This photo is of my sisters, Courtney and Julia Leavitt. Aren't they gorgeous!?!? Courtney is 22 and Julia 20. They are my father's children (technically my half sisters), yet he is no longer married to their mother. One of those complex family webs that is not easily explained; so I will leave it at that. Anyway, suffice it to say - I rarely have the opportunity to see Courtney or Julia (who live in New Jersey), so I was overjoyed when Courtney announced she had a business trip in Copenhagen, Denmark and was able to plan her flight to layover on either end of the trip in Brussels! Our very first houseguest...and such an anticipated reunion. There were of course tears at the airport on both ends. We had a terrific weekend and it was amazing that after a gap in seeing each other we were so natural, giggly, and enjoyed the comfort of each other's company - falling right back into where we left off.
Courtney arrived bright and early on a Tuesday for 24 hours en route to Copenhagen. In those 24 hours she attended a 3 hour course at the women's club with me (more on that at a later date), she helped me navigate my very first weekday driving solo, she went to the US Embassy with us to serve as a witness as we refinanced our Atlanta house (quite a process to do from abroad!), and she endured the Inauguration celebration. All on 2 hours of sleep. She must have been sleepwalking by the end of that day! But she was still so much fun to be with. Check out some of our Inauguration photos and video. Connor knows who our new president is!
Later in the week Courtney returned and we went to Amsterdam for the day - just the two of us. Kirk had a "Daddy/Daughter Day" with Connor. My favorite part of the trip to Holland was driving as the sun rose and chitter chattering away with Courtney in the car. The sun was magnificent pink and spread long rays all over the low country on the canals and waterways as we drove in over many bridges. Simply breathtaking. Once in Amsterdam we went to the Anne Frank House Museum. It is a museum within the house where Anne Frank's family hid. After that we had fun just gabbing and wandering all over. There was an open air market which is always fun and we got a kick out of all of the bikes everywhere and the canals running through the city. We did tiptoe into the Red Light district just to see - and I am afraid I may have corrupted Courtney. Whoa! Even at 1:00 in the afternoon it is much too provocative and in your face. It can't help but make you sad. For lunch, we found a very "local" place to eat. We knew it was an authentic cafe since they didn't even have a menu printed in English, only Dutch and it was brimming with families and neighbors greeting one another. The flowers in Amsterdam were spectacular. Just makes me anticipate Spring and the Tulip festivals that much more. If they are this beautiful in JANUARY what will happen in April?!
We did tour around Brussels that evening with Kirk and Connor - indulging in Belgium's delicacies - french fries, beer, and of course the spectacle of the Grand Place at night.
Finally on Sunday we traveled to Brugge (or Bruges in the English version) to see the sights of this charming town. It was a very cold day, but we managed to soak in all of the Flemish architecture as well as a visit to our all time favorite chocolate shop, Dumon. We also posed with a windmill. Which you just must do when here! After Brugge we drove to the town of Westvleteren (about an hour away) to Sint Sixtus Abbey. Here at this abbey it is widely believed they brew the best beer in the entire world! Quite a reputation for monks brewing beer in the fields of nowheresville, Belgium. They don't sell the beer commercially though - the only way to partake is to go to the cafe in person (like we did) or to call their infamous "beer line" to buy up to 3 cases - no more - which you have to then go and pick up directly from Sint Sixtus. We have heard tales of friends getting up at all hours to try to get through on the beer line, but never of success! We were going to buy bottles of the beer to take home from the gift shop, but lo and behold they don't sell it on Sundays since there is only so much brewed by the monks during the week and they need the remaining bit for the cafe to serve over the weekend. Lots of lore around that place. It was fun to go! Connor especially liked practicing "cheers"! And it started raining so it was a good activity to stay warm on a gloomy afternoon.
It was hard to let sweet Courtney go. It is fun to see the overlap in us and to feel a sister's love. Next time Julia promises to join in the fun!
Click here for Courtney in Brussels (full album)
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