21 July 2013

Gone to the dogs

Working to get back to normal.  I've been playing catch up for two weeks and I am just now starting to turn the corner.  Reports, status updates, projects, strategic decisions, more reports.  Sometimes, it seems like I'm juggling cats around here.

We're working on getting permission for our road trip to China.  Note to self:  If you are planning to visit mainland China, you just don't pull that off on a whim.  You have to get approval weeks in advance with reams of paperwork.  We've submitted our paperwork to the consulate and only hope to have it approved before we saddle up in August.  PITA, perhaps, but that's my cross to bear.  Right now I am playing catch up at home.  Spending extra time with momma and the dogs.   

Speaking of the mutts, was out at the local farmer's market last weekend with the dogs.  We cut a deal with the organizers of the market and they give us a booth for free and we will set up shop to make people aware of our group.  Of course, the dogs are a natural draw for that kind of crowd.  

This weekend it is time again for the annual dog show.  Good place to get your doggie fix and blow a whole wad of cash on all sorts of canine junk.  Dog food, beds, cages, bowls, collars, leashes, signs (I Love my Shih Tzu!), shirts, treats, and even a pet Psychic.  Just about anything you could think of for your mutt (but didn't know you needed).  Some people will even "accessorize" their dogs.  

A third of the show is comprised of various rescue groups like ours.  GBGRR has been doing this for some time now and this was my 4th year to attend.  Big both in the back with lots of room.  First year I took Grayson one day and then Claire the next figuring they would be too hard to handle together.  The next year I took both and they were very well behaved.  So I've been taking them together ever since.  Grayson loves all the activity and new sights/smells, bit it is Claire that really steals the show.  Since both dogs are full blooded Golden Attention Hounds, they overdosed on all the attention they got this morning and are passed out on the floor now.  
Group sit
Claire hogging all the attention

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Claire knows how to work the crowd
She really needs to learn how to relax

13 July 2013

Belgium in the rear view mirror

Time to wrap this up and move on.  I had a great week in Brussels and I am slowly getting caught up at work.  With the holiday and my sudden illness, I figured that I was out of the office for two weeks and that put me way behind.  Already trying to finish up my trip reports (due last week) and get ready for our own internal audit at the end of the month and then my next road trip in August.  This time we are headed in the opposite direction - east.  Another 23 hour flight halfway around the globe to some far, far off land where people eat their Dim Sum with wooden sticks. 

In the meanwhile, let me finish up with my week in Brussels with a few parting shots.  Great city.  Lots of things to see/do/eat/drink.  I love the European culture.  I got the opportunity to spend 4+ years over in Germany and tried to drink up (pun intended) as much of the culture as we could.  The food is amazingly fresh, different.  A lot of the hotels are great/unique (especially the smaller ones).  The people are friendly, if not a bit tolerant to tourists (in certain regions).  Some of my best memories are staying in some out of the way town in a small Gasthaus that was run by family.  The make it feels like you are staying as a guest in their home.  There are plenty of sights to see, some old, some new.  And, of course, there is the beer.  I hate to admit it, but I seem to have fallen in love with Belgian beer.  I used to think German beer vas der best, but my two trips to Brussels has taught me different.  I still love my German beers, but I have grown a new respect for some really fine Belgian Trappist Ales.  

I know I have said this before, but whenever I travel, I make it a point to look for things that make the place unique, interesting.  You will never learn anything new unless you step outside of your comfort zone and try some new things.  You never know what things you may find along the path.      

09 July 2013

Bad vices

OK, enough teasing.  It's always been my motto:  If you are going to travel to far off, distant places, you need to learn to enjoy some of the local flavor.  I shy away from things I can easily get over here.  

Grimbergen (my new favorite!)
Gulden Draak
More Kwak

But, every person has their vice and, of course, one should always leave room for the sweets

Bad for you

Really, really bad for you
I'll take one of those and one of those and one of those...
Hello, Baby

Trying to see if I can have one installed at our office
 My bag going home weighed at least 15 pounds more than when I flew over.  

Brussels at large

Finally worked my way back down south to Brussels.  Was planning to take the train back down but caught a ride with the sales manager instead and save myself the cost and logistical challenges.  Was interesting to see all the traffic jams instead of the train headaches.  Made it down to Brussels with time to spare so I hopped a train downtown to explore and find a nice dinner.  Brussels is definitely a place you can find a good meal.  

Explored the area around the Grand Plaza again.  All the side streets with cafes, bars.  

We spotted this place by the Centraal station that peeked our interest on Sunday:  Dinner in the Sky.  Exactly what you picture it to be (look it up on dinnerinthesky.com).  When we saw it on Sunday morning, it wasn't being used, so it got our attention.  When I came back down on Wednesday, it was in full swing.  Just imagine, eating an elegant dinner with 30 other people hanging out 250 feet above the streets of Brussels.  Sounds interesting but I kept thinking:  what if you needed to go to the bathroom?

Brussels has a ton of sidewalk restaurants.  A lot are down by the Grand Plaza.  The narrow cobblestone alley ways are lined on both sides with place after place.  All of them have some buy our front trying to entice you to chose them over the other (Free beer!  Free wine!  Glass of Champagne with dinner!  Tiramasu for desert!  Free shoulder massage!).  Lots of choices.  I did note that a lot of these places seemed to serve muscles.  Not sure if it was a seasonal thing or a regular part of their menu.  I didn't take the challenge - never acquired the taste for muscles (or clams for that matter).

We finished up on Friday but our plane wasn't leaving until Sunday.  Spent Friday night and all Saturday just wandering all over town.  My coworker and I explored an area north of town called Atomium.  A display made back in 1955 as part of the World Expo.  Was meant to be a temporary display but wound up becoming permanent.  Huge structure of spheres with interlinking tubes that you can go from one globe to another.  Restaurant at the top and display rooms in the lower spheres.  The shape is suppose to represent the molecular composition of an iron atom.  

Of course, for just a few Euros more and being in a touristy mood, we just had to check out the mini-Europe display next door.   Where else can you see the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London, and the Tower of Pisa in 1 hour?

A bit cheesy?  Perhaps, but I am a sucker for cheesy sometimes and it was neat to see all of the various displays and intricate detail that went into the models.  All it needs is a horde of Viking Warriors battling it out.  

And the chocolate is coming...