Sunday, September 28, 2014


Yesterday was our day to explore Ghent.  It was a fabulous day!   We started in the late morning and got on the boat tour to get an idea of what to see in the area.  Here are a few pics of our boat ride.....

After our canal trip we rented a couple of bikes to get us around for the day.  Of course, I've been riding a bike for years but add a couple of thousand people, trams, busses, and cars....not to mention cobblestone streets and tram tracks, there was quite a bit of maneuvering involved.  Even with all that,  riding the bikes around the city was a BLAST!!

We rode along the streets and stopped at anything that looked interesting:)  I loved this old building with all of the bikes parked next to it.
We knew that we wanted to get some frituurs from a street cart so we stopped for some.....along with a hot dog (Rick) and a pork skewer (me).  The frituurs were delicious.  They are french fries that are double fried.  Not so good for you but mmmm good:)

After our street lunch we stopped at a waffle--ice cream shop.  
I got the ice cream where Rick, of course got the waffle.  

We climbed the bell tower.....(well, I rode the elevator while Rick climbed) and got this beautiful view of the city.

An old door in the belfast.

In the afternoon we we into St. Bavo's Cathedral.  It is here that the mystic lamb alter by Van Eyck is housed.  Well,  kind of.  The original is being restored in there Museum of Art (which we also got to visit).  There is a lot of mystery surrounding this painting because of a theft of two of the 22 panels in 1934.  A month after the theft, the first panel was returned with a ransom note for one million Belgian Francs.  An enormous amount of money back then!  Long story short,  It was never returned.  The prime suspect died just a few months later and so it is still a mystery of the whereabouts of the missing panel.  Rick and I had a good time viewing and learning about all of the symbolism in this amazing piece of art.  I am astonished at the talent of these men.  (It was actually painted by two brothers.  The younger brother finished it after the older brother died.)  There is a lot more to the story (like the Nazi's acquiring it in the spoils of WWII and then trying to blow it up in the Salt Mines before the Allies could get to it) but it would take a long time to explain.  So fascinating though!!

After St. Bavo's we continued our bike riding!   We stopped at this fun patisserie and picked up some bread, meat, cheese, and pastries for our Sunday lunch.

We also found a macaron shop!
I had to stop and get some.  I love the bright colors of macarons!

We also passed a lace shop.  

In the evening we stopped at a Cantonese restaurant across from our hotel.  It was wonderful food!  
A nice ending to a wonderful day!!

A picture along the waterfront.  
I love the reflection of the buildings in the water.

I tried to upload a video with me riding my bike in the midst of the crowd but it's just not working:-(

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Yay for Crystal!  She got the right answer.  It was Prince Henry from the movie "Ever After"!  (I picked up your chocolates and will bring them home to your mother.  I'm not sure how else to get them to you.)  I'll bring some to you too, Karen!!  

 Whenever I heard the word 'Belgium',  that phrase of Prince Henry's would come to my mind.  While that will probably still happen in the future I will have a lot of other images come to my mind as well!!  

Here are a few of them.......

When we first arrived in Brugge (rhymes with rouge but the french pronounce it BRUGE-eh) I wanted to take a boat tour right off to see the sights of the Old Town.  I took many pictures because it was all so beautiful!  To me Brugge is a mixture of Prague, Venice, and Saltzburg all rolled into one.  I loved the architecture, the canals, the cobblestone streets, the buildings, and the churches with the tall steeples.  Everywhere I looked was medieval history in all it's splendor! After our boat tour we perused a few shops and decided to wait to do our shopping until the end of the day.  That was almost a mistake because we nearly ran out of time.  The shops were starting to close by the time we were finishing up our sightseeing.

Rick and I in the main square. 

I love the look of this old building.

We went to the Church of Our Lady to see this marble statue of the Madonna by Michaelangelo.
It is one of the few statues of his outside of Italy.  It was sculpted in 1505.

The four of us outside of the Church of our Lady.

Ruth and I separated from the men for a little while and went to the church to see the statue of the Madonna but somehow we got turned around and ended up in a different church.  Well, the story goes that we were supposed to follow the street signs and the map to get there.  It sounds easy enough, right?  There was a really pretty square just ahead on our walk and we could see the church steeple so we thought we could take a different route through this pretty square.  The streets here are curvy so that threw us off without knowing it:(  We were supposed to meet the guys at the Church of our Lady but we ended up at Our Savior's Church instead.  While it was lovely to look at we didn't find the Madonna sculpture.  After a while the guys called wondering where in the world we were.  Brad had to come get us because we were all turned around:)  I love to read maps and I knew where I was.  I guess I just didn't know where the right church was:)

Me with the canal behind me.  It was interesting to learn on our boat tour that one of the canals leads all the way back to Ghent.  The canals used to lead to the ocean and Brugge used to be a "port town" but not anymore.

Of course, Rick had to get a Belgian Waffle.  
I took a bite and the chocolate on it was heavenly!!

Toward the end of the day we took a carriage ride with Brad and Ruth.  
I loved the clip clop of the horses hooves on the cobblestone.

A view of a boat from the street.

Did I mention chocolate shops??  They are EVERYWHERE!   
There is no shortage of that stuff here in Brugge.  

I can't believe that I didn't take any pictures of the lace shops:(  That is one of the artisan crafts for this area.  (Flemish)  
Along with our chocolates we bought a small lace tablecloth to go on our Lazy Susan on the kitchen table.  We also purchased a tapestry to hang in our dining room. 

Here is the Belfry that Rick climbed to get a view of the city.  I would have loved to do this but 322 steps??  I think I would have done okay going up but I'm afraid my horrible Hafen knees would have been a problem coming down!  He got up there just as the chimes started.  He said it was like the inside of a gigantic music box with a rolling drum and pins for the notes.  He went up another flight and he was right at the bells.  He loved it!!  It was really loud!

Brugge was a wonderful city to be in.  It met and even exceeded my expectations.   
I hope to never forget this wonderful place!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Into Belgium and the Netherlands

"Engaged??  To a Belgian?!?"
Trivia time!  For the first person to comment on my board identifying what movie this line is from and who said it,  I will bring back some BELGIAN Chocolates:-)
I already know who this is going to be because generally only one person ever makes comments on my blog.  Does anyone want to try to beat Karen??
Onto the post......
Yesterday was a travel day.  We left our hotel in Dublin at 10 AM and didn't arrive in Ghent until 8 PM.  Our flight was just an hour and a half into Belgium but we had to wait at the airport for The Allens, and their plane coming from England was late.  Plus we had some traffic jams driving over to Ghent.  Anyway,  we were happy to arrive at the hotel and more happy to know that we will be stationed here for the next five days.  We've been on the move in 5 different hotels the last six nights so it will be nice to have a home base again.  When we drove into the hotel last night it was already dark but from what I could tell the city was very pretty.  
It wasn't until this morning at breakfast that I looked out the window and saw THIS amazing view and thought, "This place is GORGEOUS!!"  A canal filled with boats and the facade of buildings looking like they just fell out of Disney fairy tale!  I'm gonna love exploring this town!!

A view of the Marriott facade.

So after spending some time at breakfast with the Allens catching up on our adventures from the last week it was already 11:30.  Rick and I made an executive decision and decided that today would be the day that we drove into the Netherlands.  We are very close to the border and we thought it would be fun to get another country under our belt this trip.  I really did not want to have another day of driving because it was going to be a two hour drive to get there but by going today we would have more time on Saturday and Sunday to explore Ghent.  So we took off on our own! (because the others didn't want to travel either) 
It ended up being a nice day:)  We enjoyed the drive talking and we were there in no time.  I'm so thankful for a GPS that has been getting us where we want to go now for the last two weeks:)  We pulled into a town called "s-Hertogenbosch" but is know as Dem Bosch.  It was a lovely town with canals running through it.  We found a parking space in the town centre and got down to the first order of business....lunch:)  It was fun trying some local specialties.  I had skewered chicken with curry sauce, rice and carrot salad.  It also came with shrimp crackers but I took one bite of those and decided to leave those on my plate.  
Rick ordered a sausage rolled in a pastry and some homemade split pea soup.

We saw a girl making a fun dessert and Rick decided he wanted one:)  It is called an apple ball.
It was super delicious.  We are going to try making these when we get home.
Here's how it's done:  Peel and core an apple.  Roll it in cinnamon sugar.  Fill up core with cinnamon sugar.  Wrap puff pastry dough around apple and secure ends in core.  Form dough into ball around the apple.  Again wrap in cinnamon sugar and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  
Serve with Vanilla Sauce.  

This will be a fun fall treat!! 

Here is the finished product.

After lunch we walked around the town center seeing the sights.

We stopped at a souvenir shop and unfortunately they did not sell ball caps so Rick could not get one for his collection.  He bought a t-shirt instead.  I found a cute bell for my collection and we picked up some cool Dutch shoes for Ruth.  She asked us to bring some back for her:)  
We also got a few small items for the kids.

We passed by this flower shop and the prices were so good I had to buy a bunch to bring back to the hotel.  I also picked up some Tulips to bring for Ruth and DeeAnn to have in their rooms.  Tulips are my favorite!!  And from Holland even!!  I wished I could bring home some giant bulbs to plant this fall.  I couldn't find any of those though:(

A view of the buildings.

We walked along the canal to get back to our car and I just loved these homes across the way.  It made me wonder what it must be like to live in them.

It was a pleasant drive back to Ghent without too much trouble and just as we were pulling into the hotel DeeAnn called to see if we were close and wanted to have dinner with them.  Brad and Ruth wanted to relax tonight in their hotel room so we took DeeAnn and Darrell up on their offer and had a nice dinner with them alongside the canal across from our hotel.  
We sat on the patio under a canopy and caught up on our days activities.  It was nice:)  

A shot just outside our hotel looking over the lights of Ghent.  We will not have a chance to explore the city tomorrow either because we are spending the day in Brugge.  
Luckily, it is just a short drive from here:)

Brugge is the reason we came to Belgium.  Rick and I saw it on a  Rick Steeves program about a year ago and I said,  "We have to plan and go there someday!  It looks so neat"  He agreed .......And here we are with tomorrow being our Brugge day......CAN'T WAIT!!

PS  Tonight's door is this pretty red one from the town centre of Dem Bosch!