Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Two for One Language Lessons: Notes on Belgium, beer and beauty

At Chateau de Modave, in the province of Liege.

I'm baaaaaack!

We actually got home on Sunday, around 4:30 Atlantic time. We flew Halifax to London, London to Brussels on the way over, but we flew Brussels to Montreal, Montreal to Halifax on the way back. One of the realities of living in Atlantic Canada is that you often end up backtracking to try and go to Europe, going through Montreal or Toronto, even though Halifax is closer to Europe. Yes. It is annoying. 

I'm a little bit jetlagged, though I find it easier to come back than go over. We flew out of Halifax at 11:40PM on September 3rd, and by the time we made it to my partner's host family's house, we were so exhausted that we went to bed and slept for 15 hours. Which really sped up the acclimation. Now, coming back, I didn't have the luxury of sleeping quite like that because of travel back to northern New Brunswick, so while I bounded out of bed at 6AM for work today for the first time since I took this position, I was fading by the afternoon. I decided to handle this by getting a pop out of the vending machine and stuffing my face with the kruidnoten we brought back from the Netherlands.

I did post a few photos here and there while across the pond, but while I did have my phone activated for international service, Canadian telecoms are stingy as fuck with data in Canada, so international packages are even worse. So we relied on wifi. It was kind of nice to be slighly cut off from the world! I'm pretty bad at relaxing, and while my work e-mail is thankfully fairly inaccessible from home (yay hospitals!), being away from my university e-mail, where I still am subscribed to professional listservs, was nice.

I have always found Belgium fascinating because the two language groups, very similar to New Brunswick and Canada in a lot of respects. While we spent most of our time in Wallonia, since that is where my partner lived when he was in Belgium, we did head up to Brussels for a day trip, and the language relations are more apparent there. Oddly, Belgium doesn't have a unified media source, so there isn't much of a common thread linking the two language groups. But hey, I did get to practice my French and Dutch every time I read packaging. People in Wallonia also tend to be unilingual francophones, so we spoke a lot of French - my partner more than me, as he's fluent and I'm not.

We explored a good chunk of Wallonia - Huy, Liege, Namur, etc. - and we also drove up to the north of the Netherlands to visit a friend. She showed us the absolutely beautiful village of Giethoorn, which has a series of lakes and canals, where you can only get around by boat or by foot. She also loaded us up with the kruidnoten and probably made me an addict because they are so good.

On the water in Giethoorn.

On the way back to Belgium, we spent our day in Maastricht. My partner was very taken with the Netherlands, and with Maastricht in particular. Somehow he'd never been. In Maastricht, we took a self-guided walking tour and wandered all over. Maastricht is also where I did most of my beauty shopping. I wasn't trying to focus on beauty as far as shopping went, but I did want to bring home some things that I couldn't get in Canada. I spotted a Kiko Milano store on our way to the tourist information centre and beelined it. I ended up sacrificing a waffle, since my partner ate the whole thing while I was browsing. 

Overlooking Maastricht from the top on Sint Janskerk.

I also ended up stopping into a Lush in Maastricht, and grabbed some of the lip tints that we don't have in Canada - and hey, all the European tints are in tubes! Let's work on that, mmmkay, Lush? - plus a lip balm in Key Lime Pie since my Haus of Gloi lip balm had bit the dust the day before. 

I did my other beauty shopping in Brussels. I haven't been able to find The Balm in the Maritimes, so I was happy to find a full display in a small beauty store, and I also was happy to find a small Sleek display. Even though I did end up buying a highlighter palette that has three cream shades and one powder shade - my convictions about mixed palettes like that apparently crumble after a long day in the sun and a few beers. 

And since this is a beauty blog: photos and swatches of the goods - minus the Kiko mascara I bought, since I haven't opened it yet and I also have pretty great lashes so don't have very high mascara standards or needs. 

L-R: Kiko Milano Glossy Dream Sheer Lipstick in 205, Lush lip tint in Sunkissed, Lush lip tint in Strawberry Bombshell, Kiko Milano Kiss Balm in 06 Blackberry, and Lush lip balm in Key Lime Pie

L-R: 205, Sunkissed, Strawberry Bombshell, 06 Blackberry

And the face products! The Balm Manizer Sisters palette and the Sleek Highlighting Palette in Precious Metals.

L-R: Mary Lou, Cindy Lou, Betty Lou

L-R: Platinum, Royal Gold, Renaissance Gold, Antique Bronze

I'll do more in depth reviews on all of these later. I've only really worn the Lush lip balm enough to comment on it, and it's a perfectly serviceable lip balm that smells like delicious lime. Lip balms aren't all that exciting, when it comes down to it. 

The last and greatest thing about our trip was the food and drink. Beer is so plentiful and cheap in Belgium. It was like heaven. I tried to drink a different beer with every meal...which was a lot of beer, let me tell you. Conservative estimates state we consumed a billion extra calories over there. Chocolate, waffles, fries, meatballs...it was all good, and we definitely enjoyed it. I miss cheap beer and cheap chocolatines (or pain au chocolat if you want to be authentically Belgian, but I'm a filthy Acadian at heart) already.

A glass of Kwak, featuring my partner contemplating his Geuze Boon.

Part of the reason for our trip was to attend the wedding of one of my partner's host sisters, and this led to a beauty first: I let someone else do my makeup. I was invited to get my hair and makeup done the day of the wedding with the bride, her sisters and her mother, and I accepted despite my reservations about having someone else touch my face. I'm really weird about being touched: I hate it. It was a little weird, since part of going to weddings means doing my makeup, which is part of my fun. The makeup artist did a look on me that was considerably outside of my comfort zone, but she did a hell of a job on my lashes, and I wish I had paid more attention to the mascara she used. Butttt it was 6:30 in the morning, so I wasn't really awake. 

The wedding look. I've come to realize the reason I'm bad at hair is because I don't use nearly enough bobby pins. Probably.

I had planned on talking about the things I brought with me to Belgium, but I ended up wearing no perfume for most of my trip, since I caught a cold in transit and couldn't smell for the first week, and used the same tinted Hurraw lip balm the entire time. Boring. 

However, it was summer when I left Canada, and it's now decidedly fall, which brings on new topics and new things to think about and I have so many things I want to write about! It's nice to be home and inspired again.


  1. Welcome back! I don't like beer (and I now live in the craft beer capital of the States - go figure) but I am always down for chocolate and waffles and beautiful views.

    I had a makeup artist do my face once, as part of a friend's fashion show. I was a "scary" model (it was Red Riding Hood themed, and I was a wolf) so it was meant to be extreme, but my god, it was awful. At the absolute most it gave me independent verification that cat eyes really do not work for my face, regardless of the skill level of the drawer. Never again. Your wedding look is so glowy and lovely! The lashes are definitely ace.

    1. Beer is definitely an acquired taste. It probably took me a good 3 years to finally enjoy a beer - I tried so hard simply because everyone always offers beer and if you say no, then they fall all over themselves to find you something else and it becomes a whole big thing that I'd rather avoid. And it turns out...it was easier for me to like beer.

      I think she used Maybelline The Falsies but she also used something else in a pink tube and I don't remember what it was! Maybe I'll just scour the Internet for pink tubes of mascara and buy the ones closest to the colour of the tube that I remember.


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