I love how Belgian beer always comes in a chalice or goblet. I feel like a wizard. A fancy wizard.
I Sea the Zee
I still don’t know what I’ll be doing for the next few days since I have to return to Brussels to go to the embassy on Wednesday, but I have decided to spend some time exploring the coast and enjoying the sea breeze for now.
I wish I could carry on into the Netherlands (it is so close!), but that will have to wait.
Here are some photos of the beautiful sights I have seen in Brugge then Blankenberge, Oostende and De Haan along the North Sea or Noord Zee in Belgium.
Belgian Bike Tour, The Beginning
I left London on Monday in transit to Brussels, Belgium.
I have been very bad at keeping my blog updated. It has been an absolutely crazy week! I can’t believe it is only Friday…I feel like I have lived a few weeks of life in these past few days.
I will attempt to summarize:
I left London via the Eurostar train to Brussels. It was the fastest and easiest way to get out of Britain with a bicycle. I was ready to get back to Europe! (The pound is too strong and I was spending way too much money).
While going through security to get on the train, the agents found the pepper stay and pocket knife my dad gave me a while ago that I have never used but just carried around in my bags. Well apparently both are illegal in the UK. And both are totally normal to carry in the US…go Americaaaaa (unenthusiasticly waves American flag).
Even though I said they could take both and I have never used them, the security dude said he had to call the police and he took my passport. A few minutes later his supervisor came by and said he would let me go, I guess I was able to convince him that I wasn’t an assassin.
I arrived in Brussels by the afternoon and slowly rode my bike to the hostel, zigzagging through the cobble-stone streets. It was pleasant. Drivers in Belgium are very courteous to cyclists.
I did a free walking tour of the city and learned some stuff. Then I ate a waffle.
I returned to the hostel in the evening and met a group of English guys. I spent the night with them, exploring Brussels and Belgian beer.
I didn’t really sleep. But I went to the free hostel breakfast anyways and slowly made my way out of the door to walk to the Atomium (giant atom shaped sculpture that I like to call “the shiny balls”).
I underestimated how far away it was. I could see the big balls sparkling in the distance the night before at the end of a long boulevard so I thought I would just follow that road.
I usually enjoy walking but as the balls flew further and further away as I walked after a long night out…I wasn’t the happiest I’ve ever been. Then it started to rain.
When I reached the Atomium I went into the cafe to use the bathroom and then I fell asleep at a table. Whoops.
When I woke up to the sound of an Italian family laughing at the table next to me, I decided to take the metro back to the hostel for a nap.
Bogged in a weird mood, I fell asleep.
Then 2 hours later, I woke up and went to the lobby to use wifi to check my email and I SAW THE MOST IMPORTANT EMAIL THAT I HAD BEEN WAITING FOR, FOR MY WHOLE LIFE!
I was officially invited to serve as a health volunteer in Madagascar with the American Peace Corps! (Enthusiastically waves American flag).
I exclaimed in weird, uncontrollable bursts of excitement multiple times and shared my news with some new Quebecois friends I had made.
But I didn’t know what to do with myself.
The biggest news of my life and I was surrounded by strangers… So I posted it on Facebook and texted my closest friends. That made me feel better, but I was still emotionally overwhelmed.
I wanted a hug.
I was planning to go to bed early and plan my cycling route to Ghent for the following day, but instead I stayed up chatting with the English guys again.
But I did get some hugs.
The next morning I was still overwhelmed from accepting my placement to serve in Madagascar, and the multiple emails of things I had to do that instantly followed my acceptance. I was quite slow packing up my bike and leaving Brussels.
I eventually made my way across and out of the city.
Even though Belgium is quite a nice place for cycling, there are no direct routes between Brussels and Ghent. Google maps said to take the N9 with my bike, but I quickly realized that it was a busy highway with a small and inconsistent shoulder. No thanks, Google, I don’t want to die.
So I zigzagged through the country side northwest for hours and hours. It took a long time and I constantly had to double check where I was and ask nice strangers for help.
About halfway to Ghent, after 50 km, it was getting late. I was anxious to get to Ghent because I had arranged a warm showers host for the evening and I was also preoccupied thinking about all of the Peace Corps emails and work I had to do, so I took a train from Aalst. I just didn’t have it in me to zigzag for another 50 or so kilometers again.
My hosts in Ghent were a wonderful couple who have done quite a bit of touring as well. They made an absolutely glorious vegetarian meal. It was wonderful.
I went to bed relatively early after reading some Peace Corps materials.
I woke up after a great sleep in a comfortable bed at a beautiful house in Ghent.
I quickly cracked down by opening my laptop and scouring over all of the lists of things I would have to do.
After hours of reading, I realized my first step would be to go to an American Embassy to apply for my visa and a second passport. I looked at all of the Consulates along the route I had planned, and unfortunately the best appointment options were back(wards) in Brussels.
I realized that I would have to spend the week circling around Belgium instead of carrying on to the Netherlands. At 1 pm, there was still so much I had left to read and do so I decided to book a hostel in Brugge instead of camping, so I could use wifi, and ride straight there.
I explored Ghent’s beautiful city center for a bit then followed a wonderfully paved and quiet canal path 50 km to Brugge.
It rained a bit on the ride, but it was still just peaceful and nice. I am waterproof. I was in a great mood!
It is crazy how quickly I was able to adapt to living on a bike. I’m no longer afraid of the unknown, I just cruise down the road and let life happen. And I love it.
When I arrived the hostel, I walked right in and who was sitting right next to the reception desk? My English buddies from the hostel in Brussels.
I was going to do some work, but instead, I spent the night hanging out with some fellow cycling guys from England, and also the other English guys from Brussels. (Wait, I left England…right?)
Now, I am just sitting at the hostel in Brugge, hoping to get some work done. Tonight I will camp along the coast and then spend the next few days chasing wifi and trying to be productive before I return to Brussels for my appointment. And then hopefully, I will finally be able to head east!
All of the Peace Corps stuff has kinda thrown me off of my cycling groove, but it’s my dream come true, so it’s more than okay! And anyways, my bike tour is a crazy adventure and this is just an added challenge!
I mean seriously, what is my life?!?!!
I am attempting to balance: cycling freely everyday, traveling, being social/meeting people, and preparing to move to Madagascar!
How will I ever top this?!
I love and miss my best friend Source: katslifeofpower
Everyone should pop over to pinkguacamole's tumblr and congratulate her on being accepted into the Peace Corps! And while you're there check out all of her pictures and stories of her time traveling through Europe. She just started a bike tour that's unbelievable.
I’m so proud of you Jenna! I know how long you’ve been dreaming about this.
A Seven Mile Pink Scarf for Peace
Today is the 69th anniversary of one of the nastiest scars America has left on this planet: the dropping of the second Atomic bomb on Nagasaki even though Japan was already known to be on the verge of surrendering. Between the two travesties in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, approximately 200,000-250,000 people, mainly civilians, were either immediately killed or died within months due to burns and radiation sickness.
Today I joined many anti-nuclear groups from around England and Europe to spread a 7 mile long pink peace scarf (knitted by over 5,000 people from around the world!) between two Atomic Weapon Establishments west of London.
We woke early and took a coach with members of the CND from London to the countryside near Newbury. Along with many activists, young and old, I helped to roll out and connect one mile’s worth of the scarf starting at Burghfield Atomic Weapons Establishment. Other anti-nuclear groups were responsible for the other 6 miles.
Many police officers were along the trail, friendly as ever and merely there to ensure our safety from cars. Some anti-nuclear protests have ended in arrests, but this was a peaceful and beautiful demonstration.
At 1pm, volunteers scattered along the scarf’s trail to lift it for a half an hour. We had a moment of silence to remember those needlessly lost at the end of WWII in Japan.
After the official demostration, everyone gathered on the outskirts of the Atomic Weapons Establishment to sing peace songs and share poems about the horrors of war.
To this day the United States, the United Kingdom, and at least 9 other countries are shoveling billions of dollars every year (tax payer money!) to continue developing the technology and to produce nuclear warheads.
There may be some assholes in this world, but as far as I am concerned, there is no concentrated group of people ANYWHERE on this planet that deserve the wrath of an atomic bomb. …So unless these governments are preparing for an invasion of a purely evil and malicious race of aliens that want nothing more than to destroy us all, I do not understand why SO MUCH MONEY is going into these death machines that I hope will never be used!
Imagine if all of that money was being used to promote PEACE instead of fear. Imagine.
"We are not just against the fighting; we are for peace.
We are not just against the killing; we are for life.
We are not just a tribe or nation; we are one world.”