26 April 2006

Birthdays and Banquets


First off, to all those other April babies out there (Kym, Laetitia, Jodie, Catherine, Brendan, Cormac, Barry, Renee, Jessica, Elke and Alice to name a few!) – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

The 14th of April 2006 was my (Lian’s) first Belgian birthday experience… The event began on the night of the 13th when Laurent had very thoughtfully organised a small surprise birthday dinner for me. Unfortunately, the guests arrived whilst poor Laurent was reduced to bargaining with the other customers for the contents of their trollies (long story) and navigating the record-breaking queues at the cash registers. Despite the supermarket setback, we sat down to a banquet - it was a fun night!

The next day we set off on a magical mystery tour which Laurent had planned… ending up in the tiny village of Favieres in northern France, in the Baie de Somme region. The Baie de Somme is a beautiful place full of wetlands, dunes and stunning white limestone cliffs. Laurent had managed to find a cosy B&B, where, in typical French style, the owners served homemade bread, yoghurt, jam and brioche every morning, in front of an open fireplace. (As a die-hard fan of brunches along the beaches of Sydney, I was in bliss… somehow Laurent managed to loosen my grip on the coffee cup and drag me out of the breakfast room!)

One of the famous attractions of the region is the Parc du Marquenterrea large reserve which hosts hundreds of species of permanent and migrating birds. Keen to explore, we piled on the jackets, grabbed our binoculars and headed out into the reserve… At first I couldn’t ignore the fact that there were almost as many people as birds (growing up in Australia spoils you…). However we eventually managed to leave most of the crowd behind… and it was great – geese, ducks, swans, cranes, African spoonbills and nesting egrets were everywhere… (Cautionary tip for the Australians though, if you are ever taken bird-watching by a European, bring rations and pace yourself – bird-watching is a serious business over here!)

The next day the sun came out (at the end of a very long and grey winter, that in itself was a major highlight!) and we set off for the southern end of the region which included Mers-les-Bains and Bois de Cise for an amazing view of the cliffs. That evening, we somehow managed to find a table in a restaurant we were told is usually booked out at a week in advance… Amid our mutual claims of being “not very hungry”, we somehow managed to polish off all three courses, a pre-entrée, bread, a pre-dessert (I never know such a concept existed!), cheese, chocolate, and a bottle of wine… And rolled back safely to our B&B. I now understand what they mean when they say that food (and everything related) constitutes a national pastime in France

Our way back to Belgium took us via the world kiting championships (I’m serious) and along the coast (where we could see England across the channel!)…

Upon entering Belgium we were met with one of the unavoidable realities of living in one of the world’s most densely populated countries… trillions of other people on the highway. Not to be outdone we decided to get creative and take the back roads…. To cut a long (and rather unfortunate) story short, we rejoined what turned out to be a smoothly-flowing highway hours later. As my good friend (and linguistic phenomenon) Jodie Sutherland would no doubt say “Ça, mes amis, c’est la vie!”

All in all it was a fantastic weekend and birthday!!!

1 Comments:

At 28 April, 2006, Blogger Elke & Chris said...

Yay!
It's exciting to know that you guys have set up a blog and it sounds like France was wonderful!
So you could see England? You can see it even better from where we are.. hint hint, nudge nudge, wink wink.
Let us know when you've updated and we'll be back!
Hugs until then,
Elke and Chris

 

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