As we head into 2014, we look back at some of the highlights from the past year, and share some of our favourite blog posts from the past twelve months.
For the past few years, I’ve been doing ‘Year in Review’ posts (2012 & 2010). It’s a great way for me to take a step back and remember everything that happened as the year whizzed by. Sometimes I am so focused on writing, writing, writing; I forget that we actually get to do a lot of crazy, interesting things too. Like every year, 2013 had its highs and lows but it was definitely jam-packed.
We actually rang in 2013 in Florida, with Andrew’s family. We spent the 2012/13 holiday season with our families for the first time since we embarked on our expat adventure and it was a great way to start a new year.
Arriving back in Belgium, we launched straight back into work mode. I wrapped up writing about our 2012 travels in Andalusia, Portugal, Prague and England with my family (Yes, I can get up to a year behind on posts these days). With that epic travel series completed, I began a new series of posts on my travels with my dear friend Jenn. Together, we visited Paris, Copenhagen, Berlin and Budapest, in 2012.
I also wrote one of our most popular foodie posts of the past year on living gluten-free in Belgium.
I ended January with a bang – literally, and not in a good way. I slipped on my neighbour’s icy sidewalk and seriously sprained my arm. (Not good for the writing schedule, let me tell you.) It resulted in my first trip to the emergency room in Belgium.
Once my arm healed, I was back at my keyboard for another busy month of writing. I hit up some of my favourite Brussels’ based moms to find out about the best Activities for Kids (and parents) in Brussels.
In one of my favourite posts, we told you about 6 Restaurants that are worth leaving Brussels for. Another great foodie discovery was Bookalokal, a service we adore! We also hit the road to Amsterdam, for a trip to one of our favourite restaurants in the whole world (yup, we love it that much!) – Los Pilones Mexican Restaurant.
We attended a wine event at Britxos, where we met a couple of guys, who casually invited us to look them up in Italy… Little did they know we actually would a few months later…
I also took a quick train trip to Beersel, to meet up with a friend. She showed me 6 things to do in the Beersel area.
In March we discovered another ‘must do’ experience in Brussels when we toured Molenbeek with a Brussels Greeter.
We also had a great foodie find when we met Jean-Baptiste and tasted the toasties from his gourmet food truck, Keep On Toasting.
It was quite a quiet month because we were gearing up for one of our biggest adventures yet. On the 30th we set off on a loooong flight to Hong Kong. We spent the last night of March holed up in the Intercontinental Hotel in Hong Kong before boarding an early morning flight…
On April 1st, we arrived in Kota Kinabalu, in Malaysian Borneo. It was unlike any place we had been before. There were many highlights (beyond the incredible food of course!): The market in KK, cruising the Klias River in search of monkeys, seeing the world’s biggest flower in Kinabalu Park, and, above all, visiting the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan.
After an incredible week in Borneo, we flew back to Hong Kong, where Andrew spent a week in classes for his MBA, and I set out to discover this amazing, diverse city. Hong Kong surprised me at every turn. My Hong Kong highlights were the fascinating markets and shopping streets and the diverse and delicious food (oh soup dumplings, how I miss you…) Despite a few obstacles (all 431 of them) I also really enjoyed our visit to the Ten Thousand Buddhas’ Monastery.
May began with one of my favourite posts of all time – The Shrimp Fishermen on Horseback of Oostduinkerke. We recently learned that this timeless tradition has been added to the UNESCO world list of intangible cultural heritage. Go Belgium!
We also discovered a new side of Brussels and some fabulous little galleries, with a Contemporary Art Walk.
Then we were off to Umbria, to visit an on-line expat friend and her family in Spello, Italy. Andrew found an entire town dedicated to pork. Oh, and remember the guys we met at the wine event in February? Yup, we paid them a visit at a castle in Tuscany… as you do.
When we arrived back in Belgium, I had a makeover at the Make Me Up Workshop, in Brussels and I discovered a unique Contemporary art gallery called Maison Particuliere.
June began with great news for me. After a prolonged saga, I finally got my Belgian Nationality! Poor Andrew is still waiting…
We spent much of June chained to our desks, but we managed to escape for a weekend to Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France, where we stayed at the lovely Chateau Clery and visited the fascinating NAUSICAA aquarium.
In June, we also took a day trip to Durbuy in Wallonia and discovered 7 reasons you should visit Durbuy too.
Summer began with the Ommegang festival (post coming soon) and we participated in several activities surrounding this age-old Brussels tradition. We visited the Porte de Hal Museum and the much less well-known but fascinating Crossbow Guild Museum.
We had a very quick trip to Paris to meet up with some Canadian friends.
I also kicked off a huge decluttering project that is still on going. (Anyone want to buy my scrapbooking supplies?)
We began August with a visit to the Funkey Hotel – where we’ll be sending all of our guests from now on!
I was able to get my flower fix at the Floralïentime Flower Exhibition in Brussels Grand Place, a truly incredible display.
For the most part though, August was filled with work, as Andrew was wrapping up his final MBA project.
We did manage to escape for two weekends. The first was to discover Hasselt (posts are coming soon) and the second was to discover Oostende. We were surprisingly impressed, not only did we find 3 great restaurants in Oostende, we also discovered 10 reasons to visit, beyond the beach.
September was a crazy busy month for both of us. Andrew made the last push on his MBA and presented his final project at the end of the month.
Travel for me was in high gear. Early in the month, I visited Latvia, for the first time, with my friend and local guide Vi. (Stories to come in the new year.)
From there, I went straight to the Thon Hotel EU, a beautiful green-key property, just blocks from our flat. I learned about a Belgian dinosaur discovery at the Museum of Natural Sciences and I discovered my new favourite restaurant in Brussels, La Buvette, and then headed to deepest Wallonia (stories coming in 2014).
We kicked October off with an Indian feast at a Brussels In Loft Dinner put on by our friends at Open Kitchen.
Then, on the fifth, we celebrated Andrew’s graduation from Solvay!
Just a few days later, we were winging our way to Canada to spend a month visiting our families. It was an epic trip including a quick stop in Montreal (where we saw an exhibition by one of my favourite artists), a long flight to Brandon, Manitoba, another long flight back to Halifax, a drive to Pugwash and another drive to Saint John. Whew!
While we were away, our video guru, Jon, shared a two-part video series on starting a business in Belgium.
Back in Brussels, I paid a visit to the delightful Fossilmar House of Wunders shop (and you should too!)
My big news for November was the launch of my newly expanded and updated Beautiful Belgium Photography Book.
We spent a fun weekend on a smallholding in Geel, where we made mincemeat, ate cheese and hung out with a gaggle of animals.
At the end of the month, I had my first solo international trip to chilly but beautiful Tuscany, to review the gorgeous Castelfalfi Resort.
Meanwhile, Andrew was riding around the city on two wheels, on his first Moto tour of Brussels.
We also brought you our 5 tips for meeting people in Brussels (Your most frequently asked question.)
Finally, in December, we took an iDBUS to Lille where we discovered a whole weekend full of foodie delights (post coming soon!)
We made the rounds to some of the Christmas Markets in Belgium, including the unique Grottes de Wonck.
Then we buckled down to get work done so we could prepare for 2014’s first adventure – our first attempt to work remotely for a month. We’ll be spending a month, with our dear friends from Married With Luggage, holed up in a flat in Tangiers, working on some big projects (we may take a wee bit of time off to sight-see… so we can share it with you dear readers!)
2013 was another crazy year of last-minute travel, interesting discoveries, delicious food, great friends, and, as always, the support and love of our families. Also, a huge thank-you to every one of our readers. Your support, visits, and feedback means the world to us and encourages us to go further.
We can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store!