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Brussels Culture

A work event took me back to my home continent, but not quite home. We spent 4 days in Brussels, Belgium, and for the first 3 days this is all I saw of Brussels:

Our meeting room was on the 26th floor of a hotel (THE Hotel, in fact) and all I ever got to see was the view from this floor which – granted – wasn’t half bad.

But what I was missing (remember, I traveled here right after my NWM Half Marathon and was craving carbs) was Belgium beer, Belgium waffles and Belgium chocolates.

I got to have all of it on my last night in town.

A couple of colleagues and I decided to do the “tourist thing” and ventured to the Grand Place (or Grote Markt) for some quick exploration of chocolate, beer, waffles and, well, touristy stuff. We found the Tiffany’s of chocolate, but more on that later this week.

I like the Grand Place. It is a central market square in Brussels, full of tourist traps, but surrounded by typical European guildhalls. It’s beautiful (even in the rain and in the dark). We just went for a quick look as we haven’t really done anything other than work for the past 4 days. Well, actually, our Belgium colleagues took us to their office (which has been voted as the coolest office in Belgium!) for a beer-tasting and food-pairing and mix-and-mingling on my first evening in town. So, yes, we did a little more than just work.

It was dark and rainy, but I thought I should get a few photos of the Grand Place.

And of course, I did not forget about the most important sight in Brussels: Manneken Pis (or Little Man Pee), which is a statue of a boy peeing into a fountain. Now, you may think this is a bit crude. But this is Europe and the sculpture dates back to 1618, so it’s definitely culture and art! 🙂





“What are you giving up for lent?”

Someone asked me this question the other day. And then yesterday when I went food shopping hobbling along in my boot, the sales person looks at me somewhat disapprovingly, then points at the chocolate in my basket and says, “I gave up chocolate for lent.”

Well, I didn’t.

I appreciate and respect people’s efforts on giving up something for lent. I just don’t do this for myself, so please stop judging me. And if you really need to know what it’s like to give up something meaningful, don’t give up chocolate or alcohol – that’s an easy choice. Give up something that’s really hard to give up. I have a friend who is giving up being constantly available online, that,  I believe is much harder than giving up chocolate. Though rather nontraditional, I respect her decision.

I haven’t been able to walk (never mind run) for over 4 weeks. I haven’t given this up voluntarily, but I now understand not having what I usually take for granted. I have developed a new perspective on being a disabled person in London (it sucks big time!), but I have also learned a new appreciation for my body (I need to work on this much more).

So maybe I am not buying into the whole commercialized giving-something-up-for-lent thing, but I do think you can learn a lot by not being able to do something that you take for granted.  So, if you are giving up something for lent, make it meaningful and stop looking with disapproval at anyone eating chocolate!

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Happy Easter! And more good chocolate news!

I was laughing so hard yesterday!

After I wrote my blog on chocolate I received an email aptly titled “Chocolate can keep you young“. Those email marketers just know how to get to me….

So, of course I read the article. 🙂 They said to only eat one square a day. Since they failed to define “a square” (oops),  I am free to chose my square…. LOL. Anyway, here is why chocolate (70% cocoa) is good for you:

Cocoa is rich in a group of antioxidants called Flavinoids which help preserve healthy function of the blood vessels. And healthy youthful circulatory system lowers risk of high blood pressure, type II diabetes, kidney disease and dementia.

And with that I’ll leave you take a big bite of your chocolate Easter bunny or Easter egg and not feel guilty.

I’ll be exploring a new city running this Easter weekend. Can’t wait! I have noticed how much fun it is to explore new places either while running a race or just during a training run. No race just a training run.

Happy Easter!

All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt!
~ Lucy Van Pelt in Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz


Chocolate…shocking food facts…

I got this email yesterday with the headline “Shocking food facts”. As intended by the author it grabbed my attention…

It wasn’t as “shocking” as promised. Let down again by marketing…

We all know by now that chocolate is good for us – just like red wine and beer, until the next article arrives that disputes all this again… I am going with chocolate is good for me and will ignore all future readings on the contrary….

  • Chocolate makes you happy. Known fact!
  • Chocolate is high in health-promoting antioxidants.
  • Dark chocolate of course.
  • Chocolate is as healthy as fruit. Now, this is a new one to me. “Shocking food facts” explains like this:

[…], but research has suggested that chocolate can be just as healthy as fruit. When tested and compared to juices from ‘superfruits’ such as blueberries and pomegranate, dark chocolate was found to be higher in antioxidants, which are essential for fighting disease and preventing wrinkles. For a healthy treat, it is best to go for a pure dark chocolate as milk, sugar and too much processing can reduce these health benefits.

Now, I finally feel we are talking. 🙂

Chocolate prevents wrinkles. Give me the box!

But there is some sad news too. The same article claims (it is “shocking” after all), that our chocolate supplies may run out and a chocolate drought may occur as early as 2014.

Due to political unrest and dangers to farmers in the Ivory Coast (where a large proportion of the world’s cocoa beans are grown), many fair trade cocoa farmers and trainers have fled the country and chocolate production has hit a low.

I don’t know much about the political situation in the Ivory Coast (BBC, CNN and their likes are really rubbish at providing real news), so maybe this article on food will have a completely different outcome for me. I will be reading up on what is going on in the Ivory Coast. Sometimes news comes from unexpected sources…

Happy Reading!

Chocolate is cheaper than therapy and you don’t need an appointment.
~ Catherine Aitken

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Silly cravings…

Thank you all for your comments yesterday on my bib number for Saturday’s race.

I don’t feel quite that much under pressure anymore. Phew!! 🙂

You know how you sometimes have a craving for salt, especially after a long run? Then your friends offer you chocolate (because that usually keeps you calm and happy). And all you want to do is shout at them and say, ” I said SALT!!”.

Well, I had a similar though slightly different experience this week. I was craving cross-training. After the 2 long runs the past weekend, all I wanted was to do something other than running. So on Tuesday I went to the Legs, Bums, Tums class. LBT has a new instructor now (he is evil demanding). No more risk of falling off the exercise ball or dropping kettle balls on my toes, BUT now my legs are falling off. Or more precisely, they don’t go straight anymore…

And because I am still craving salt cross-training, I went to a circuit training class yesterday. Because legs falling off syndrome wasn’t quite enough for me. Now I have added bended arms syndrome. My arms don’t do straight either anymore…

So, today I am contemplating my immediate running future and I have lost the salt cross-training craving. I now WANT chocolate running!! (my legs say no way jose)

All I hope now is that by race day, Saturday morning, my legs and arms will move as per my instructions again. 🙂

The good thing is I am getting an extra pre-race rest day, which I think will be good for me as I have been pounding on the miles lately…

Off for a walk in the sunshine now to stretch my poor legs out and grab a cup of coffee on the way!

Happy Thursday!

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.

~ Chinese Proverb