Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Gezelligheid" in Antwerp, Belgium

Downtown Antwerp, Belgium
Back in December I took a business trip to Antwerp, which is in the Dutch-speaking or Flemish part of Belgium, not far from the border with the Netherlands. It was great being in such an old-fashioned town. We stayed in a hotel in the very center of town, across the street from the Cathedral. Because of the time constraints, I had to get my touring in the very first day while people were arriving. We were also fortunate that a Christmas village was being set up during our stay.

I noticed a few things that were different for me. First, the sun didn't come up until after 7:30 AM, which I wasn't used to. Second, the buildings in the old part of town were very close together as would be typical of a European town built before cars were commonplace. Third, the quaint feeling of being in that part of town didn't diminish even with modern conveniences available. It definitely produced the feeling of being in a comfortable atmosphere, which is known in Dutch as "gezelligheid."

My trip provided me with a great opportunity to try Belgian chocolates, Dutch style pancakes and especially true Belgian waffles, and shop for Christmas ornaments. I also enjoyed being able to practice Dutch phrases in some of the stores, but it was good that I could fall back on English if I needed to.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

New blog - for everything that doesn't fit under "Latin and Caribbean travel"

For three years I've been writing a blog on travels to Latin America and the Caribbean. Later I realized that I had a bunch of other topics I wanted to write on that didn't fit under that heading, everything else under the sun, really: movies, popular music, modern society, other parts of the world, and so on. Unlike the structure that goes into the travel blog, this musings blog will be mostly free association. If I have to spend the work day keeping my brain from dancing in a million different directions, I can at least blog about the million different directions, can't I? I will come back to my favorite topics randomly, so there's going to be some sort of pattern.

Right now I'm listening to Aretha Franklin's "Think," and I'm reminded that my older brother was my principal teacher when it came to popular music back in the 60s: changing stations on the car radio constantly, and having all of his 45s labeled and organized. We younger siblings weren't supposed to touch his records, but my mom used to let us play them when he wasn't around. It wasn't just an audio experience, though: I would watch the needle make its way through the grooves, look at the record label and take in the color, the design, the length of the song, and so on. How else would I have known that the slogan of Motown's Gordy label was "It's what's in the grooves...that count"? And how about noticing an incongruity in the movie "Ray" with Jamie Foxx when they showed a Ray Charles record spinning and the Atlantic label was red? What they didn't realize was that in the Fifties the Atlantic label was yellow! Not a big deal to a lot of people but definitely a big deal to record collectors and people who remember the era!

Well, you get the idea. Random, but maybe not so random!