarlett O’Hara Butler in Gone With the Wind.

For about a week, I had no idea what my next step was. Do I go back to planning a trip to Austin or do I move forward and try something else? And almost as suddenly as indecision threatened to swamp my senses, an idea popped into my head.

Why not Belgium?

Last fall I’d put Belgium on my shortlist of places to visit but I wasn’t expecting it to enter the rotation so soon. But why not? Chocolate, bier, waffles, and frites—need I say more? Plus the country is small enough geographically to do some exploring in the short amount of time I have away from work. There was no good reason not to go. So I took a deep breath and jumped off the bridge. There was no turning back. Almost immediately after I purchased my plane ticket, I started feeling better. Downright ecstatic, even. A solid plan was beginning to take shape.

Bruges, Belgium © Robert Vignola via Flickr under Creative Commons License

Am I excited? Hell, yeah. I’ve wanted to visit Europe since I was 11 years old and it’s finally happening. I can finally dust off the textbook French that I got to practice a year ago in Montreal and use it. While I’ll have to pick up a little Flemish in the process, I don’t mind. Studying languages has been a passion of mine for a long time now, so it will be cool to add yet another tongue to my repertoire (the double entendre bells are clanging loudly, begging for satisfaction, but I’m pretending not to notice).

My loose plan is to spend a few days each in Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, and Ghent with the possibility of a day trip to Maastricht. I’m keeping my options open and trying to go with the flow.

Here’s to the start of one awesome year of travel. Roll out the welcome mat, Belgium. I’m coming for a visit.

So how are your plans for travel in 2011 coming along? Please–PLEASE–tell me you’ve got a better system than I do…..

20 Responses to Destination Next: Belgium!

  1. Ana says:

    Hey! Welcome to Belgium.

    I’ll be pretty busy during the 1st Semester 2011, but if you come to Brussels, maybe we could have to opportunity to have dinner or a beer. Do not hesitate in contacting me if you need any further suggestions about what to visit. I’m an expat in Brussels, so I’ve been visiting the country for a while and I can assure you there’s a lot to be seen. It’s easy to go around using public transportation and most places are both safe and friendly. Food is great! Chocolate is amazing! Beer is fantastic!

    Cheers and hope you enjoy. Don’t forget your raincoat as you can easily have the 4 seasons in one single day. 🙂

    Ana

    • Marsha says:

      Awesome Ana! And thank you for inspiring this trip. We should definitely get together while I’m over there!

  2. Jessalyn says:

    Congrats, Marsha, that’s exciting – I’m looking forward to hearing all about it!

    • Marsha says:

      I look forward to sharing my Belgium experience too! Can’t wait to hear about your experiences in Oz as well.

  3. Gray says:

    Yay! I’m so excited for you! I wish I had some tips for you, but I’ve never been to Belgium either. I still think you should go to Austin at some point, though. It’s on my list. 🙂

    • Marsha says:

      Thanks, Gray! I don’t mind going in blind…it makes it a little more adventurous. And yes, I absolutely plan on going to Austin at some point. It seems like such a cool city.

  4. I’ve never been to Belgium, either, even though that’s where my family is from and I still have some relatives that live there. My grandma has told me so many stories, though, so I can’t wait to visit at some point. Until then, I’ll be excited to read about it and see it through your eyes! 🙂

    • Marsha says:

      Christy–From all accounts, Belgium has a supremely rich history and culture. I can’t wait to experience it and share it with you! Hopefully you’ll have an opportunity to visit soon!

  5. Carson says:

    Super cool! Belgium will be fantastic! – although I don’t think I would’ve been able to pass up on that Iceland deal 🙂 🙂

    • Marsha says:

      Oh Carson! It was $470RT from JFK but then I waited too long and the fare went up by close to $100. And since it would still have been winter when I went, if I wanted to do the Ring Road, renting a 4WD vehicle for 6 days would have been close to a grand. Let’s not even talk about the cost of gas ($8/gallon? I thought I saw somewhere). If I’m a very good little girl and I save my pennies, hopefully I can get there in the next 12 months or so. But yes, Belgium will be amazing. I can’t wait!

  6. John Rogers says:

    Marsha,
    I’m sure you will enjoy Belgium. I was in Brussels once when they were having a lavender festival in the Grand Platz. Bruges is on my short list of places I would love to visit. Please let me know if you do ever make it to Austin Texas. (I’m the photographer of the 6th street image you used for Austin above.) We are quite different than the rest of the state and I believe a worthwhile addition to your travels.

    John

    • Marsha says:

      I’m certain I’ll enjoy Belgium as well. And no worries–I have every intention of visiting Austin soon. I’d done enough reading about it that convinced me it would be right up my alley! I hope you get to Bruges as well—it looks every inch like a photographer’s dream!

  7. Awesome! You have picked out some nice cities to visit 🙂 If you have questions or wanna meet, DM me on Twitter or email. I have some posts on my website on Belgium. Find the best chocolates in Brussels: http://su.pr/5il4zU and have a look at Ghent: http://su.pr/4blX5j or Bruges: http://su.pr/2VZfVa I`m sure you`ll have fun!!

    • Marsha says:

      It seems like everyone who travels to Belgium do those 4 cities! But yes, I will definitely check out your site and maybe drop you a line the week before I leave to see if you want to get together? I’m really excited!

  8. trachinotus says:

    Marsha,

    as in a previous comment on another post, Belgium sounds like it will be a great time. Enjoy. But you missed a chance for a bad pun by going elsewhere in your set up in this post.

    “Oh Rhett. Where should I go? What shall I do?”

    “Frankly my dear. I don’t give an Amsterdam”

    Sorry!

  9. Dave says:

    I like the idea of choosing a place because it’s a place that you DON’T want to go. That’s why Los Angeles appeals to me. I fear that city after all I’ve heard/read/seen….which is the very reason I am so intrigued. I really enjoy your blog!

    • Marsha says:

      There are so many places I want to go that sometimes it’s just easier to choose someplace completely not on my list, lol! Thanks for stopping by and your sweet words…I really appreciate it!

  10. Monique says:

    Do let me know when you go. Maybe we could meet in Maastricht or Brussels.