Saturday, December 26, 2009

Namur












Well, I obviously made it to Belgium alright, and the travel experiences even inspired a last-minute college application essay, so I guess I can't complain. Elodie's family lives in Namur, which you can locate along with the other cities I visited here. Since there was a nice layer of snow, we went for a walk on a ravelle, an old train track which has been turned into a walking path. Namur also has an old quarry and iron foundry which have become sort of a park and walking ground. Once a year, the community even comes together to keep it clean. Within the city, Elodie gave me a tour of the city with the traditional Christmas market and decorations. Once the weather cleared up a bit, we went to the citadel for a bit of history and a great view of Namur! There is a perfumerie on the hill and as well as some museums, hotel, restaurants, outdoor theatres, even a small theme park. Most things were closed for the winter or the holidays, but the views were still lovely.

In the European countries I've visited, Christmas is generally celebrated on the 24th, with presents being exchanged and traditional foods eaten with the immediate family. On the 25th, there is usually a big dinner with extended family. Belgians also separate Saint Nicolas from Father Christmas...the figure Americans know as Santa Clause seems to be a combination of the two. SinterKlaas is celbrated in Belgium and the Netherlands on December 5, commemorating the man who was know for giving other people gifts on his own birthday. Traditionally, children get gifts and candies on this day, and in the Netherlands they don't get anything else for Christmas on the 25th! In some countries, such as Austria, it is the Christ child who is said to bring the gifts.

Besides delicious Belgian chocolate, the Boulangers made a deliciously gourmet fondu dinner on the 24th with smoked salmon, roast beef, baked apples stuffed with cranberry sauce, and the traditional French Christmas log cake for dessert the next day! In the evenings, Elodie and I watched one famous Francophone comedie called Le père Noël est une ordure...think Monty Python meets French humor meets Christmas. The other evenings, we decided to be a bit less traditional by watching House of Wax and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. All in all, it was great to catch up with Elodie, see a bit of her city, work on French, and visit with a lovely family. The newest member, Chanel, is pictured here...needless to say, I felt right at home. :)

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