April 6, 2010

Abdij van Park - Abbey of the Park

The Gyllstraves just returned from an amazing vacation and wedding from the US Virgin Islands - and lucky for us the weather has improved here in Belgium, by about 10 degrees F.  We need to keep leaving, in order for the weather to keep improving.  I continue to sneak weather updates from Chapel Hill, and I could hardly believe that the NC Piedmont will have temps as high as 90 today. Wow. Leuven is groovin at 60 today. 

We brought back a lot of useful things with us from the states: a large boiling pot for wort, an entire medicine cabinet worth of drugs, incontinent pads (that was fun to buy) for Duds (they make exceptional litter box mats for the world's messiest litter box cat), cookbooks! Of course, I looked off the important things as tax day arrives. This is the first year I'm/we're filing jointly. Karl and I are a nice mix of new vs old. His, of course, are filed and stored online - and while I filed online last year, I have a paper copy that is back home thousands of miles away. Useless!?

Here's whats new: we've decided to play an ultimate tournament in Gent. This tourney is the Belgian Outdoor Ultimate Championships (BUOC). Leuven sends 1 team - which has 3 levels (?): Zeppelins, Propellors, and JetSet.  JetSet is the main competitive team, but the other 2 teams provide good play time for almost every level. Yesterday we went to the Zeppelins practice and it was held on a field that was located in a freaking old historic abbey in Heverlee. It was amazing - unreal. You bike in to what looks like a gorgeous old church and then there are cobblestone roads and gorgeous archways.  There is a field for growing vegetables, an old graveyard site, running trails, 2 large lakes, and beautiful views all around. I stumbled upon another huge community garden (hallelujah!?). It went on and on. I'm going to go have to go back and take some pics and then share them on here. Just unreal, that is what keeps things interesting, you just get into your routine and then you stumble on something that is like out of a travel guide or like a Wikipedia article on the Low-Country Middle Ages. If you ever get the chance to live somewhere totally new and different - do it in a heartbeat.  This practice was mostly run in Flemish and I think hearing a language in a context to which you can understand really makes a difference. 

Karl dragged me out for a LONG bike ride on Saturday. There is a canal with paved bike lanes on both sides that goes out of Leuven to Mechelen. We made it 3/4 of the way there. Ha! It rained on us, this is mostly hilarious because it rains 3/4 of the time here. Neither one of us had thought to bring rain gear.  Our bikes are old and sit upright, this is not the most comfortable position to be riding in, but the views and the scenery were  just fantastic. Lots of farms and wildlife along the way, even the rain hitting the canal was quite nice. Belgium is really big sky country. You can't help but see a different sky everyday. The clouds create gorgeous colors, you can't help but be in awe.

(these photos were taken on a bike ride to Brussels in late Feb)

I started reading Stan Hieronymus's Brew Like a Monk again, and being here really makes the book useful as a visitor guide. These are the Belgian Trappist Monasteries, which also produce Trappist beers: Achel, Chimay, Orval, Roquefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren.  Most trappist beers are available everywhere, except for Westvleteren.  We've visited Westvleteren, with the next visits to be Chimay, followed by Achel or Westmalle.   Most of these Abbeys are located in some beautiful areas. Chimay is close to the Ardennes.  One of my favorite beers so far is Orval.  Simply a magnificent and lovely beer. 

I've applied for a fellowship back in the states (this is a ridiculous thing to share on here of all places). Mostly it's a practice in applying and staying active in my field. I don't think they would entertain hiring me on from Belgium, but I think I could be a competitive candidate, and that feels nice.  Still trying to wrap my head around the EU public health and nutrition organizations - I'll get there. 


  1. wow, those locations are crazy beautiful. can't wait to visit!

  2. I cannot wait for you to visit either =)