Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ghent, Brugge and on to Brussels

We train Freiburg to Koeln, transfer there which was a bit of a snafu, won’t go into detail, boring, but it caused Bruce to get extremely heated, station hot with no ventilation and a forty five minute wait, not good for Bruce. Koeln to Brussels to a very grand looking hotel the Royal Windsor, well lobby is lovely and grand, rooms okay for one night.

Brussels to Ghent and we miss the train because no one shows with a ramp. Apparently we have to announce that we are there, while we haven’t before, new rules, new place. Oh well, once we did get help it was minutes until the next train arrived and bonus, very much less crowded so it all worked out. 

Oh, in most of Brussels people speak French, in Ghent it’s Flemish, a way to knock one into a completely different language for sure, but many speak English, because outside of Flanders who the heck would know Flemish? Bruce really insulted a Flemish person by speaking French, the twain do not meet here.

Wheelchair taxi is not available but a taxi driver was so very kind and helped us out, told Bruce how to get to the flat by driving the chair and put me, the luggage and Lexi in a cab. Now that was a bit worrisome, but we all made it to the flat okay. The garden patio area is being painted right now, painter Shaun is originally from Ireland so we had great conversations with him. 

Painter Shaun in action

We talked at some length with Shaun, who is Irish/Belgian. Immediate bond came about which happens sometimes. I love it when that happens! He has views of the world similar to ours, is a hard worker, nice person, even brought us a bottle of wine. Just a worldly, kind and generous person, yippee, I think we’ve made a new friend. He has a friend who he visits in Rhonda, Spain which is an hour from Sevilla so he may come visit us there. His birthday is November 23 so thinking ahead, a birthday celebration for him and I, our group, his friend and hopefully his girlfriend. What a treat to meet more people all at once through a good fella. 

The flat in Ghent  has no view of the river, which made me select it in the first place, due to grown grass, a shame. But there also doesn’t seem to be much traffic on this section of the river so maybe it doesn’t matter too much. Flat is below ground and quite a walk to the shops so don’t know how long we’ll stay. The host has eight cats and sometimes strays as well so it was an interesting time with Lexi. She’s already encountered a small female, she “wants to rip her head off” mostly because we are outside smoking and she’s inside without us. I don’t think this flat is “typical” for anywhere and so it is both charming and not as comfortable as I’d hoped. Actually it is comfortable, it’s the distance to shops and cafe’s that is the real problem. Anyway, we gathered our flagging energy and did a shop. This area of town is quite industrial so there are no cozy cafes or pubs around that we can see first off, actually we may not stay.

Decisions, decisions, when traveling you always have those even when booked ahead and especially when it doesn’t quite fit. Remember us in Zurich up the mountain in Utlieburg? We stayed too long there and life is too short to stay in a place you’re not comfortable with, it wasn’t bad, just not good either, same here in Ghent. Okay, I’ll take some blame, must be more careful about distances to shops and both those places we stayed are too far away. We will meet our hosts tomorrow but Anna and Simon have been doing a good job to make sure we are comfortable. My review of this flat will be a good one but will note if you have any difficulty walking or using a wheelchair perhaps another place would be better.

Here’s our new plan hatched today, two days before we go, we’ve always wanted to go to Brugge due to the movie “In Bruges” (a rather dark film really) and it’s a half hour train trip from Ghent. (There are so many spellings of Brugge, I am using what they use there.) Going Sunday and Monday and treating ourselves to a rather swanky hotel on the river, which we didn't get a view of... see a pattern here? We’ll come back to Ghent basically to pack up and leave for Brussels. 

Sorry to say Ghent was a bust for us, due to us, not the city, sorry Ghent! Another reason to leave is the next two weeks is a world wide (knew it was big but not that big!) music festival on in the city. Every accommodation I contacted basically told me “are you nuts or stupid?” people book a year in advance to be here and, well, we just want to leave. 

Ghent to Brugge, Bruce drove to the train station on his wheels, I took a cab with the suitcase and Lexi and we met in front of the station. I rang the bell for ramp assistance after buying the tickets and we were off. Only took about half an hour with one stop. 

In Brugge, Bruce, again, biked to the hotel and I took a cab. He seems to have little difficulty doing that, this time he was armed with a map. 

We came to Brugge for the architecture and everywhere you look you get a complete eyeful! Beautiful and unique and old. I took many more pictures but uploading on a slow connection is like watching paint dry...

The Cathedral and canal at the bottom
We got our fill and found places we’d seen in the movie that made us want to come here. 

I don't know what this statue indicates except love but I liked it.
There are many squares, especially the Markt which is the most famous. I can say, I have never seen so many selfie sticks, ever, but then we don’t frequent touristy places often and this is definitely one. 

Gold on the City Hall
Still worth coming to for us for a couple of days and then the crowds start to get a bit much and time to leave.

Had a drink at a cafe that only serves drinks and were treated to two young fellows playing pretty good music, in the background the horse carriages clopped by and we had a view of the canal and a breeze running through. What a life, makes me appreciate it all the more. 

The boutique hotel we are emailed prior to our arrival and asked if they could do anything to make our stay more comfortable, offered champagne, chocolates etc. I told a white lie and said it was our anniversary so could we have champagne, they came back with the price, now I’m stuck but since we don’t really celebrate anniversaries it was a treat. We had it on their terrace and they provided strawberries, red currant berries and a couple of petit fours, small cakes, which I’d never tried before, would never buy but were good to try, the petit fours I mean. Champagne named Veuve Clicquot, not something to make a habit of, quite expensive but delicious!

Looks good, tasted better!
We ordered salmon lox with parsley, red onion on toast points and lemon. All very good, and felt rather upper class while we watched all the sweaty tourists go by waiting for a tour boat. Well, honestly the patio didn’t have much of a breeze so we were sweaty tourists also, just in more pleasant surroundings. 

Seafood is big here and mussels especially. We found a family run restaurant that served mussels in a big pot with the lid used for the shells, Bruce said they were excellent. Belgian fries are also a big deal, and if what Bruce got served yesterday are any indication I didn’t find anything special about them, well cooked - yes, but huh? We did see people in the Markt square eating them up from a fast food place and they looked no different, sorry, don’t get it. There is even a Fries Museum! I suppose I should go there and learn why, but spending time in a Fries Museum, well, not my thing really.

Warning coffee rant coming up, skip if you wish. We had a fancy coffee machine in the room and I thought I knew how to work most of them but this one stumped me this morning and I am Definitely not good without my coffee. Had a grumpy shower, though it was a good one, got grumpily dressed, had a grumpy cigarette, went looking for coffee, need coffee! Found a place on the canal and had one, much less grumpy now and apologies to Bruce for just about ripping his head off, yes, it is that bad. Had the concierge show me how to work the machine for tomorrow, she must have thought I was a complete dolt but never mind, found out I was just too impatient, well that’s a given… Doing a test run this afternoon with the decaf one, what’s the point in decaf? Except before bed perhaps… it worked. Coffee rant over and out. 

Leaving Brugge, Bruce drives to the train and I take Lexi and the suitcase. Trains are running late today but we were lucky the Porter got us on one that we just about had the car to ourselves, luxury! Air-conditioned too and only a half hour trip Brugge to Ghent. So we settle back into the garden space and relax. Brussels tomorrow and it’s about 45 minutes.

Ad campaign for the movie Independence Day, this version is 3-D yikes! The original was scary enough!

Ghent rail station and we’re early so I call for assistance on an earlier train thinking to do a small shop in the Brussels train station before getting the rolling taxi. It worked well, another not busy compartment so cool. July 21st Belgium National holiday meaning stores closed, hence the mini-shop.

Next post Brussels, or the beginning of our time here. We've found a really lovely flat, and lovely host, close to shops and cafes and are very happy for that. 

Cheers, Bev, Bruce and Lexi Cat

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Visit to Colmar, France

On a Sunday we went to Colmar, France by car with Christoph. La-di-dah, okay you are tired of reading that but, again, it just feels that way so get used to it. As you can see it was a cloudy day but warm.

You know these two!

We got lost in Colmar, looking for a restaurant on a stream that runs through the main part of town, well never mind, we did find the restaurant and it’s called le Comptoir de Georges (not that you care about the name but I want it noted for future reference). Tables are on a patio very close to the water and there were tourists going by in small boats. The town has many half timbered houses in multitudes of colours, many with colourful flower boxes on the sills. 

Wine Shop

Lovely roof! 

After lunch we walked close to the cathedral to have a coffee. I went into the cathedral and it was dark and not at all welcoming so I surely didn’t stay long. 

The outside is worth a look and it has a working clock, unusual for most. Being Sunday it was crazy busy in the town so parking was an issue and we were lucky to get a table on the terrace of the restaurant. 

This coming Sunday we’re training to Brussels and the next day Ghent where we’ll be for three weeks. "Talk" to you from there.

Cheers Bx2 and Lexi Cat

Friday, July 1, 2016


We went downtown wearing these wrist bands. Of course, no one knew anything about why but we did so that's okay.

Visited Eigan Art a store you've heard about from me before and found this fellow.

Lovely isn't he/she and note the meerkat and hedgehogs
It is a water fountain actually, water comes out of it's trunk! Hmm, if not aimed correctly it could really bother the neighbours but would be cooling.

Just a short note to let you know we haven't forgotten about being proud Canadians.

Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat