Monday, July 23, 2012

All Dressed Up And No Place To Go

Hey all,

Not living in the USA can be an adventure.  You don't realize until you don't, just how trained we are about specific things.  Take holidays for example.  Most of my childhood revolved around what days we'd get off from school, and then later on, as an adult, I knew from experience when a holiday was ready to roll around.

But it's not like that overseas.  I may still remember when Independence Day and Thanksgiving are, but since they aren't celebrated in whatever country I'm in, it's not the same thing.  And even more to the point, I don't know the holidays that ARE celebrated here.  It can be fun and frustrating at the same time.

Case in point...Saturday.

I had a list of errands I needed to do and was so proud of myself for heading out early to do them.  I mean I'm NOT a morning person and I have this great list of why I can't go out of the hotel until after noon.  But today, I tossed all of them aside, girded my loins, and strode out into the world to have at 'em.

And that's where everything started to go horribly wrong!!!!

My first stop was the Local Market--what they call an exotic market which is like a flea market targeted at specific things.  It is only on Saturdays between 8-1 so I knew I needed to get on the ball and go early.  I wasn't exactly sure where it was, but I had the directions, and followed them easily.  

But when I got to the square where it should be, the area was empty. 

I blinked, thought maybe I was wrong, so I wandered a bit looking for the market.  Saw some umbrellas and hotfooted it that way, only to discover it was a pub with an outside seating area.  So I dug out my map to see where I'd gone wrong.

But I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  It was the market that was missing.  So I scratched my head, shrugged and headed off to destination number two, Beads & Beyond, a jewelry supply shop.  Again, I followed the directions and this time arrived exactly where I was supposed to.

To find it closed. 

Not only was the store was closed down.  For good.  And by the looks of the empty space, it had been that way for a while. Seems they forgot that little tidbit on the website.  *snarl* 

Now I'm getting a little irritated.  I hate wasting time and so far it was Antwerp - 2, CJ - 0!  But I do have another jewelry shop I can try, so I dig out those directions and head that way.  Only to find... guessed it.  This shop was closed too! 

I was so frustrated, I wanted to pound on the window.  I looked at my notes.  It SHOULD be open.  The website said it would be.  There was a notice on the door that agreed.  Open Saturday from 10-6.  So, what is going on?  Where is everyone?  Did the rapture come and I get left behind? 

I checked my watch.  It was about 1:15pm, so maybe the owner was taking a long lunch.  (After dealing with the siestas in Barcelona, I know anything is possible!)

So I figured I'd check back at 2:00pm and see if the shop, Zahia, was open.  I had seen a beautiful church a few blocks away and it opened at 1:45pm, so, hope springing eternal, I figured I could walk on back there, see the church and THEN come on back and look at the store.

Luckily (this was the only part of the day that went right) the church was open and I spent an excellent hour wandering through and taking pictures.  Saint George's was lovely inside, and the artwork and architecture was outstanding.  And to add to the gorgeous church, on the way back to the shop, I discovered the National Bank building, another architectural dream I couldn't take enough pictures of.  (see pic below)

But that was the end of my good fortune.  The shop was still closed when I got back to it, and I had this niggling feeling something just wasn't right.  But I'd given up.  Obviously I wasn't meant to do any of the things on my list.  Time to go to the grocery store and head for home.

Yet that niggling feeling kept getting stronger.  And as I walked towards the bus stop at Groenplaats (the original stop being torn up by road construction) I noted that a LOT of the shops were closed.  And while I hadn't worried about that in the more quiet part of town, Groenplaats is one of the big tourist areas and stores being closed didn't make any sense.

And when--going on a hunch--I checked and saw that the biggest grocery store in town was closed, I knew that some how...some way...

Nothing was open because it was a public holiday!  

So there I was, out and about, but with no place to go, because I didn't know that July 21 was some sort of holiday.  It was very depressing. 

I did find a small express market store that I could get some groceries at.  Otherwise, I might have just punched a wall or something.  I did find out later when I googled, that the holiday was National Day for Belgium.  It commemorates when Leopold I, first king of the Belgians, took the constitutional oath in 1831. 

Yay for Leopold.  Not so much for me.  But it taught me a lesson.  I went home and looked up all public holidays in Belgium (no more during the short time we have left here) and Switzerland.   

Next time I'm dressed up, I WILL have somewhere to go!!! 

Until Wednesday,
CJ England
Follow Your Dreams


Phylis said...

I hate days were if feels as if you didn't accomplish anything because what you were going to do was derailed! On the other hand you got to see something you might not have seen otherwise. So...maybe a silver lining?! I enjoyed the pictures of the church and bank. Thanks CJ. I really like reading your adventures!

CJ England said...

I know, Phylis. I hate it too! But it wasn't soooo bad since I got to see the church.

Anonymous said...

Checking for local holidays when traveling in another country had never occurred to me! Sorry you had to figure it out the hard way. That must have been surreal, seeing everything closed and not knowing why.

Maria said...

Lol...every time I have a day off I have all of the great plans for what I'll get accomplished and I'm lucky to get anything on my list's just the way it works out with plans for me.

Carrie Lynn Barker said...

Something I never thought about in my travels but learned the hard way when I wanted lunch in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Come to find out, everything closes for lunch! By dinner, we were starving!

Ray said...

I hate when that happens. I remember once flying patients from the ship into Naval Air Station, Sigonella, Sicily. All together there were about twenty of us who were going to beat the ship in. My patients got seen, but even the Navy Exchange with its Italian employees was closed. The clubs were open. I wonder if any countries in Europe don't have holidays to trip up the unsuspecting foreigner.

If I hadn't had any patients to be seen at specialty clinics I would have ridden the ship in, worked until 5 PM and found out there was no reason to leave the ship until the next day.

Unknown said...

Yep, sounds like that should be a search you do every time you guys move around. Have fun!


CJ England said...

Lucyfrancis, you'd think I'd have known better since we've been traveling for the last five years. LOL

CJ England said...


I so totally know what that's like, Maria. Great plans going awry. *sigh*

CJ England said...

Exactly, Carrie. Drives me crazy when that happens. In Barcelona, Spain we had to completely change our schedules since most if not all of the restaurants are closed during the afternoon for the long siesta.

CJ England said...

I know, Ray. Sometimes it feels that way. When we were living in Macau, I swear there was a holiday every few weeks and all the shops would shut down. I finally put a reminder calendar in my computer that would help me remember so I could make sure we had enough groceries to get by. And don't get me started about Chinese New Year. The suppliers don't deliver during the entire time period so the market shelves start looking like stores just before a hurricane is coming. EMPTY!!!

CJ England said...

Connie, every once in a while I slip back into what I call my American mode, thinking everything revolves around us and our USA schedule. LOL But reality intrudes very quickly!