A Day in Antwerp

After a miserable day trapped in an Antwerp hotel room, I determined to head out on my own even if I accomplished nothing more than wandering around looking like a complete idiot.

So I wandered around Antwerp looking like a complete idiot.

In the past I have been really lucky when travelling to foreign places with Kevin.  He generally has to work for at least part of the trip.  (Which is why we got to go in the first place.)  So, in that respect, I am used to sightseeing alone.  I enjoy my own company.  It isn’t a big deal.  But our previous destinations have all been big tourist destinations.  So I am accustomed to heading to the concierge desk, picking up a brochure and booking a tour to wherever.  The tours always speak English and basically shepherd you around like a three year old.  I love it muchly.

But Antwerp is not the tourist mecca of Belgium,  That would be Brussels and we were miles from there.  So no tours.  No concierge.  No room service.  I know I sound like a spoiled brat but…it is what it is.

So I had a few places that I wanted to see. A couple of museums.  A cathedral.  (Did you know that I would rather see a cathedral than eat when I’m hungry?  Well, it’s true.)   I also had a map.  Now for a normal person this should have worked fine.  But, for me, it could have been an international incident.  I am, without a doubt, the most directionally challenged person you know.  It’s kinda legendary.  And that is in Tennessee.  Where all the signs are in a language I can understand and with cell phones and GPS. 

My first stop was at the Ruben’s House.  I will post a slideshow later.  I know you are waiting with bated breath.  Be patient.  I managed to get cash from a weird ATM, buy a ticket and make my way through the tour without incident.  Things were looking up. 

At this point I only had one problem.  I had overslept breakfast service at the hotel and while I wasn’t hungry, I really, really needed a cup of coffee.  Really.  As I wandered the streeps of Antwerp beating myself up for not bringing a pair of earmuffs, I hopefully scanned the shops lining the street for a coffeeshop.  In a bitter ironic twist, I didn’t see one friggin Starbucks in the whole city.  I did, however, see a shop called illy.  This appeared to be a coffee shop.  I walked in and was enveloped in warmth and coffee smells.  I assume they sell something there but there is no menu, no register, nothing to indicate that you haven’t just accidently wandered into someone’s sparsely decorated all white home.  In America, someone would have greeted me with a “Can I get you something, hon?”  In Antwerp, I was met with the bored stares and silence of two guys who may or may not have been on Sprockets in the early 1990’s.  I left without coffee.

I continued on my journey and saw just one place more fantastic than the other.  I think European people are just far too accustomed to being surrounded by beautiful architecture.  It’s everywhere.  At one point I stood in the middle of a throng of commuters both pedestrian and bicyclers trying to get a picture of this magnificent building.  I’m sure those Belgians were curious as to why a chubby American was holding up traffic to photograph a bank.  By the way, I think it says a lot about us as a society when your banks are nicer than any other buildings.  But that’s a rant for another day.

While I was enjoying my walk, I was beginning to get concerned.  No cathedral in sight.  I was generally in the area it should have been (I hoped?)  and how hard can it be to find a cathedral?  I turned a corner and stopped dead in my tracks.  High above the buildings in fron of me, I could see it The Cathedral of Our Lady.  I almost started to cry before I even saw it and then the bells started to ring.  I am old enough to recognize and enjoy a good life moment when it happens.  I thoroughly savored this one.
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More Cathedral talk in tomorrow’s Bible Tuesday.
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Amsterdam

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I met Kevin halfway through one of his very long business trips in Amsterdam. I flew into a very, very large airport. I’m a way inexperienced traveler and I wasn’t looking forward to navigating that monster alone. Luckily, Kevin got up ‘crack of dawn’ early and met me at the gate.

 After he poured a cup of coffee into me, my first coherent statement was “How long have I been on that plane? It was Thanksgiving when I left home and now all I see are Christmas decorations.” Kevin looked at me strangely and said “They don’t actually celebrate Thanksgiving here, Rachel.” And sure, in hindsight, it’s obvious that Europe would not celebrate the first harvest feast of American Indians and Pilgrims but I can’t see how it’s possible to make it through the year without having cornbread dressing to look forward to.

So clearly, I am a kinda idiot tourist. I don’t even try to act otherwise. But at one point, we were standing in the middle of Amsterdam in a very busy area full of people when another tourist singles me out and asks “Do you know where the red light district is?” Look. If you stop me in the grocery store and ask me where the Windex is, I can probably hook you up but that’s about the extent of my directional capabilities. Andthere is no way that tourist could not have known that about me but…of all the freaks standing in that square, I feel like a chubby southern housewife was about the least likely person to be able to help with her question.

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D’oh

Have you ever done something really, really stupid?  You know…like so stupid that as soon as you realize what you have done, you pray desperately for the ability to travel back in time.

Yeah well that was me after deciding to drive through our yard one dark night.  Why oh why would anyone do such a thing?!?!

The morning light only made the situation worse.  After trying to reinjure his hernia, my husband only managed to get his own truck stuck.  So now we had two vehicles mired in our backyard.  Our pride was not wounded.  It was nonexistent.

Luckily we have a really nice neighbor who heard of my stupidity and took pity on us.  In less than 30 minutes, he had rectified our dilemna.  Thank God for Republicans with four-wheel drives.

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Happy Anniversary Kevin!

Three years!!!

Last year I wrote this for you.

This year I’m gonna let Aretha do the work.

Looking out on the morning rain

I used to feel so uninspired

And when I knew I had to face another day

Lord, it made me feel so tired

Before the day I met you, life was so unkind

But your the key to peace my mind

Cause you make me feel, you make me feel, you make me feel like

A natural woman

When my soul was in the lost-and-found

You came along to claim it

I didn’t know just what was wrong with me

Till your kiss helped me name it

Now I’m no longer doubtful of what I’m living for

Cause if I make you happy I don’t need to do more

Cause you make me feel, you make me feel, you make me feel like

A natural woman

Oh, baby, what you’ve done to me

You make me feel so good inside

And I just want to be close to you

You make me feel so alive

Cause you make me feel, you make me feel, you make me feel like

A natural woman

Happy Anniversary hot stuff. Never forget that death is the your only way out 🙂

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Margaritaville

While on our cruise, Kevin and I booked an excursion to tour the Mayan ruins at Tulum. This involved a ferry boat ride from the cruise ship (anchored in the middle of the friggin ocean) to the beach at Tulum. Our excursion days earlier to Grand Cayman had consisted of a five minute trip on very calm waters. This trip was 45 minutes on ocean that looked like something out of The Perfect Storm. Let me tell ya, I was looking for the Professor or Mary Ann by the time we docked. Once on land, we boarded a tour bus for yet another 45 minute ride to Tulum.

We arrived at the site. Our tour guide encouraged us to visit the restaurant adjacent to the ruins after the tour. We thoroughly enjoyed touring the ruins. The buildings were magnificent but neither Kevin or I could stop looking at the beautiful beaches. White sand. Turquoise water. If you saw a picture of it in a magazine, you would swear it was photoshopped.

We completed the tour and found ourselves hot, tired, hungry and thirsty. How could we know how dangerous this combination would be? We grabbed a table at the restaurant. We ordered their famous tacos and a margarita. We were in Mexico. How could we not have a taco and a margarita? Our order arrived. Tacos served on a paper plate and Margaritas in a red plastic Solo cup. The food was ridiculously good and the drink was even better. We finished the meal and found we had a while before it would be time to return to the bus. We ordered a second drink. The waiter looked at us like we were nuts. We insisted. He served.

A little background may be helpful here. Kevin and I are not big drinkers. We share a bottle of wine from time to time. We have sangria or margaritas at Cinco de Mayo maybe once every six months. I knew that two drinks would get both of us a little bit tipsy but we had a 45 minute bus ride ahead of us. We’d sleep it off. It would be fine. We drank the 2nd margarita. The details I am about to share were gleaned from other members of our tour group. My memory of the whole shebang is pretty unreliable after #2 margarita.

First we bought souvenirs. International commerce should never be attempted while drunk. Learn from our mistakes people. We ended up with two luchador masks and a stone pipe in the shape of a foot. Neither of us smokes which makes that purchase a bit odd. Also, we have no idea what any of this stuff actually cost us.

Next we boarded the bus. At this point I am convinced that we are holding it together. I don’t think anybody is aware of our drunken state. And, people, we were beyond drunk here. Never have I been so inebriated. While on the bus, we did not sleep. We did, however, spend the entire ride talking loudly about Scientology. Let me just tell ya, if Tom Cruise had been on that bus, Kevin and I would have got our butts kicked. I am told that the rest of the tour group enjoyed it though.

We got off the bus and somehow made it to the ferry. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever ridden a small boat on a big choppy ocean while drunker than Cootie Brown? I don’t recommend it. We managed to not throw up which I felt was a big victory. At one point I overheard one of our group say something like “plus we have to deal with these two drunks!” Horror and shame washed over me. She was talking about us! I wanted to defend myself. I’m a good Christian with a low tolerance for alcohol! I was totally conned by that Mexican waiter! How could we have known that authentic Mexican margaritas are potent enough to inebriate Charlie Sheen?!?

We made it safely off the ferry and some kind of way made it back onto the cruise ship. It was very early afternoon at this point. We collapsed into our cabin and then this happened.

The details after that are a bit sketchy. what I can tell you is that we woke up around 7PM with massive headaches and regret. We ate large quantities of salty french fries and enjoyed the rest of our cruise.

**Note: The middle two pictures of Kevin were taken by one of his friends while we were on the bus. Notice the guy in the red behind him. See how he is laughing at us? We didn’t see these pics until the friend posted them on Facebook. Remember the good ole days when you could make an ass out of yourself and just forget it? Facebook has ruined that forever. I bet somebody has video of this incident. Should I ever run for public office, you can expect that bad boy to surface

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