Monday, August 1, 2016

Brussels - Part One

Street art in Ghent - Laurel and Hardy

Arrival at the flat and our host Linda welcomes us warmly. She stays about an hour showing us around the flat and common areas. The flat is gorgeous! Old fashioned with wood floors, lots of windows, two balconies, one full bath, a shower with sink, toilet with sink, two bedrooms. There is a park across the street and grocery and cafes around, she will take us on a tour of the neighbourhood tomorrow. I think we’ll be happy here for the next 20 days. Did I say the flat is beautiful? Yes, I know, it has an old fashioned worldliness but comfortable. She lives here when it isn’t rented so there are a lifetime of keepsakes from the countries she’s been to. The ceiling lights are each beautiful, like we’ve done in Sevilla. 

Art Deco and Lexi who isn't

The neighbourhood is somewhat condo alley but building types mix between quite old and new, this building is 1953, she has lovingly maintained the ambiance of the era and furnishings reflect that. The space is bright and breezy once we open the doors to the two balconies. The windows do have a ledge so we keep them closed. Temperatures have been mid to low 20’s so heat for Bruce is not a problem.  We were so lucky to have found this flat and host.

Our host Linda takes Bruce around the neighbourhood and YES there are cafes and shops within a short distance, exactly what we need. Tram and buses stop close by too so we can get into the old town. As usual it takes a couple of days to stock the fridge and get used to the neighbourhood, then we'll venture out to sightsee. 

Lexi likes it here, lots of windows to see birds from and she can join us outside after we held her (tightly) over the balcony to show her there was a deep drop and nothing to jump to. She reacted strongly by drawing back into our arms, good! She is such a jumper, almost flyer, analyses her landing point carefully and decides if safe or not. To get down she almost walks the wall like a spider and when landing says a soft whooft. 

French is the main language here but almost everyone speaks English also. I can use a bit of my high school French, admittedly a small amount but at least I can be polite. 

We went to a Bio store today, Bio meaning organic, the fruit and veg were wonderfully fresh. They had large containers filled with every type of liquid imaginable, even tamari (distilled soy) sauce, which I promptly spilled on the floor. So I asked for paper towel to clean it up which they seemed to appreciate although sounds like it happens often. There is also a Carrefour in the area, major European grocery store, definitely without the charm of the Bio but handy.

Linda came by to drop off a key to the “maid’s room” where there is a power point to plug Bruce’s wheels into, the chair is a bit big for the elevator, elevator is another story, you see the floors as you are rising, no cage as such. She put me in touch with a woman in the building who knows someone who gives her a good pedicure. The woman is of Russian background and a Princess, there we go! I met a Princess. Anyway her English was quite good and she told us a story of connecting with an uncle in Moscow after the war. 

Got a pedicure, found a printer for a document we need to sign and scan but no scanner, actually I think the fellow just didn’t know how to use it. Bought cards and postage for birthdays coming up. Bought Lexi food. So we accomplished a lot but not all the errands.

Weather goes from cloudy to sunny every few minutes but it is in the low 20’s so is comfortable without a coat, very much appreciated!  

Linda had taken Bruce into the big park next door so we packed up some sandwiches and drinks for a picnic, which we haven’t done in a while, but is always lovely. 

Park keeper's house

This is Park Duden and there is a summer program happening this year called Wandered through the park to find the bandstand which operates as a club at night, - amendment - the pavilion is part of the program, has an information booth, a distillation laboratory and they host workshops there. 

Admittedly not my best picture but this area holds 30 different species of plants.

There is a small cafe over looking the garden planted with plants the Society distills from. There is much talk in the brochure of how people interact with nature etc. Anyway, go to the website, there is an English button if interested.

There was a very large furry dog that resides at the cafe, the waitress was trying to train it to jump over a stick between two chairs, well it tried a couple of times, but really the stick was much more fun to play with!

King Leopold, patron to the park

Then trying to make it back to the flat we got lost and saw a lot more of the park than intended for sure and some more interesting streets, uphill slog for most of it. Bruce had to plug in his chair on return and I wished for a plug in for my legs. The park is actually gigantic and has trees in it from all over the world.

Another shop day and we have lunch at a boulangerie, French for a bakery, so I decided since waffles are big here why not try some? When in Rome and all that, well they are terribly sweet and not to my taste at all. Bruce bought chocolate from the bio store, it’s located on a table complete with hammer and you have to hit hard to get a piece of the slab, good, not sweet, real cocoa flavour and with red wine, yummy! 

So now we’ve bought two of the many staple foods here in Belgium, (three if you remember the chips, four the mussels) as we do in countries visited. Food tours would be lovely as many bloggers write about but with Bruce’s chair, not sure how practical. We’ve been munching on cherries but the season seems to be pretty much over now, as it is in Canada. Well you win some and lose some but trying is important because we learn something about the country we are in by doing so. 

A few of the restaurants and businesses are closed in this area for summer holidays. As we will likely find in Paris, people flee the cities in the summer, well everywhere really. 

Yikes, wondering why our bill was quite large at the bio store today and found that we paid 19+ Euro for two hundred grams of coffee! The last time we bought coffee there it came in a tin and I’m sure didn’t cost that much. However this is ground on site with an ancient machine and I suppose they are charging for the allure of it, yikes again, save me the allure please, won’t be doing that again unless it tastes like nectar. Talk to you tomorrow and let you know, because you can bet I’m using up every bit of it. Tastes good but not That good!

Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat

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