Thursday, March 23, 2017

Jeannette's BIG 5-0 (for Jeannette and Femke)

On February 3rd, our dear friend, Jeannette, turned 50 and celebrated with family and friends big-time at one of our favorite places, La Caponnière.  It so happens that I did a post on this delightful war-bunker-made-wine-bar 3 years ago.  We LOVE that place.

Anyway, lucky us to be in on this YUGE birthday celebration just a 10-minute walk from our apartment.  Like in America, if not more so, the BIG 5-0 is super huge here.

The images that follow are for YOU, Jeannette (and wife Femke).  You really did turn 50, and here's the proof.

Here's the birthday girl!
We got there early enough to watch the entrance being transformed before our eyes.
Private Party Only for that festive evening.

Jeannette's mom was already there, so we sat with her to keep each other company.
It was special that we had previously met her.

No need to introduce you to everyone.  Jeannette knows who they are!
But that's Femke with Jeannette's mom (top-right).
And that's Femke's dad with Jeannette's mom (bottom-left).

Femke, the wife extraordinaire, was everywhere, making it happen.
(No, she does not normally hide behind her hair, in case you wondered.)

Jeannette's dad and Femke's mom have both crossed over The Big Bridge.
But Femke gained a step-mom and step-brother who are like her own.

We spent a lot of time with Femke's dad and step-brother
(while Jeannette strutted about).

And with Femke's step-mom.  I fell in love with them all!

But back to The Birthday Girl.  Miss Flutterby for the evening, of course.
She was good at making the rounds.
I just wish I had spent time with her gay brother (middle-left).

Family.  Friends.  Co-workers.  
And Gifts, of course.

The Dutch call this gezellig.  The English cozy is as close as it gets.
But it's more than cozy.  It's...gezellig.

Special friends, Liesbeth and Ank, we had also met previously.

But former ex (brunette) and now wife (blonde) we had heard about but never met till then.
Don't you love how everyone can get along and celebrate together!

We knew children would come...6 of them.
They had their own party at the other end of the bunker.

But it was Maarten we wanted to finally meet:  Jeannette's godson.

He's Jeannette's godson but he belongs to Femke.
It's because he wants to be a famous chef just like her!
He's had many challenges in his 9 years but has been loved to death through them all.

La Caponnière.  A wine and tasting room for the soul.

And with the extra food catered in, you couldn't have asked for more.

Except for the Birthday Song!

I wasn't fast enough on the draw to catch the entire song, but THIS is the Dutch way.

More GEZELLIG you cannot get!

Let this one last a long time.

[Apologies for the poor quality of most of these images, for which I did not use flash in low light.
But hopefully you get the gist?] 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

BELGIUM 2016: Central Library of the Catholic University of Leuven

With this post, I do believe we've come to the end of our Leuven trip from last early December.  Though I didn't plan it this way, I may find it fortuitous to end it here because of what a place of learning represents for us all in this Journey we call Life.

Everything we read about Leuven said the University Library was a definite point of interest, totally worth the trip.  They were right.

This is the central library of the Catholic University of Leuven, established in 1636.
It was burned during both world wars but rebuilt afterwards in both cases.
The University of Leuven itself is the oldest catholic university still in existence in the world.
It has 55+K students.

I'm not sure what the significance is of the impaled beetle or the hot-air balloon sculpture.
But there was an exhibition on Utopia & More at the library while we were there.

In fact, look at these circular steps in the square in front of the library
(getting readied for Christmas with the big tree).  See the written words on the red bands?

Here's what the words said as I walked along to record them:
500 years ago Leuven University existed.
500 years ago the first cookbook in Dutch was published: a notable little cookery book.
500 years ago the Germans already had Christmas trees, but the Flemish did not.
500 years ago Pope Leo X's white elephant Hanno died.
500 years ago Flemish renaissance art was at its height.
500 years ago Utopia was printed in Leuven.

At that point, before going inside the library, we stopped to eat lunch on the corner nearby.
We were told us it was a favorite of students and alumnae.

You know by now how much we enjoy good Belgian beers,
to say nothing of the food, of course!

But the library beckoned!
Here's the outside entrance, with a model of the carillon tower.

With a tour of the library we used the audio guide to find the points of interest.

But it was the library itself that totally sold me.

I quickly left the first floor and climbed to the surrounding balcony
 to be less obstructive with my photography.

I kept thinking of my before-her-time mother who ate up university campuses.
She was a graduate of Smith College and received her Masters at Columbia University in the 30's.
THAT kind of woman before her time!  We kids called her a professional student.

She would have loved this library.  I saw it through her eyes.

As we left the library and walked back to Leuven's market square,
we realized once again why this city in Belgium, 16 miles east of Brussels, is so well-loved.
It's even the headquarter's of the Stella Artois pilsner lager.

How can you say NO to any of that!
But now, finally, we can say Good Bye.