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Monday, August 26, 2013

A Wee Bit More of France

This is a magic tile in front of Notre Dame Cathedral which is supposedly the center of Paris.  The first time I stood here with a large gang of Bear Lakers (50 of us!), we were instructed by our guide, Denis, to twirl on this tile, thus ensuring we would return to Paris.  I'm SUCH a believer!!!!!  Since that time I've been back to Paris 6 more times!!!!  For a country hick, THAT'S something!  So, I keep twirling!!  I taught some other Americans about this too, so I'm also a missionary of sorts.

We flashed our magic Eurail ticket and took a Saturday day trip to Provence.  Street markets--little pockets of rich goodness...

Coolness on wheels!!

A car for one!

Saints.  Provence is touted as one of the best preserved walled medieval cities in Europe.  12th century, I believe.

I took off up this hill to explore and found this

and this

and this plus a monastery waaaaaaaaaay over the way.

Paco found THIS and shared with me!

Back in the Paris metro, an orchestra!!!  Mozart!

We found a magnificent reclaimed 5 mile walkway built on an old rail line down by the Bastille.  We climbed up about 20 steps to get up onto it.

In my next life I want to be French.  I'll try not to snub Americans.  I truly DO think French culture and Paris ARE superior in soooooooo many ways.  Genteel, refined, old.  I feel like a water buffalo in this country, but I would love to not!

Quiet?  Unusually so.  Still no Eiffel Tower, you say?  I feel lower than bug spit to report that we didn't go.  Shameful, I know.  We saw it off in the distance.  Not this time.  Too many other places to explore.  Please don't report us to the French officials.  I can cough up all manner of pictures of it from other trips if that's any consolation.  One more stop and then it's home to Mt. Potato Peeler in good ol' Hidey-Ho!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Belgium--Bruge, Brussels and WAFFLES!!!!

I longingly eyed THIS train in Paris (which would have whisked us away to London via the Chunnel) , but instead we whooshed off to Belgium.
Our first stop was Bruge--the Venice of the North.  EVERYONE recommends this place!!!!
Cobblestone.  The ONE consistency on our entire trip.

A very old and consistent theme throughout the city--a very human-looking bear.
In one of many lace shops.  These are hand-carved wooden bobbins--lace-making in progress!

This is Marti with whom I temporarily bonded!  She went to "lace university"--something to which all good Belgian women probably aspire.  I could have moved right in here, but I had to settle for buying a lace collar. 

We downed a couple of waffles and hopped back on the train after several  gloriously transported hours.  DONT MISS BRUGE!!!!
This Smurf welcomed us to Brussels.  Go figure...
Extremely high end enclosed shopping mall.
Leather gloves. Aren't they gorgeous????
This bunny biker is inflatable!
Dozens and dozens of chocolatiers.  I got drunk on the smells obviously, but the real intoxication was visual!!!!!!!!!
All of a sudden we ended up in this gigantic GORGEOUS town square!!!!  Paco had been here before and was saving it as a surprise!  I dropped my jaw and just turned slowly for about 5 minutes--it was that spectacular.  We met some Americans here who were on their way to make a documentary in England on Kindertransport--children of the Holocaust who were sent to England by their parents to escape the atrocities of the Nazis.  I'm looking forward to a follow-up and more info on that experience from them!

Paco is holding the red replacement for one of our suitcases that gave up the ghost during our 135 step ascent in our Paris ghetto flat.
Fanny packs!  Still going!
Took these for you, Shelly.

A kid in a candy store...
These speculoos cookies are what they grind into a peanut butter-like consistency and use to top their waffles.  I was introduced to it in Salt Lake City at a Belgian waffle stand down by Pioneer Park.  Incidentally, the SLC waffles were 3 times the price of REAL waffles in the heart of Belgium!!!!

This is Mannekin Pis. 
There are several legends behind this statue, but the most famous is the one about Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142, the troops of this two-year-old lord were battling against the troops of the Berthouts, the lords of Grimbergen, in Ransbeke (now Neder-Over-Heembeek). The troops put the infant lord in a basket and hung the basket in a tree to encourage them. From there, the boy urinated on the troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle.
Another legend states that in the 14th century, Brussels was under siege by a foreign power. The city had held its ground for some time, so the attackers conceived of a plan to place explosive charges at the city walls. A little boy named Julianske happened to be spying on them as they were preparing. He urinated on the burning fuse and thus saved the city. There was at the time (middle of the 15th century, perhaps as early as 1388) a similar statue made of stone. The statue was stolen several times.
Another story (told often to tourists) tells of a wealthy merchant who, during a visit to the city with his family, had his beloved young son go missing. The merchant hastily formed a search party that scoured all corners of the city until the boy was found happily urinating in a small garden. The merchant, as a gift of gratitude to the locals who helped out during the search, had the fountain built.
Another legend was that a small boy went missing from his mother when shopping in the centre of the city. The woman, panic-stricken by the loss of her child, called upon everyone she came across, including the mayor of the city. A city-wide search began and when at last the child was found, he was urinating on the corner of a small street. The story was passed down over time and the statue erected as a tribute to the well-known fable.
Another legend tells of the young boy who was awoken by a fire and was able to put out the fire with his urine, in the end this helped stop the king's castle from burning down.

Traditions[edit source | editbeta]

The statue is dressed in costume several times each week, according to a published schedule which is posted on the railings around the fountain. His wardrobe consists of several hundred different costumes, many of which may be viewed in a permanent exhibition inside the City Museum, located in the Grand Place, immediately opposite the Town Hall. The costumes are managed by the non-profit association The Friends of Manneken-Pis, who review hundreds of designs submitted each year, and select a small number to be produced and used.
Although the proliferation of costumes is of twentieth-century origin, the occasional use of costumes dates back almost to the date of casting, the oldest costume on display in the City Museum being of seventeenth-century origin. The changing of the costume on the figure is a colourful ceremony, often accompanied by brass band music. Many costumes represent the national dress of nations whose citizens come to Brussels as tourists; others are the uniforms of assorted trades, professions, associations, and branches of the civil and military services.

Waffles in the making.  Unforgetable.

Favorite books

  • Me 'n Steve
  • Thundering Sneakers
  • James Herriott's vet books
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Travels with Charley
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Egg and I
  • Mary Poppins
  • Extremly Loud Incredibly Close
  • How Green Was my Valley