Chapter Thirty-Three: Dubai, Cologne & (Mostly) Belgium

We were lucky enough to have a long layover in Dubai on our way to Belgium. My friend Lisa and her husband Omar live in the UAE and drove to Dubai to give us a whirlwind visit of the top attractions and have a fantastic (and filling!) dinner together before dropping us back at the airport. We saw the Burj Khalifa (which usurped the CN Tower’s claim to fame of being the tallest free standing structure… but no hard feelings), the giant mall (which has a Tim Hortons!) and the massive fountains where there is a light and water show every hour that is quite impressive. With my brief visit, I can sum up my impression of the city with one word: flashy!

We spent a lovely restful three weeks in Belgium in between the African and Asian legs of our trip. We were there to unwind a bit and see family and friends, but, most of all, to welcome Jasper’s new godson, Alec, into the world (sorry, no photos!). I can’t say enough about how sweet this little boy is. It was so nice to be able to see him at only a week and half old, and be a part of his young life.

We spent most of our time visiting with friends of Jasper, spending quality time with his parents and relatives, taking some long walks and just having some much-needed R&R after a busy tour. We went to Brussels a few times and to Mechelen as well as the smaller towns of Tongerlo, Olen, Averbode, Aalst and Dendermonde. We also went to see two football (soccer) games in which Antwerp was fighting for first place in the league, allowing them to move up to the next division. We celebrated our four-year anniversary, with Jasper renting us an amazing private spa and champagne breakfast. We also had our only (short-lived) taste of winter for the year. And, above all, we ate very, very well.

We also made it to Cologne, Germany, for Carnival weekend, where we stayed with Richard and Julia, two friends that we met on our Colombian lost city hike. The group dressed up as a deck of cards, with Jasper and I as jokers. On the first night, everyone celebrated and paraded in the streets and the second day there was an afternoon party with live music, performances, and of course, beer. On day three we went to see the parade in the street where the spectators receive a full bag’s worth of candy and chocolate tossed from the floats. We couldn’t even come close to eating it all.

From here, we fly to Hanoi to begin our last *sob sob* chapter of the trip: Southest Asia. ❤

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