cycling in Brussels

Recently, the lovely Cassy nominated me for a Versatile Blog Award. I was really honoured to be remembered and included, especially since I’ve been more of a sporadic than a versatile blogger for the last year or so… There are some rules involved in the game, but I’m going to adapt them a bit and play in my own way. One of the rules is to tell seven things about yourself. Well, I’ll try to do this, in my own way: how about a versatile hodge-podge of things that have been keeping my heart, body and mind interested lately?

First, cycling. With the arrival of good weather, I’m not the only one who’s had cycling as a means of mobility on my mind lately. And I am proud to say that it’s been more than on my mind! Since 1 May, I’ve been on the public transportation (excluding trips outside the city) only a few times. Brussels has a wonderful city bike scheme, where you pay a small annual fee for which you can use city bikes, with stations interspersed around the central city districts, always for free for the first half an hour. And I have been using this scheme like a madwoman! I have been biking almost every day.

It’s not perfect. Brussels is very hilly. In theory, I knew this before. But only after I got on a bike did I really really understand it. But you know what? There is no better feeling than when you finally manage to get to the top of that one hill without thinking you are going to die. Except for the feeling when you do it again. And again. And the feeling when you realise that it’s no big deal anymore.

It is not perfect. The city bike scheme has its flaws, sometimes the bikes are not in the best shape, and at rush hour it can be difficult to find a bike (or find a place to drop one off when you reach your destination). But I don’t mind. If I don’t find a bike, I think “well that means lots of people are using them, and that’s great!” (And then I curse under my breath because I’m late for work, but let’s ignore that bit. ;) And sometimes my day is brightened by random acts of kindness, like a little note left on the bike saying “I don’t work well.”

It is not perfect. Brussels is not the most bike-friendly city in the world. Yet it is friendlier than many other places I’ve lived in. And getting on the bike has been the best decision I’ve made in a while.

This 19-minute film says some important things about Brussels, about cycling, and about traffic in general. It is also wonderfully made and shows this city and its various inhabitants in a loving, beautiful way. I absolutely adore it and have already seen it several times, I can’t stop myself. Whether you’re a cyclist or not, whether you live in Brussels or not, I think you will find it interesting. And please feel free to share your thoughts!

Etsy Labs: Just knitting

Last weekend was lovely: exciting and relaxing at the same time, one of those weekends when everything seems to come together effortlessly. Good food, good friends, good weather, good activities.

And the latter included one of the coolest crafty things I’ve been involved in for a while! Thanks to my wonderful friend Johanna, I managed to find out about and join the second ever Etsy Labs event in Belgium. Yes, that’s Etsy as in THE Etsy! With sponsorship by Etsy NL, with Etsy goodie bags and with real-life Etsy sellers :) Not to mention that photos from our event ended up ON Etsy! Stay still, my beating heart! :)

The goal of the meet-up was to teach some knitting and help the approximately 20 participants make little knitted pouches for their sunshades. The participants were a wonderful mix of crafters of all levels (from “professionals” who make their living from craft to total beginners), and everyone was open, warm and kind.

We had loads of fun and have been gushing all over facebook ever since about how we can’t wait for the next one! Knitting or not, you better believe nothing will be able to prevent me from coming! And if you are in the Brussels area, you can also stay updated about future events by joining the BXL Handmade group on facebook.

I’ll use this opportunity to thank those most ‘responsible’ for the whole thing: it was organised by the tireless Anna Denise and the lovely Emilie, and hosted generously in her awesome home by Raori. All their blogs are worth a visit and you can find loads more photos from the event on them.

All Photos © Anna Denise van der Reijden (www.annadenise.nl)

yarnbombing for tolerance

Some things from my home country really make me sad and angry. Like the violent responses (especially in some parts of the country) to Gay Pride parades. So, as that time of year approaches again, and I cannot do much from far away, apart from posting messages of support on Facebook, I am happy to see that some knitters back home are doing their bit. This little yarnbombing event, on the main (and highly disputed) site of the Split Gay Pride, really warmed my heart today.

You can see the full photo gallery here.