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Blessed in Belgium

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10 Pages: This one is a may want to copy and paste this into a small document and print it out on scrap paper in draft mode for some bedside or bathroom reading. It's more like a chapter of a book than an update ;)

Exciting Photos:
Just click the link below. Big thanks to Panasonic for the cameras:

My first day of cycling in Belgium was with my Dutch friend Karen who I met in Swaziland in Africa. She was very excited to do the entire 120km ride from Maastricht, Holland to Brussels, Belgium so I knew we would need to get up pretty early from our host Ingeborg’s place to allow us to pull it off and still get some filming in. But when we were finally ready to start packing the bike up after breakfast we realized that I had no tripod or magic arm—two critical filming props I use almost daily when out documenting the expedition. Somehow we must have left them outside the apartment when trying to squeeze all my gear into Ingeborg’s small studio apartment. It was a perfect day for filming with plenty of sunshine so at first I was pretty bummed out. We went for a full search of the neighborhood, made flyers and even went to the police station. But there was no sign of these two pieces of kit.

Rather than get too bummed out I sort of saw it as a sign to take the day off filming and just enjoy the presence and experience fully every moment with a very good friend sharing a long tandem cycling experience. By the time our search was over and we came back from the police station it was almost 11AM—a far later departure than we had planned. But Karen was so fired up to hammer the pedals and from the first pedal strokes I knew she was going to be a strong force on the bike.

Like most Dutch people, Karen rides her bike regularly and has her entire life. She is also quite an athlete with strong legs, lungs and a competitive spirit (I experienced this playing squash with her when she barely beat me). We could not have asked for better cycling conditions that day with crystal clear blue skies, perfectly mild temperatures and a nice tail wind to keep our average speed in the 20’s. We had a pristine bike lane all the way out of Holland and when we hit Belgium it was, well, not bad but certainly not Holland.

From 11:30AM to 8PM we were partners out on the roads of Belgium. We had endless talks that made the kilometers seem like meters and although it was a long day in the saddle for us both it was a truly delightful. Karen disobeyed the “Kiss and Ride” sign that cracked us both up, we initiated a Belgian boy Peace Pedaler, had a run-in with a friendly police officer who let us slide with a smile after going through a red light, got an escort through Leuven, met with optical illusions and mild hallucinations outside Brussels, followed up by another escort by two friendly old-timer road cyclists into Brussels. It was a day from heaven.

But when we finally arrived into Brussels we were both pretty darn exhausted and had no idea how difficult this city was going to be to navigate. This city is downright stunning, but absolutely the worst city I’ve ever cycled in all of Europe. The roads are narrow and often missing signs, there are almost no cycling lanes, traffic is heavy and aggressive and the city has a chaotic layout with a city plan that was clearly done by a lunatic. However, after asking half dozen people for directions we finally managed to find our way to the notorious Rue de President where our host for the weekend Freek (pronounced Frek like Freckle) had food prepared, a small party planned and was a sight for sore eyes and legs when we finally rolled in.

Karen and I were so pumped full of endorphins when we arrived our beady eyes and huge smiles made us look like we just snorted several lines of cocaine. After a few warm showers we made our way out to a welcome party like no other with Freek, his lovely girlfriend Fiona, several new friends and even special guests that included my friend Therese who I met in Mali and the donor of my apartment and Karen’s good friend and neighbor Sanne from Utrecht.

It was all about good food, great people, lovely wines, big smiles, buzzing conversation and a positive energy dripped out of Freek’s apartment into the street. An unforgettable day of cycling and what a kickoff to a great Friday evening in Brussels! After a spectacular dinner and plenty of drinks the crew hit the town for a long evening of dancing, laughing, chatting, more dancing and more celebrating. Everyone was having such a great time and before we knew it we were back at Freek’s place at 5AM wondering how the hell we had enough energy to ride 120km and still dance until 5AM! But we did it, and boy was it a blast!

Freek and Fiona had brunch ready at about noon to fuel us up for a glorious first day for me in Brussels, but the last day in the presence of my favorite Dutch Princess Karen. The sun was shining bright, the weather warm and pleasant, and we proceeded to hit the town to celebrate all the blessings we clearly had. We walked through the charming streets around Freek’s neighborhood including an “African Zone” where literally we felt like we were back in Africa again with hair salons, simple card table pubs with African guys drinking 750ml bottles of lager beer, music shops selling cassette tapes of African music and the works.

From there it was off to explore the best of Brussels on this sunny day including the famous mussels in wine sauce, Belgium’s national dish. We found THE PLACE to eat mussels outside, cooked by a genius of a chef with a secret white wine and garlic sauce that makes you want to literally lick the plate. They were served with red and green peppers, onions and wow—you have to go to this place if you go to Brussels. Karen hates seafood and even gave one a try and is now a convert. She ate three of them!

After the best mussels on earth washed down by the best beer on earth, it was time to dive into the chocolate. We meandered along the charming streets of Brussels with architecture that literally blows your mind until we found a few chocolate shops to begin our next indulgence. Yes, Belgian chocolates are as good as they say they are, especially when consumed with great people.

My favorite part of my day in Brussels was when Freek made me close my eyes as he guided me into the central market square of Brussels. At the same time there was a live concert going on so the music got louder and louder until he invited me to open my eyes and see the most beautiful market square I’ve ever seen in my life. The sun was setting and casting the perfect light on all the historic buildings--live music, great people, positive vibes…a good day to be alive indeed!

My last moments with my Dutch Princess before she had to head home were shared with Sanne, my virtual host of my apartment back in Utrecht. We spent the last moments together in the setting sun, sipping Belgium’s famous beers and, as if it could not get any better, Karen and Sanne came back with the most yummy Belgian Waffles ever. I never imagined they would taste so good. A waffle is a waffle, right? No. They are amazing and we sat there eating chocolate, waffles, fine beer while cracking jokes, laughing, chatting away and sucking the last moments with a very special friend and the first moments with my new friends Freek, Fiona and Sanne. Life was good.

The time did finally come where Karen had to make her way to the train. Neither of us are good at goodbyes so it was just a quick hug goodbye. But I’ll never forget all the nice things Karen did for me to make my stay in Holland so special, even the times that dripped over from Holland into Belgium. I’m happy to say we are still in touch and I’m hoping you get a chance to meet her as she’s spectacular woman!

After Karen left the loss of her company was offset by the fact that I was still in the company of Freek, Fiona and Sanne. Fiona and Freek had to be up early the next morning to make a trip to Holland so Sanne and I carried on socializing until about midnight. Sanne also hit the sheets early so I decided to head out to sample some of Brussels nightlife on a solo mission. I met a cool cab driver named Booba who took me to a hip hop club where I shook my bootie with all sorts of characters until about 3:30AM. Gotta love the nightlife in Europe!

The next day I spent mostly relaxing, recovering both physically and emotionally, and just strolled around the town soaking up the last day of the sunshine. The weather report was pretty grim for the upcoming week so everyone was out to get their last taste of summer in Brussels. Freek and Fiona were gone for the day so had Freek’s sweet apartment to myself to start organizing my gear, charging batteries and planning a few days of administration before pedaling off on my adventures in Belgium.

I have to say a few words about this chap Freek. Freek is a good friend my bro Hugo who I connected with in such a positive way, surfed with and stayed with on two occasions in Benin, West Africa. Hugo and I are indeed kindred spirits and he felt inspired to connect Freek and me. From the first time I met Freek I knew why Hugo introduced us. He’s a warm, friendly, fun, adventurous, generous and open guy who is such a pleasure to be with. We got along like brothers from the get go and he literally gave me full reign of his pimp daddy apartment the entire time I was there and stayed with Fiona every night so I could have my space.

Monday was a busy day in Brussels and the nasty weather was making its way in with the first drops of rain starting in the early afternoon. I had a long list of tasks to tackle including finding replacement filming props, getting my article in the newspaper, fixing some equipment and more. But just as I finished my last task I got a call from my Belgian Waffle buddy Philippe who made his way to Brussels from his home town of Wevelgem near Kortrijk. Philippe and I first met in China in 2002 where he was a guest rider on my bike for about 5 days. It had been over six years since we had seen each other so we decided to meet for coffee and make a plan to adventure together in Belgium.

I met up with Philippe and his girlfriend Katrein and it was just like old times. Philippe has such a great sense of humor and is so easy to be around. I suggested a plan of adventure: I meet him at his pad in Wevelgem the next day, we eat dinner and I crash there, and we pedal off on a 3-day expedition through Belgium to Luxembourg, enjoy a night out there and he comes back to Belgium on Saturday.

It just so happens that Philippe has over one year off work though a unique national employee training program that pays him to be off work! It is the same program that afforded him the chance to be in China with us in 2002 and since then he was working. But now, six years later, the timing of my arrival could not have been better. Of course he was in for the adventure! I was so excited to have more time with him as we got along super well and I was eager to explore his own country with him!

That Monday night was my last dinner with Freek and Fiona and they wanted to cook me a special Dutch meal. It was so thoughtful of them to bring back special ingredients from Holland to share both of their favorite dish. Like Karen’s meal the first night I was in Holland it was a potato and green vegetable dish but so very, very tasty. There were hints of rosemary in the mix, luscious gravy and plenty of sausages to fill the belly in a heartbeat. I was so grateful for the generosity of these two and I can’t wait for the day I can send it back their way when they visit me!

I had to say my final goodbyes to them both the night before I left but, like I bid all the farewells to the ones I really love, I was more like “until we meet again”. I expect them both to be at the final Peace Pedalers bash in November 2009. I spent the rest of the evening chatting with one of Freek’s buddies named Robert who was in town from Luxembourg and we philosophized until about midnight when I finally had to hit the sheets in Freek’s big luxurious bed.

I woke up that Tuesday to pouring rain, wind and freezing cold temperatures. Summer was over indeed and that foul weather was not really enticing me to get on my bike to make my way to Philippe’s place. I had a slew of technical issues to address with my bike and equipment before the expedition through Belgium so I spent most of the day duct taping holes in my panniers, replacing parts and finishing preparation for the ride. I decided to take a train to Philippe’s place and pedaled off at about 6:30PM to catch my 7:30PM train.

There was a bit of a mixup with the tickets as the agent misunderstood my request and ended up selling me a ticket to Waregem instead of Wevelgem. I ended up having to change trains unexpectedly and arrived in the wrong town wondering why Philippe was not there. Luckily his girlfriend Katrien had returned from work and Philippe was able to fetch me at the station and we got a chuckle out of it in the long run.

Philippe and Katrien had a delicious hot pasta dinner ready for me when I arrived washed down with yummy red wine and I felt right at home in their cute little house. Philippe built the house on his spare time on weekends over the past few years and it turned out great! Like me, he’s a real minimalist and his house is a mirror of his philosophy of life.

The next morning Katrien has to head off to work as a pharmaceutical sales gal and Philippe and I were so excited for the ride. The weather was downright nasty all night long with strong winds blasting rain against the side of his house. Neither of us got much sleep between that and their snoring cat. But that did not stop us from getting up early, doing some cool filming scenes and hitting the pavement just as the sun began to peek out and the rain slowed down to an occasional drizzle.

The one bit of good news with the weather is that it was coming from the southwest and we were heading east. As long as we could keep the bike on an eastward course we would have strong tailwinds. But, as you might imagine, it’s tough to stay exactly eastward so we knew we would have plenty of pedaling into the wind as well. We bid farewell to his adorable mother who lives right next door, his neighbors and were soon pedaling our way along the first of several peaceful canals that we would follow all the way to our first day’s destination of Mons.

Scattered clouds, occasional rains and strong winds that were mostly side or tailwinds were with us all morning. We rode through his town of Wevelgem to Kortrijk and then followed a canal south towards the town of Tornai. It was all smooth sailing until about 12:30 when we had to turn southwest for about 15 kilometers of purely brutal headwind riding with empty stomachs screaming for a lunch stop. Luckily we hit the turning point in the canal eventually and were finally back to an eastward trajectory which was like being launched in a cannon as our speed went from 10 to almost 30km/hour just after the turn.

When we finally hit Tournai at about 2PM totally ravished the sun came out in full force and lit up this enchanting town with its historic buildings, jaw dropping gothic church and the most fun fountain I’ve ever played in. Philippe had prepared a huge lunch of pasta and I treated us to some Belgian chocolates for dessert to get some much needed fuel in our bodies. We were only at about the 50 kilometer mark of a long 115 kilometer day. We pulled out the cameras to capture some of the magic of this charming town and hit the road at about 2:30pm.

The wind definitely helped our cause and kept us rolling at about 23km/hour as we blazed major train alongside more canals with lush green trees, cool lock systems for the big cargo boats and unexpected car-free that kept a smile on our faces. At about the 80km mark I could tell that Philippe was getting tired and he admitted that 75km is usually his limit, and that’s on a non-loaded bike—a far cry from our 100+ kilo load. But we were committed to make it to our final stop for the day, which was another cool town called Mons.

We decided to leave the canals and hit some of the back roads to save some time and cut the kilometers down to ensure a daylight arrival in Mons. Luckily the roads were not busy at all and we were still able to enjoy a peaceful ride without much traffic. Only the last 10km were busy and both Philippe and I turned the afterburners to keep up with the traffic moving along at up to 35km/hour. We were on fire!

It was a long day in the saddle indeed. From 10AM to 7PM we cranked away at the pedals, navigated 115km of terrain and had deep conversations on just about every topic imaginable. By the time we made it to Mons the sun was gently setting on the stunning churches towering high upon a hilltop and we hammered up one last hill to finally reach the youth hostel where we planned to stay that night. However, when we arrived in our totally knackered state, we were informed they were full and we would have to continue our search elsewhere. Luckily it was all downhill and we coasted our way through striking town of Mons until we found a cheap hotel where we finally found a room, but on the 3rd floor. I never thought climbing steps could hurt some much, but we finally made it!

I ride plenty of long days over 100km and I was still pretty darn tired. So you can imagine how tired Philippe was, especially considering neither of us slept much the night before. We celebrated our first day’s success with a huge meal and a few delicious Belgian beers before heading off to bed. Philippe admitted that the 115km ride was out of his limits and, upon looking at the next few days rides of over 100km each into the hills, I knew we would be looking at other options when we woke up the next morning.

We both slept like logs that night as the rain began to fall, the temperatures dropped to near freezing and our sunny days were officially gone by morning. We checked out the maps over breakfast and determined that the planned route would be taking us through some of Belgium’s most industrial areas. Neither of us wanted to ride with lots of cars and views of buildings so we opted for the famous Peace Pedalers “teleportation plan” to the challenging hills, magical forests and chateaus located in the southeast section of the country. We opted for shorter mileage, more hills, less cars and prettier scenery. But, of course this meant taking a train out of Mons to a scenic starting point in the town of Libramont.

Our hopes for a clearing in the weather that morning did not come to fruition and the rain, wind and extremely cold temperatures made riding far less enjoyable than the previous day indeed. But we made the best out of our freezing hands and feet since our new itinerary allowed us time to stop, warm up and dry off at cute cafés along our route to the Orval Monetary.

Even with the rain, wind and cold the ride was still extremely beautiful, passing through beautiful forests, by small villages and up and down challenging hills that kept our hearts pumping all day long. At the end of one of the most challenging climbs we stopped to take a break. There was a statue of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus at the crossroads and Philippe and I decided it could do no harm to pray for a break in the endless rain. Well, not only did it not hurt, it actually worked! Actually, first the rain stopped, then the sun came out! Go Mary and Jesus power!

From that point onwards the hill mellowed out, the sun lit up the endless hues of green in the forest around us and glittered off a river as meandered through some truly charming Belgian villages. Although the sun was out it was still cold and would no doubt reach well below freezing that night. As we moved closer to the Orval Monastery we both knew that we only had a few options for sleeping that night since camping in my summer sleeping bags would mean a shivering nights rest in my tent.

Our shared intention was to have the Monks at the monastery host us for the night. Neither of us knew if this was possible or an available option, but no other option that was nearly as cool as that. The Orval Monastery was one of the last remaining working monastery that still brewed the famous Orval beer on location, Orval cheese and still had the regular traditions dating back over 1,000 years. We had to give it a shot!

We rolled in at sunset as the massive structure glowed in a soft orange color and I had a good feeling right away. We grabbed a few epic video clips for the show and decided to run the helmet camera to document the adventures ahead. We shared our desires with a gal at reception who led us to a waiting room in front the office of our “Main Monk”, Pere Bernard in French, or Father Bernard in English. It turns out that the timing of our arrival could not have been better.

Father Bernard was a kind man, clearly a man of God, but without the silly seriousness one might expect being in his level of power. I knew we were talking to the right guy. I used my best French to share the story of Peace Pedalers, the current situation for Philippe and me, gave him a sticker and asked him to host us for the night. Within minutes we were invited to a divine meal, which we were instructed to eat in total silence, joining the other nuns, monks and retreat attendees. Philippe and I were loving it and filled with such gratitude as we ate the marvelous meal of couscous, brown bread, Orval cheese and yes, even one delicious Orval monk-made beer! We both enjoyed the eating in silence as well as it really made us focus on the food, the experience and how we were feeling. And I knew both of us were feeling grateful that evening amongst other emotions like being just totally stoked!

We were both darn hungry so were almost the last to finish. After the meal we had a prayer and everyone went their own ways. We had no clue how the accommodation portion of our escapades at the monastery were going to unfold so we just sat in a huge conference room outside the dining hall our wet feet and full bellies reveling in the experience. After about 30 minutes we were called in to meet with Pere Bernard who happily gave us the keys to our own room down the hall and his lovely assistant showed us the way.

This monastery was truly amazing. It was founded about 1,000 years ago when, according to legend, a princess lost her ring in the river and a fish came up and brought it back to her. She was so blown away she ordered the building of the monastery right over the river. 1,000 years later the place is still operating and there’s a historic section with the original structures and the current monastery is far more modern but just as stunning. It’s loaded with gardens, ponds, long hallways, stained glass, statues, big bell towers and yes, even a massive statue of our heros for the day Mary and Jesus!

We took some long, hot showers and both got a great nights sleep as the rain and wind returned that night making us thankful as ever that we were not out camping that night. We were both up early that morning ready for our last day of cycling, a planned 80km to Luxembourg City. After a morning walk, a beautiful breakfast and a nice photo with our friend Bernard we were off pedaling into some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ridden in for a while.

The weather was threatening but dry when we left so we decided it was time to run the cameras and share the magical part of Belgium with the world. I was eager for Philippe to summarize all the nuggets of wisdom he shared with me over the previous two days with the viewers and it was a beautiful ride winding through beautiful nature, through more Belgian villages and over rolling hills.

One question I ask all my riders worldwide is “what makes you most happy in life”. His answer was unique. The most impactful nugget he shared with me was his philosophy of not looking for what makes him “most happy”. He feels it’s dangerous to be always searching for the highs because they are always followed by the down and it’s an endless cycle. He feels the best is to be happy with what is, accept whatever comes and live a more uncomplicated life with simple pleasures. He also shared his message to the world that we need to stop predjudice if we want the world to be as great as we know it can be.

The skies held off on the dumping that was inevitable until the exact moment we finished our interview. The second I took the last camera off the tripod the heavens opened up once again and Philippe and I hoped into a cute village market where a friendly old lady served us up hot coffee for just 20 cents a cup! The pouring rain let up to a drizzle so we set off towards Luxembourg with a nice tail wind and we were both feeling strong and alive. At the same time, I was getting frustrated that my bike was not running well at all and skipping in more and more gears as the kilometers clicked on by.

By afternoon the rain was getting heavier and the temperatures still just above freezing so we stopped for lunch on the steps of a cinema out of the rain. Fueled up with a huge meal of French cheeses, yummy breads, Belgian chocolate and bananas we were ready to make the final push to Luxembourg. But Edie, my sexy bike, was not going to have it. She was in a pissy mood and the chain would simply not stay on the rear cassette (the gears in the back of the bike). We finally pulled over and I was shocked to see that the rear cassette was looser than I’ve ever seen it and likely on the verge of something far more serious happening.

Over the last several months several of my tools broke or went missing and this was the one time that I needed both locking pliers and a 5mm allen key. In order to try to fix the issue I had to find these tools, but at this time we were on the outskirts of a tiny Belgian village, likely with a population of about 100 or so. I left Philippe to watch the bike and he sought refuge from the rain in a small bus stop while I went on a mission to fix the hub and cassette. My hands were covered in grease, I was soaking wet, carrying a bike wheel and my French is far from perfect so I knew I may be running into challenges having someone let me into their house.

I made six attempts, each one of them futile. A few were empty houses, a few had housewives that simply would not consider letting me sift through their husbands tools while they were away, and others just looked through the window and motioned “no way buddy, take a hike”. But the seventh house I had a good feeling right away. For one, when I rang the bell I heard a man’s voice telling the dogs to shut up—good sign. I used my best French to explain to this chap that my bike was having issues and I needed some tools to fix the her up. He happily told me to meet me at the garage and I knew I was with the right guy.

When he opened the garage my jaw almost dropped when I saw a super pimped out folding tandem bicycle right in the middle! When I showed him my sticker of a tandem bike and told him about Peace Pedalers he smiled and proudly announced that he has not just one but two tandem bikes! I think the prayers to Mary and Jesus were still delivering some residual benefits combined with the Peace Pedalers rainbow of good luck, clearly.

The bad news is that, even with all the right tools, I was unable to get my hub working any better than before. I think the force of two riders, the heavy trailer and my not attending to the problem when it first started created an even more serious one. The good news is that Patrick was so willing to help and told me how to get to the train station 15km up in case the bike would not run anymore. Just as I was leaving and saying goodbye I invited Patrick to come take a look at my tandem and meet Philippe. He was hesitant at first, perhaps thinking maybe we had something sneaky planned, but I looked him right in the eyes and invited him again with a smile. He needed that little nudge and he skipped on over to grab his rain coat.

The rain was coming down pretty hard and we arrived to see Philippe still seeking refuge in the bus stop and wondering what was next with this new character heading his way. To my surprise this guy Patrick, who is living in the French speaking town of Musson, started speaking perfect Flemish with Philippe. For about five minutes these two rambled on, laughing and getting along so well. Philippe smiled at me and shared the magical news that this guy Patrick was actually from a town just 5km from where he is from, we actually rode through it, and Philippe knows Patrick’s brother! From two tandems in his garage to this connection with Philippe it was clear we were meant to meet this guy Patrick!

As if the Peace Pedalers rainbow was not shining bright enough that day, Patrick offered to give us a ride to the train station and went to fetch his car as we disassembled the bike for car transport. Patrick arrived just as we finished making the bike small and he had a surprise for us. I’ll never forget his words when he looked at me with a cheeky grin, “Jamie, if you keep smiling I’ll take you two all the way to your hotel in Luxembourg City!” Philippe and I cheered and we were so happy—not just to have a lift to Luxembourg and not having to deal with the train, but to spend more time with this great guy Patrick! The bike fit like a glove, like it always does, in our angel’s station wagon. We set the coordinates in Patrick’s GPS navigation system and baddabing, baddaboom! We were off!

The entire trip from his small village of Musson to Luxemborg was filled with Flemish conversations between Philippe and Patrick, with a few short conversations in French and broken English between Patrick and myself. I was able to capture Patrick’s thoughts on the whole event on the camera and he explained in Flemish what was going down and I’m sure it will bring a colorful and inspiring addition to the show. We arrived in Luxembourg about sunset on yet another festive Friday evening feeling grateful, joyful and excited as ever. We bid our farwells to Patrick who was going to be late to his other engagements due to this detour but he was as happy as we were to have met.

Philippe and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice hotel but, as usual, I did not want us to spend the 180 dollar rate. It was the weekend and the business hotels clearly had vacancies and were going to be flexible. After a few attempts talking with managers and owners I connected with a chap named Silvan, the owner of none other than the Casanova Hotel in the central square, who gave us a room at a handsome discount right in the center of town. We were stoked!

When I hopped on email I realized that I was invited to actually stay with a friend of Freek named Eva but did not see the email until we were already checked in and settled. I gave her a ring and she told me she was hosting a party that night and Philippe and I were invited! Bonus! We arrived in good spirits, all fed, showered and happily buzzed from a few Belgian celebratory beers beforehand.

The rest of the evening was all about celebrating a yet another magical and thrilling adventure of Philippe and Jamie. From our 5 days in China in 2002 to the 4 days together in Belgium in 2008 we are a great team and seem to attract great people, unforgettable experiences and big smiles. Eva and most of her friends are from Slovakian and, if you did not know this already, I’m 25% Slovakian so I was extra excited to be eating Slovakian smoked cheese, sausages and drinking Slovak beer!

After Eva’s party Philippe and I hit the nightlife area starting at a wild dancing and drinking venue called The Marx. We had a few more beers and my dancing shoes were on and ready. Philippe on the other hand is not much of a dancer. But I was able to convince him it was safe to cut loose, dance like nobody was looking and just groove away. Before I knew it Philippe was bouncing around with a huge smile on his face like a little kid and we were having a blast!

Neither of us stayed out too late and the next day Philippe and I had a nice breakfast at the hotel, walked around the markets and finally the moment came where he had to make his way to the train station to head out of the country to Namur, Belgium where he would meet his girlfriend Katrien for a day of sightseeing. I know I’ll see Philippe again so it was more of a “see you next time” farewell but it was still sad. My spirits dropped the second he left and I also realized just how tired I really was. I was meant to meet up with a Couchsurfing host named Ben that day but I decided I was ready for hibernation and canceled my meeting, booked the hotel for another day and went back to bed for several hours.

I slept for almost 18 hours straight, kept the hibernation going for 3 more days in Luxembourg then hopped a train to see my mom in Paris…stay tuned…

I want to send big thanks to Freek, Fiona, Philippe, Katrien, Patrick, Father Bernard and so many others that made my Belgium experience so unforgettable!

Over n out from Biarritz, France where I’m gearing for the final stretch of the delightful European adventure!

Live Big. Give Big. Love Big.


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