Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sore Feet, Tasty Frites

WARNING: This post is not about training or triathlon. But it's all I have to write about at the moment.

On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend I flew to London, where I met my aunt, Cynthia, and embarked on a brief but satisfying adventure in Belgium. We took the 7:
30 a.m. Eurostar train through the Chunnel, which was a little anticlimactic since it's just like, well, a tunnel, except long. It'd be more fun if they put up little graphics for you in the tunnel showing you where you are. Still, it was super fast (2 hours from St. Pancras to Brussels) and comfortable.

In Brussels, we parked our bags and took a couple of hours to cruise around before continuing to Bruges. We navigated the grotty Metro station adjacent to the Brussels-Zuid train station and hopped off at the Bourse, around the corner from the Grand Place/Grote Markt. Coming into this square off a narrow side street is like running into the living room on Christmas morning to see that Santa has been exceedingly generous. One of the loveliest things I've seen in any city anywhere. We ambled through town in the general direction of the canal district, and found a tasty lunch at La Villette, where I had creamy waterzooi stew and a crazy sour gueuze lambic beer.

The Hotel Jan Brito in Bruges was insanely charming - a renovated 16th century house with classic steep gables and a profusion of exposed oak beams. Our strange little suite under the steep roof delighted us the whole time we were there. And the breakfasts. Oh. My.

Bruges is Disneyland for grownups. Every street is gorgeous; every building is historic, every third shop is a chocolatier, and everyone seems really quite happy to be interacting with the mobs of tourists from all over the world. Generally I shun tourist traps, but Bruges is so amiable and beautiful that I just didn't care. We wandered over the cobbles until our feet throbbed with pain. We took a boat tour of the canals and shuffled through the churches and museums. We ate pastries and/or frites for lunch. The two carts in the Markt that sell fries in the shadow of the belfry do a roaring trade, and with good reason. Belgians invented fries, and they have perfected them. And they eat them with mayonnaise and a variety of other sauces. They serve them with almost everything. Mussels, particularly. After four days in Belgium, I fear for the mussel population of the North Sea.

On our last full day, I worked up my courage to climb the belfry, or Belfort. I'm not afraid of heights much, or even narrow spiral staircases. I just knew the 366 steps were going to hurt and that I was going to sweat buckets in the clammy Flemish air. They did, and I did. And when I got to the top, the tower chamber was being renovated so you could only get views in two directions. It was still incredibly cool though. Cynthia waited below, watching the people and the horse-drawn carriages and the pigeons. She really detests heights and narrow staircases.

The trip from Bruges to Wales was a pretty long haul. Eleven hours that went like this: taxi, train, train, long walk, Tube, long walk, bus, car. Somewhere in the long walks through London with the bags, I felt my knee twinge, which it continued to do for the rest of the trip. I blame the Belfort.

The Welsh part of the trip was designed to be extremely low key, and it was even lower-key than I had planned. Lots of lounging about and watching sports on Sky with my uncle, and drinking tea with Cynthia, my Uncle Brian, my cousin Emma, other more distant cousins, neighbors, etc. There were a few errands and a couple of touristy things like traveling to Cardiff Bay and having ice cream sundae's at Verdi's Cafe near Swansea. Even so, I was quite exhausted by the end of my 8 days there.

Got sick immediately after getting off the plane, which raised the specter of Boo-Boo Kitty. My last
trip to the UK in 2007 was followed immediately by a flu-y feeling that sparked the whole round of fatigue, pain and weirdness. However, five days after my return, I am feeling only mildly dizzy, tired, and queasy, so I'm less freaked out than I was a couple of days ago.

Two weeks from tomorrow I'm scheduled to do the Golden State Triathlon, down the street from my house. I'll have to work up to an actual workout before I get a sense of whether I can do it or not. Most of my walking was the slow touristy kind, except for the Belfort and one ramble through the hills. No swimming, no cycling. And now another virus on top of August's virus. Hmmm...

I'll keep you posted.


  1. Give your body a bit of time to heal and your brain a bit of time to remember your trip. You'll be ready for Golden State. Your body remembers how to race, but it needs to boot out the virus first.