Belgium Experience v.2018

With all the wonderful things life has to offer, travel resides on top of my list. In January, for instance, I had a chance to visit LS&Co. European offices to participate in interactive eCommerce workshops. This time, I actually got to experience some life besides work. All official (and confidential) things aside, here is my travel story from a person, forever in love with a tiny, beautiful country of Belgium.

Day 1 –> Ghent

Having arrived at the cozy and multi-functional Brussels airport (there’s a train station, parking garage, and a bus terminal all in one building!), I took a shuttle to my hotel (located 7 driving minutes away), and started getting ready for a busy, yet immeasurably exciting, week.

Quickly, because another enticing journey was already lined up: my friends from Germany were picking me up to travel to Ghent, located to the North-West of Zaventem (Brussels suburb, where our offices are located). I’ve organized my luggage, had some herbal tea with a snack, took a 30-min nap, and was ready for an adventure. Friends arrived with more snacks, as well as some sanitizing napkins due to my known cleaning OCD, and we left Zaventem in less than an hour. Ghent invited us to its festivities wholeheartedly:

After a short while, we enjoyed a Ferris wheel ride to capture the bird’s-eye view of the city:

The night’s arrival was somewhat sudden, leaving us in awe with all the medieval architecture Ghent has to offer. 

Day 2 –> Brussels, Sablon

The Sunday morning has started pretty early as coworker and I had brunch plans at Pain Quotidien in the welcoming, highly picturesque Brussels neighborhood – Sablon.

Pain Quotidien (in French, Daily bread – has nothing to do with pain 🙂 ), features this impressive cluster of Random lights from Moooi – one of my favorite Dutch design brands ever!):

And here’s what I got:

 LE BOTANISTE: houmous bio, lentilles, caviar de betteraves et tapenade épicée de noix de cajou, mini parfait au granola, assortiment de pain bio et flûte aux noisettes bio >>

In the same neighborhood, we couldn’t help but admire the Eglise Notre Dame du Sablon – a great example of Gothic architecture, constructed to replace its 14-century predecessor:

After brunch, we wandered the streets for a while, and, when my colleague had to go, I couldn’t say goodbye to Brussels’ center just yet. Instead, despite the freezing wind and gloominess, I proceeded to the Grand Place on foot – a place indeed so grand, it captivated my mind and heart at first glance:

Day 3 –> Zaventem (photos of Grand Place)

This was a Monday, aka Day 1 of the workshops… All-day, all-hands on deck workshops – a great and, in many ways an eye-opening experience. I didn’t have much time to take photos, however, here are some more from my trip to Grand place post-Sablone.

Royal galleries shopping center:

A beautiful corridor of fancy shops:

The Coffee shop that saved me (and my phone) from a near-death experience:

A remarkably well-decorated chocolate shop with a great selection of teas:

Day 4 –> Grand Place: night edition

After the second day of workshops, my colleagues and I felt exhausted however, nothing could stop us from getting a nice, steaming bowl of ramen. Once out of the office, we met near the hotel to proceed with getting the ramen dinner. Located about a mile away from the office, the restaurant was small but charming, and the food was rather authentic:

By approx. 9pm CET, our group split: two of my colleagues were ready to take off, while yours truly and our newest US team member felt up to more adventures. Having said daily goodbyes, we proceeded to the Zaventem train station and caught a night commuter train to downtown Brussels.

Thereafter, Brussels’ slightly rained-upon streets do not require further commentary:

Day 5 –> Company event; Zaventem

This Wednesday was an intense mix of all-day workshops and company dinner/event in PM; here is a coffee photo from another day as I don’t really have post-able material from that day:

Day 6 –> Antwerpen

After yet another day of workshops, the plan was to head out to downtown Brussels for a dinner, however, I didn’t think that joining a group of seven for a few extra hours was still in me. Even though an invitation was quite tempting, I declined and proceeded to my hotel, ordered room dinner service, inhaled it (as lunch was short and virtually calorie-free), and… realized the evening was still young for me to just roll in for the night.

Luckily, there was still that same hotel shuttle running to and from the airport, which transported me, very conveniently and free of charge, to the train station located directly under the airport building. Equipped with a few train schedule screenshots, I got a round-trip ticket to Antwerp, situated a 40-minute ride away. It was so much worth it!

Antwerp Train station: view from the lobby

And, here’s a view from the platform (all Bay Area commuters will understand my level of awe upon seeing this):

Day 6 –> Last Supper; packing

This Friday was the last day of workshops, filled with heated discussions, negotiations, and planning, which resulted in a great, small-group dinner at a neighborhood steakhouse Bovis.

While I don’t have a great photo backing up my super-meat dish from Spain, here’s another coffee shot (literally, an espresso shot), served with a unique, jelly-filled grape truffle at Bovis:

And, as a side note, a really cool confectionery, featuring life-size chocolate penguins:

Day 7 –> Flea Market

My return flight to the States same as, apparently, my coworker’s, wasn’t until 1pm on a Saturday. Cultivating an adventurer’s spirit, we ended up at a Marolles flea market in downtown Brussels. Even at 8am, the place was quite lively and worth exploring. After much-needed morning coffees, we made way through all the rows and, without feeling the urge to exactly buy something, had a chance to interact with both locals and tourists.

Although I have mixed feelings about vintage (meaning, “used”) clothing, I did check out a few tents’ offerings to see if they had some old Levi’s® jeans among the piles of seemingly never-worn pieces. There was indeed one, stacked away:

After a few more shots of the gorgeous neighborhood of Sablon with its cobbled pavements and picturesque alleys, I had to rush back to the hotel to pick up my suitcase and make it to the airport. The entire journey still feels surreal, and I am so glad it had a place to be.


Scorpions Live || Oracle Arena Oakland, CA October 4 2017

On a Wednesday night of October 4, 2017 Scorpions performed at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, to hit the impressive mark of 49 years on the road… A legendary band, a modern icon of classic rock-n’-roll, was rocking out like it was 1975. With staying true to their style throughout the years, Scorpions sounded heavy and rock-solid, both vocally and instrumentally.

The band opened with a few classics from the 70s, performing with regards to the Bay Area and Oakland in particular – a gesture, not all too common among such iconic bands. Mr. Klaus described his choice of repertoire as a bow to the long-time fans, staying with the band through the decades. As the best confirmation to his words, the audience was as diverse as the Bay Area itself: regardless of demographics or lifestyle, hundreds of people participated in a great, authentic show Scorpions put together.

The first molten-metal, slow classic, one of the band’s most famous and regarded for compositions, Send me an Angel, filled the arena approximately 30 minutes into the show. With the audience singing in unison, the entire venue was filled with perfectly suitable golden flecks of light, produced by a gigantic retro disco-ball suspended from the center of the stage. As the song progressed, there was warmth in the air, and even – such a rarity these days – a few lighters ignited by the thoughtful fans.

As a beautiful and thoughtful continuation of this musical journey, more iconic compositions followed:

  • Still loving you
  • No one like you
  • Rock you like a hurricane
  • We built this house
  • and many more…

Remarkably, the band performed at such a high level of rock craft that entire venue was filled with their powerful chords. In real life, they sound much heavier than online or even on records, which is another benefit of seeing the band live. No narrations or media assets can truly describe the unforgettable experience Scorpions brought to the fans that night, and yet I sincerely hope this post serves as a humble nod to the band’s legacy.