Thursday, October 01, 2015

Just Butter Me Up and Leave me in Bruges

We love Bruges. Originally our love was based on the city itself- gorgeous and romantical, with a strong focus on chocolate. Now, Bruges tops our list because some of our favourite people of all time live there: Kevin and Vicky.

We met Kevin and Vicky in 2011 in New Zealand and last had the pleasure of hanging out with them in NYC Halloween 2014. They flew across an ocean, we drove across a state, and we spent a super-fun long weekend which concluded with the West Village Halloween parade and, more importantly, Kevin and Vicky getting engaged!

This time we were on their turf and super excited to see their new house and hear all about their wedding plans! We had picked the absolute worst day to travel, there being a strike and all, and we arrived hours late. It was almost midnight and our friends had been waiting at the train station for us for, likely, quite some time. We were tired and hungry and, after sixteen hours of travel- really sick of being on the train. But then we saw Kevin and Vicky standing on the platform waiting for us and all that negativity melted away. It is moments like this that I wish I could freeze in time and replay on a long, cold winters day when nothing seems to be going my way.

There were many fun things to accomplish in our time in Bruges. Being in Belgium, we figured we
might as well start with some beer. When in Rome.. Are you sensing a theme on this trip? Kevin is another beer connoisseur, and boy does he know his Belgiums. (That's what the cool kids call beers from Belgium.)We went to a mind-blowing beer store that housed (no exaggeration) hundreds and hundreds of beers to choose from.The big names, like Leffe and Hoegaarden could be bought in a case but all the others were singles. Perfectly convenient for tasting! Vicky, who is a very good cook, ensured our beer was accompanied by delicious fare. She even made homemade mayonnaise for our compulsory (and long awaited) serving of Belgium fries. Of all the fun things we did in Belgium, just hanging out, catching up and judging beers together was my favourite event.

And then there was the hockey. Kevin loves ice hockey. Based on citizenship alone, J was a pro in Kevin's eyes. So when Kevin asked J if he would step in and play in an International Tournament for Kevin's team- the Ghent Ghosts, J was nervous. He hadn't actually played hockey in years. And the last time he did he had caught an edge.. and broke his collar bone. The stakes were high. And the borrowed skates were too big. By the time J finally got on the ice, wearing all borrowed gear, I barely recognized him. And not just because the name on the back of his jersey was "De Roo."  I was super nervous too. It sounds stupid to say but you could feel the anticipation thick in the arena air.  Plus, I was pretty sure the only thing that J wore that he actually owned was his underwear.

The puck hit the ice and was swiped away by the opposing team. So suspenseful! Kevin, Vicky and I watched intensely. And then it all happened so fast I could barely believe my eyes. I held my breath. J was on a breakaway down the ice. There was a collective gasp, and seconds later the puck was buried in the top left corner of the net.  He shoots- he scores! We erupted. It might as well have been the last seconds of a tied game in the Stanley Cup Finale. Ghent Ghost fans were going crazy. 'Who's that DE ROO guy?" a standerby asked, obviously impressed. 'Oh that's just our Canadian friend who stopped in for the game,' Kevin responded proudly. Nailed it! It was a moment, the air electric, the whole-hearted cheering - that would bring a huge smile to our faces for months to come.

Because at least a couple of us deserved it, we went to a food festival in a nearby town. A huge hall filled with food trucks and a massive wood bar serving up a good variety of Belgium beer on tap. The atmosphere was amazing and the food was delicious. We tried everything from sushi, curry chicken wings and crepes to a massive hotdog sprinkled with popcorn and homemade nachos. Yum!

Every time we find ourselves in Bruges we find another reason to love it. Fries, beer and great friends are enough reasons alone to start planning our next trip before we even leave this one!
Stay tuned: More on our time in Belgium to come!


Penelope Pomes said...

Congratulations Jon. Maybe you should play more often. The beer looks good.. Not so sure about the hot dog???

Cathy Mooney said...

Finally, all those years of freezing in Ontario arenas has come to fruition! Jonathan, you've finally made the big time! Kristen, love your narratives. Makes us feel like we're there with you