Winding around hair-pin turns and gazing out at the sun-drenched, olive-covered hills of Crete, a cool breeze blew through my hair and “GOAT!” There’s nothing like a loud excited scream from your fiancé, seated next to you in the back seat of a very small two-door Panda, while your friends drive you through the majestic interior of the island of Crete.
When I think Crete, I think early civilization. When I think early civilization, I think Mrs. Lewis’ middle school social studies class learning about Mesopotamia and the civilizations that grew out of it. It all seemed so dry…dry as in sandy and hot. I think, to me, it seemed extra dry and hot because in the old movies that we watched in class like Ben Hur and Laurence of Arabia (obviously, I lumped all early civilizations together…Greece, Jerusalem, Rome…and they say students in the US don’t properly learn world geography….), everyone was always so sweaty and dirty. When S and I decided to go to Crete for a long weekend in July, all I could think of was a hot and dry, rocky, dusty island. And, of course, the Minotaur. Trapped in a labyrinth, being chased by a half-man-half-bull, while great exercise, did not sound like my ideal vacation.
I arrived in Bruges with a few friends a few hours before S and our other friends, just in time for a nice big Belgian dinner and, of course, some beers by a canal. When I think Bruges, I think moules! I’ve said it here before, S and I are obsessed with mussels (and especially the dipping sauces for the, not only accompanying, but equally important, frites!). When I sat down to dinner with my friends without S, my tastebuds and my heart entered a battle royale. I wanted mussels. Real bad. Meanwhile S was stuck in traffic. Could I push him from my mind and enjoy some moules-frites solo? Probably. Yes. Absolutely. After the first bite, with my betrayal complete, I could totally enjoy those little mollusks swimming in a delicious garlic wine sauce. I’d blissfully plunge those frites into a creamy mayonnaise like no frite had ever been plunged before. But I didn’t. I decided to save the moules for the next day and venture alone into the unknown with a Flemish beef stew. IT WAS AWESOME! When I told S about it the next day, he started drooling and the search was on for another bowl. We still had a lot of mussels over the weekend, but the first thing I did when we got home was figure out how to recreate Flemish stew. And then I served it over some roasted cauliflower because the sauce is too good not to sop up. And vegetables are a good thing. Here it is:
Last month, S and I spent a weekend in Bruges. It was great. Really great. Bruges is probably too fun to spend more than a weekend there. One more beer and one more portion of mussels might have been too much. Nope, never mind. There’s no such thing as too many mussels. Anyway, here are seven things about our trip:
As soon as we returned home from Croatia, S was contemplating the best way to build a rotating spit for lamb and suckling pig in our apartment like the one we saw on the road to Plitvice Lakes National Park. Unfortunately, we’ve had some previous run-ins with the Mainz fire department… and decided that this type of “grill” was bad idea for us. So, we grilled some fish. And made truffle “risotto” with squash. It wasn’t a pig on a spit, but it was pretty good.
“How is this place real?” Walking around Plitivice Lakes National Park, I could not stop saying this. We hiked this UNESCO Natural World Heritage site for almost a full day and I felt like I was in a dream the whole time.
“Is he still on the boat?”
“He’s still on the boat!!”
As I looked out to the harbor, there was S in his bright orange shirt and bright green wayfarers, smiling and clutching the old boat’s railing as it returned to the dock…for the second time. While the captain loved our groups’ high spirits, the rest of the passengers, unfortunately, did not share the sentiment. I’m sure they were thrilled when we all got off at stop one of three, which is precisely the moment that S thought was a good time to use the loo. And then the boat took off. And then it came back. Our group in uproariously laughter, tipsy from our cruise during which we supplied some delicious Croatian boxed wine and several plastic two liter bottles of beer, took off into the town for another memorable evening on the Dalmatian coast.