Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The smoking!

In the last post, I remembered that there were 3 reasons Rich and I preferred France, but I had forgotten what #3 was, so I just threw in the language thing, but I just remembered.

The real list was:
1. Public toilets
2. Tap water
3. No smoking in bars and restaurants!!

While the French have the reputation of being walking chimneys, they passed a law a few years back forbidding smoking in public places indoors. So our sojourn there was mercifully free of smoke. When we got to Belgium we were assaulted by smoke everywhere we went, which sucks as a tourist because your limited clothing supply quickly becomes repulsively malodourous.

I think it wouldn't have bothered me as much years ago before I became used to smoke-free environments, but I've become weak and spoiled in my old age.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Barhopping in Brussels

We really enjoyed our day in Brussels. We were intent on trying as many new (to us) beers as possible, and cushioning them with fries, waffles and chocolate in between. And we did some of the requisite sightseeing as well.

Here our some of the highlights:

1. Some of the most detailed stained glass we've ever seen at the Notre Dame Cathedral

2. The Mannekin Pis, a must-see tiny little statue of a peeing little cherub.

3. Our favorite Brussels bar, Poechenellekelder, where we could watch a constant stream of tourists come by to photograph the Mannekin Pis.

4. Said view.

5. The Hotel de Ville, at the Grand Place at night.

6. Our table-mate at the Delerium Pub, which is famous for its selection of over 2000 beers. This picture shows that one thing is common throughout the world - teenagers go for quantity over quality.


While we enjoyed our time in Belgium, there a three major reasons that we prefered France as tourists:

1. Few public toilets. The ones there are have limited hours and cost. A big problem in a country where you drink beer with every meal and between them too.
2. They won't give you tap water at restaurants. Not that they don't do it automatically like here - they refuse even if you ask.
3. I can't practice my French in the Dutch parts. And Dutch just sounds like fake German.

Monday, July 13, 2009

"If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn't, so it doesn't."

Another quote from the movie, for what it's worth.

We liked Bruges. It was very cute. However, we weren't happy at the place we were staying (I had to stand on a chair in the shower to get my hair wet, and a few other reasons). Also, the beer bar that is supposed to be one of the best in the world was closed when we were there. So hopefully one day we'll return and have more success.

However, on the plus side, it was nice to wander the well-preserved/reconstructed medieval streets, and ate dinner the first night at a little cafe filled with locals with a great jazz trio. We also had dinner the second night at Den Dyver, a fancy place where they choose a beer pairing for your meal, which was wonderful. The city is purported to be jammed with tourists, but it wasn't crowded at all when we were there.

1. The view of central market from the clock tower.
2. The clock tower.
3. A windblown me in the central market.
4&5. The view along the canals.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Luberon - Provence part 4

On our final day, we drove east to the Luberon, a region made famous by A Year in Provence, which we'd both read earlier this year. We started by visiting Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which is a town built over 5 rivers, the Sorgue being the primary one. The antiques market was going on when we arrived and the town was hopping Then we visited Gordes, one of the more famous medieval hilltop villages in the area. We finished our day by going by the Abbey of Senaque, which is famous for its lavender, although it wasn't yet in bloom.


1. Rich with his feet in the river across from where we had our best Provencal lunch - salads and white wine.
2. Lorien on a bridge over the Sorgue.

3. A field of irises on the outskirts of Gordes.

4. Gordes.

5. The Abbey of Senaque.

Day in the Alpilles - Provence part 3

We spent Saturday around St. Remy, stymied in our quest to do laundry, since the one laundromat in town was closed, and buying food for a dinner picnic at the market. We also went up to Les Baux de Provence, a hilltop village and the remains of roman and medieval fortifications high up in the Alpilles range.


1. The village of Baux de Provence, which mostly exists to provide tourist facilities to people visiting the ruins.
2. The ruins of the fortress.
3. Rich and some French women participating in a catapult demo. Minimal language skills were required for this volunteer position.
4. A view of the Alpilles range and the olive groves and vineyards of the Camargue below.
5. Our picnic back at our hotel.

May Day in Provence - Provence part 2

I was a little nervous that everything would be shut tight on May Day, which is international Labor Day. However, at least in Provence, it seems to be an excuse to parade about in traditional clothing and put on free shows. We started the day in St. Remy, where there was a donkey parade (indeed!). Then we headed to the Parc Ornithologique, located in the Rhone River Delta which is a vast marshland and habitat for migrating flamingos. We finished our day in Arles, where we caught an Arlesian "bullfight" in the Roman Colloseum, which was more of a choreographed dance than a fight, and involved minimal conflict and zero bloodshed.

The pictures:

1. Donkey Parade in St. Remy-de-Provence
2.&3. Flamingos at the Parc Ornithologique
4. The Colloseum in Arles
5. Van Gogh's cafe in Arles