Monday, April 23, 2012

Holland Trip Day 6: Melchelen, Belgium

Ray's Journal:
To our disappointment the sign
really read something about
ancestors of Beethoven lived here.
I woke up the family early today. I am so mean when it comes to CHOCOLATE!... Yes, today is the day we went to Belgium for CHOCOLATE!!!!!! We drove about an hour to a little bitty town outside of Brussels called Mechellen (pronounced like Magellan the navigator but with a “CH” not a “G”). This town is one of those that was so small we felt like we were the only non-residents in the city. This town had a lot of shopping to be done. None were high end stores like Rodeo Drive or Paris, but they were very European in their approach to everything. There were two palaces and 3 giant churches. The palaces had to be converted in order to maintain building cost, but it was a very quaint little village with a lot of history (see the pics of some the architecture). Something involving Beethoven and one of his concertos happened here according a brown and white history marker which I couldn’t read since it was Dutch. But most importantly to us, it had 5 different chocolate shops!!

Chocolate Shoe
All were chocolatiers, not just vendors, so it is all so very yummy! The chocolatier in one store tried to explain that it was Easter and that the chocolate eggs were the actual eggs which would be hidden. Some of the eggs were hollow with a ribbon on one end. The ribbon is for hanging in a tree, and the hollow space is filled with a candy. Gotta love those Belgian chocolatiers! All of the chocolatiers were very friendly (even the ones on the snooty looking high end (appearance wise) chocolate shops. I know this because every chocolatier spoke to the kids, explained to them and us what each piece of chocolate artistry was, made sure the kids were getting what they wanted, and asking us the whole time if this was okay. But to top it off, every single chocolatier said good by, but not to us adults - to the kids. “Good bye children”, Good bye kinder” (the Dutch pronunciation for kids) was used as the kids started to leave each time. The chocolatiers obviously wanted the children to enjoy their creations.

The ride back to camp was supposed to be a fun time as everyone was pumped up on chocolate and looking forward to a good swim in the camp pool fun zone. Instead the car overheated and we realized that Angie was even more sick than before. Luckily, I had enough water to refill the radiator and we made it back to camp, but it was so late (and Angie was feeling so poorly) that we canceled our barbecue and went to an American buffet restaurant 30 miles away. This was a tense time for me and Angie as the car was running very hot and not regulating engine or cabin temperature at all.
The American buffet was an interesting place. It had a children’s play area with the crawl through tubes most American kids now love, a baby play area with stuffed animals, and an arcade area with 6-8 old eighties style arcade games (PACMAN, Neo-Geo, Virtual tennis). It also had 6 different food areas: Italian, grilled, seafood, chinese, sports bar, and deserts. In the Netherlands all buffet restaurants are not an eat all you can event, they have you pay for an amount of time. In that time you can eat and drink whatever you want, but when your time is up you must leave. Definitely an interesting experience.

Angie's Journal:
This is was wonderful day! We found this wonderful gem of a town thanks to my mom. She was trying to help a client find something that wasn't very touristy, and she found Mechelen. Ironically, Lexi said one of her friends from school is from Mechelen. The town had an old world medieval charm, but the cobblestone streets that seemed so charming made my feet hurt by the end of the day. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our day of shopping and chocolate hunting.

Staring in the window of a chocolate shop.
This was my favorite chocolate

Since we visited right before Easter the chocolate shops where packed. There were bags with people's names on them and moms coming to pick up their bags. The kids and I were thinking how cool it would be to have a huge bags worth of Belgium chocolate for our Easter basket every year as a kid. The chocolatier and and costumers talked like they were good friends, so it wasn't that they were busy just because it was Easter. 

 Admiring the architecture by Neil

After we found all the chocolate shops, we headed to the old palace of Queen Margaret of Austria. It was a bit of a disappointment because we thought it would be something we could tour, but it was converted to the town hall building. We let Misty run around the garden for a little bit before heading to the tourist board building to use the only public bathroom before heading home.

Now it is time for a game we like to call:

Who is concentrating harder?

Neil trying to get into his chocolate?
Misty trying to put two Legos together?

That night we went to an awesome restaurant. We were a bit nervous because it was 30 minutes away, but it was an American Buffett. See we love to see other countries take on American food. It was a very large place and they got some things right, but mostly it was Dutch food with an American twist. The place was broken up into 5 or 6 themed areas. Each area had a buffet station and an attached dining area decorated to that theme. We sat in the Chinese food dining room. There was also BBQ which was pretty American, but I'm not sure how you could change throwing meat on a grill. They had a pancake shop, but they made crepes instead of American pancakes. It was still fun to add all the toppings you wanted on it though. The sweets buffet had all sorts of desserts I've never seen, but they were good. The beverage station was like walking into a 7/11. They had 6 slushie machines, each with a different flavor, smoothie machine, milk shake machine, bottled drinks, fountain drinks, and pretty much anything else you could think to drink. The kids and I got something different to drink each time we got up. It was a great meal to end our vacation.

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