Saturday, June 29, 2019

A drunken walk through Dendermonde

The Dendermonde town square

Eighteen of us were divided into 4 groups for beer tasting

And then each group had ten bottles. Belgium has a diverse group of beers

Dinner: shrimp and eggplant we always had two choices

I liked the maps in each town but they never indicated where we were on the map

this building is labeled Art Deco in case we could not figure it out on our town

alley way

the next day we had a mid-morning stop in Melle, home of the best beer in the world' Delirium Tremens, which was the only beer I had before my Belgian trip. We stopped in a combination bar barbershop coffee house. As I had only 10 miles to go, I had a cherry beer which has very low alcohol content but tasty. Usually a bit of alcohol makes exercise impossible

Lots of elephants around town. Nearby there was a bar called De Roze Olifant (pink elephant) This beer contributed to my drunkenness the night before as it is 105 % alcohol. Why the elephants? That's what you see after you drink

Crude selfie in front of barber station

De Roze Olifant
After dinner and after our beer drinking binge, I couldn't get anyone away from their bottles to walk with me. We had tried earlier to explore the town by bike but some university was graduating causing traffic jams causing us to head back. So I staggered to the much emptier town by myself in the cool of the evening. Maybe I walked a couple of miles. A very cute town.

The next day we hopped on our bike over the locks, to Melle, home of the pink elephants and caught yet another ferry. Sometimes when I travel, particularly in touristy places, various tradesmen try to cheat me, especially in Venice. For the most part, the Netherlands and Belgium seemed free of that: correct change always given, no hidden fees,etc. But here the owner charged us an euro over for our drinks than what I later read in the menu. I guess they figure rich Americans can afford this. We biked to outside of Ghent, which turns out to be my favorite city., ate lunch on the barge before heading out on our next adventure.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The city of green eels

lots of chateaux in Belgium  We were supposed to stop for coffee. Alas not open

Lunch stop in Temse. Did we eat their specialty eels. Not I

the city had lots of cool architecture

loved this door

I liked this public art in Temse. We were to go over that bridge just a few minutes later 

hidden chateau

Julie the ferry. Over the week, we had to make several ferry crossings

snack stop that afternnoon. We were headed for Dendermonde. The smaller blue signs are for bike paths
I've been home now more than three weeks and still I haven't posted all my stuff of which I have shown just a fraction. I've been busy.  I had missed the prime gardening time so trying to make my yard look nice has taken hours. I had to clean the pond out, plant annuals, weed...lots of work

When I had left, my friend didn't think she'd ever see me again. This week was her official 'expiration date'. However, the fast growing tumor that appeared out of nowhere in a month's time either has stopped growing or is shrinking. Symptoms related to it have not gotten worse so she will not die for at least another 2 months, if then. Still on hospice though.

This was our long bicycle day. We started off winding through the streets of Antwerp and then took an elevator way below the streets to enter the tunnel that goes under the Schelde River, which is very wide at that point.  Our first stop was a tiny town of Kruibeke which was having its Wednesday market. The ride leaders bought us some fresh waffles. So good! Belgian waffles (not what Americans can them) are made with a  rich yeast dough, not batter. They also contain sugar pearls which provide crunch and caramelize on the surface. They are eaten as a snack with hands or a dessert covered with sauce. I bought some of these sugar pearls to make them at home  for my Moms' group They are tasty.

Many of the bike paths in Belgium were paved with bricks, miles and miles of bricks. More trees; more castles. We stopped at one for coffee. Alas the coffee shop wasn't open yet but we could walk around the pretty grounds of Wissekerke Castle in Bazel.

On to the pretty town of Temse where we could get eels though I don't think they were on the menu at the pretty outdoor café we stopped at. I opted for a Italian panini. Yeah, not so Belgian. I don't think I even got the bucket of frites that come with everything. We rode through pretty countrysides arriving in time to cross the Schelde yet again in a ferry. We were the last bikes on before the crossing.

We started to have a guided bike tour of Dendermonde but car traffic was so bad, we couldn't enjoy it. Later I went by myself by foot to explore the city. All the cars were gone. On board, we had an official Belgian beer tasting. Ten very strong beers. I liked them all but could barely walk after I was done. I did manage to do the city walk without getting lost.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

More Antwerp

We walked through a Begijnhof, a little religious village behind walls for women. Most towns had one or more. Some didn't allow photos. This one did

Antwerp is known for its Art Deco buildings (and art nouveau as the train station). We had no time to get to the main area where these were but I did find this own

these mannequins were teetering on the edge of the MAG

Looking from the top of the MAG the Schelde river which we would cross underneath the next day

Inside the MAG

hipster bar we went to in an industrial area

Still lots of discarded machinery

view from inside

in Belgium and the Netherlands, if you order a particular brand of beer, it comes in its branded glass, which is forbidden allegedly in the US. Usually there would be only two or three biers op vat (on tap) unlike the multitudes here

more of the warehouse district

the next morning we biked 5 stories below the surface in the St Catherines's tunnel.not my photo. Bikes were very fast moving so I couldn't stop
After five, Antwerp became a ghost town. We walked the deserted streets trying to find a dinner place. We ate in some place that had 'burger' in the name, a bad sign. I did have some curry chicken burger which tasted fine. Too tired to do muchmore  exploring.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The World's most beautiful train station

On our way to Belgium: a tight squeeze for the freighter we shared a lock with. Counterintuitively, the water level goes up as we get closer to the Atlantic as so much of Holland is below sealevel

we docked across the harbor from Antwerp's fancy museum the MAG. A good reference point to find our boat in a big city
The walls are curved glass. We later went to the top of it (10 floors) for good city views

cute street art abounds

lots of Art Nouveau architecture

a really old church

fancy guild houses in the main square

the town emblem is a hand. Apparently there was a giant who held the town hostage demanding heavy tolls to go through the river Schelde. Penalty for not paying the toll was your hand cut off. So the guy on top managed to cut off  the giant's hand and throw it into the Schelde. So the name 'antwerp' is derived from 'handthrow'  Aside from numerous hand sculptures around the city, there are chocolate hands and special hand cookies

Nello and his dog Patrasche. This was from the book A Dog of Flanders.  My friend and her brother were quite thrilled to find this as their grandparents so liked the book (published in 1872), they named their son Nello, a name I hadn't heard of before my friend. They weren't the only fans of the book. Apparently the Japanese especially like the story and Toyota financed this cool statue. The rain had the good effect of keeping the Japanese tourists off the head. When it was dry, Japanese children were all over it posing

Cathedral of Our Lady square

the Cathedral draped in scaffolding


huge Peter Paul Rubens, an Antwerp native


Belgians are known for lace making

interesting building detail

train station

It is quite beautiful

one of the hands greeting newly arrived passengers

MAG at dawn

Chinatown with train station
A week before our trip I noticed that it would rain every day we were on the barge and were biking but fortunately it just rained  on our non biking day in Antwerp. From the Van Gogh museum, I bought a rain parka with one of his designs on it. One size fits all. I put everything under it so I looked like the Michelin man with artistic squiggles. I gave my travel umbrella to my friend though she had the option of taking a huge golf umbrella the boat supplied.  I saw several of these Van Gogh parkas. Yep I looked ridiculous but it worked. Silly me, I thought Antwerp was in Holland (though they do have a city with that name) not the second city of Belgium known for its diamond industry (diamonds do not interest me). Before we got off the boat to explore, we had some sort of Belgian lamb stew chock full of potatoes. Wasn't a fan. After breakfast, we were all on deck to watch us go through  series of locks.

I took many photos of this beautiful city. Will share later.


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