Europe 21.06.16

Tuesday the 21st

Today is exactly a month since my birthday. There is nothing special about turning 19, however I had planned a night out with my friends and was looking forward to finally having a moment to do something for myself, amidst my busy work and university schedule. Unfortunately, disaster struck as I got very sick and was bedridden for many weeks, including the weekend of my birthday. Rather than celebrate, my parents agreed to pretend it was a normal day as any other so we acted as such. At the time I was barely able to speak and still unable eat or leave the house due to my swollen tonsils, hence I did not want to force myself to engage in any form of celebration that would be trying of my little energy. Therefore, mum and I planned to make today a little bit special as a symbolic birthday in the place of last month. We will work off a list of activities, many of which I enjoyed in my time alone in Antwerp last year.

The first stop is Sebastien Cafe! I bought a punnet of juicy, plump strawberries from the Carrefour Supermarket underneath the hotel and took these with me to the cafe. Delicious fresh fruit for breakfast and a Speculatte! I have been longing for one of these espresso, milk, speculaas syrup, whipped cream, chunky biscuit bit concoction for so long. I discovered this unique coffee last year and returned to the Sebastien Cafe multiple times throughout my stay compelled by the organic ambience and beautiful view of the Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal. I wish I could have recorded my mum’s reaction when she was served her Speculatte. She enjoyed it so much that she ordered a second special, a Chocolate Chip Latte, whilst I opted for a simple espresso. I believe we will be back here more than once before the end of our holiday – after all, this is only day three.

Next on the list was shopping! Urban Outfitters! Massimo Dutti! By three o’clock we had only tried on every item of clothing in two stores and I had expended all my energy in doing so. We visited a few more fashion spots before the sky began to cloud and a light sprinkle rained upon the plaza. With a short stop at the hotel, we continued onto our final destination: Appelman’s Absinthbar. Having neglected lunch due to our busy shopping schedule, we were ravenous to have some deep fried deliciousness so only stayed for one drink. I had a Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri and mum indulged in something more creative, a Fleur de Péché made of cognac, absinth, orange juice with an almond flavour. We then found our way to The Post, a restaurant which I visited this time last year bordering the Groenplaats. I had a portion of bitterballen and mum had garnaalkrokketten. Shorty after, she returned to the room for an early night and I returned to Appelmans Absinthbar to continue my writing.

Although I have previously explained the motives behind documenting my travels, I would like to reiterate my experience of religiously writing a travel journal. It is only day three however I have had noticeable difficulty maintaining my recount due to the attention I must pay to my talkative companion. I ought to pay some thought to the possibility of continuing my journalling when on vacation with friends as at this rate I don’t imagine I will have as much time to myself as otherwise. On holidays, I strive to make the most of my time. At home I have endless opportunity to rest or waste time but on the rare occasion I am in another country I would prefer to explore and experience everything it has to offer. Nonetheless, I understand the value of personal time as a bit of peace amidst a busy schedule. Whilst some people choose to spend such moments on social media uploading their every breath to the uncaring internet, I would rather write about what I have done and what I have seen. This reflection is purely for myself and my memories.

My next cocktail was as Pornstar Martini. Please, do not be quick to assume that this good girl has an adverse personality, at least not one which will make an appearance in the online journal my parents and relatives might endeavour to read – I just like vanilla, passionfruit and lime. Thereafter, the waiter recommended me a Ginilicum. At the duty free shopping lounge in Sydney Airport I purchased a mini-bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin for my convenience on Contiki. I have never tried gin! But i chose this liquor for the sake of a change, and this cocktail is likely the best way to introduce me into the gin-drinking crowd. Made with ginger syrup, lime juice, honey and fresh basil, it is nicely refreshing although I am already feeling the alcohol work its magic (dizzy).

I wonder how awful my grammar is. I am intensely conscious of my ability to converse with others in dutch due to my pronunciation and literateness. Whilst pronunciation is somewhat more forgiving due to the varied geographical areas in which Dutch is spoken and the supplementary languages that are localised therein, literacy is not as easy to fake. Dutch is the national language in Belgium, the Netherlands and is even spoken in provinces of South Africa that were once colonised by the Dutch. Dialects therefore differ from the north, to the french speaking, to the coast-side areas of the countries. To put this into context: when I am in Belgium, it is assumed that I live in the Netherlands; when I am in the Netherlands, I appear as though I am local to Belgium. My accent is a mix of Belgian/Netherlands/Australian? It is a concoction of all my linguistic influences. Yet when it comes to grammar, I never learnt the difference between feminine and masculine. I never learnt the proper sentence structure to express myself the way that is here considered normative. Hence, I am rather self-conscious when speaking to locals in Dutch because I imagine I sound uneducated or stupid or unsure or bogan! This is something a few days in the homeland ought to help (I hope).

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