Archive for the 'General' Category

A Carpet of Flowers in the Hallerbos

May 25th, 2015

A strange coincidence of unrelated events led us to one of the most unbelievable walks I have done near Brussels!

On Friday evening, I finally checked my hiking shoes to make sure that they were up to our upcoming trip to Peru and the Inca Trail.  They are 10 years old and so due for replacement.  One still looks perfect, but the sole on the other is starting to come unglued.  So I decided that is was probably better to buy a new pair of hiking shoes.  It will hurt to get rid of a pair that served me so well for so many years!

On Saturday, I went to one of the top Hiking and Adventure Stores near Brussels and started discussing about new shoes.  I settled on Meindl Shoes – they fit and felt great.  As a parting thought, the salesman, who had been really helpful suggested that I should at least try them out once before going on my trip.  I indicated that I was planning to go to the Forêt de Soigne, a large forest just outside Brussels.  He suggested I should go to the Hallerbos, a smaller place, but with spectacular wild flowers.  I thought that might be a good idea, since I had never been there before.

On Sunday morning, one cousin of mine posted on Facebook the following link:

http://epanews.fr/profiles/blogs/le-mystique-bois-de-hal-en-belgique?s=1#.VTFgLncXj8h.facebook

I was stunned as this was the same woods that I was planning to go to.  The best thing about it is that further links got me to a map of the place, with a recommended walk to see the best of the wild flowers.

So we went!

And – as they say – the rest could be history!

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The photos really do not do justice to what it really looks like.

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As I saw horses in the distance, I tried to duplicate a painting by Magritte, but reality got int he way.

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Everywhere you turn, there was a carpet of purple flowers.  I can understand why this is famous – even though before that day, I had no idea it existed.

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Here is a close-up of the flowers – little bells. Continue Reading » (408 Page Views)

Christmas 2013

December 24th, 2013

I am a little behind with my posts and have not thought of any good cartoons for this year So it will not be a Calvin and Hobbes greeting this time.

It has been a very busy year as always, and a very good year in many respects.

To all my readers, I wish a very Merry Chrstmas and a Happy New Year.

I hope that 2014 will bring you joy and satisfaction (773 Page Views)

The Amerigo Vespucci in Antwerp

December 1st, 2013

One of my favourite sail boat is the Amerigo Vespucci – the Italian Navy training ship.

It was built in 1931 and has been part of the Italian Navy ever since.  The lines and the multi coloured hull make it unique amongst the large sailing vessels that regularly visit different ports.

I first saw it and photographed it in New York, on the Hudson River in 1986 when it came to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.  Here are the pictures from back then

and another

When a friend called me to say that the Amerigo Vespucci was in Antwerp for a day, I decided I had to go take a look.  I started in Linkeroever, on the opposite side of the Schelde from the city hoping that I would be able to get a full view of the ship, and I was not disappointed.  It was moored right in the old docks, in front of the Cathedral and the older part of the city.

We went under the river in the pedestrian tunnel and came out to take a closer look.  At the front, several sailors were clearly not “keeping up appearances”  as they were texting with a technology that was totally unknown when the ship was first built.  However, it is their time to relax when they are off-duty, so we have to give them a break.

A general view from the front gives an better idea of the size of the ship – the people on the side of it look so small!

Contrary to the reputation that Italians might have, the figurehead is a man – Amerigo himself!

A composite of several photos showing one of the  masts, also showing the number of ropes that are used to control the sails.  Every single rope has a unique name!

Even from the back, it is a very impressive vessel – and it is clear that the crew had made a special effort to make sure the gold and brass was shining at its best for this visit.

Not often you get to be chis close to such a magnificent sailing vessel.

If you are interested in more information on the vessel, and more photos, follow the link below detailing her visit to London just before she came to Antwerp:

http://thamesvessels.blogspot.be/2013/08/italian-navy-sail-training-ship-amerigo.html (18615 Page Views)

Season’s Greetings – 2012

December 23rd, 2012

It has become a tradition and therefore I feel obligated to continue what I started several years ago.

You all know by now that I am a fan of Calvin and Hobbes and I particularly like the different things that Calvin does with snowmen at this time of year.

There is not a whole lot of subtlety here.

Just a boy with a lot of imagination

To all my readers, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  All the best for 2013 (691 Page Views)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

December 19th, 2011

It has been another year of events and adventures and there is a lot more in prospect for next year. Fortunately, I do not have to send you, my readers, and ‘end-of-year’ letter with what I have done this year, as the most important events are already listed in these pages.
It has become a tradition that I share with you my favorite Calvin and Hobbes snowmen at this time and I plan to continue the tradition. Here are a few that I do not remember seeing before …

To everybody out there in the wonderful world of Internet, I wish you and those you care for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year full of successes and, of course, great trips. (1089 Page Views)

Season’s Greetings

December 19th, 2010

Another year has almost gone by and it is time to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

As I have already stated, I like Calvin and Hobbes and at this time of year, except in Singapore and Australia, snowmen are ‘seasonal’.  Brussels is under a mantel of snow several inches thick and not about to melt as the temperature stays very low.

Just remember, when you have to dig your car out of the snow, that you do not have to deal with this ….

What an imagination!

I hope you do enjoy the chicken, or turkey, or whatever you are planning to have for Christmas Eve Dinner!

Have a great holiday wherever you happen to be! (760 Page Views)

100th Entry

November 1st, 2010

This is the 100th post on my blog.  Quite a milestone, I think, in a little over three years.  It means an average of one post every 11 or 12 days.  It takes me anything from 2-5 hours to write a post, not counting the time to sort, select, edit and upload the photos that I use.

I guess it is time to thank my readers for their loyal support.  Unfortunately, except for a few who diligently leave comments to show that they read my posts, most readers wish to stay anonymous and therefore I do not know who out there reads what I write.

Actually, I know more than what the comments tell.  I have had three serious spam attacks, where I have had to block all comments to discourage those who left dozen or more ‘commercial’ comments on my blog.  I have had two or three unsolicitedcomments that I would not consider SPAM but those too were inappropriate.  I have had a lot of e-mail messages and oral comments about people who read specific posts, generally, people I travelled with who read the story of that trip.

So why do I do this if there is only a dozen people who might read any one post? Many reasons: (1) There are maybe 12 or more people who read what I write and that is not bad – the number could be higher; (2) it forces me to organise the 100’s of photos (sometimes 1000’s) that I have when I get back from a trip; (3) I enjoy going back over what I wrote 2 or 3 years ago – it keeps the memory alive of what I did then; (4) if I can inspire one person just once to go where I have been because of what he read in my blog, then it is all worth it; (5) it is a hobby and I enjoy finding the right comments for the pictures, building a story around them and researching historical, artistic or other facts that I include in the posts.

So what next?  I have ambitious travel plans for the next few months and you will see what I mean later.  Anything I want to do different about the blog? Not sure – I think it will remain a personal biography, or a build-as-you-go auto-biography.  I will probably try to interject more older adventures, but I can usually just keep up with what I do on a day-to-day basis, so no time to look at the past.

If you have any suggestions, feel free to let me know. (790 Page Views)

A few old friends …

October 1st, 2010

Vous me pardonnerai tous, j’en suis sur, le fait d’ecrire ce qui suit en Anglais vu que cela est la langue habituelle de mon blog!

On Saturday, we had a party for my father’s 80th birthday.  He turned 80 in July; he was actually born 2 days before Belgium celebrated its 100th birthday.  So, we are slow, and in Europe, it is impossible to organise a party in July or August as everybody is away on vacation.

We arrived early, of course.  The guest of honor knew there was something going on, for his birthday, but he had no idea who was invited or who was coming.

My sister and Michel arrived at the same time with the table decorations and food! We were going to a restaurant where we had paid dearly to be fed and my sister brings “betjes” (or snacks in local dialect).  It was good she did as we had to wait a while for the food – but that is another story.

The Wood, name of the restaurant where we were, had a late night party the night before, and they were still cleaning up as we arrived, 10 minutes before the start of the party.  You have to know our family – if you invite people for 5PM, they will arrive between 4:55 and 5:05! So we had to be ready, but before that, all we could do was wait…

I like this picture of my parents!

We had close to 60 people there,  most of them of my parent’s generation and a lot of them had know each other for over 50 years!  I had known a  lot for most of my life.  We started with a glass of Champagne and “Betjes” – the party is not sponsored by Corona Beer – that is a left over of the night before!

As usual, at a gathering such as this, you wonder why you did not do it sooner.  Everybody seemed to find some one they had not seen in years and the same is true for me.  I saw people I had met in Italy, when I was 10, and had not seen since.

My father made a wonderful speech – carefully listened to by all.

Here is a close up

Thanks to Philippe for his nice pictures … (717 Page Views)

Year End Greetings

December 18th, 2009

A very politically correct way to start.  But I do not guarantee that it will stay that way.

For a while now, I have been thinking about how I will finish the year on my blog and what I should do for my readers.  Several days ago, there was quite a spectacular sunset in Brussels and therefore I decided to take a few pictures from my apartment – this would make a nice Christmas Card.

If you are sick of the standard Christmas Music that you can hear along the street, in shopping malls and Nancie’s car, press on the icon below and you will be entertained by some real Christmas music while you read the rest of the post (I hope, as I have never done this before…).

Procession (Benjamin Britten)

I have had to change my level of consciousness when it comes to sunsets.  I am just not used to thinking about it at 4PM.  In Brussels, at this time of year, unless you are ready at that time, the sunset will be over before you know it.  This one developed over several minutes and therefore I was ready when the light really became quite nice

AptSunset1

After the sun went down, and as the lights int he city start to come on, the contrast can be even more interesting.  In the distance you can see the Atomium – one of the symbols of Brussels (the other is the Manekenpis, which we will discuss later…).  The Atomium was built in 1958 (it has the same age I have) for the World Exhibition that was held that year.  It was supposed to stay only 10 years, but when it came time to decide what to do with it, the population of Brussels massively protested against its destruction.  It has been renovated recently, but I have not yet had an opportunity to visit it.  The name Atomium comes from the fact that it was supposed to represent an atom of matter – remember that it was not long before that time that great advances were made in the understanding of the structure of the atom and people were still fascinated by this.

AptSunset2

I guess a “year end” greeting is not complete without a short, or long, diatribe on what I have been up to this year.  Fortunately, I can just refer you to the other posts in this blog, and tell you to catch up on your reading if you want to know all that I have done.  There is not much more to report since my return from Athens, except for the arrival of my new bookcase (made in Germany!) so that I can finally unpack the last of my boxes.  Well, that is probably overstating reality! One never, absolutely never finishes unpacking from a move.  There is always a box that remains, with junk that you just cannot understand why you actually took it along.  However, dutifully, on the next move, you carefully repack the content of the box, and take it along again.  So, within the limits of what is actually achievable given the fourth law of moving dynamics, I am done unpacking.  You all know, I hope, the third law of moving dynamics … It says that no matter how hard you try, the level of junk always increases.

Well, a few days ago, the well-laid plans for my “year end” greetings were turned up-side down. It all started with a mysterious sign that appeared in my weather station, and a weather prediction that I did not quite understand.

Take a look at this picture I took…

BarometerSnow

The top section typically shows the predicted weather for the next 12 hours.  I had already seen a picture with clouds, the moon and ‘blinking’ things above the clouds which I took for stars.  I interpreted that sign as ‘clearing weather’ and in general it was proven to be true, if usually very short-lived.  However, today, the stars are shown below the clouds!  Something told me that I was not looking at this correctly, so I opened and actually read the instruction manual (ignored until then, of course).  I was told there that the ‘stars’ underneath the clouds are actually snow flakes! WOW! What are those?

Then I noticed something else I had not seen before.  Notice the short horizontal line in front of the temperature.  That is not a reflection, or a malfunctioning liquid chrystal but is actually intended to be there.  It indicates that the outside temperature is really less than zero. I did not know you could do that! After a little surfing on Internet, I was able to make out that when the temperature is below zero, it cannot rain, but instead snow flakes fall and collect on the ground.  All of the above, of course, is intended for all my friends who live near the tropics or near the equator, and may not be familiar with this phenomenon, which I myself had been very glad to miss for many years. Part of the “educational” service also provided by this blog…

Well, to make a long story no longer than it needs to be (please no comments on this), the snow finally did arrive on Thursday afternoon.  The weather forecast (not mine, but from the official meteorological office where people with university degrees are paid to tell us what the weather will be like tomorrow) had indicated an accumulation of maybe one centimeter – nothing to worry about.  However, one colleague, who lives North-East of Brussels and was already on vacation, told us that he had just received 7 cm of snow at his home, and the front was moving towards Brussels.

The snow increased and finally, it started to accumulate even on the streets – I decided to go home before traffic stopped to a standstill.  I fell on my bottom on the first step I took outside the office – not used to the slippery stuff anymore I guess.  It took me twice as long as usual to drive home, a whole 30 minutes! Steering was more wishful thinking than anything else; let’s not talk about breaking – in a world with no friction, this becomes very, very approximate, even with ABS.  But I made it safe and sound and here are some views from my apartment while it is still snowing.

AptSnow1

In the foreground is the roof of the public swimming pool right below my apartment.  You can see the accumulation of snow of the railing – we ended up with about 10 cm of snow, and this is very unusual for Brussels.

AptSnow2

It continued to snow overnight, but not enough to keep the roads slippery.  On Friday, the snow stopped and the sun appeared.  The view from the apartment ‘improved’ with the setting rays of the sun.

AptSnow3

I Like the contrast in this picture between the houses and church which are exactly as they were 100 years ago or more, and the very modern buildings in the background, built in the last 20 years.

AptSnow4

As I am writing this post, the sun has set, leaving a last impression with snow-covered roofs and the steam escaping from the heating system for the swimming pool.

AptSunset3

Here are some real Christmassy views from the park near my apartment.

JosaphaSnow1

JosaphaSnow2

JosaphaSnow3

On these very seasonally correct scenes (unless you are from Down Under), let me wish all of you “Season’s Greetings” (political correctness again) but more specifically, a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  All the best in 2010. (933 Page Views)

Farewell Party

November 16th, 2009

This is long overdue … and there are tww reasons for it: (1) I have been very busy and (2) it is both a pleasant and a tough experience for me to go over that day.

A week before I left Singapore, Papillon and Friends organised a party for me at my favorite beer joint – however, they were able to find a branch I had not visited yet.  We got together at the Breweks on Bukit Timah, not far from Sixth Avenue.  It is smaller than their place across from Clark Key and so more intimate – we had about half the place to ourselves.  I decided to take a taxi so I would not have to worry about how to get home.

A few guests were there already when I arrived.  Here Freddy (main organiser and much much more) and Hans.

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People kept on trickling in little by little – Wong and Vincent soon arrived – Vincent is the “godfather” of Dragon Boat

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and Christie and William – I hope you realise how unusual it is to see Christie with a beer – and she did it just for me!

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soon too many to name … but I will still try – added are Ben (actually behind the camera for most of the pictures…), Dennis, Jessica, and Su Li

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We had beer (of course) and food with more people showing up

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I did mention beer didn’t I …

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We even had an uninvited guest – I have no idea who is the person in front of Freddy – he just showed up for the pictures….  Then is was time for dessert

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and speeches, and more speeches, and prizes – I received an unexpected gift from Brewerks, a very nice polo shirt given to me by their branch manager

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and one from Papillon – this is the back side of it – notice how Ben was able to catch my better side in his sketch…

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I did mention beer, right? The girls …. and Hans (why?) and the front of the frame, with an actual rowing shirt for the 2009 season which I will miss.

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and the boys …

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and the whole gang …

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I am so glad I did not have to drive home after that!

Thanks to all for a wonderful time, and not just the party, but … you know what I mean! (737 Page Views)

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