A Sunny Sunday in the Zoo

Spring seems to be pushing its way back into Belgium! And I had a glorious weekend! Even though I did have to work Saturday, everything is better when the sun is out. And we more than made up for the weekend work on Sunday by going to the Zoo!

We decided to go on a little day trip to Antwerp. The boyfriend had only been there once before, and we didn’t make it any further than the train station and the opera building that time. This time, I took him for a quick walk in the city. We walked De Meir, the main shopping street of Antwerp, went by the Rubenshuis (a museum dedicated to the life and work of the famous Belgian painter Rubens) which we decided we will definitely come back for another time, walked down to the Groenplaats and the Grote Markt (your usual squares like in every city in Belgium, and I still think the Leuven Grote Markt is the prettiest), I told him the story of Brabo and how Antwerp got its name (in an nutshell: the hero Brabo fought the giant Antigoon, chopped off his hand and threw it in the river Schelde: therefore, Antwerpen, Hand-Werpen, i.e. Hand-Throwing), and we enjoyed the sun down by the river Schelde.

Walking back towards the Zoo (right next to the train station, definitely the most impressive station in Belgium), we stopped at Wagamama’s for lunch. Maybe not the most Antwerp-like place to go for lunch, but truth is this restaurant chain has not made its way to Leuven yet and I absolutely LOVE their food! And their juices, like the carrot and ginger one! So I ordered the Phad Thai which was as delicious as I remember it from Bangkok itself. As sides, we ordered the chilly squid and some fried shrimp. Oh My Lord. Heaven! The boyfriend went for a curry and he was on cloud nine. I think during the whole lunch, he must have said “Oh boy, I love my curries” at least 20 times. We finished off with a delicious cup of strong coffee, thanked the friendly waiting staff, and off to the Zoo it was!

The boyfriend and I LOVE Zoos. (Although I do have to admit, I feel a bit bad going to the zoo sometimes. Those poor animals, away from their natural habitat locked in cages… If Zoos will ever be closed down, I will support that move without a doubt, but for now, I am being an utter hypocrite because I still love watching all the cute furry creatures. And I keep telling myself the Zoo people are taking really good care of them.) Our first Zoo together was the one in Chester, where my favourite parts were the elephants (because there were so many of them) and the bat cave. The bats whizz right passed you and we spent ages in there for that rush of bat-excitment. Oh and not to forget the lions, who happened to be having a roaring competition just as we walked past.

The other Zoo we went to was the one in the south of Belgium: Pairi Daiza. Best. Zoo. Ever. It’s super interactive! They have two monkey islands which you have to go to during feeding times. On the first one they have Squirrel Monkeys, absolutely tiny little cutie pies that love to run about. You get to feed them little worms (ew!) and they just jump all over you. Nothing to be scared off, because their little hands look very clawy but are actuallt super soft.

The second island is the Lemur Island. The lemurs are a bit less sociable, they grab the food of your hand and hop straight the next visitor. When they’re all satisfied, they chill out on the roof and stare at us as if we’re the animals in the Zoo. But not for the boyfriend. No, he made a friend. This one lemur decided the boyfriend’s shoulder was a perfectly good spot to spend his afternoon. He was playing with the boyfriend’s hair a little, or just hugging his head, while posing beautifully for all the other tourists that now have photos of the boyfriend in their travel albums. I was starting to think we would never get off the island, because when the lemur finally decided to move on, the bridge off the island had a bit of a pelican congestion situation.

The giraffes are also super cool, because the viewing platform is basically at the same height as their heads. You get to be so close to them, it’s an amazing experience.

The Zoo in Antwerp is the oldest one in Belgium, open since mid-19th century. The architecture of some of the buildings is pretty impressive, but unfortunately there were a lot of construction works going on. We didn’t mind, since we got our tickets half price!

The most fun, again, were the monkeys. I think it’s just because the boyfriend and I adore monkeys. There was a whole building full of all sorts of funny looking tiny monkeys. One of them even had a moustache! I call it the moustache monkey, although I think its real name is the Emperor Tamarin.

They also had a whole section for apes: gorillas and chimpansees. They were so close, they were so beautiful, and they were having so much fun!

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We also happened to be at the baboon enclosure at the right time, they were just being fed and were going absolutely wild. Hi-La-Ri-Ous!

And of course I really liked the penguins. They’re just so much fun to watch walk (aka wobble) around, I penguined around myself for a while after that.

It was such a fun day, and I really can’t wait to go back once they’ve finished all the new things they were working on. And there’s still one more Zoo we haven’t done in Belgium, Planckendael. That’ll be for summer 🙂




Seaside Sunday

It’s that time of year where everyone has a cold and the whole country is sniffing its way through the day. Except for me and the boyfriend. We were properly suffering our way through the day. Horrendous viral infection of the throat, with a massive cold on top. That could only mean one thing: cuddling up on the couch in our pyjamas with liters of tea, being buried in tissues, watching movies all day long. I have to say, being ill reduces stress levels massively. At least it does if you have enough time to catch up on things as well.

By the weekend, we were feeling better and got everything sorted. Shopping for the next week: check. Cleaning of the house: check. Laundry: check. Preparing everything so that the next work week would go smoothly: check. All that is left: spend our Sunday at the seaside!

We had planned this seaside Sunday for months now. A day out with the gang from secondary school and our favourite plus ones. It almost looked like all 14 of us would make it out, but in the end 12 would have to do the trick. So early on Sunday morning, we drove to Oostduinkerke. The weather was actually not too bad. I went with my feet in the sea, and as long as we kept moving the beach was actually quite pleasant. How do you do that, the keeping on moving? Well, here’s what we did. We came up with little competitions for the last biscuit. For example: place your hand on the sand, turn 12 circles, and then try to throw a tennis ball to hit the mark further along on the beach. Very entertaining to watch. Or try to take group photos with the good ol’ timer on your old fashioned camera, but make the time to position yourselves 2 seconds rather than 10, merely for entertainment purposes. Or make a massive sand turtle (we like to make sandcastles of the not castle variety) and call him Bruce.

After all the playing on the beach, we were quite hungry so the quest for food had begun. We ended up with chips on the beach, which to me is still the best way to go. And then of course a coffee on one of the sunny terraces. With biscuits. Booyah.

Next on the schedule: go-carts! Two teams of six, let the games begin! Somehow, I ended up behind the wheel of our team’s chariot (I call us Team Fun) and I took that as a sign for some mental 360 turns and wobbling from left to right at unexpected moments. We decided on a theme song, Opzij Opzij Opzij by Herman van Veen, and chased Team Less Fun around the whole village, of course to finish off with a warm meal (fish, omnomnom) and a final drink before the sleepy ride home.

Ah, what a glorious day! I have to admit my throat didn’t feel better for it, but my spirits definitely did.