14 April 2008

Spa, part deux

(Part one, here.)

This repeat visit to Spa was a different as could be from the first time around: it's one thing to walk around in slippers all day with your husband, another to do so with a gaggle of girls. Both have their charms.

In fact, the weekend was particularly great because I got to know some fantastic and beautiful women, including several who work for the US government here in Brussels, a barrister from London (she has to wear a curly gray wig to work!), and a woman who works for the Japanese embassy here. It was especially nice to be speaking native-tongue English when making friends--almost everybody else I've met while living here is European and either the language is Spanish/Catalan/French, or the English we speak is not the other person's first language, which does hinder the kind of "click" that feels so great when you meet a potential friend (at least for me; I tend to be a slow friend-maker). Oh, plus two of the ladies brought along their oh-so adorable baby girls (the husbands came along too, and kept mostly out of sight, except to make breast-feeding deliveries)!

We started the day with champagne in the hotel room, and rode up the funicular to the spa in our bathrobes and slippers. From there, we enjoyed a day of massages, swimming, and lounging, plus plenty of chit-chat. The highlight for me was swimming in the warm outdoor pool while grey skies plopped fat, cold raindrops onto my face. I did have to hurry inside when it started hailing, though!

Then we got gussied up, had a fun Italian dinner, then headed over to the Casino of Spa, which claims to be the world's oldest casino. I was so relieved that pretty much everyone else was as green as I when it came to casinos. We felt distinctly out of place, and dramatically overdressed, in the small (albeit baroque) salons, compared to the wizened, chain-smoking figures hunched over the machines or the tables.

We each got ten euros worth of tokens, our limit for the evening. Big spenders, right? A bunch of us immediately lost about half of our tokens in the slot machines, although a couple girls made some money. As in, four or five euros, whoo hoo! We then decided to pool all the leftover tokens and play roulette. We started out with 29 euros and ended up with 49, after one of us with the knack won us back a bunch of money. All the winnings went to the bride-to-be!

The next morning, after a late buffet breakfast at the hotel, we all wandered off either up to the spa, into the town, or back to Brussels. The bride and I decided to go fleamarketing in Spa's Sunday market, and it was the best flea market trip I've ever made! She and I snatched up some amazing finds amidst the cast-off electronics, dingy appliances, and piles of moldering books, including gorgeous antique jewelry, an old manual coffee grinder, which I bought for the Mister (he has admired his grandmother's), fun books, and mod vases. She found a solid silver 1970s watch and some fabulous rhinestone jewelry, and I bought an art-deco ring and a lovely pale blue milk-glass bead necklace. We were also endlessly amused by the characters selling the wares, all of whom had an eagerness to talk. One woman, once she found out we were American, had us trapped for a good quarter of an hour, and was most enthused about pictures she had seen of a friend's son's house in--"that country, what's it called?"--New England, where they have "little wild animals who live in the trees and eat hard fruit, what are they called?"--squirrels!

Flush with our purchases, we drove back to Brussels in the rain. The Mister was already back from Barcelona when I arrived, and as always, it was especially nice to see his face again after traveling in opposite directions. Actually, when we sat down to go over the April and May calendar, it was sobering to realize that he'll be away from Brussels for 30 days out of 47. So a lazy Sunday afternoon side-by-side was a storing up of together time, embraces that will have to last us twice as long.

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