Antwerp, Belgium

Hard to believe that sixteen years ago, Nils and I lived in Antwerp, Belgium for a bit before moving to Provence, France then he onto Barcelona and I back to Boston for a period.  Then 9/11 happened and he moved to the US.

Here we are on New Years Eve at The Irish Time Bar.

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We lived in a flat on the top two floors of the house on the left – Oude Koornmarkt  & Pelgrimstraat or a few months.

This was our view daily!

His father lived in Antwerp in  2010, so we are pretty familiar with it so when thinking of places to visit today, it was an easy drive and just under one hour.

The city centre is based around the Groenplaats and the Grotemarkt and the Cathedral, which is golden in the sunlight and is so beautiful.

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While it’s been 6 years since we were there, a few things changed but a lot is still the same.  As normal, I love the architecture but I always found Belgium a bit dirty.

Bodrum my favorite Turkish restaurant on De Pret Straat is now a butcher – a very nice one too!  Turns out the Bodrum Palace which we passed got great reviews – perhaps they moved!  Grr.would have rather ate at Bodrum but nonetheless got our mixed grill/shaorma fix while here. Sebaba was closed and a lot of new building a but Pelican Bar, StadsCafe, International Magazine Store, and other places the same.
We ate Shoarma at De’oude Stad.. Good but not as good as Bodrum!

The Christmas Market was in full force with two skating rinks and tons of stalls and due to current world events loads of added security present yet never felt 100% safe.  Clearly either I have watched too many TV shows like Homeland and 24 or I was a detective in my previous life!

The kids rode the slides three times each!

Now that we have our fill of Antwerp, we can visit in 10 years or so…..No need to rush back.  I would never want to raise my kids there or do I have the desire to ever live there again.  I am sure it’s great for some families, just not us – we’re happy over the border in the Netherlands.

Christmas Market: Aachen, Germany

Today we drove over to Aachen, Germany, to visit the Christmast Market (Kerstmarkt).  It is only about an hour from where we are staying in the Netherlands for our Christmas holidays.  It was a lovely atmosphere even with the added security of the armed officers whose cars blocked the entrance streets due to the Berlin Christmas terrorist event yesterday!  Thankfully once in, you don’t feel the added security  – yet I’m sure they were there.  Unlike in Antwerp, Belgium where you just feel totally creepy  the entire time – well, at least I did.

The kids enjoyed hot chocolate in little boots which they were able to take home from the Hexenhof (Witch farm). As all the 2016 cups were sold out so they requested 2017 instead of 2015.   ( Update – I ended up giving them away to the charity shop but people collect them over the years.  Imagine – two from every year – CLUTTER! 🙂

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Curry worst – yucky!

We shared pomme fritte – yummy first the first few then way too much.

We stopped in a cute bar, Domkeller for a pint!  From outside it was really cute and had Erdinger Weiss bier on tap!  A score for me – especially this time of year. 

Maebh had a ride on the carousel but chose to ride on the bike!



As with all markets there are loads of cute things to buy, yet nothing you really need.

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The streets were all lit up and very cute.  I love walking around taking photos of the buildings and things.

Not sure if we will visit any other Christmas Markets – perhaps today in Den Haag or Den Bosch. We will definitely go ice skating!

We popped by Eindhoven for a few minutes and had a lompia.

Maybe one day we’ll live in NL and could enjoy these Christmas markets more but for now, they are super special for us as we live in Ireland and it’s a real treat to be able to be in Germany and visit them.

 

Belfast Continental Christmas Market

We visited the newly created, Christmas Market @ St. Stephen’s Green in the city centre of Dublin.  It was nice, but wasn’t the best market I’ve ever been to – not that I’ve been to tons.   I had been thinking about the Galway one. A German mother from the school, told me about it and said it’s great and most similar to an authentic one she is used to back home.

After being in nightmare traffic for a while and finally getting into a garage, we were off.  (The garage on the way back was horrible too – 40 minutes in a queue zig zagging down the ramps of the garage to get out….. though it could have been worse. [I was once in a 5 hour traffic jam on the highway trying to get home to say goodbye to Nils who was going to Europe. It was due to a major ice storm and everyone in Boston had the idea to leave work at 1 pm … oh and I was pregnant so i couldn’t go.]

The market was great – nice atmosphere, set with the beautiful City Hall in the background (tours are available M-F and you learn a lot of the city’s history, etc)  When we arrived it was like 2 pm, so the lights were on but only got prettier as the sky became darker.   I don’t have tripod so taking nice light photos is hard for me, plus it was packed so I can’t just focus on the photo as I needed to focus on the kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I watched a video on the market and they said that some vendors come in from their country and spend the entire month in Belfast and it was clear that was the case.  Some great food vendors including (but not all) an Asian noodles, Moroccan, a couple French, German sausage & beer tents and a huge section of Dutch food …. the poffetje line was very long, so the kids settled for a chocolate sprinkled waffle.  I picked up some schenkstroop as I ran out and as Nils always travels without checked luggage, getting some from Holland has been a problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a carousel which the kids had a ride on – Maebh chose a horse, but Soren opted for the teacup which he was joined by a boy named Nick.  They were spinning like crazy & loved it.

 

 

Oh and after about 1 hour there, they made a “public service announcement” warning everyone that it has come to their attention at a group of pick-pocketers have arrived in the market, so until security has them, they’ll be implementing a one-way in and out system …..  there were some shady characters around which I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the ones.  White males in their late 30’s, early 40’s…. very short hair, they always wearing track suits and sneakers – they totally fit the methadone look which I can point out a mile away!!

Overall it was a great market and we’ll surely make it an annual tradition.  The city itself seems great too…. we’ll come check about the Titanic Quarter, W5, Belfast Zoo, Ulster Museum and so much more.  It will be a great place to explore all it offers, plus there are some great National Trust properties in NI which I’d like to visit.

 

Dublin Christmas Market – St. Stephen’s Green

Today after Soren played soccer, we took a long drive into the Wicklow Mountains….



then stopped over to see Dublin’s first Christmas Market at St. Stephen’s Green.  There were some crafts, some yummy food & a whole lot of burgers and mulled wine. Then a stoll down Grafton Street to check out the lights… Christmas season full on now. [All photos were taken from my camera – not my phone so they are a bit off in color, etc]

“Slán abhaile” is an Irish phrase used to bid goodbye to someone who is travelling home. A literal translation is ‘Safe Home’ 


There is supposed to be an amazing Christmas Market in Belfast which is about a 2 hour drive from us – perhaps I can convince N to take us there – it looks amazing.

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/video-news/video-belfast-christmas-market-a-tour-uncovers-festive-and-food-delights-30758094.html