Posted in , Travel

Auvergne from above

We are slowly starting to travel again, in small steps…

We decided that we did not want to go too far, and not across more than one border.  Our first trip was to Auvergne, right in the center of France, a region that neither of us had visited before.

And in Auvergne, the first thing we did was an early morning flight in a hot air balloon!  How early? See below!

This was the clock in our apartment as we were eating breakfast – cannot go out without some food and a cup of coffee.  The real breakfast will be after the balloon trip.

We had to meet across the street from the apartment (fortunately) at 5:30 AM and discovered that there was quite a crowd already waiting.  That photo is actually quite deceptive as at 5:30 AM, it is still dark! We finalized the formalities and were introduced to Stanislas, our “pilot” for the day and the gentleman on the right.  After introductions with the rest of our crew (we were in a small balloon with only 4 passengers + pilot) we were off to a nearby field in order to prepare the balloon for flight.  You can see our basket in the lower left photo.

Here you can see the various steps in the preparation of a balloon for flight.  The passengers are actually doing quite a bit of the work, under the directions of the pilot and one or more helpers.  On today’s flight, there will be four balloons, which could be quite interesting as we will not be the only ones up in the air.  After unloading the basket, the balloon shell is stretched out and securely attached to the basket.  The balloon is inflated initially with powerful fans and only once it is well inflated, it is heated up with the burners to get lift.  That will be the next step for the crew of “Auvergne Montgolfière”, the red balloon here carrying the name of the company we are flying with.

This is our balloon being inflated with one fan – it is called “Volvic” after a local water.  It is quite noisy actually as the fan is powered by a petrol engine! No power necessarily where you want to start your flight.  The departure point is determined to give us the best possible flight, carried by the dominant wind.  As we saw during the flight, there is a possibility to steer the balloon in flight by changing height, actually, a lot more than I thought but the general direction is still dictated by the wind.

Continue reading “Auvergne from above”

Posted in

Les Deux Maisons

PIERREO.COM Restaurant Review

Restaurant Les Deux Maisons

Val des Seigneurs, 81
1150 Bruxelles

+32 2 771 1447
lesdeuxmaisons@skynet.be
Website: LesDeuxMaisons

Overall :

This is a very nice restaurant to which we have been going regularly for 6-7 years.  We returned on the first day that the restaurant re-opened after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

Pierre Demartin is an excellent host and his staff is very attentive.  This makes for a very enjoyable experience every time we come.

Food:

This is “fine dining”.  The Chef only uses the best ingredients which he then prepares in unique combinations of flavors.

We had the “Menu Tradition” with the wine pairing.

The amuse bouche already provided an interesting surprise: a cucumber sorbet on a slice of mozzarella cheese.  It was very tasty.

For appetizers we had the “Millefeuilles de raie et crevetes grises” (Millefeuilles of sting ray and grey shrimp – on the left) and the “Velouté de petits pois à la menthe et féta avec caille fumée” (cold pea soup with mint, feta cheese and smoked quail – on the right).

AS for the main, we had the “Dorade royale au poivron rouge et au condiment niçois, roquette, oignons frits et olives noires.” (Sea bream with red pepper and Nice condiment, arugula, fried onions and black olives – on the left) and the “Filet d’agneau, ail et romarin, tian provençal, blinis (Lamb fillet, garlic and rosemary, Provencal tian, blinis – on the right).

To top it all up, very nice desserts: Poire rôtie à la vanille, tuile au romarin, beurre salé glace caramel and Tarte fine aux pommes, glace vanille. Both were delicious

We had wine from Portugal and the Pays d’Oc that went very well with each dish.  A real feast

Atmosphere :

The restaurant itself is well appointed and what we appreciate even more now, the tables are spaced out.  In this occasion, we ate on the outside terrace (in the back of the restaurant) and enjoyed the beautiful evening.  The chef limits the number of tables that he serves so that he can concentrate on the preparation of each dish.

Comments :

There is a very nice terrace outside with just 7-8 tables – same inside.

We always enjoy the very high quality of the food prepared with attention and creativity by the chef.

Details:

Reservations: It is essential to make reservations, especially on week-ends

Credit Cards: Cash, Visa, Mastercard, Debit Card

Parking: There is usually ample street parking not far from the restaurant which is free after 18h00

 

 

Posted in , Food

Estaminet ‘t Kelderke

PIERREO.COM Restaurant Review

Estaminet ‘t Kelderke

Grand Place 15
Bruxelles

+32 2 513 7344
https://restaurant-het-kelderke.be/en

Overall :

I do not trust a lot of Restaurants in and around the Grand Place in Brussels.  Most places are tourist traps which serve so-so food at inflated prices.

I have been eating at this place for many years and have not been disappointed once.  You also cannot beat the view from their terrace.

Food:

We went there for lunch and had, as always, excellent food.  I had the Burger “L’Estaminet” and my wife had the Carbonnades Flamandes.  Both came with Belgian Frites which we ate with mayonnaise.

They specialize in Belgian Food and for the moment have only a limited menu due to the current restrictions (outdoor dining only) – they also have an excellent selection of local beers.

Atmosphere:

Eating ‘al fresco’ at the foot of the Maison des Bouchers with the full extent of the Grand Place in front of you is unbeatable.  There is a constant spectacle developing in front of you: tourists taking lot’s of photos; groups on a horse carriage ride; tour guides looking for their next victims, sorry customers; locals happy to just sit and absorb.

They have a very large room inside as well – I have never eaten there.

Comments :

They are highly rated on TripAdvisor: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g188644-d694640-Reviews-T_Kelderke-Brussels.html

As I indicated above, one of the addresses you can trust in that neighborhood.

If you do not have reservations, you need to come early for lunch or dinner as they tend to fill fast especially with good weather.

Details:

Reservations: accepted on the phone or by email

Credit Cards: American Express, Cash, Visa, Mastercard, Debit Card

Parking: The Grand Place in Brussels is a pedestrian zone.  There are a lot of choices for parking around the Grand Place.

Posted in , Travel

Alaska – Part 3

Our continuing saga on a small ship in a large state…

It is still day 4 of our adventure and we have now moved all the way to the Northern end of the Seymour Canal, not far from where we were on Day 1. We are going to visit Park Creek, a bear sanctuary, not to rehabilitate them, but just an area that provides safety for them.  The rangers have interacted with the local bear population for many years, and quite a few bears have their own name; the bears are left alone as much as possible, but are used to human presence and do not see it as a threat.  We took the dinghy to go ashore and just as we were talking to one of the rangers, this is what we saw coming towards us.  That is when I remembered I forgot my bells!

Mama Bear with two cubs, slowly coming along the shore to where we were.  The rangers did not panic, so I figured we were safe.  They kept on coming very close to us, but then followed the shore to our right, without taking a second look at us.  We will encounter her again.

The cubs just followed Mommy.

Our valiant vessel parked in the sound waiting for us.  She is such a beauty, I have to show more pictures.

After a very short walk, we came to a river where the salmon are running.  Mama bear is now fishing for herself after she provided fish for her two cubs.

She jumped on a salmon and immediately started to eat. Continue reading “Alaska – Part 3”

Posted in , Travel

Alaska – Part 2

Continuing where we left off the first episode at the end of Day 2 we arrived at Ford’s Terror where we were not alone.  As we approached our anchorage for the evening, another boat was already there – crowded!

We went for another walk near narrows on a rising tide.  We had no problems landing from the dingy on a pebble beach – after our walk, and after the tide rose a bit more, we had more problems getting back onto the dingy as there was no beach left.

The walk was very nice – and we did not see bears, maybe because Kristin kept yelling “Hey Bear” – I have already shown you a picture of Kristin fully equipped for our defense, but she took no chances.

We were walking through beautiful scenery – this is a view of Ford’s Terror from land.

Time for portraits!  Behind is the narrow inlet that leads to the rest of the bay.  With the rising tide, the water was violently flowing making a roar, which you cannot really see or hear on this picture.

More spectacular views along the way

I liked this little pond reflecting the mountains and trees.

At the end of the walk, as we were wainting for the dingy to take us back to Catalyst, we saw a few curious harbor seals

Later in the evening, when the tide reached its highest point, we took a dingy ride around the whole bay and into West Arm Anchorage. Unfortunately it was raining the whole time so there are no pictures of that. Continue reading “Alaska – Part 2”

Posted in

Baton Rouge 2019, and memories of 2005 and 2006

We went to Baton Rouge in January of 2019 for a short visit, mainly to go see friends we had not seen in several years.

It was great to see a lot of them and spend time remembering the times we had spent together while we were living in Baton Rouge.  Bee and I did not live there at the same time, but we did make some of the same friends and her friends have since become mine, and my friends have become hers.

On the last day there, we received an offer that was too good to pass up.

But for that, I have to first go back to a few years ago, quite a few years ago.

In 2005, Jon introduced me to the Krewe of Yazoo.  I had heard of them, but never actually thought I would have a chance to join.  All I knew was that this is a group of people who make fancy costumes and then parade around Baton Rouge pushing lawnmowers.  In 2005, I helped to build the costumes and I paraded around Baton Rouge, but without a lawnmower.  Here is my costume that day:

I had used that as my Christmas Card in 2005!  Actually, we had built 42 chicken costumes in all.  Here is a family portrait:

Since I did not have to push a lawnmower, I had a lot of freedom during the parade to move around. I was able to meet the crowd and get the full atmosphere of the day.  I took this ‘action’ shot of the Krewe dancing with the lawnmower, and the banner indicating our theme for that year.

You can see that this is a popular parade, with a lot of people watching.

My favorite picture, however, is this one of Lee (the costume designer) and me during the parade.

I stayed friends with David and Lee, who run the Krewe (they ave been doing this for over 30 years).  Lee creates amazing costumes and David chooses the music and creates the choreography. Continue reading “Baton Rouge 2019, and memories of 2005 and 2006”

Posted in

Costa Rica – Part 5: Tortuguero (2)

We continued our exploration of the Tortuguero area with another wonderful day on the rivers that criss-cross this part of Costa Rica.

We saw a Cormorant drying its wings, but not its tail.

We then ran into a pair (mother and child) of spider monkeys.  Initially they were just being monkeys and taking care of business.

The mother was eating flowers while the kid appeared to be playing around in the trees while eating what appears to be a carrot.

But then the mother made a gesture which caused the kid to jump on her back.  Here, our guide told us she was preparing to jump. So I was prepared to take lot’s of photos.

She got to the end of the branch and just stayed there for a while.  I love the determination on her face!  The kid does not want to look… Continue reading “Costa Rica – Part 5: Tortuguero (2)”

Posted in , Culture, Travel

A Week-End in Murano

Bee and I go away each year for her birthday.  In 2014, I surprised her by signing us up for a walking (trekking) tour in the Dolomite mountains of northern Italy, something she had said repeatedly we should do.  That trip was already published on my blog last month.

Our trip started on Sunday from Venice and since there is a late flight from Brussels to Venice, we decided to leave after work on Friday.  We would arrive very late, in August, at the airport and I did not want to have to fight the crowds in Venice itself.  Looking at the Vaporetto Line from the airport into Venice, we noticed that the first stop was in Murano, and thus decided to stay there instead.  It would give us one full day and one half day to wander around before we had to meet the rest of the group.  We did not go to Venice itself at all on this visit.

Early Saturday, we started to explore Murano, which I knew a little from my previous trips to Venice and always enjoyed.  However, the previous visits were fleeting since I was staying on the ‘main’ island and I was looking forward to spending more time, and especially the evening in Murano as well.

Throughout the island there are glass statues, or monuments from local artists.  I particularly like the contrast between the very modern Glass Comet (the sculpture is called La Cometa di Vetro by Simone Cenedese) and the 19th century clock tower built on the foundations of a much older 12th century church steeple, long gone along with the church.

DolBlog001

Around the corner, we ran into a lovely old house – what I like most about Murano is that it still has a human scale and feels suburban compared to Venice.  This old house is surrounded by a garden and a majestic garden gate – you would not see something like this in Venice any more.

DolBlog002

The back of the Chiesa dei Santi Maria e Donato (Church of the Saints Mary and Donato) – this is one of the oldest churches in the Venice lagoon, originally built in the 7th century with known restorations in 9th and 10th centuries, possibly some even later.  Known for its 12th century mosaic floor.  It houses small bones from St. Donatus of Arezzo and larger bones from a ‘dragon’ that the saint is reported to have killed.

The back of the church has a definite Moorish look, and so do the decorations inside.

DolBlog003

The garden in the back of the Glass Museum gives a good view of the Campanile of Santo Donato (short name for the church above!)

DolBlog004

A typical canal in Murano – this is suburbia – there is a three boat porch in front of every house – sorry, no cars. Continue reading “A Week-End in Murano”