BELGIUM

Here’s Looking At You #7!

Lonely Planet has a list of the top 10 cities to visit and in 2011, Ghent came in at #7.  The publication even went as far as calling the city a secret within a secret.  Truth be told, I’m not sure how secret anything could really be once its been talked about in Lonely Planet and the thought of finding myself amongst a slew of other tourists looking to discover the hidden jewel in Belgium they call Ghent was enough to hit the snooze a few times before struggling to get out of bed.  When I sleep in, I tend to REALLY sleep in so the trip to Ghent didn’t actually begin until after midday.  There was talk about skipping it all together as we’d already been to Bruges but since nothing else was planned, what harm could a 30 minute train ride do right?

The view as I waited for my canal ride to begin

And with that logical, off we went.  When Miss Bathtub Diaries and I first pulled into the station, my initial reaction was that this city was over-hyped as it all seemed rather sketchy from where we were sitting.  Immediately after leaving the train station, I had the pleasure of getting involved in a rather baffling conversation with a Flemish man – he insisted on going into detail about his war with the French language and how they don’t respect Flemish so he won’t respect French and on and on and on.  Again, I’m a magnet for weirdos so these things happen but somehow we managed to squeeze him for the directions we needed and jump on the tram before he could spew any more of his Flemish vs French agenda on us.

Once we found ourselves in the city centre of Ghent, the rating became crystal clear.  I now understand why this was #7 on the list for last year.  It was almost as though we stepped onto a tram and then stepped off on a movie set that was actually real life (Truman Show but prettier perhaps?).  This is one of those rare occasions where I’m at a loss of words as I found myself looking around at my surroundings with my neck twisted towards the sky and slightly slack-jawed and amazed that I actually found another city to be worthy eye-candy.  Forgive me but I grew up in Vancouver so it’s does take a certain type of look to put me in awe as my hometown will always be my benchmark.  At the end of the day, I think the saying is “a picture is worth a thousand words” and it seems appropriate right now as I don’t think any amount of my ramblings could account for what we saw.

Photo taken while on the canal tour

Photo of building from the end of the self-guided walking tour (map can be picked u from the information office)

Photo taken on the bridge while doing the self-guided city tour (map can be picked up at the information office)

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Categories: BELGIUM, belgium: ghent | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Carpe Diem in Bruges!

When people found out that I was going to Belgium, I was immediately peppered with questions on whether or not I’d be visiting Bruges and if I had seen the movie In Bruges starring Colin Farrell.  I’m not sure why the obsession with movie locations in this country but I was half expecting people to start quoting the line, “If I grew up on a farm and was retarded then Bruges would impress me but I didn’t so it doesn’t”, but thankfully that never happened and I never hesitated on my idea to visit this particular city.

photo taken while on the canal tour

wandering the streets of Bruges

Bruges is an hour by train from Brussels and makes for a decent day trip as it’s not only a beautiful city but also jammed packed with beautiful food.  As I was no longer into doing a few turbo tourist days in Bruges, the original idea of the Quasimodo Tour of Flanders Field was out and due to some weather issues, the hot air balloon trip was also a no go.  So what else was I going to do other than wander around the streets of Bruges and do a canal tour before a non-stop parade of cafes, tea rooms, restaurants, and chocolate shops to make up for the eating that was missed out on during the early days of this trip.

I could go into detail about the city landscape but I’m sure that the movie In Bruges covers

The highlight of my day – tastes a billion times better than it looks!

how the city itself looks.  What the movie didn’t seem to mention was a little tea room called Carpe Diem.  Yes, there were other great restaurants, cafes, and shops that were visited on this trip but Carpe Diem is the one that stands out in my mind as the clear winner.  When we stumbled upon Carpe Diem it was to stop for a sweet tooth break and after all, a little coffee and a lotta dessert never hurt anyone right?  I ordered a pancake with fresh strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and hot chocolate sauce and I don’t know what happened but within minutes of it appearing on the table it vanished.  I may have stopped breathing to inhale it that quickly but all I have to say is YUM!

As my day in Bruges came to an end, the only thing that I knew for certain is that my sentiments for the city were completely opposite to what Colin Farrell’s character had to say in the line quoted earlier in this post.  Bruges is quiet, easy, and very filling and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back for round 2.  As for the pancake from Carpe Diem – that’s the stuff that dreams are made of!

Categories: BELGIUM, belgium: bruges | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Self Censorship And What Not…

I’ve been thinking about this latest post for a while (hours upon hours) and decided that sometimes my jokes tend to cross the line so badly that the line looks like a dot from where I’m standing.  This time around, I thought it’d be safer to ask around to see if my original title was offensive and so I started bugging those around me.  I always got a giggle but that was followed up with comments about how the said person had self censored their own blogs due to one reason or another and then became too lazy to blog much after that.  It is in their honour that I write this post (well rewrite this post after I deleted it…twice) as I figure my blogging about Belgium wouldn’t be complete without sharing some landmark photos.

Exploring any new city always means that some of the major landmarks will need to be visited in order to check them off the list.  When I think of Brussels, the first thing that comes to mind is Manneken Pis and so I set off to find this bad boy.  I felt a little hesitant to admit this as someone once told me that statues were designed for kiddie fiddlers.  I’m not even sure what to do with that statement but I felt a sense of apprehension joining in with the other tourists to take photos of a bronzed little naked boy.  Why a statue of a naked little boy peeing in the first place right?  Well, legend has it that Brussels was under siege by a foreign power and since the city held its ground, the attackers conceived of a plan to place explosive charges at the city walls. A little boy happened to be spying on them and spoiled their plans by urinating on the burning fuse in order to save the city and thus, a naked boy peeing was bronzed to immortalize this moment.  Thank you bus tour for that tidbit of information!

What I’ve neglected to tell you is on the way to Manneken Pis, we took a wrong turn and by pure accident, stumbled upon Jeanneke Pis first.  I’m not even sure why there’s a bronzed statue of a little girl peeing (yes, I keep hearing something about kiddie fiddlers once again in my head) but there she was in all her glory.  Is it so girls don’t feel left out?  It it something about equality?  Do I believe what I read on the internet? Was this really built in honour of loyalty?  Was it because a kiddie fiddler was sketching a picture?

Jeanneke Pis

As for me, I like the photos I took of these two statues but seeing them up close and personal wasn’t anything to write home about.  I was actually quite surprised at how small they were and slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to witness these statues with clothing on…which they apparently have!  As for me and my censorship – if you haven’t already guessed, my original title was going to be something along the lines of “Statues for Kiddie Fiddlers?”.  I still think its catchy and funny but figured maybe its best not to lead with that foot after all.

Categories: BELGIUM, belgium: brussels | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meet Mr. Satisfaction…

Lives at the doorstep of the Comic Strip Centre

There was a time when I used to believe that it really wasn’t me even though time after time I was the only common denominator in each and every instance.  If Brussels has cemented one thing in my mind it’s that it’s most definitely me that brings the crazies to the yard.  I’m still at a lost as to what it is about me but somehow I managed to be a weirdo beacon in the middle of an alleyway in Brussels on a fine afternoon despite how sick and sweaty I looked to the rest of the viewing public.

This particular day started out with nothing interesting to note.  We had a good lay-in and then decided it was time to see what the real world of Brussels was up to after indulging in frites – the breakfast of champions.  At this point it had been a good 24 hours since I last consumed anything but sadly, all that deep-fried goodness was too much for me to handle so after a few bites and poking a little fun at the German fella next to me (He kept looking over so what else was I going to do?  Atleast this time I didn’t mistake his staring for someone looking to be friendly but unable to communicate in English…yes, I’ve come a long way!), I gave up on eating once again.  As food was out of the question, the only thing a girl could do was head off to the Comic Strip Centre.  After all, I heard a rumor that they’re harboring a life-size smurf in that building.  Yes, what excites and motivates me can only be described as sad!

Store close to the scene of the crime!

Anyway, after a bit of poking around at the Comic Strip Centre and not being able to read any of the work on display as my French skills are lacking, it was off to Grand Place and exploring the winding alleyways that surround it and hopefully finding a cute little place to take a bit of a break.  In my head I was thinking possibly a waffle house or cafe that sold my illusive Canada Dry but in the distance I could hear a voice calling out as a man quickly grabbed my arm.  At first, I thought this was a technique to draw us into the restaurant he worked at so I played along but I soon found out that once again, I was completely and utterly WRONG!  This man who we’ll call Mr. Satisfaction (sadly, a nickname that he came up with all on his own not knowing that I would surely blog about him in the days to come) was someone looking to meet me in order to confess his undying love (something he felt the need to do repeatedly despite how embarrassing the whole gesture became) while providing us drinks on the house.  He didn’t seem to care that I was sick or radiating heat like a furnace as he infringed on my personal space in hopes to get to know me better.

Miss Bathtub Diaries was just eating it up as she not only got free entertainment like the rest of the patrons at the restaurant but also the benefit of all the freebies this weirdo was sending my way.   As the entire restaurant started to joke about how it only took me 1 day to find a Brussels boyfriend, I did what I always do in these situations…RUN.  I may have told a little white lie of how I would meet up with him to get him to release his grasp on my arm but desperate times call for desperate measures.  At the end of the day, these situations tend to happen to me more often than not but I’m still not sure why.  There’s interest and then there’s interest boarding on obsession and sadly, I seem to bring the latter out in men and not sure what to do to change it before my head winds up in a freezer somewhere!

Categories: BELGIUM, belgium: brussels | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Now That’s A Game Changer!

Over the last week, I’ve been fighting a losing battle with the flu and unfortunately no amount of rest and fluids were able to assist in a 100% recovery before setting off to Belgium.  As everything was already planned and paid for and I was starting to feel slightly better, I decided it was in my best interest to execute as scheduled and hoped that my ill-health wouldn’t drag me down.  Sadly, there was a slight itty bitty problem with my plan.  When it came to Belgium, I made the brilliant decision to design a turbo tourist style weekend.  Nothing but a jammed packed 5 days and 4 nights of 4 cities, hot air ballooning, city traipsing, beach bumming, chocolate eating, beer drinking and require no sleep day or night kind of tourism.

As soon as my flight landed in Brussels, I immediately knew that the flu had thrown a wrench into my plans.  Sadly, I was unable to accept this reality so early in the game despite the fact that my stomach was feeling uneasy while the rest of me was burning up in an internal inferno so I soldiered on.  I decided that maybe a little Canada Dry Ginger Ale (my go-to drink when I’m feeling like ass) in my belly before jumping onto a hop on hop off bus for a lazy city overview would somehow magical make my symptoms disappear.  Turns out that I was wrong as sitting on a bus trying to keep your lunch down while wondering if it’s somehow inappropriate to curl up into a ball after yelling at a fighting family to shut the hell up doesn’t help get one oriented with a city whatsoever.  Before long, I gave up as I was well aware that the only course of action would be to beeline for the hotel and go to bed in hopes to sleep off all this funkiness.

My body screamed with relief when I climbed into bed.  Before dozing off, I got a text from Miss Bathtub Diaries saying that she’d be arriving late into Brussels due to train delays.  Phew, a few extra hours to rest before I had to explain that we were now looking at a weekend of excessive sleep and perhaps a tour of spas in Brussels instead of what was planned.  It had been months since we last saw each other so not sure how she’d take this curve ball or my inability to catch up properly once we were finally face to face.  As my eyes felt heavy with sleep – I was fully aware that I had no idea how this trip would turn out other than it would be nothing like planned.

Categories: BELGIUM, belgium: brussels | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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