I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Belgium (8)


Four countries in a day




Did you guess?  We set off from Trier this morning, bright and breezy and in no time at all, we were crossing the border.  Please, be impressed by the efficiency with which we can pack the car these days – not a square inch is lost!




Anyway, here we were in Luxemburg and with time to spare, we thought we’d take a closer look.




We parked by a statue of some jolly Luxembourgers though once again, our search for a blue accessible parking space was thwarted.  What happened to European legislation on this side of the Channel, eh?




We followed the walking tour suggested by the tourist office and tried hard to think of a famous Luxembourger.  Famous Belgians?  We can name a few.  But who could we think of from the Grand Duchy?  Sadly, no-one came to mind, so when we encountered two young women from the tourist office standing outside the palace, wearing “Ask me a question” jackets, we did exactly that.  They could name only the heir to the Duchy, Guillaume and his wife Stephanie and what’s more, I was admonished by my hero for asking a question which could only emphasise the lowly status of the country in terms of world rankings.  Needless to say, that could not be further from our intentions and actually, Mary and I had an interesting conversation with the pair of them, learning about what’s great about growing up as a Luxembourger.  Great education, they said!




From the terraces by the modern Palace of Justice, there was a fine view of the lower city, reminding us all of Quebec.  It was a lovely place to spend a few minutes in the sunshine.




A little further along, I spotted this column in the distance and zoomed in to take a photograph, thinking I’d find out more later.  I haven’t found out anything yet and have no idea who she is, but I hope that whoever she is going to drop that cream pie on is ready and prepared for it!!




Our next stop was the cathedral with a collection of interesting and curiously shaped spires.




My eyes went immediately to the ceiling.




Then to the stained glass, both old




and new. (ish)




We were curious about the language – meng stad, especially when I spotted the three dots above the M in Luxemburg.  Is it a real linguistic form or a mere advertising gimmick?  Need to know (and will find out…but not now!)




Time was moving on and we needed to be on our way.  We hit the road again and passed into Belgium without further ado.  Not really a great deal to say about that.




The roads were pretty busy and there were quite a few heavy lorries making driving a challenge for my hero, but he coped of course!  Filling the car was another matter, since for some reason, the filling station demanded pre-payment – not that they explained that to anyone first, of course.  The result was that several people were trying to get the pumps to work with no success at all and there was much shrugging of shoulders and puzzled expressions until we heard the magic words “il faut prepayer” or whatever. 


Even the French pair at the pump beside us were perplexed and for once, there was a distinct entente-cordiale in this part of the filling station.  Doesn’t take much more than a weird Belgian practice to foster that, then!




Shortly afterwards, we were in France and almost at our destination: Lille.




Our hotel is near – almost in – the Grand Place and the decor so bold that I’m a little worried that the triffid will give me a hug in the night.  Hopefully, George and the other travelling companions will keep an eye on it.




The view is pretty good though.




We spent the afternoon wandering about and since Mary hasn’t been here before, we saw things through new, Californian eyes.  Yes, it is indeed a pretty spectacular place.




Of course, we’ve shopped at La Droguerie, too.

Our last dinner of the trip was rather smarter than we’ve been accustomed to of late, at L’Ecume des Mers.  Had I not ordered two courses which needed much mircosurgery and excavation, then we too would have been smart.  Still, the crab and the huge prawns were delicious and I’m sure no-one really noticed the splatter marks on my clothes (and on those around me)  as we left.

Goodnight from Lille!


On being thankful

And not forgetting.




We decided that, rather than zoom straight down the autobahn into Germany today, we’d take a small detour to Ypres.  Though we’ve visited other places connected to WW1, we’d not been here and on this occasion there were family links.  On entering the town we couldn’t fail to miss the Menin Gate, standing there right in front of us.  We parked the car and got out for a closer look.




We’d read in the guidebook that this memorial lists the names of 55,000 solders killed in the early part of WW1 and we knew that Jack Paddison, the first husband of my hero’s Grandmother, was amongst them.




To begin with, I’d thought it’d be easy to find him, because the gate was a simple arch with names inscribed on each wall.  But this was more than a simple gate as can be seen more easily from the model which was there alongside.  There were side arches, different levels and every surface was covered with long lists of names.




Thankfully, my hero found the book with the guide to who was named where and soon tracked down Private J Paddison of the Northamptonshire Regiment.  With a sigh and a thought of what might have been, we moved on into the centre of the small town, to the market place.




Here, we found the magnificent Cloth Hall.  We pottered around a while, taking photos and enjoying the early Sunday morning peace and quiet.




The details of the other buildings around the square appealed to us too, and a little quiet reflection whilst we gazed up at the interesting roof structures was exactly what we needed.




We very much liked the two contemporary figures alongside the more conventional saints in the niches above the Cloth Hall, learning from the staff in the tourist office that the soldier is King Albert I and his female companion is his queen, Elizabeth.

Fortified by a cherry flavoured Kriek beer and a couple of chocolates (we’re following yesterday’s advice about balanced diets) we moved on to Tyne Cot, where the largest Commonwealth War Graves cemetery contains the remains of the thousands of young men who were killed during the battle of Passchendaele in 1917.




Thankfully, my Grandad isn’t amongst them, because although he fought just along the ridge there in Poelcapelle, on October 9th 1917 he was injured and brought home for treatment.  I won’t say “lived to tell the tale” because he never told any of it – I only know his war story thanks to the historians at the Lancashire Fusiliers Regimental museum who sent me the records from the diaries when I researched my family history recently, too late to ask him any questions.




But as I walked around the headstones, I stopped by a little group of Lancashire Fusiliers and wondered if they were his friends?  It’s a sobering thought that had he not been one of the lucky ones, I’d not be here today on this warm, Sunday morning, to gaze over the fields and try to imagine how it must have been.




Then, just as we’d reached the perimeter of the cemetery, we realised that the whole of that semi-circular wall was also  covered with panels of names – 35,000 of them, including many from New Zealand, Canada, Australia and South Africa.  Overwhelmed, we took one last look around and left feeling very thankful indeed.


Chocolate, waffles and beer

You’ve guessed, we are in Belgium.




We arrived in good time for the Shuttle this morning and were glad to be offered an earlier train.  We’d feared a long queue, this being the first Saturday of the school holidays, but thankfully, we were wrong.  There were no queues at all at this hour of the day.




But as we waited in the line of cars, the heavens opened and the view through the windscreen changed somewhat.




The advertising hoarding opposite seemed to issue a rather prescient warning as well.  Hmm.  We were hoping for dry weather at least, even if it were a little overcast. 

But never mind, we’re on our holidays!




Our first target was to be Bruges, where we’d booked our first overnight stay.  Though we’d been here several times previously, it had been a few years since the last time and for Mary, this was all new ground.




Sadly, there wasn’t much of the Flanders countryside to see.




It had stopped raining when we made our way from the car park to the hotel – not very far at all, thankfully – over treacherously slippery setts.  I was lucky not to fall flat on my face on a couple of occasions and was very relieved to step onto a dry floor at last.  The proprietor greeted us warmly, though was a little preoccupied himself as he awaited the arrival of the red fire engine to pump a few inches of floodwater out from his cellar.  We hoped for rooms on a higher floor!




We lost no time in getting out into the city and really enjoyed pottering about the old streets.  It was pretty busy, but we avoided the main shopping areas and found the quieter places equally attractive.  The rain had passed by now and the afternoon brightened up considerably, for which we were grateful.




Our favourite spot was Van Eyck Place – by a small canal and with a splash of colourful cafe umbrellas here and there.  We stopped a while, took photos and having perused the menus, decided to book a table for dinner.  Fingers crossed the rain will keep off.




Not only did the rain hold off, the sun came out and we enjoyed a beautiful evening there in the square. 




As we walked back through rather quieter streets this evening, there was a spot or two of rain but not enough to prevent us lingering by the rather characterful centrepiece to t’Zand, the marketplace outside our hotel.  These cyclists were my favourite group of the whole arrangement, I think.




But there was something about the mermaid that appealed to me, too!  Looks like she’s had a rough time of things, doesn’t it?




I’ll finish with some chocolate shop advice for your consideration.



Elephant parade


Walking across the Astridplein to our hotel here in Antwerp, we came across the sight of a herd of elephants crossing the front of the station, heading for the zoo gates. There are nine in the herd, three adults and an assortment of youngsters - all constructed from wood and metal, their path being eased by a bed of soft sand. We love them!
The view from our hotel window: The little parade is in front of the station. It's a gloomy afternoon, though, as you can see.



Cathedral Art!

There is a single photograph on the wall of our hotel room here but today I think that blog space is better devoted to the art we found in St Bavo's cathedral yesterday. Stunning paintings by a Korean artist whose name I didn't write down, thinking I'd be able to find it easily by googling later....duh. Any google search for "art" and "St Bavo" merely turns up the most famous, Van Eyck's Adoration of the Lamb. Of course, we spent a while ogling that one too, but it was the colourful hangings adorning the main nave which I wanted to record. Much building work is being carried out inside the choir and the area behind the altar is screened off with a plain white board. Providing a very effective distraction from the building work, these huge canvases (probably almost 50 in total) are full of colour and I found myself sitting gazing at each in turn, contemplating the shapes and colours. I love them!