After a hectic 10 days in the blistering heat of Iraq, I was more than ready for a little vacation. I had been promising a friend for months that I would make to trip to see her this year in her home country of Belgium (we met in Sudan), so with vacation on the brain, I hopped on over to Belgium on my way back from Iraq.

She and her husband recently bought a townhouse in a small city called Mechelen about 30 mins outside of Brussels and this became my base throughout my time in Belgium. I was uncharacteristically unprepared for the normal type of holiday. The weeks leading to the trip were so busy that I didn't really think much about what I would do with myself once the Iraq part was over. No guide books were bought meaning I knew extremely little about the country that I would be visiting, let alone the city of Mechelen. There were only a few things that I knew for sure: 1) that I wanted to sleep as much as possible; 2) enjoy as much good beer as possible(this is in fact what Belgium is oh so famous for afterall); and 3) get to see what life is really like in this place. This third point is always one of my key interest in any place I go as the question "Could I live here?" is always lingers on my mind. As the weather was unbelievably perfect (80s with cool mornings and evenings), I also knew that I wanted to spend as much time outside as possible - no hours spent in museums or dark cathedrals for me. This wish was granted just by the cutest little garden that my friend has with a nice hammock, so you know there was a LOT of just swinging in the breeze going on!

This little city has so much going for it. Besides ridiculous cute streets like the one above, this place is also bicycle heaven. I've honestly never seen bikes used to such extent as a mode of transportation. There are bike stands literally all over the place and there are even machines along the streets where people to add air to their tires. At intersections, walk signs are coupled with bike signs (yes...red, yellow, and green likes of bikes) which I just thought was way too adorable!

While the city was beautiful by day, for me, it was extra stunning at night as these pictures reflect!

One of my very favorite places that we hung out at was this little cafe called De Gouden Vis (The Golden Fish).

In addition to expanding my taste of local brews from a Margriet and encompassing Gouden Carolus, this place was just great to sit back and relax and listen to great music.

To my slight surprise, Mechelen was more diverse than I had expected. Throughout my time there, I saw so many mixed couples, black, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc. teenagers and families that I was definitely impressed. This all definitely helped in the whole..."could I live here?" question! Grocery shopping trips, barbecues with the friends of friends, chats with the neighbor and more all helped me get a good idea of what it's like to actually live in Mechelen.

Anyway...more about my day in the countryside coming up tomorrow!

{Photos by Koinsky, jackfre, lerak sremos, jan's mechelenblogt, SBA73}

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