Guest Blog

My Experience As A South African Au Pair In America | 5 Tips To Help With Homesickness | Guest Blog Part 1

I’ve been wanting to do a collab with someone else since I started my blog. I’m so happy to share that my best friend in the entire world agreed to answer a few questions of mine. I’m going to take this opportunity to announce that come April 2019, Anje and I will be releasing the first chapter of the book we’re co-writing together. It will be posted weekly on here every Sunday starting April. If you’re as excited as me and wish to check Anje’s writing out, please go show her some love on her Wattpad profile. She just released her new book called Abnormal Roses and I’m obsessed. She also has a traveler Instagram account where she posts about all the places she’s been too. And the girl has traveled the globe. All the links will be down below. Now that everything is out of the way, let’s get started!

Introduction

I’ve reached out to Anje who I felt could share a part of her journey with you, my readers, in hopes that she can help someone out there who have gone through this experience even if it’s just to show that you’re not alone.

  1. Can you tell me a little about yourself? Just a little introduction before we jump into the topic at hand.

Hello everyone, my name is Anje, I am 22 years old and currently living in South Africa. I often find it hard to describe myself other than saying I am a socially awkward introvert who absolutely loves to travel and experience new cultures and people. A bit of a contradiction if you ask me, but true all the same. I am a very heavy reader, my all-time favorite author being Arthur Conan Doyle, and my favorite novels being the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series. My passions in life are writing, archery, and chocolate.

The probing begins…

  1. How was your experience as an au pair in America?

I absolutely loved it! The States completely blew away all my expectations, which honestly surprised me a lot. I think what had helped me a ton was that I had already been an au pair the year before, though I had been in the Netherlands, I still understood that being an au pair wasn’t just all fun and games and some days would be better than others.

Anyways, back to America; when I arrived in New York for a three-day orientation, it was the night before America was to find out who their new president was. Needless to say, it was quite crazy, but nothing could have ruined my time in New York City. It’s insane, loud, and slightly stinky, but it is beyond amazing. As we zipped through the streets, passing yellow taxi cabs and towering skyscrapers, I just thought “wow, I am so lucky to be here right now.” Having to deal with jetlag was annoying, but you got so busy with orientation and training, you barely thought about it. After the three days, I finally hopped on a train and went to what would become my new home; Washington DC. After about a three-hour ride, I stepped off the train and into Union Station, which is arguably one of the most beautiful buildings I had ever seen. My new host family was there, greeting me with welcoming signs and warm hugs, then we hopped into their car and went to their house. They have three children, when I had arrived they were aged 4, 2, and 6 weeks. Needless to say, I knew I had my work cut out for me, but I was beyond excited to start.

The host parents are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Me being a very awkward and shy person, I worried about being able to develop a proper relationship with them. But boy oh boy was I worried for nothing! They welcomed me into their home with such kindness and excitement, there was never a time I felt unwelcome or even uncomfortable about being in a stranger’s house. It wasn’t before long when I became very close to my host mom, we often laughed about how our relationship was closer to that between sisters than of an employee and her boss. They never treated me like “the help,” and always asked my opinion when it came to the kids.

I know that I had hit the jackpot with them, as I believe that a host family can really make or break your experience as an au pair. This is also why I always tell people who are considering being au pairs, that if they are uncomfortable with their host parents based out of actual concerns, for example, they ask you to work overtime but don’t pay you for it, or the kids treat you like dirt and the parents encourage it, then transfer to a different family! I had a friend who was completely miserable, to the point where she even began to hate America, because her host family was horrible to her. This being said, it is also extremely important for the au pair to understand that this job is anything but easy. You are basically helping raise kids, it is going to be exhausting, it is going to be hard, but it is also worth every minute of it. I’ve had au pair friends who became an au pair with the notion that it was going to be a lovely gap year, filled with relaxation and parties, but of course, that is not reality. I found that these friends often struggled the most with adapting to their new environment, generally becoming miserable as they didn’t expect to actually work.

But please don’t be discouraged from ever becoming an au pair, it is an amazingly fulfilling job, where you get to experience a different culture, country and meet new interesting people. Just keep in mind that it isn’t always going to be easy, there will be days where you want to give up, but push through, it is worth it.

I remember when I first got there everything seemed so different and new. The food was bigger, the people greeted me on the streets, and when you pay for your meals at a restaurant the waitress takes your card to the machine. My host mom, who was still on maternity leave, showed me around the city a lot. We drove past the white house, countless museums, and visited her parents in Arlington, Virginia. I honestly didn’t have such a big issue with culture shock, other than having to use a few different words to describe some things (Not the boot, but the trunk, not a costume, but a bathing suit). I think this is because Cape Town, where I grew up, had a lot of American influences. That and we typically watch American shows, meaning I was always exposed to the American culture and kind of had an idea of what to expect.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t have to deal with being homesick. I’ll admit, during my first year I was completely fine, but close to the end of my second year, things got a little tougher. It is, unfortunately, part of the job, but I do have some tips that worked for me, should you ever have to deal with being homesick as an au pair or traveler. Small disclaimer, though these tips did help me cope, it isn’t to say they will work for you. As you live and experience the new city you are in, you will start to realize what you enjoy doing during your free time and what helps you relax, do what makes you happy. But anyways, some things that helped me:

  • Skype with my family, even if it is just for a few minutes. I would catch up to what was happening back home and tell them how things were going with me. I often found that telling them about my day or week was a great stress reliever. It also allowed me to get excited again, especially when I told them about something new I did or saw.
  • Talk to your host family or friends. Finding someone who you can rely on for support is vital, not only for your mental health but your experience as an au pair. It is great when you can talk to your host family, but it is also good to have someone else. With a friend, you can complain and rant about the things that annoyed you about your day and lean on them whenever you feel homesick. I remember after a particularly tough day of work, it was a snow day so all three kids were home, I messaged my friend and she immediately told me to meet her at Union station. We then had a lovely time walking around the snow, taking pictures in front of the capitol building, and grabbing some dinner at a nice restaurant. When I arrived home I felt amazing, talking about my day had taken away so much stress and I felt ready to face the next day of hard work.
  • Go for a walk. This is a wonderful way to help clear your mind and take a step back from everything going on around you. You can listen to some music or just enjoy your surroundings, I found it often calmed me down a lot. This can even include exploring a little, whether it is going to a museum, a mall, or even nearby coffee shop.
  • Self-care. As an au pair, this is extremely important!! You will basically be taking on the role of mom and therefore will be tired and have little time for yourself while you are working. Self-care can be anything from going to bed earlier, taking a relaxing bubble bath, reading your favorite book, or listening to music while stuffing your face with chocolates. Self-care differs for everyone, do what you feel works for you.
  • Be sad. Yes, this sounds absolutely depressing, but part of being human means having feelings and emotions. We would be doing ourselves a disservice by completely ignoring how we feel, invalidating our own feelings can cause us even more distress. I had learned this the hard way, sadly, as my number one coping mechanism is to hide behind “No, I’m fine,” while actually falling apart inside. Then the smallest thing would happen like my favorite tv character would die (RIP Khal Drogo) or I would knock my elbow against the wall, and everything would just come crashing down. One night, after bawling my eyes out over having found a cricket in my bathroom, I had decided to think more about my feelings and to validate my emotions. Now when I am sad or angry, I go through those emotions, I allow myself to feel, no matter how hard it is. But it helps, when I had worked through the emotions they eventually fade away and I am able to move on from whatever had troubled me.

Now back to my time as an au pair. So in my first year, a typical day would be waking up, going upstairs at 8, saying goodbye to the oldest girl when her dad took her to school, and begin making breakfast for the 2-year-old. My morning would be spent entertaining him, while also taking care of the baby. My host mom luckily worked from home, which helped a lot seeing as the baby refused to take the bottle during the first month or so. One day, when my host mom had to go into the office, the baby had a 6-hour hunger strike. I tried everything to get her to drink, but she outright refused. It was also during this time that we were trying to potty train the 2-year-old boy. It was probably one of the most disgusting things I had ever experienced in my life, but luckily we all got through it. The months passed by rather quickly, the boy now 3 and the eldest now 5. Summer break then came, catching me slightly off guard. It was so humid outside we were confined indoors for most of the time. I kept them busy with science experiments, baking, art projects, and dance parties. When summer break was finally over, the 3-year-old also started school, meaning it was just me and the baby from that point on.

When school started it felt quite weird having only one kid, but I wasn’t complaining one bit. I took her for walks in the stroller, taught her some Afrikaans words, and helped her learn how to walk. It was around October, a day or so before my birthday, that my host parents decided to move to a different house. It was only a few blocks from the old one, but a lot bigger. It was also during this time that a particularly nasty stomach bug was slowly making its way through the whole family. As luck would have it, on moving day, the day before my birthday, I got sick. I was confined to my bed for almost three days, not even able to eat my own birthday cake. My host mom, however, decided that this was unacceptable and said that my birthday would move to that weekend, when I am healthy again. That Saturday morning the whole family sang me a happy birthday, bringing a cupcake with a candle. It warmed my heart, as I had told her it was a tradition of my family to do that on someone’s birthday. That day my host mom, her mom, the 5-year-old girl and I went out to get our hair done and have lunch at a huge mall. It was a great day, we did some shopping and had a lot of fun bonding.

Halloween then came around and let me tell you, it was amazing!!!  Back home in South Africa, we do not celebrate Halloween, save for a few house parties some people throw, but we definitely do not go trick or treating. So walking down the street with the kids all dressed up, watching them fill their bags full of chocolate and candy, was probably a highlight of my year. That and the fact that I ate my bodyweight in chocolate that night.

Thanksgiving was also beyond amazing, we went to my host dad’s family in Rochester New York and his mom is a genius in the kitchen! She had like 4 types of pies!!! The amazing food aside it was also a great experience to be part of that holiday, especially when we sat around the table and said what we are grateful for. About a month after that it was Christmas, a holiday I thought I would be prepared for seeing as we celebrate it back home as well. But, boy was I wrong. America does Christmas like I have never seen Christmas being done before. I always said that America’s motto is “go big or go home.” Giant Christmas trees around every corner, beautiful Christmas lights wrapped around every building, green wreaths on every door, it was a kaleidoscope of color and cheer. It was beautiful and really makes you excited for Christmas. The day itself wasn’t at all different than how we celebrate it back in South Africa. The kids will open their presents that morning, the family will come over that evening for a delicious Christmas meal. It was strange being away from my family, but I skyped with them the whole morning and everyone at the Christmas dinner was so friendly, it made it so much easier.

So then New Years rolled around and 2018 marked my second year as an Au Pair. I had decided to extend with the same family, but that is a decision that depends on so many variables. For one thing, you have spent an entire year building a bond with these kids and their parents, you have a stable routine, you know how everything works, and you are comfortable with your surroundings. But on the other hand, there is a new adventure that awaits, a new State to explore, and new people to meet. I think it all depends on you as the au pair, if you feel that you want to experience a new family and city, then go for it, if you don’t, then stay. Just never feel as though you are obligated to stay in the same place, even if you don’t want to.

I think I also need to talk about traveling, definitely my all-time favorite topic in life. So when I was in the Netherlands I would only travel by train and use Couchsurfing. I traveled to so many places, I got to walk through the Colosseum in Rome, fell asleep on a beach in France, bought fresh fruit in Barcelona, and went up on the Eiffel Tower with my best friend. But I quickly learned that it isn’t that easy in America, obviously the US is a lot bigger and you need to use different ways of getting around. So my main form of traveling came in the shape of road trips. My friend and I would rent a car and go wherever we wanted. Keep in mind that if you are under the age of 24 you might have trouble renting a car or would have to pay a lot more. Also always get insurance, it might be a little more expensive, but trust me it’s worth it! We were also quite lucky being only a few hours drive from New York, but for that, we decided to take the bus. There are a lot of cheap busses in America, it might take you longer to get to your destination, but let me put it like this: A 3-hour train ride from DC to NY was around $60, while a 5-hour bus was around $15. I am a full-time student so saving money was important, which meant I was on the bus, rather than the train.

The best way of finding the cheapest ways to travel is by doing a lot of research! Go on different websites, use Hostels instead of Hotels, compare the prices of everything! It does take some time, but when you are on a budget it helps a lot. My all-time favorite website was Wanderu. Basically, you type in where you are and where you want to go and it gives you hundreds of options for busses and trains. It compares prices from a bunch of different travel services so you know you are getting the best deal.

***

In part two we will talk about how Anje balanced being a full-time au pair in America while studying. Part two will go up on Monday, so stay tuned. Please show her some love on her Instagram or in the comments down below. I will send it all through to her.

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

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Abnormal Roses — https://www.wattpad.com/story/170208404-abnormal-roses

Anje’s Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/anje_tait/

 

Story Time

A Really Detailed Brussels Travel Blog | Part Two

Okay this time around I won’t have a super long introduction mostly because I literally just wrote the last word in part one so I still have the journal close to hand although I’m getting hungry and want to get up and eat breakfast slash lunch soon. I also need to go to the shops but let’s see how far I can get with rewriting this next part before I need a break. THE CRINGE IS PHYSICALLY PAINFUL.

Alright you already know the date and all that jazz so here goes. We’re just going to jump straight into the good stuff. Oh lord give me strength.

Around 9pm we set out for a pasta meal because well cravings. The Italian restaurant where the staff spoke French was beautiful and the meal was, insert some fancy word for delicious, exquisite – yes I googled it. Over our meal and a very tasty red wine we talked about a subject that was an obvious tension bringer, Dana, or what’s her face, decided she wants to get a tattoo and Onno said he will go with her. Okay that sounds innocent and yes I’m being unreasonable (At least I knew!) but hear me out okay! I talked about getting my tattoo dedicated for my dad way before Dana even knew she wanted a tattoo. Onno actually gave me the idea! It’s our thing! Onno is the only person that really knows about my fears about my dad leaving me in that one way that he keeps coming close to. (My dad has had a lot of strokes. Ever since I could remember he had strokes. Some were quite serious and we didn’t think he would bounce back from but be always somehow does. It’s really scary every time. He had a stroke in August in my au pair year so a month before this journal entry so it was still very fresh.) And the thing is that Onno and I have experienced a lot of things before we met each other so there isn’t a lot of things that is a first…ironically it was my first weekend away with my loved one and my first time staying in a hotel and my first time bathing with a guy…(No tickled each other’s toes here. We took a bath together. It was cramped and really uncomfortable. I eventually kicked Onno out and relaxed in the bath on my own.) It was just important to me and still is. Onno is my boyfriend (I just smiled thinking back to Onno as my boyfriend. It was truly such a wonderful time but I must say Onno as my husband is ten times better.) and I want him to be with me when I get my tattoo for my dad. It just makes it so much better that it’s his first time ever being in that environment. I just feel like that moment will be so special and I will probably get emotional.

Alright let’s take a short break to talk about all of that. I feel like it’s needed. Looking back onto that fight now nearly two years later I can’t help but think how silly it is. In a way I can kind of see where my past self was going. She wanted to share this super special moment with her boyfriend with him still new to everything. I get it but why did we fight about something so silly? Why did I make it into such a big deal? Thinking back to it now I feel like I was just self conscious and worried. When Onno and I met he had two girl best friends that was attractive and very well out there. I didn’t want to be beaten by them and I wanted to be ‘the only girl’ in his eyes. It’s a little silly considering that Onno doesn’t even talk to these girls anymore and we’re married now but hey you feel what you feel. Sometimes as a couple some damn fights will come up but it’s important to sit down and talk it all out till you reach the root of the problem. Onno and I did that and where that fight could’ve ruined the entire weekend, we came back from it. That’s the one thing I always enjoyed about Onno and I’s relationship. We always talk it out till we find a place where we’re both happy. We never go to bed angry and we never go a day without saying we love each other. We start our day with a good morning kiss and end our day with a good night kiss. Okay let’s return to the journal entry.

After our dinner we originally planned to go out in the town but after finishing most of the wine I was feeling more than tipsy and it didn’t matter to me where we ended up but I have to admit, just being alone with Onno is always the most flattering idea! (Insert future Cassandra cringing her ass off! Please make it stop!) Onno which was also a bit under the influence

What the hell Cassandra? Under the influence. What? I can’t deal with my past self right now. I need a break. Also Speculoos just dropped onto my journal so I can’t read the next part. And now I also can’t move because my cat chose to cuddle against me.

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Let’s try that again…

Onno which was also a bit under the influence made the choice of how the rest of the evening was going to go and steered us back towards the hotel. There we basically climbed back in bed and talked about everything and nothing at the same time. I remember that night. My memory is a bit foggy but we talked about how tiring it is for the partner in their favorite… (Oh you got to be kidding me. Yeah I can’t write that and put it on the internet.) Let’s just skip forward till when it gets safe for work again. We fell asleep shortly afterwards. The both of us woke up at around the same time the next day, perfectly fine and hungry. We decided that after such a busy last two days and the fact that we did see most of what there is to see already that we could take things slow and relax in bed for the most of the day. So after eating a nice portion of breakfast again we cuddled up in bed and actually watched a cooking show before we tickled each other’s toes. Finally around 3pm we needed some fresh air and off we were. I took the last minute photos, we made another Starbucks stop and I couldn’t let us to leave without getting Belgium chocolate. After getting everything we needed we headed back to the hotel with a plan in mind. First we will check out and get the car and then we will head to the Atomiom where we will relax for a bit before heading home. Not everything went according to plan. On our way to the Atomiom we stopped at the church where we made a quick stop to explore and take some pictures. After our a small detour we were back on the road towards the Atomiom by following the signs. Now if only the signs were clear. It literally took us on such a round and about ride that we passed the actual thing twice and then it send us on the highway. We were so close to giving in but Onno was determined to get us there. When we finally found a spot, we had to pay for the parking ticket and then walk more than 20 minutes to the actual building. Rage!

 

We finally found the place and after our long walk we relaxed on the grass for a bit and talked. The subject of money came up once again. I honestly feel so guilty about how much money Onno spend on our weekend away and I wasn’t helping with the expenses. Although I did pay him back for most of the things he bought for me, almost 80 Euros in total but it wasn’t close to what he spend. It was our first weekend away so now we know to be more careful with money next time and where we could change a few things.

A little add in from future Cassandra. That trip we went all out with spending and shopping and etc. We were basically throwing money at everything. We definitely could’ve been smarter with our money but we definitely learned from our mistakes. Our second trip together was to Greece nearly a year later. There we were careful and smart. I think in the end it was the same cost. Brussels was a weekend and Greece was 7 days if memory serves me correctly.

 It was around 7pm when we drove out of Brussels. On the road we talked about the financial aspect of next year (Remember I went back to South Africa January 2016. Three months later I flew back for three months on the tourist visa. It was our test to see if we wanted a long term relationship so to basically get me here in the Netherlands.) and we decided that the both of us will work out a budget and see how much money we can afford to spend each month and etc. I was happy we talked about it. (Being open about your finances with your partner is honestly so important. Sometimes sacrifices and changes needs to be made and you can only figure that out by talking about it…) We also talked about Onno coming to South Africa in the August holiday to meet my family. I’m absolutely in love with that idea! (Onno came to South Africa in January 2017. Around my birthday. It was also around this time we had our pre-wedding.)

On the border of Belgium and the Netherlands we stopped for our dinner. McDonalds! And surprisingly I ate more than Onno, three chicken nuggets more but still more. (Past Cassandra why the hell did you feel compel to brag about this? Just why?) There was a lot of laughing involved and the occasional farting and no it’s almost never Onno. (We ate in the car and also I fart a lot. Gasp. A girl farts. Back then I was really sensitive to lactose and after a weekend of cheesy foods, ice cream, milky drinks and chocolate my stomach wasn’t loving me at all.) It’s the ice cream and cheese! (How lovely. I even made excuses for myself in the journal. Hilarious.) I’m the guy in the relationship and I take my job seriously. (Not really but I was a bit rough around the edges. Onno ‘manned’ up over the years.) After one more detour where Onno took a wrong turn on a highway. We arrived at my place around 9pm or in that area. Our first weekend came to an end and it was amazing to spend quality time with Onno without any distractions. We said goodbyes and with one last kiss Onno was off. That’s the worst part, saying goodbye and watching Onno leave.

FINALLY! I somehow survived this blog. There was cringe, tears and just overall pain. I’m so happy that I finished it. But before I end this blog I should actually give some travel tips (or tip) for Brussels.

The thing we used the most was a map from this website — https://visit.brussels/en — If you’re going to Brussels definitely give this website a look. They have everything you might need.

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

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Story Time

A Really Detailed Brussels Travel Blog | Part One

I’ve mentioned my journal that I kept the first year of our relationship well I have content for a lot longer but let’s face it…it’s never going to make the journal. Anyway this blog has a point. So the other day my travel tips for South Africa went online and the response was like oh wow people really like my travel blogs I should write another one. Thus this blog was born. Now where does the journal come in Cassandra? Patience my little grasshopper. So back when Onno and I were fresh in the dating pond we went away for the weekend. It is a very short travel but hey it’s in another country so this can count as a travel blog right? Anyway I wrote about this trip in my journal (oh I wish I can copy and paste but instead I have to rewrite everything) but it’s always nice to walk down the memory line. Honestly when I think back to our first few months I blush. I fell deeply and head over heels for this precious Dutch boy. Okay I’m just writing that to make my husband go ‘awwh how sweet’ and get up and make me a cup of tea. Did it work? Well yes it did. I wanted to take a picture but it took my husband ten minutes to get up from the couch and I lost interest and started to browse the internet. By the time I finally got my tea I was so deep in the web that pausing to take a picture just wasn’t an option.

I will be honest with you. It’s Sunday night and I’m extremely lazy. I have to get up to get the journal so I can actually finish this blog but getting up is just so much effort. Honestly I need to pee but once I’m up I just want to go to bed. It’s only 9pm but who is judging. Okay guys, I’m clicking save and I’m getting up. Alright I haven’t moved. Okay I still haven’t gotten up. Okay I’m saving and closing the document. Someone is going to bed. I will finish this blog tomorrow.

Four days later…

I just sat down, got completely comfortable only to remember I still haven’t gotten out the journal. Damn it! I will probably browse YouTube or move to another blog while I wait till I need to go so I can get the journal on my way back. I’m lazy and proud.

Two hours later…

I’m ashamed.

Six YouTube videos later…

Okay I finally had to pee. I already sat down and started to get comfortable when I remembered. No worries. I got up this time around to get the god damn journal. Honestly it wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Here is the journal entry. The cursive writing is straight from the journal from way back then and if I feel there is some empty parts I will add it, it’s the normal writing. Okay enough chatting. Here is the goods. Oh just a quick note from my future self. I was very step by step in this blog. After reading this you will know exactly what we did in Brussels and when. At the moment I’m halfway through writing it over and this blog is turning into a ridiculously long one so I’m going to split it. Here is part one! (Part two will be up next week Monday so you only have to wait two full days for it!)

24 to 27 September 2015

The time has arrived. Our very first weekend away and our destination is Brussels, Belgium. Thursday night Onno arrived at my place just after I put the kids in bed. We laid on my bed and naturally I had to ruin all the excitement of our weekend away by mayor stomach ache. (I now know it was a gluten attack but this is before I was diagnosed. Getting extreme and very painful stomach aches was pretty normal.) I’m talking about full on stomach twisting cramps. I nearly cried. The host parents arrived while I was withering on the bed and even with the stomach ache, I just wanted to leave, because leaving would mean our weekend would start. I fell asleep in the car when the stomach ache dulled enough for me to relax. Before I knew it I was back in our bed cuddling with Onno. We fell asleep shortly afterwards and I have to add, falling asleep with Onno’s arms around my body is one of the best things in the entire world. The alarm pulled us out of our slumber but it sure as hell didn’t pull us apart. We had a nice quick round (Oh my I really didn’t hide anything in our journal. Well I’m going to cut that part out. I’m sure all the adults reading this knows what we did.) of monopoly (I’m hilarious.) before starting our first day of our short trip. We had breakfast and packed our bags and right on time we were in the car. After waiting 10 minutes max for a construction truck to move out of the way – we were on our way! The drive went smoothly for the most part. I took pictures of the moment because naturally I need to document everything. Now what is a short road trip without a detour? The original plan was to go to Antwerpen on one of the travel days (Friday or Sunday) and everything was going according to plan till we took the wrong turn for Antwerpen and landed on a different highway. Our little detour didn’t cost us a lot of time but it did however stop us from seeing Antwerpen.

 

 

It was between 11am and 12pm when we finally arrived in Brussels. We left Rotterdam around 9am. We parked the car and with our bags in hand; poor Onno almost died carrying it to the hotel – we arrived in the centre of Brussels. We dropped of our luggage at the hotel (check in time was around 3pm) and set out to explore. We took things slow really. We didn’t rush to see all the tourist attractions. We were on our own pace the entire weekend. No rush involved and if you don’t count the last amount of walking we did (an easy 12km per day) our weekend was pretty relaxed. The check in at the hotel was only at 3pm so we burned time by sitting in a nice and very expensive restaurant for a juice drink. Afterwards we walked to the massive square that Brussels is famous for, ‘Grand-place grote markt’. Onno was genuinely happy to see that there was Starbucks and naturally we couldn’t resist to pop in and look around. This is where I finally tried a frappuccino which basically is ice coffee and let me tell you, it’s heavenly. Onno had his usual and I couldn’t resist getting the sweet little Belgium themed cups. With our drink in hand we walked around sticking close to the centre. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at the second main tourist attraction ‘Manneken pis’. Our second stop was in the shopping area close to the hotel. Onno got a nice long black jersey for himself and at Hema we got a sexy black number, of a dress which I plan to wear to his thesis defense next month. I definitely need to lose a few layers of fat too still fit into it and look good. (What a warped way of thinking. My mindset truly has changed over the years.) Now there is one thing you should know at Brussels, their Primark sucks and I couldn’t find a decent prized pants anywhere and I brilliantly packed only one long pair and after messing my lunch on it, I needed a replacement. We soon gave up on that. The both of us were exhausted after all of our walking and the only thing we wanted was to finally check out our hotel room for the first time.

 

 

Our room was on the fourth floor and beautifully decorated. It was neat and very fancy. The bath looked so inviting that we just couldn’t resist trying it out together. Seriously Cassandra why did you go into details? I’m not even sure if I should add this part. Let me see what Onno says when he’s editing this. Our first bath was short because Onno couldn’t keep his hands to himself. Yes, I’m blaming him! Okay maybe I was part of the blame but I’m not admitting to anything and you can’t make me! Insert evil deranged laugh here. We tried out the hotel bed with a very – Okay there is no way I can add all of this. I can see Onno blushing and he’s not even home right now. Onno then showed just how much he loves me by going to Primark which was beyond busy and horrible might I add to buy my replacement jeans. If that isn’t an act of true love then I don’t know what is!

It was about dinner time when we resurfaced to reality. Onno wanted ribs and who am I to deny the boy his meat? The restaurant was packed but our reservations easily gave us a table. I’m going to see if I can find the restaurant because their food was amazing. Here is the link —  https://www.tripadvisor.nl/Restaurant_Review-g188644-d946742-Reviews-Amadeus-Brussels.html — I had one big rib and one baked potato and Onno went a bit harder and had two of each or he tried. He was completely smitten with the sauce they gave with the potatoes. I’m pretty sure the large amounts he ate of it made him sick but he would probably never admit that. I did however noticed I was rubbing off on him and he didn’t touch his salad!

Our desert was Irish coffee and I refused to try this because it’s a given fact that I wouldn’t like it. So Onno ordered a vanilla ice cream with whip cream on top and let me tell you, it was divine. I was pushing my luck with all the whip cream (I was heavily sensitive to lactose back then.) and the added ice cream wasn’t going to help me at all but hey – I’m only going to be in Brussels once! (Back then I didn’t think I would ever move here to the Netherlands. I was fully prepared to maybe never see Europe again.) After dinner we walked around and I have to say Brussels looks amazing at night time. It was then when something caught my eye, a Ferris wheel in the distance with its lights on proudly. The child and the hopeless romantic inside of me just had to go on that ride and so Onno and I walked through quite a dodgy part of the town. The two of us, only dressed in a very thin sweater, to say we were freezing would be an understatement. The Ferris wheel was shit expensive but definitely worth it. It consisted out of three rounds and there was the one round where we stopped at the top and the little house thing or whatever they call it – started to swing. It totally freaked out. It was swinging. Onno was being so smooth and kissed my fears away (I’m cringing so hard rewriting this.) but I think he was a tiny bit scared! When we finally climbed off the ride I was so relieved. I’m alive! We walked back towards the hotel, stopping at the centre where there was a concert going on in French. We weren’t interested and just went back to the hotel. Back in the hotel room we rolled (Oh come on Cassandra. Why did you document all of this? No one wants to read that.) before falling asleep. The bed was beyond comfortable but I had one problem with it. The fact that there was so much room between Onno and I. (I can’t stop cringing.) Normally when we would sleep together we would cuddle and fall asleep with some physical contact and while this wasn’t different…the thing that bothered me was the fact that when I woke up in the middle of the night Onno would be so far and out of reach where normally he would be just one arm reach away.

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Don’t mind me but I kind of just need two minutes away from rewriting this travel blog because all of this cringing is making my teeth hurt. Honestly this is so CRINGY. From now on when Onno and I have sex and I actually wrote it in the journal I’m just going to write that we ate ice cream. Wait that might actually get confusing when we have ice cream. Okay let me rethink this. We tickled each other’s feet. Now that’s not weird. Let’s keep it because it’s going to be so funny to write slash read. Remember we tickled each other’s feet. Nothing else. Just that. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.

The next morning, the Saturday was our official explore Brussels day. We started our day by eating more than enough food at the hotel’s breakfast buffet. After breakfast we had to lie down because we feared our stomach would explode if we walked. It was then when we planned our activities for the day and the first thing on the agenda was waffle making! We got dressed and off we were to the waffle shop! We were split up in teams but that didn’t stop us! We made the batch. Onno and I was the first one to try the waffle iron out. I’m proud to say it came out nearly perfect and it was delicious. I then came up with the idea to build a waffle house with all the leftovers. Our little house looked beautiful and Onno decorated it beautifully with only little help from me. Proud of our accomplishment and thirsty we stopped at Starbucks. We enjoyed our drink in the hot sun in the centre while planning our own private tour. Literally the second we walked away from the centre I had to pee. If you ask Onno he would say I can take one sip of a drink and two seconds later I need the bathroom. My bladder is weak man. It took 30 minutes easy to find a bathroom and let me tell you. My ears were ringing and my eyes was tearing up by then. The bathroom couldn’t arrive a second later.

 

 

We then walked to the tourist attractions close to the centre and stopped at the park across the castle. I think. Anyway we stopped there to chill for a bit. It was then that we decided to walk to the arc thing…and let me tell you…HOLY SHIT that’s a lot of walking. It must have been an easy 30 minutes of walking before we gave in and bought a metro card and traveled with the metro for the rest of the evening. When we arrived at the arc (Let me look up what the hell I’m talking about…It’s called Cinquantenaire) we stopped there for a bit to chill and around 5pm we finally started to head back to the hotel after being up and about in Brussels from 11am. On our way back to the hotel we stopped to buy some lovely treats to snack on. We also bought a bottle of champagne, candles and bubble bath for a romantic night in the hotel room. On our way back to the hotel we passed a street artist and I was so interested in his style that I bought a little artwork of his.

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We lit the candles, made a relaxing bubble bath and just sat back and enjoyed the moment. I made Onno a beard and a great hairdo with the bubbles while he failed in doing mine. Naturally we got distracted – damn it Cassandra. We tickled each other’s toes. Around 9pm we set out for a pasta meal because well cravings. The Italian restaurant where the staff spoke French was beautiful and the meal was, insert some fancy word for delicious, exquisite – yes I googled it. Over our meal and a very tasty red wine we talked about a subject that was an obvious tension bringer, Dana*.

Alright folks that’s where I cut you off. I just can’t handle more cringe right now. Reading about this fight made me face palm myself. Truly so ridiculous in the long scheme of things but I will still write about it. Just not in this blog. My teeth are honestly aching from this. I’ve never cringed so hard in my life. Are you cringing?

Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!

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PS: In part two I will actually give some travel tips from my experience in Brussels. I don’t know how much is valid now nearly two years later but let’s see.

*Dana isn’t her real name.

Link to part two — https://fitcouchpotato.com/2018/04/02/a-really-detailed-brussels-travel-blog-part-two/