Bruges

Great trip continues. I bought about 9 kinds of Belgian chocolate today and sampled it all and then wasn’t hungry for dinner. I ate something anyway and ordered a salad with goat cheese and bacon which was more goat cheese and bacon than salad. Way to make salad, Belgium. (Not complaining.)

I bought a bag of Belgian fudge which tasted like candy corn. Will re-wrap and hand off as a gift. Just kidding. (kinda). But everything else was amazing.

We took it easy today. A lot of the sights seemed so similar to things we’ve already seen we sort of glanced and moved on. We sat in the park for an hour and read our books and watched people play with their dogs.

First crisis of the trip. I have numerous itineraries in my computer, Google drive and email plus sent to other people. I made a single sheet cheat sheet with everything on it. And I wrote my Auntie’s phone number on it with a pen – meaning this was the only place I had the phone number. And guess what I lost?

Yeah, so I have calls in to husband and father to email us the phone number so we can remind her that we arrive tomorrow. Long day of travel tomorrow with a total of 4 (!) trains.

Belgian beer and chocolate: completely as advertised. Recommend.

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There Once Was A Lady From Gent

Doesn’t Gent sound like a town that people should be writing limericks about?

I thought having the laptop would be handy for blog posting but what I’ve been using it for the last half hour is looking up the best places to get croquettes in Bruges. (Where we’re going next.) We missed out on the place that was recommended to us here.

Gent is wonderful. I was in love with it 15 minutes after we got here. I didn’t hate Brussels but it’s quieter here and I think the people a tad friendlier. It’s busy but not chaotic. We’ve had really terrific meals the past 2 nights. And our hotel is wonderful. Excellent hospitality, great room, convenient location.

We’ve spent most of our time walking around, enjoying the weather and scenery.

This morning we went to the botanical garden and then spent most of the day at the Museum of Fine Arts. In the afternoon we walked around and sat in the sun by the canal before finding dinner.

I put Pixelmator on the laptop and am still learning to use it. Yes, there was major tweakage on this photo.

More time tomorrow before we go to Bruges. Our hotel host says it’s 23 minutes on the train. I said: it takes me longer to get to work. There are a few more things we’re hoping to check out here before we go to Bruges.

Two nights in Bruges and then to Bad Kissingen to visit the nonagenarian.

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Brussels Day 2

Before we do anything, if you haven’t seen the Daily Show clip on the Washington football team, please do so now.

Now back to Belgium.

We watched a half episode of Big Bang Theory dubbed in French. Hilarious.

Today we went to the European Union visitor center which was amazing. To see how far this vision goes back and how much work went into making it a reality. I have to say I was swept away by the presentation of the process for making a law and thinking how great it was.

Until I remembered that I was being shown an ideal of how the process works. I’m sure you could make an equally group-huggy video about the US Congress or the National Congress of American Indians but when you have some insight into how process actually works, it’s not quite as magical.

Not intending to knock it because giant collaborative efforts aren’t pretty – just pointing out that I know in reality there’s a lot more involved in making things happen.

In the afternoon we went to the fine arts museum which is housed together with the modern arts museum and the old masters museum and one or 2 other exhibits. We arrived late in the day (even skipping lunch, just like I would do with Bob) so it was a rush through. I told Erin I saw everything by jogging through the galleries.

We’re in a bit earlier tonight. We have some time here tomorrow and then we’re on our way to Ghent.

Yesterday when we came back from breakfast we noticed one of our curtains was missing. There is a gauzy white curtain and a heavy blackout curtain. The white one was missing. Oh no! We had opened the window wider to get some air in there. We looked down into the courtyard to see if our curtain was there.

It would have been quite a task to unhook it from all its hook and float away, but it seemed odd that the cleaning crew would come in and take our curtain and then go again. But that must be what happened. Our curtain was back when we returned last night.

At least 7 times a day I say, “Let’s never drive here.”

The driving seems extraordinarily insane. Narrow streets. Lots of cars and buses and vans. At one point we saw a car driving through an intersection stop for a car making waiting to make a left and chew the guy out. I’m not clear what the left turn guy was doing wrong or why it was worth the trouble to stop and yell at him. Later we saw a bus that was stalled? in the single lane moving in that direction. So buses and cars trying to get around it had to get in the oncoming traffic lane. So the oncoming traffic was jumping over a low lane divider to get in the bus/taxi lane.

The only car I’ve seen driving slowly was a driving school car. It’s a busy big city so maybe it will be different in a smaller place. However I will share that the guidebook said: don’t even think about driving in the fast lane on Belgian highways. They drive very fast and nose-to-tail and it’s too much if you’re not used to it.

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Severed Heads of State

Yesterday at the Belgium history museum I read that the King had met with severed heads of state. I had to pause a moment and try to figure out what that meant. He actually met with several heads of state. Whew.

The first night we were so tired we slept a good 12 hours+ solid. Not so lucky last night. I’m moving slowly this morning but I had my tea and ready to head out the door.

No time for an update. Lovely weather yesterday. Half of Belgium seems to smoke and the other half jog. At one point we thought we saw someone doing both. Chocolate on every street corner. Especially in the touristy zone. The Belgian beer is everything as advertised.

Hopefully time for more comprehensive update later.

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Belgium!

The original itinerary was for us to leave on Monday evening and arrive in Frankfurt on Tuesday afternoon. Then we’d have Tuesday as an acclimation day and then take the train to Brussels midday Wednesday.

But when we got to the airport on Monday I was showing my sister my airline app and we noticed that there was a delay on our domestic flight that would get us in after our international flight had taken off. Uh oh.

After a bit of a go around we were given a number of options that all ended with us taking the Tuesday Dulles flight to Frankfurt.

We went back home and returned Tuesday morning at dawn to catch a domestic flight, connected to the Frankfurt flight and arrived in Frankfurt at 7am Wednesday.

Our lovely acclimation period was ruined and we had to eat the Frankfurt hotel room. We spent the day willing ourselves to stay away and wandering around Frankfurt which was cool but some sun breaks and nice to be outside. Snacking also helped.

By the time we got on the train we were nodding off while we were talking. But we made it here. We found our hotel. We’ve had something to eat and we’re going to bed at 7:45pm. More details at 3am?

[Note to Bob, Erin is way better at this than we are together. She bought the SBahn tickets in 3 minutes while explaining to another traveler how to do it. She also is great at directions and maps. We also helped someone in the luggage room so somehow we are the pro travelers at this point.]

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Not in Belgium Yet

Just a test to make sure I know how to do this from my laptop. (By “this” I mean getting a photo off the camera, edit it and upload it and then post.) Yesterday I set everything up but didn’t have a change to try it out. Cab will be here in a couple hours.

I’ve already read these books but I’ve been wanting to read them again so a trip with lots of planes and trains seems like a good time. Bringing both is probably a bit optimistic but who knows?

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Quebec City and Montreal Wrap Up

Let’s see if I can get this story wrapped up because a new one is starting tomorrow.

We had a day planned for laundry and there was a place very close to our apartment except after wandering around in circles and using the “smart” phone we finally realized: it was gone, demolished for a new hospital that was being built.

There was only one way Bob could deal with a setback like this and that was food. He remembered a breakfast spot close by (because of course he did) so we went and fortified him with some sort of huge egg poutine thing with meat and cheese, and pancakes on the side. I got a fruit plate that was an actual fruit plate. There were at least 10 different kinds of fruit. I want that fruit plate to be served to me forever when I order a fruit plate.

We later found a different laundromat and in the process discovered another delightful neighborhood area that we wished we had more time to explore.

I guess it was the next day that we took the train to Quebec City. There is the mother of all food courts in the main train station in Montreal. I am not a big sandwich person and I couldn’t believe there were so many sandwiches I wanted to try, all collected under one roof. You can imagine how Bob felt.

The train ride was lovely and relaxing and went by too quick. We especially loved the safety routine which involved the train conductor pointing to a tiny red hammer next to the window at the front of the car and telling us, in case of emergency, to rap that in the corner of window and then kick the window out — but not onto active tracks. Then hand the hammer to the next people. He also asked for a volunteer to show the override on the door between the cars. We thought it was hilarious.

When we got to QC it was raining like crazy and we hauled our bags up the hill into Old Quebec which I didn’t realize was such a major tourist trap. Mobs of people everywhere, lots of pricey mediocre food. Our hotel was funky and overpriced but terrifically located. Due to the weather we didn’t wander around much but we found a dinner spot and I had MAPLE SYRUP PIE! It was like pecan pie only with maple syrup and no pecans. It hurt my teeth but I loved it.

The next day we got an early start but already the tour buses were disgorging their umbrella toting masses. We started off at the Plains of Abraham which was a battlefield site and then walked along a small portion of the riverside trail park. Gorgeous and peaceful.

Sadly, my notes at this point are pretty sketchy and also confusing but since you weren’t there and wouldn’t know the difference I’ll just make stuff up to fill in the skanty bits.

The first museum we hit was the Musee de la civilisation which turned out to be our favorite museum of the trip.

OH NO! While looking up stuff about this museum, I just learned this museum suffered a terrible fire. The article makes it sounds like the loses were minimal. I don’t have time to do more research but even the tiniest bit of damage is a shame.

There were amazing Fine Arts works, Canadian artists and amazing First Nations works. We had another terrific tour guide who took us through a historical tour and at the end someone asked her for her opinions on the secessionist movement and she gave a very diplomatic answer and then the person said: no, I wanted to know *your* opinion. And she was very careful but candid and loved that we were so interested.

At this point we had been moving for most of the day and I was drooping in a big way. There was a tiny cafe – more like a food counter and we had one of our best meals of QC: carrot & orange soup and a sandwich with goat cheese and vegetables. I had about 3 bites and Bob said: Are you feeling better? I said: After a snack and 5 minutes?

But I rallied and we went to at least 2 more museums that day. My notes say things like “old pottery” and “starting to get repetitive.”

Our last day we had a big chunk of time to kill between when we checked out of our hotel and when the train left. We went to the last museum on our museum card: Musée de l’Amérique francophone which is about the development of Francophone culture in North America. We don’t use the world Francophone enough. It’s such a great word.

From there we found a nice outdoor market and took turns sitting in the sunshine with the luggage or looking for fun snacks.

At one point two men were looking for a place to sit and of course our ugly American luggage was all over the place so I invited them to sit down as I moved all our stuff out of the way. They didn’t speak English and gave me a funny look but when they saw what I was doing they smiled and sat down. When they walked away one of the men turned around and waved and said very carefully: Good Bye.

That was another one of my favorite trip moments. It’s really weird to be in a place with English and French spoken side-by-side but finding pockets of one or the other where there isn’t crossover. We didn’t run into too many language problems and we tried to speak a few words of French here and there.

It was still a bit early for the train but there were some ominous clouds in the distance and I suggested we hustle our booties to the station. And about 15 minutes after we sat down there was one of those rain storms where you look outside and can’t believe how hard it’s raining. Lucky we weren’t caught in that.

We had a quiet trip on the train and got a little bit lost finding our last hotel. It was a funny place that was total low budget but very lovingly done. It was an old building that was once a nunnery and then a post office. The guy who was telling us this said: And who knows what next, maybe a prison. We had one more day in Montreal before we went home and we went to the Biodome which the Internet tells me represents the 4 major ecosystems of the Americas and the site was the velodrome for the 1976 Olympics.

It was one of the few really crowded sights of the trip and there were approximately 100 million children there so we got through pretty quick. It was really cool though. There were birds and penguins and we saw a capybara. We walked around another park and saw a fox. We did some more walking around Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood and by this time we were both getting fried.

We bought some food at a outdoor market by the train station and had a picnic at our room and back to the PACNW the next day.

These outdoor stairs are a Montreal thing. There’s a heritage article here and a history lesson here. We saw a snippet about them in one of the travel videos we watched.

Right before we left we chatted with the host of our funny hotel and I asked him about the stairs: Aren’t they dangerous in winter?

He shrugged and said: Everything is dangerous in winter.

On that note, I’m signing off. If all goes smoothly next time you hear from me I’ll be in Belgium.

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Montreal Part 2 Match Day

To reiterate just in case some Timbers (or any MLS team) supporters find this by accident: Montreal is a great place to visit and totally worth going to an away match. Bob was walking around during the half and he said people were super friendly and asking him about Portland and how we were liking Montreal.

I came dangerously close to working on the pants of shame this afternoon but I thought I’d do another Montreal post, instead.

Since the Timbers joined MLS we have been wanting to use an away game as an excuse to visit a place we’ve never been but it seems like anytime there is a match in a place we want to go, it’s at a time we can’t travel. So when the schedule came out and we saw Montreal in July, we planned our whole summer around it.

The match was at Stade Saputo which is located at the Olympics site and very easy to get to on the Metro. But once we got there we got a little confused about where we were supposed to meet the other fans. We wandered around and there was mud involved and we found some Impact people and they said: your friends are over there.

And they were.

Originally the tickets were supposed to be emailed to us but then someone volunteered to hand them out but I guess he was coming from Boston or someplace that involved a border crossing and traffic and then wandering around until they found the same corner where people were already waiting.

You do not want to keep a group of Timbers fans in limbo. Fortunately it all worked out and we were let in and herded into our corner.

During the game there was a giant downpour. Insane downpour.

The seats at the top of the sections, like where we were, were protected but the rest of the seats were in full downpour.

Impact fans left their seats and came charging up to the protected areas, either finding new seats or standing in the aisles. I also saw lots of people going to buy big plastic ponchos.

A bunch of Impact fans ended up sitting with the Timbers Army. Later I saw an article that said that Impact Fans were leaving in droves. Not true. They have very loyal fans – they just didn’t want to sit in a deluge.

We won the match which was also fun since my beloved team is not winning at home much. Or winning. Loving a sports team is never easy.

This photo used without permission from Hannah. Great eyes to find us because I DVRd the match and watched it when we got home and I couldn’t find us. I bet Hannah has a nicer TV than we have. I think I’m about 3 years away from being able to donate my TV to a museum. It is that old. But I hate change and I like my caveman TV.

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Montreal Part 1

I just noticed my notebook that I used for the Montreal trip has a recipe for Granny Pea salad in it. The origin of the recipe is not Montreal in case that wasn’t clear. This is the last place I would look for a recipe for Granny Pea salad but I’m not going to transfer it to a better spot right now.

I haven’t done a photostream yet. That’s on the wishlist too, along with the pants of shame, dealing with train tickets for the trip next week and making a birthday pie.

If nothing else your takeaway should be that Montreal is a terrific place to visit. Easy to get around, tons of stuff to see and do lots of great food. Highly recommended.

Biosphere URL

We took a late flight to Seattle and then a red eye to Chicago and then another hop to Montreal. Not my favorite way to travel but we had trouble coming up with an itinerary so we made do. We stayed in a terrific basement apartment in Notre Dame De Grace neighborhood which one of our travel resources made sound like it was at the ends of the earth but it was easy to get around the Metro so we didn’t mind at all. We had a quiet place after long days of running around.

Needless to say as soon as we arrived I needed a nap and then we had food and I thought I would rally but as soon as I was done eating I needed another nap. I slept so hard I was confused when I woke up and I went to find Bob and asked him: is it still today?

We went into downtown and walked around. There was at least one and possible more festivals going on and there were people everywhere, live music, food booths.

We started the next day at the Atwater Market and were completely overwhelmed because we wanted to eat everything. From there we walked along the canal which was gorgeous.

My notes are skimpy so I’m winging it here. I wrote about the fire alarm going off in the middle of then night but not what we did during the day.

The next day we were going to a museum (what am I saying, I was with Bob, we were going to 1000 museums) and I saw a guy on the Metro who was wearing what I thought was a museum guard uniform so rather than wander around with our map completely lost, I insisted we just follow him.

Unfortunately, he was not a museum guard and my plan backfired in a big way. A strike against creative problem solving.

(Before you wonder why we didn’t just use our “smart” phone to find things: [long rant about technology is hard for the olds omitted.] We did use our phones with uneven success. And those are sarcastic quotes.)

We eventually found the McCord museum and there was a great exhibit about music. Bob was in heaven. Later we went to Parc Jean Drapeau, site of the 1967 World’s Fair that 10 year old Bob yearned to go to so badly. Old Bob was thrilled to finally fulfill his wish. We wandered around there and went to a climate change show. We were rushing the whole time, so many things to see.

We ran over to the Musee Stewart and had one of our favorite museum experiences of the trip. It’s a history museum and we had a young man take us on a guided tour and he was terrific. Really knew his stuff and since we were so interested he told us all kinds of stories.

On Saturday we were going to get up at 7am and I heard the alarm going forever so I finally got up to get it and I wandered out into the main room and came back and said to Bob: that says 6. So then we slept until 7:45a.

We were too early for the Museum of Fine Art so we stopped in at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul and again we found a really nice enthusiastic person to walk around with us and show us the church. Beautiful contemporary stained glass windows. It’s also a church of the Black Watch which sounds like something from Game of Thrones.

Then a bunch of museums: Fine Arts, City History, Archeology and then 5pm mass at the Basilica of Notre Dame with an organ that will make your hair stand on end.

Sunday was Timbers match day. Stay tuned, or at least hopeful that my coverage continues.

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Behind on Everything In the World

I started a Montreal post. For reals. But I haven’t gotten very far. I really need to do a Flickr photostream. I want my travel post(s) to be perfect for my three loyal readers so I end up doing nothing. I’m also going on another trip which I haven’t explained yet. Maybe you’ll hear about it when I’m on it.

Meanwhile, I will tell you about the pants of shame and the creepy guy at the office.

I have a pair of pants that need the hem to be fixed. It’s not a huge job but I just can’t make myself do it. I hung the pants up in the living room so I would look at them every time I walked around the house. I put them on the couch with the sewing kit right there. I put it as the number one, only thing you need to accomplish all day thing during a very lazy weekend.

I just can’t get around to fixing the hem on those pants. Pay someone else to do it? Not a bad idea except I know how to do this and it’s not a big job and would be more trouble to find someone to do it. I went on a fixing spree a couple of weekends ago, screwdrivers flying, duct tape everywhere. I can’t make myself do the pants.

Maybe I should just eat a bunch of sandwiches so they don’t fit anymore. Also a great plan except then none of my pants would fit and I would need to buy more pants which is more trouble. No conclusion here. I’ll report if I ever fix the pants.

The other story is, remember this? (Long story about getting a copier for the office in case you don’t feel like clicking {oops, typo’d that as ‘licking’ that would be weird}). That guy came by the office today and it was the most awkward creepy encounter. It was so weird I sent a message to colleague that said if I get murdered at the office, make sure the police check this guy. Maybe I’m being punked – it was like he wanted to reassure me that it was okay that we didn’t use his company and when I expressed annoyance that he never came through with anything for us he was all put off. I can’t adequately convey how weird it was.

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