The Belgian BBQ

There is so much to love about Belgium! 
After a year in the land of chocolate, waffles and exceptional beer, we've come to realize that there's so much more to this country than one reads about in travel publications. Chris and I are so happy with our decision to live in Roeselare, because we were quickly embraced in this small, not-at-all-touristy, city. We are happy here, and we've met amazing people who have included us and made us feel at home. Aside from the obvious Belgian delicacies, here are a few things that we have come to appreciate about our second European home: 

{The work/life balance}
If you work on a Belgian contract, it is actually illegal to work more than 38.5 hours a week. Illegal! For all of our friends working 60+ hour weeks in America, this must seem like a vacation every day of the week! Of course there are people in Belgium who do work overtime, but in general, people value their time away from the office. On work evenings, young professionals meet up for a drink on a terrace, families stroll through the park, and in the summer there are fairs on the Market Square and events to fill every evening. It just seems that Belgian families spend more quality time together than in America. That's just my observation.  

{The bike culture}
Of course there are European cities (like Amsterdam) that have a more vibrant biking culture, but in Belgium, it's also acceptable for young and old people to scoot around on bikes. There are no school busses in Roeselare, so kids ride to school on bikes. I remember being jealous when high school friends received Mercedes or Hummers (seriously?!) for their 16th birthday. I think I am going to send our kids to a school where everyone rides bikes. Even the mail man delivers the mail on a bike! It just seems healthy to get to where you're going on a bike. 

(The aperitif}
Whenever you visit a Belgian home, or eat at a proper Belgian restaurant, you always start the evening with sparkling wine and little nibbles. This is known as the "aperitif" before your meal, and it's a time to sit and enjoy your company. I love this tradition in Belgium and it is something that Chris and I will take with us wherever we live. If you come over for a visit, expect to have an aperitif and a long chat!

{The Belgian beer glass}
Every beer in Belgium has a special glass that it must be served in. If a bar tender runs out of a specific glass, they won't serve you the beer. At least a good bartender won't serve you beer in the wrong glass. I love this about Belgium. There are so many unique glasses here too! Chris started collecting Belgian beer glasses and now I don't have cupboard space for my dishes!

{The lazy Sunday}
Nothing happens on Sunday! Absolutely nothing! Most restaurants and bars are closed, and in Roeselare there is one grocery store that is open until 12:00pm on Sunday. Just imagine what a mad house that grocery store is every single Sunday! This drove me up a wall when we first moved to Belgium because I was used to getting all of my shopping and errands done on the last day of the week. We had to adjust our schedules and learn to enjoy the lazy Belgian Sunday. The only thing families do on Sunday, if the weather is nice, is BBQ!

{The Belgian BBQ}
As I mentioned in earlier posts, winter was long and hard this year. Once the sun decided to stick around by mid-June, the BBQs began and they didn't stop until rain ruined everyone's fun in early September. I think the Belgian BBQ may be my favorite part of life here! There is something familiar from home about firing up the grill, but then again, BBQs also remind us that we are part of a community of friends here in Belgium. Since we are in Belgium, naturally the BBQs start with an aperitif, and they sometimes last all day and even into the evening. There seemed to be one or two BBQs planned every weekend this summer, and we tried to attend as many as possible when we weren't traveling. 

The pictures below are from a BBQ at PJ and Griet's house. Griet's uncle catered the event, and he had a meat-carving station with all of the BBQ fixings. I brought a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce to share, and it was a big hit. Thanks to Chris' family for bringing some of my favorite BBQ sauce from America! You'll see a picture of the BBQ sauce next to a bottle of Rodenbach beer. Rodenbach is the brewery in Roeselare, so that picture should be titled, "America meets Roeselare." We stayed at this BBQ for 11 hours! Such fun!

Chris' company organized an end of summer BBQ a couple of weekends ago. They were lucky to plan the event on the last balmy, summer evening. It was a lovely, well planned BBQ complete with a face painting station, magician, and bouncy castle for the kiddos. The adults were handed sparkling wine as they arrived, and then there was a fabulous spread of grilled meat for the sit-down meal. My husband tried to outdo his coworker on one of the blowup toys (see the pictures below), and I finally got a few pictures with my dear friend, Sarah, and her darling, face-painted little girl. It was an absolutely lovely evening!

I wish I had gotten more pictures of Bjorn and Ilsa's backyard BBQ! I am so mad at myself for neglecting my camera! At least I snapped a few. We met Bjorn and Ilsa through my good friend, Leen. Leen and Ilsa are sisters. We have truly enjoyed getting to know this amazing couple, and their BBQ was an opportunity to meet even more of their lovely friends. They set up a tent in their backyard just in case it rained, and the checkered tablecloths made everything feel so cozy!

There have been many impromptu BBQs this summer as well. Below is a lone picture of our friend, Leen, hanging out on Bert and Bart's cozy terrace. We sipped cava as the sun disappeared, and enjoyed the last moments of a lazy, Belgian Sunday. We have such great memories from summer 2013 in Roeselare, Belgium.