In mid-May, we put Clyde in storage and Bonnie in long term parking and hopped on a quick flight from Newark to Brussels.  Quick is of course a relative term here as we are used to the two-stop flight from LA to Brussels which is typically much, much longer. While we usually look forward to visiting Johan’s parents every other summer, this was a special trip as Andre was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in March.  Both Andre and Lieve are working hard to keep their spirits high and to remain in good health throughout the treatment, which will last 56 weeks.  We know the next year will bring many ups and downs and hope there are more highs than lows as the chemo works to kill the cancer.  While enjoying a variety of beers at the Dulle Griet in Gent, the five of us smiled while shouting F*ck Cancer!

The city of Gent is close to the town of Berlare where Andre and Lieve live, so we went there for a few great meals at the Packhuis and the Holy Food Market.  We ate at the Restaurant Kasteel van Laarne at Laarne Castle and the Lijsterbes in Berlare.  Lieve’s cooking rivals the best restaurants in Belgium so at home we ate coq au vin, paella, chicken fricassee, croque madams, and quiche.  Then we took long walks around the lake to attenpt to work it off.  Across the lake in Berlare is a petting zoo that is under repair, however there are 3 peacocks that live there and have stayed even though the other animals and birds have been temporarily relocated.  One of the peacocks is especially partial to Johan and seemed to remember him when they met again this year.

Through the marvel of social media, an old childhood friend of Joan’s got in touch via Instagram a few months ago and we were able to meet him and his wife and son for dinner one evening.  Peter and Johan last saw each other about 35 years ago.  Peter’s wife Denise is a lovely and kind lady whom I so enjoyed meeting, and their son Tuur is almost the same age as Nik.  Tuur took Nik out in Leuven one night and we thought it best not to ask exactly what they did until 6am when they returned home.  Whatever they did, they had a ball.

Before we left we squeezed in a quick day trip to Bastogne, one historical place we had not covered on our prior travels.  The interactive War Museum did not disappoint and gave us a first hand feel of the critical battle that was fought there, the Battle of the Bulge.  We learned from Peter during our dinner a few nights earlier that it was in fact here that the soldiers discovered fries.  The Battle of the Bulge was fought in the Wallonia region of Belgium where the primary language is French.  The soldiers, believing they were on French soil, gave them the name French Fries but in fact they were actually in Belgium. We agreed to only use the term Belgian Fries from that day forward.

It was harder than ever to say goodbye this time, knowing what a difficult year lies ahead.  We are grateful to know we are just a plane trip away and can see them anytime.

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