Visit #10 to the Emerald Isle

There is definitely a theme to my travels.  I repeatedly visit favorite places in Europe like some visit a favorite park or beach.  An open Europhile, I traveled to Europe every chance I had.  In fact, I tell people I moved here in order to reduce my carbon footprint.  Now I fly Transatlantically twice a year as opposed to the 4-5 flights I did when I lived in NYC.

Ireland is one of my favorites.  What are the other repeats?  Well, by now you should know Belgium (12).  I lived in England and went back 6 or so other times (it gets fuzzy due to years I popped in just for a night en route to the continent).  Switzerland (10).  Other places, I’d like to pop in and visit, but I would always go to the favorite spots as well.  Europe allows for that, with countries like US States.  (You don’t count how many times you visit NY when you live in NJ, for example).

But why not Italy? Why is it not on the repeat fave list?  Let’s see, before I moved here, I had traveled to Italy 5 times, so I clearly did enjoy my time but was not lured as often as nearby Switzerland, for example. Well, to be honest, I always liked popping into Tuscany especially and always had visions of one day chilling in the Cinque Terra (that’s just 1.5 hours away now!).  But train strikes, overbooked trains, missed connections, tourist crowds,  and general chaos makes Italy a bit frustrating for a tourist (as well as an inhabitant). Not to knock my host country, but I just didn’t feel as strong a lure to Italy as to my faves. Switzerland, Belgium, and Ireland are calm, ordered, peaceful, beautiful, friendly, and extremely accommodating to tourists.

Even after all these visits, I was still excited and at peace when I landed around 8pm.  Ahhh.  The fresh air, the  . . . how do I say it?  Ireland has some kind of magical hold over me.  A friend told me, “It’s in the blood.”  I am 25% Irish, with my mother’s grandparents hailing from County Monaghan.  As a result, she just got her Irish passport after validating her dual citizenship status.  She also qualifies for Italian dual citizenship (actually, as do I as they honor citizenship through great grandparents). But as I have learned after the 6 months it took me to get my Visa, the process is very bureaucratic, but I’ll get it one day.  🙂  I’m 50% Italian, by the way, with Mom’s maternal grandparents from Northern Italy, the Piacenza region, to be exact.  And Dad’s grandparents from Sicily (Palermo).  Anyways, I do feel a bit at home in Italy, and I certainly look Italian.  But I’m still trying to find a way to articulate why Ireland is so special to me.

Is it the incredibly fresh, crisp air?  Not to knock Genoa’s air, but it doesn’t have the same pristine quality.  Is it the fact that they speak English?  With the fun brogues?  Is it the people’s wonderful sense of humor?  Their open and friendly nature?  The fact that even the cab driver will tell you his life story if you get him started.  Mom loves to get them started, always asking, “How is your day so far?”  That’s all it takes.  Before long, we are learning tales of relatives in New York, snowstorms 15 years ago, slow business days, daughters and sons-in-laws, advice for traveling, commentary on the “Gloom and Doom” economy . . . it goes on and on.  Mom is always quick to say, “I come every February and now I have my Irish passport.”

“It’s the promised land,” said our Cabbie last night.


Ireland is a beautiful country.  But while the views are splendid, I guess it is the people.  We love the people.  The Irish make everyone feel at home, like we are all family.  I love that.  And now we actually do have some friends here who are like family.

We met them in Lake Como, Italy actually.  How?  Mom’s gift of gab.

I was swimming in the small pool on the terrace, overlooking gorgeous Lake Como, summer 2011.  Mom was sunbathing and happened to strike up a conversation with a young woman.  Her friend was floating on a raft in the pool, near me.  Before long, we discovered they were both teachers working in Dublin.  We enjoyed lots of conversation, laughs, and some drinks, kept in touch through facebook, and reunited last summer for dinner and a concert at the National Concert Hall. The music of Danny Elfman. (Simpsons, of course!).  It was all in connection with the Jameson International Film festival that is held this time every year. And I’m always here this year because it’s my February break.  Luckily, my February break at my new school (the Ski Week) coincides with that of my old school.

Anyways, this year, the music at the concert hall was a bit dark so Mary Bridget and Elaine booked tickets for The Gate theatre, a small, intimate theatre.  After a delightful dinner and sinful dessert at the Gresham Hotel (seriously sinful — bread and butter pudding for me that must have had a whole brick of Kerry Gold in it, mmm), we walked across to the Gate Theatre where we discovered we had 2nd row seats for “A Bedroom Farce,” a very funny British Comedy.


We were laughing our arses off for the duration, especially while watching a John Cleese like character stuck in bed with back pain.  He dropped his book and the look on his face and the perfect mannerisms . . . it was wonderful.  If the wrong type of actor was cast, it just wouldn’t be funny.  But this was delightful.  Having just suffered a flare up of an old track injury where I had a slipped disc/sciatica, I know all too well the comic positions, faces, and noises you make when your back gets “stuck” as his was.

2nd Row Seats for the show.  Intermission.

2nd Row Seats for the show. Intermission.

So, after a lovely evening, we thanked the girls for their delightful treat (Aunt Minnie got dinner for us and the girls just insisted that they treat us to the show no matter how hard Mom tried to protest.  Elaine said, “We won’t take it.  We’ll just leave that as a very nice tip for our waiter.”)

Mom said, “These are our first international friends.  You’ve been traveling for years, but for us, this is new and they are so special.”  She is right.

“Who are your first international friends?”

I thought a minute. “Jasper and Dave” I said.  From Bruges. “11 years later, I still talk to them and visit them.”

Mary Bridget said, “It is so wonderful to have international friends.”

“It Tis,” said Elaine.  We all nodded our heads, said a farewell, and Mary Bridget promised to be in touch to help me plan my trip.  I’m taking some students to Dublin to study the Irish Nationalist movement, the revival, WB Yeats, James Joyce, etc.  As she is studying at Trinity College in the English Department (for her Masters) she said they would be happy to help.


What else did we do on this tour?  Well, a quick recap.  I arrived via Paris the evening before and stayed in a single ensuite room at a lovely hostel I had visited in 2006 in a dorm room.  This was the first time in a private room, and it was spendidly comfortable.  The next morning, I walked over to our hotel where I met Mom and Great Aunt Minnie, freshly arrived from JFK in NYC.  They napped, I got a haircut at Toni & Guy. (It’s very hard to find English speaking hairdressers and my Italian is just not that good yet).

That evening, we took a DART train ride to Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary) for a lovely stroll in the sunshine along the sea and a delightful meal.  I had sweet and spicy chicken wings.  mm.  Back on the electric commuter rail (60% financed by the EEC) and back to Dublin.  Did we take a stroll around?  I don’t exactly remember, but the ladies were jetlagged and to bed early.

The next morning, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast, hopped on a hop on/hop off tour bus — an annual tradition, stopped at the Guinness Storehouse for their first visit (I went in 2001).  I enjoyed a pint at the Gravity Bar with views over the city. Mom had half of hers, and Aunt Minnie had a soda.  I loved it and couldn’t believe that when I came in 2001, as a Junior in College, I still was making bitter beer face, even with Guinness.  I had a couple of sips and then handed it over to the man sitting at the bar waiting for such an opportunity. He must buy his ticket every day and then drink discarded Guinnesses all day for free.  I did not see him in 2013 on this trip, though.

Anyways, we completed our loop and returned for high tea.  Later that night, I ordered room service for puff pastry potato and chicken leak pie.  mmm.

The following morning, we boarded a bus for our annual Wicklow tour, the gorgeous mountains just outside of Dublin where many movies are filmed, including PS I Love You.  I can’t go to Wicklow without thinking of this clip: Mom saw it on TV and said it reminded her of me.  Aww.  What a sweet movie.  With great music.  Love it.  Of course, as it was February, the fields weren’t filled with the gorgeous purple heather, but they still have their own special quality.  More about Wicklow along with photos in another post.

That evening, Mom and I walked to Grafton Street, where there was shopping until 9pm and I had a wardrobe to restock a bit.  But somehow we got separated and somewhere there is security footage of us comically passing each other.  In fact, we both said we were watching the street sweeper go by.  We were probably on either side of him. And somewhere in that sweeper went one of my new favorite earrings.  Oh well.

Yesterday was a lazy day.  We woke up for breakfast, Mom and I shopped (finally), then we rested until dinner with the girls.  And finally I did some yoga to try to fend off this food binge.  Oh, but how lovely it all is. And now here we are, Lazy Day 2.  We might go to a movie. It’s really cold, actually snow flurrying.  And while I did not need gloves in Switzerland when it was -9 degrees Farenheit, Ireland at 30 degrees freezes my hands off.  It’s a chilling, damp kind of cold.  We were thinking of heading to Howth to see the sea lions at the other end of Dublin bay, but it looks like a movie is in order.  I want to see Lincoln, but Aunt Minnie says, in all seriousness, “I don’t want to see that.  I know how it ends.”

So we shall see.  Off for a walk so housekeeping can come in.

Cheers in Dublin to 6 months living in Europe!

Exactly 6 months ago, on an unusually hot and humid day, I saw the twisting, stunning Ligurian Coast from the airplane and landed in Genoa, Italy with several new colleagues.  It was the culmination of a whirlwind of planning that commenced around this time last year, as I started paperwork and the long process of packing up my wonderful, comfortable life in NYC for the adventure I always dreamed about.

The fountain at Piazza de Ferrari, cooling off in the mist. I was not posing, believe it or not . . .a friend just caught the bliss.

The fountain at Piazza de Ferrari, cooling off in the mist. I was not posing, believe it or not . . .a friend just caught the bliss.

I had been plotting and scheming a way to do this for so many years, even as a high school junior, contemplating attending college at the American University in Paris.  Studying abroad in England, with weekends all over the country and the continent, ignited the travel bug; the summer after that study abroad experience, I had the fever big time.

I was heading back to England for my flight home after three weeks solo backpacking around Europe post graduation from college.  I was sitting on my overstuffed backpack at the Bruges train station when a woman started talking to me, explaining that if I was a teacher, it would be easy to live abroad. “I don’t want to leave Belgium” I had told her. “I love it here.”

“There are jobs in Belgium and all over Europe at US Military Bases,” she explained.  That stuck in my mind, and a fantasy began exploding, but honestly, I had no intention of becoming a high school teacher, with dreams of a Masters and eventually PhD in English on my mind.  A tanned, happy girl in low pig tails, a dreamer.

We parted ways, and I kept that dream in the back of my mind but thought it would probably be something else that brought me to Europe.  One day, one day.  Maybe grad school.  Maybe working at a hostel, I dunno.  But I had to come back.  And LIVE here.

Eventually, after backpacking around Australia and many other fun post-grad adventures, I started my MA program in English at Fordham University, then wanted to get a PhD but took time off to sort things out, get on my feet financially, and figure out my whole deal.  I got a job as an adjunct professor at Iona College in 2004, when I had just turned 24 years old.  That was so much fun, and I knew I loved teaching.  A few years later, very happy but pretty darned broke, it was time to reevaluate — and I saw a poster in the NYC Subway: “You remember your teacher’s name.  Who will remember yours?”  It was an ad for the NYC Teaching Fellows.  I realized I loved teaching, wanted to give high school a try and wanted to help the community I had been living in for many years as I lived by Fordham University, which happened to be located in one of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in the city.  I applied after the deadline was extended, after I stopped hemming and hawwing, and before I knew it, I was in an overwhelmingly intensive summer training program.  Instead of sunny days on the beach at my lifeguarding gig, I was in an overheated un-airconditioned classroom with 60 kids.  Yes, 60  “Don’t worry, many will drop out,” said a supervisor as I watched kids sit on the windowsill and floor.

That fall, September 2007, I began teaching at a high school right by my apartment, and met wonderful colleagues and amazing students that I am still in touch with today.  It was one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life.  Although I only had a 2 year commitment, I stayed 5 years, 3 additional years after completing my Education Masters at City College.  Then it was time to reevaluate again. Time was ticking, life was slipping away and I thought: hey, I’m not married, have no kids, no property, and no serious strings. Remember that dream?  Remember it? GO FOR IT!

So, how did I figure all this out?  I thought, ok, I want to work at an international school.  I looked into the military schools, but you have less options to choose where you work.  Even still, I did apply.  But after studying in Norway on a fellowship in Summer 2010, I learned about international schools and how great they are.   I thought, ok, what are some of the best schools?  Looked them up, and then looked up who accredits them.  CIS.  Ok, so I applied to be a candidate for CIS, the Council for International Schools.  I also entered my information, got recommendations from my principal and other supervisors, put together an application package, and I was in the system.   I paid for some of my own International Baccalaureate training (IB) to distinguish myself from the heaps of other English teachers, trying to give myself that competitive edge and a school the incentive to hire a non-EU teacher.  Although they tell you to be open-minded, my heart was set on Europe.  I was coming from one of the greatest cities in the world, and I wasn’t going to leave it for anything other than my dream.

January 2012, I flew to London for a huge fair, and was overwhelmed by the response of notes in my email and my mailbox in the candidates lounge.  A day and several interviews later, I had narrowed it down to four exciting prospects.  But Genoa was number one in my mind.  Let’s be honest: I saw the salary online and didn’t even contact the school, thinking, “Oh no way can I make that work.”  I did not know Italy had a special tax exempt status for two years.  But still . . .

So, one of my emails was from my boss in Genoa.  He seemed so positive, and I was curious. I  went to google maps, knowing Genoa was in the North, the food belt . . . but where exactly?  And then “OMG, it’s on the water!!!  Oh, right on the sea!” I enjoyed the interview and there was just something so unique about the school community that came across in the director’s presentation. He showed us pictures of Salty Cats Day, and I thought “This place is special.”   So, I had options at other schools that were amazing but when the Genoa offer came in, I knew I had to take it.  But not before I had one of the most sleepless agonizing nights ever as I tried to decide.  I woke up, and after checking my email, I discovered my dad had worked out my financials  to show me that it would be possible.  And that  . . . they would help.  (It is in a very large thanks to them that I have a little travel budget!!)  My mom, who was originally against my coming said, “Who could you be if you followed your dream?”  It was simple and short.  And I knew what she meant.  I walked over to accept my position.

When I told my other prospects I had accepted another offer, one man said, “It is a good decision.  It’s how I started my own international career . . . in Italy.  You won’t get rich, but you’ll live richly.”  It’s true.  I may not be paid a fortune, but I’m paid a fortune in beauty.  La Vita e Bella!

Flying home, I was walking on air.  I ended up getting a taxi ride all the way to the airport for the same price as if I had transferred to the train (nice cabbie), and then when I flew out of London, I flew right over Central London, with a sparkling view of the London Eye, Tower of London, all bright and glimmering in the sunshine. I had never flown this way in all my years of flying to England.  Everything magically fell into place.

When I came home, I was so ecstatic, I couldn’t contain my excitement, as I called everyone and then eventually broke the news on facebook for 86 likes and a bunch of comments and well wishes.  “This is pretty much a combination of everything you love,” somebody wrote.


Everything was dreamy after that.  I had a glow that just didn’t wear off. Oh, and then I received a message from the US Department of Defense to come down to DC for an interview for positions for the 2012-2013 school year.  Ahh, but I already had my job!  But still, so nice to be invited.  🙂  With departure on my mind,  my life had a new trajectory and spark, and I began to carpe diem and savor every sweet, delcious, awesome moment of the life I was leaving behind . . .for now.   It was half a year of celebrating and partying which was revved up in the summer for The Grand Farewell Tour, one of the best summers of my entire life.

I was elated and exhausted when I finally landed in Genoa.  While I do miss home, especially everyone I love, I also am savoring every moment here because although I can stay international as long as I want, I know this particular experience, given many factors, can’t last.  But oh, it is so so beautiful and it has changed me and my career forever.  Whether I return to the NYC school system (They have Public IB Schools) or continue at an international school or seek another private school, I know I will always stay with the IB and that I will always have this experience tucked away in my heart, soul, and  . . . the very fabric that is me.

Grazie Mille to my former self for giving me this great gift!  Grateful for everyone in my life for all their support during this process.  I have never smiled so much.

Today, I am in Dublin for my annual visit with my mother (who just got her IRISH passport!) and my Great Aunt Minnie.  Instead of flying from JFK with them, I just met them here.  I will certainly have a Guinness in celebration.  CHEERS!

I’ll leave you with this video which is like my theme song while living this good life here: One Republic “Good Life”  🙂

Belgium calls again!

I have just returned from visit number 12 to Belgium!  Che Fortuna!

Here’s how it all happened.  I am teaching an International Baccalaureate (IB) course called Language A. (I teach it in English, but it is offered in dozens of languages).  I already have training in Language and Literature, but it’s a different track for English than my school offers.  I applied for funds through the professional development committee to go, originally for December in Oxford, but it’s a crazy time of year and I had already received some funding, so I applied again for spring semester.  The soonest course was in Brussels, Belgium.  So once again, back to one of my favorite countries.

As you may recall from my previous Belgium post My Magic Bruges , my heart lies in Flanders – the Flemish (Dutch dialect) speaking region north of Brussels.  But while I may love Bruges the best, Brussels is certainly nice.

It was a whirlwind.  I worked on Thursday, my crazy day, for four 80 minute classes, jetted home to get my bags and dash to the airport where I had to transfer in Rome, finally arriving in Belgium at midnight.  Brussels airport is super convenient with a rail connection to Brussels Central, so I did that then groggily showed a taxi driver my hotel info and arrived at my hostel/hotel around 1am.  Whew!  Reception normally closes at 22:00, so I’m so glad I notified them in advance and someone waited for me.  When I arrived, I soon learned that he was “going to sleep for three hours” because then he had to work again very early in the morning.  Yikes.

I awoke the next morning to pouring rain as I had a yummy hotel breakfast – just some warm croissants and breads along with coffee and OJ.  I was worried about my transport connections to the Management Conference Center, so I jetted out and on my way.  I somehow got on the right tram, but in the wrong direction, with foggy windows and no signs to announce the stops, it was a collossall guessing game.  Where am I?  Where am I going?  I dunno.  Eventually I asked someone what stop we were at, then I learned I had gone the wrong way.  I am not necessarily a shy person, but with certain things I’m painfully shy — asking strangers for directions – yeah, that’s tricky for me.  Everyone was being super helpful, but they were also confused, too.   The directions listed the wrong name for the tram stop, which thanks to google maps and some help from tram riders, we learned was Baili.  Next, the website said, “once you get off at the stop, the Management Center is a short walk away.” No map, no indication of the direction.  Nothing to help.  Again, luckily I had a google maps printout with me as well, but that was not exactly correct.  One woman said, “I worked at that stop for 20 years, and I have never heard of that place.”    There was a lot of passing around of my documents, a lot of discussion and a lot of wishes for good luck.  We had a while to go, so we chatted about books and how much she loves Faulkner.  So friendly.  Everyone was so kind, and I was so grateful.

Once I exited, I clung to my soggy paper and finally found my way.  After a hard start, the day was lovely.  My teacher was extremely warm, positive and helpful– an IB English A teacher in London.  We had people in our class from all over the world: Russia, Netherlands, Turkey, Jordan, Poland, Italy, Switzerland, Slovakia . . .and all teaching in different languages.  Very cool!

The information was extremely helpful for my coursework.  We shared ideas, and it was all information my students and I desperately needed, so I soaked it up like a sponge and the days flew by.  They provided us with coffee breaks after 90 minute sessions.  Yummy treats, and then an absolutely delicious lunch buffet.  The first day, there were cheese croquettes as an option!  My favorite!  And two different types.  I just love how these are done in Belgium, fried perfectly crisp with a sumptuous filling.  I need to write poetry about these cheese croquettes to do them justice.  They also had a huge salad spread with smoked salmon, meats, tasty raisin and cranberry bread . . . I couldn’t stop eating, and even went for a second helping of croquettes.  Even little glass bottles of coke.  And one of the dessert options at the buffet was creme brulee.  At a buffet!

At the end of a long yet productive day of coursework, I grabbed a fresh-made warm waffle with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and ice cream, then headed straight for a train to Ghent, where I’d meet up with Jasper, one of my Belgian friends I met in Bruges in the summer of 2001 — all those years ago.  Both Jasper and Dave have become really good friends, and due to both my love for Europe and Belgium, I get to see them a lot.

Jasper met me at the station, and we walked around the very quiet streets of Ghent.  It was Friday night — and unlike most university towns in America, the college kids go home.  Virtually all of them.  Ghent is a major university where most of the Flemish speaking college aged kids go to school.  Both Jasper and Dave went there, and both of them now have their own apartments in the city like many young adults stay. Jasper walked me through a street that was like a mini Greenwich Village, if I wanted to stretch a bit. . .er, a lot.  He kept calling Ghent the “New York of Flanders”

“Take a photo,” he said, “and post it as the New York of Flanders.  And everyone will wonder — ooh, what is that city.”  I laughed and turned on the sarcasm.  Then he said, “No really, look at that tall building they are constructing.”  He pointed to a solitary communist-style architecture apartment building that was clearly an eyesore on the gorgeous medieval landscape.  “That makes it like New York, and this is my neighborhood.  So I kind of live in New York.  I’m a New Yorker.”

“So move to New York, ” I said.

“No, I can’t.  My heart is here.”

And I hear that from so many Belgians.  They often love to talk about and visit New York.  They have a fondness for America, American things, and American people.  (Do they like me for me or my country, hmmm?)  Yet they wouldn’t want to leave their country.  I can’t blame them.  It’s a good , peaceful life.  People are provided for.  Overall, it’s calm.  It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people and delicious food and beer.  Yeah, I get it.

I had to get some fries.  Though they try, they just can’t get them right in the “Belgian Fry Shops” of NYC.  This night, I tried the Mammoetsauce (mayonnaise, tomato, onion,glucose, garlic, soy) because I remember loving it out late in Ghent in November.  To help me choose, the girl put four different sauces in a dish for me to dip a fry in to taste. Cool!  I loved them all, but chose the Mammoet for this night.

Jasper had a water.

I refused to feel guilty devouring the fries as he counted calories and just ate his traditional one fry in sauce.  I was in Belgium and I was determined to eat my way through it.  As usual.

Afterwards, we went to a bar in a student neighborhood, where on a Friday night, there were only four other people, all around age 18.  We had Leffe Blondes, then moved on to another bar for a cocktail.  I had a mojito and Jasper had a Bloody Mary, mostly for the political reference.  (He’s a history teacher).  He kept making a face while drinking it, saying “I hate tomatoes, I should have known I wouldn’t have liked this.”

Um . . .yeah.

We had some good laughs, sharing memories over the years, and then I had to dash home to catch my train.  Bummer.  I’m usually here on holiday, where I can crash if I miss the train — no big deal.  But my class was super important and super expensive for my school, so I wanted to make sure I got the most out of it.

I arrived back at Brussels Central and decided to walk to my hotel that night, through the Grand Place, past students, locals and tourists out for Friday night fun, and I got to my hotel around 1 am  . . .again, and passed out exhausted.  7am rise the next day.

Another pleasant hotel breakfast, another amazing and informative day of class along with fabulous lunch (Turkey Cordon Blu), then I dashed to the train for a ride to BRUGES!  I was so excited both Jasper and Dave agreed to meet me in Bruges this night so I could see it.  🙂  Jasper hopped on the train in Ghent, and Dave was already home in Bruges for the weekend, so he would drive over later.

As Jasper and I walked around Bruges, he was oohing and ahhing at everything: the quaint winding Medieval streets, the peace, the architecture.  “I’m starting to appreciate my city like a tourist,” he said.  “I see why you always want to stay here.  I can really see it now.  It’s special.”

We walked through the market square, passed the Belfry, then stopped in a fry shop where I indulged in bitterballen —  fried balls filled with something delicious.  Then I had a Kaas Kroqet.  mmm.  After, we had beers in a bar I visited several times before, including NYE 2010.  When Dave arrived, we went to a bar on the T-Zand, the other big market in Bruges, with the fountain.  I had a Brugse Zot (Bruges Fool) and a Kriek, followed by profiteroles.  mmmm.  Dave was distracted because he had a crazy girl stalking him and getting him and his friend in trouble with their girlfriends, so he was outside on the phone for much of it.  But we understood. Then all too quickly, it was time to catch the train home.  Jasper and I said farewell to Dave, boarded the train, and he departed in Ghent.  I wanted to snooze, but Jasper said, “That’s not social!” So I stayed up to spend time with him before my next visit.

Back in Brussels late again, and again, I arrived at my hotel around 1am.  Really exhausted now, but it’s all worth it.

The following morning, I rose early, ate breakfast, checked out and left my luggage, and darted to class for the last time.  It was a super helpful conclusion.  We said our farewells and had lunch at 12:30.  I sat with my teacher and a woman who is an admin in Lebanon.  I’m going to try to arrange a visit.

After, I strolled around a Brussels park a bit, at the stop called Parc on Tram Line 1 and 5.  Then I got my luggage and headed for the airport an hour early.  I wanted more fried food, but didn’t have the opportunity there.  I did have the opportunity to purchase some Neuhaus cocoa powder for hot chocolate. mmm.  To kill time, I had a nice Leffe Brown beer in the terminal and headed on a long journey home, transferring in Rome.  I arrived in Genoa before 11:30, but by the time I waited for the air bus, switched to the local bus, and walked home, it was almost 1am . . .yet again.

The next day at work, after going, going, going — I was super exhausted.  But I was also glowing because it was an awesome, productive and fun trip filled with much joy and a lot of food.  I don’t know how this is possible, but I swear my pants already don’t fit.  Worth it.

**Please note, there seems to be an issue with inserting a slideshow in WordPress.  The button is no longer there.  Any ideas?  I inserted a gallery this time instead.