A Travellerspoint blog

4: Jeweled Glasses

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Last day in Belgium and I had decided that today being my last day would be a day of rest with a little sightseeing. So at the stroke of 10am I was booted out of the hostel (they close it from 10-2) and decided to go and do a walk passed the Royal palace and back towards to town to see the Marguerite museum.

Marguerite is the surrealist painter who painted the man (and men) with the bowler hat (amongst other works). So I spent a good couple of hours just wandering through the halls of the Marguerite museum loving the surrealist paintings and generally just loving the setup of the museum! It’s designed so that you start on the top floor and wander down three levels.. the bottom level is where many of his most famous works are housed.. I was disappointed to discover that his bowler hat with green apple piece wasn’t in the museum.. must be somewhere else in the world!

I then spent the afternoon catching up my blog and doing some laundry and generally relaxing. Off to Paris tomorrow!!!!

Posted by weary_feet 12:39 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

3: A day with great friends.. What more could you want?

overcast 17 °C
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Well I had the most terrific day today (although the start was a little hectic). Started early with hearing that poor old Dorien had gotten ill and wasn’t able to come shopping with us. No issue, it just meant I was training to Antwerp not car-ing.. easy right!! Well pretty much! Only one hitch is the ticket vending machines in Belgium. I’m fairly used to using ticket machines, typically they take cash or card, you choose where you want to go and voila you have a ticket! Well, the ones in Belgium sort of work like that except they are money-less meaning you need to use your card, but they don’t accept visa, mastercard or amex………… Mmmm (well at least they don’t accept Aussie versions of these)……. So I had to line up and buy the old fashioned way.. which was fine except the line-up was out the door and snaking down the main entrance area of Gare Du Zuidi! So 20min later I had a return ticket to Antwerp and was on my way.

Arrived a good hour and a bit late (sorry Betty) with Betty meeting me on the platform making sure I wouldn’t get lost in the beautiful (but large) Antwerp (actually it is called Antwerpen!) Centraal Station.

We spent the morning perusing the Antwerpen shops and boutiques. We started the morning with a very tasty smoothie before hitting the stores. Betty tells me that Antwerpen is known for its fashion and I’d have to agree. The shops in Antwerpen are pretty nice. In fact, so nice that I ended up purchasing a couple of long sleeved tops (I will wear them have no fear!) in this really funky designer boutique, that was surprisingly well priced!!!!! Not to be outdone, Betty had already started the day by spending up a storm at Esprit (buying a really nice pair of boots and a very funky black vest) and continued on her merry way buying a further top or two!!!!

The thing for me was not only were the clothes on sale nice, the buildings they are housed in are spectacular. One particular mall houses its stores in this old palace-ball room like building, complete with gold leaf trim and marble!!!!!!!!

Our stop for lunch is one of Betty’s Antwerp stand-bys and was well worth the visit. We had pear, brie and cinnamon Panini’s. I know the flavour combination is bizarre but it was super worth it! We also had Cinnamon and Honey flavoured Latte’s—again a huge hit.. so much so that it may need to become my standard Latte order when I get back home!

After lunch Betty took me site seeing in Antwerpen. We had a look at the main market square and the H-Antwerpen. Yep Antwerp is named after a famous story and has a bronze statue to commemorate. A long, long time ago a giant lived in Antwerp. For some reason he was a bad giant (he lived under the butcher’s hall) and he used to charge a toll for crossing the river Scheldt. If you didn’t pay, the giant would cut off your hand and throw your hand into the river as payment. Eventually the giant was slain and his own hand was thrown in the rive Scheldt. Hence the name Hand-Werpen (which is Dutch and means to throw a hand) which over the years has become Antwerpen.

From here we continued down towards the river to see Antwerp’s castle (Scheldt Castle).. Wow! It is as good as the one in Brugge.. a complete medieval castle bang smack in the middle of the town!!!!!

We rounded out our day by consuming a couple of drinks in this underground cellar bar. No natural lighting (or electric) just plain old fashioned candle light. Here Betty introduced me to Krike Beer. It is a Belgian brew that is made with cherries… Wow-ee is all I can say. It is far and away the best tasting beer I’ve had (although that isn’t hard considering I’m not a beer expert…) but it is really nice.. Sort of sweet but tart at the same time.. If you ever see Krike beer on the menu, get one you won’t regret it!!

Johan joined us just before dinner where we went to another of Betty’s haunts, this time a restaurant that gave us an incredibly good dinner of red beef curry (in my case) and steak and salad and chips (fritsches) for Betty and Johan.

After an amazing day I left Betty and Johan at the station and caught the train back to Brussels!

Posted by weary_feet 10:33 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

2: BBQ-ing by the light of a wind up torch..

rain 24 °C
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Early start this morning as I was going on an all day tour of Ghent and Brugge. Both cities are medieval cities that have amazing architecture and were “must-dos” in my guide book.

First stop was Ghent. Ghent was first founded well back in the Iron Age and is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It was traditionally on a major trading route making it a very prosperous town back in middle ages. The main attractions in Ghent is the main market square (circa 1200 AD buildings) and the Gravensteen Castle (built in mid 1100s). It is one of those castles you see in the movies that they use for movies of Merlin or King Arthur or something! You can totally imagine knights in shining armour on their trusty steads galloping over the draw bridge……

We rounded out our walking tour by seeing the St Bavo’s Cathedral, home to one of Ruben’s paintings as well as the painting by Van Eyck something to do with a “mystic lamb”. I had a look at Ruben’s painting (which was ok) but wasn’t willing to part with a 8 E to see the mystical lamb painting so can’t tell you whether it was worth the dollars!

From Ghent we continued on our journey to Brugge (about an hour away). Brugge is the quintessential medieval town (and apparently a movie was made recently that portrays this???). It is defiantly draw dropping and is a town that time has forgotten. Every building in the town was built in the 1300s-1500s and so it must be one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe?

We spent the whole afternoon here just wandering around the town. I made a couple of stops at two of the main sites in town; the Church of the Holy Blood and the Church of our Lady. The Church of the Holy Blood is the home to a major Christian relic, a vial of blood from JC (which was brought back during the second crusade). The relic was on display and was being touched by pilgrims (of which there would have been at least a hundred inside the small chapel) so even today there are believers who truly believe it will work wonders! Although I’m not a devout believer I was defiantly interested to see what a relic looks like! (In this case a silver case mounted on a red velvet cushion being guarded by the priest of the church) I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the average Joe can actually touch and see the relic (unlike the only other one I’ve seen in the Cologne Dom that was too far away from us plebs).

My last stop was the Church of our Lady, this time for a different reason. The Church of our Lady houses a sculpture by Michelangelo- the Madonna and Child. The Madonna is flanked by other marble sculptures of angels—the difference between the sculpture by Michelangelo and the ones by the no-name sculptures is profound. The Madonna almost looks like a real lady sitting in a chair nursing a child! It is incredible to think that this is has been sculpted from a block of solid marble! The Angel sculptures are good but just not in the same league… The folds of the gown that Michelangelo has sculpted on the Madonna look graceful and vibrant! It really is incredible that someone can make marble look like real life!

The other thing surprising about this church is that some of the tombs have been excavated and are now on display to the public (minus the owners). This is the first time I’ve seen the efforts of archaeologists inside a cathedral. It somehow feels a little sacrilegious (well at least to the previous occupants) to see inside their tombs whilst still praying???? I guess the previous occupants don’t care or they would have started haunting the church or something but still………..

Rounded out my medieval day by eating a really tasty Belgian waffle with sugar before boarding the bus back for Brussels and Dorien’s bbq!

Arrived back in Brussels quite late because the bus had a bit of engine trouble, which meant I was running late for Dorien’s party. She had about 15 people to her place for an evening of good food, drink and conversation. I was quite pleased (although I shouldn’t have been surprised) to discover so many of Dorien’s friends spoke perfect English and were more than happy to converse with me in my native tongue (which is good because my Flemish is completely non-existent—all I know is Hello (easy huh!) and Scholl (without the “k” sound which means cheers!)).

Dorien’s really lucky because she has this roof-top terrace that everyone in her apartment block has access to, so up we all went to cook her bbq. BBQ-ing in Belgium is different to BBQ-ing at home. For one, they are still able to buy coal to BBQ with—no heat beads needed in Belgium! We also had a slight challenge with the size. Size wise, Dorien’s grill is appropriate for small grilling.. which made it tricky as we needed to grill lots of meat to feed us all. It got to the point where Dorien and I were grilling away late in the evening (probably about 9.30/ 10pm) by the light of her wind up torch that she uses when she goes on hols!!!! What a crack up!

All in all we had a ripper of an evening, one I had to cut short as my silly hostel has a 1pm curfew so I had to get back to ensure I had a good night’s sleep as tomorrow I am off with Dorien to Antwerp to visit Betty and Johan and do some shopping and site seeing!!

Posted by weary_feet 01:28 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

1: Manneken Pis

sunny 28 °C
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Ok before I start this blog I'll start with the Belgian disclaimer that I didn't actually enter into the Frankish territories of Belgium but instead stayed within the confines of Flanders (the Dutch part). So, to my Belgian friends who will be up in arms at the connotations, I do apologise but the name of "Frankish Feast" but the name was just too hard for me to pass up.....................

Leisurely start this morning as I was catching the 10am train to Brussels from Cologne. It was the usual mad dash at the train station to get on the train, find your seat and then find somewhere to park your bag.. (It’s probably the main drawback of catching trains in Europe.. they really aren’t designed for bags any larger than small overnighters or smallish suitcases or packs)

Anyway got on and had a really enjoyable 2hr train trip into Brussels.

Arrived and I had planned to catch a train to the closest station and then walk a couple of steps to my hostel. Unfortunately Gare du Midi (Brussels main international train station) isn’t really well designed to work out how to catch inter-Brussels trains. Neither is there an easily accessible tourist office (I couldn’t find one anywhere in the terminal) so I decided just to walk the couple of blocks to the hostel. (Which was fine).

Arrived at the hostel and had a rest before deciding to go downtown and find the sites of Brussels. I spent the afternoon wandering around the main town square and the surrounding streets. (The main town square is pretty impressive.. palaces surround the square, all of which are trimmed in gold leaf). I found an English bookstore so I bought myself a guide book to Brussels and Paris (next stop) before sitting down for a quick snack.

I met up with Dorien at 8pm for dinner. We went back downtown and I had a traditional Belgian dish; Veal meatball things in some sort of beer inspired sauce with fritsches (chips) and salad and of course I tested out a Belgian beer! The two of us had a great night catching up and headed back to the hostel around 12pm. Off to Brugge and Ghent tomorrow and bbq at Dorien’s tomorrow night!

Posted by weary_feet 00:20 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

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