Friday, July 28, 2017


Back in Brussels from Amsterdam by train was fairly hassle free. We tend to give ourselves more time than we need in case of any difficulties that may unintentionally arise.

Our son Andrew was travelling with us so we had help with luggage and directions. Andrew is a well-seasoned traveller and knows his way around. First day in Brussels, we had a mission to accomplish.
We picked up a car from the airport and then helped Andrew to move from the town of Wavre which is about 25 kms out of Brussels. He now has a room closer to the Brussels city centre which will give him better opportunities to enjoy the Brussels culture and city life. Wavre is a fairly uninspiring township for a young man.

We were given an upgrade to a Skoda wagon - Europcar must have known that we were needing the space. Anyway we were most fortunate as we were able to do the move in two trips.

Only two trips and 150 kms and Andrew was in his new residence.
With the move done, it was time to relax. The following day, Andrew's finance Ashley arrived from Cambridge in the afternoon. We met them at the hotel and walked to the "Grand Place" around the corner to the hotel. We then enjoyed a congenial beer or three with Andrew and Ashley before going to dinner at a close-by Italian restaurant.

The following day we took in the AutoWorld car museum which had a special Expo of Ferrari through its 70 year history. I took far too many photos of the many marques but I guess Ferrari has a certain mystique and so I have posted a very small sample.

Being the first visit to Brussels, we took the opportunity to finally meet up with fellow Blogger Martine (Ladybird) for lunch and then a gentle stroll through the streets of Brussels. Ladybird has a certain passion for the Loire Valley as we do and unfortunately we have never been able to coincide meeting on our various travels to the region. 
Meeting fellow blogger Martine for lunch was a special treat for us as was the food. Martine selected an excellent eating place. Locals know best.
 Martine's blog link
And so was meeting our congenial waiter, Big Willie.
After lunch, Martine took us to a beer tasting at this bar opened in 1877
It was tucked down a small laneway well hidden from the city hoards of tourists.
Four beers on offer to taste.
Four days in Brussels was too short a time being with our son Andrew and his fiancé Ashley but it was great to do so and the reason we arrange this impromptu trip in the first place. His contract with a University in Belgium has another 10 months to run and September next year it looks likely that there will be a wedding in Trentham.

It was time to leave Brussels and we now have a rental car to make our way down into France and the Loire Valley to renew friendships with people we have met on past trips to the region. We can't explain this passion we have for France but as soon as we crossed from Belgium into France, we saw changes in the scenery, the architecture and even the people. It also was comforting to hear the softness of the language, especially with the contrast of the Dutch and even Flemish language.

So for the first night in France we stayed at Reims in the Champagne region which was a first for us. Reims is a city of less than 150,000 people. As I type this post, I can hear voices at a bar below our hotel room and I hear people enjoying the mild night air and most likely enjoying a glass of the local bubbly produce for which it is famous. Earlier we enjoyed one of the best value for money dinners for most of our trip. It was washed down with a superb bottle of Loire Valley Chinon blanc. I had the Sole while Sue went for the filet of beef with bernaise sauce. Desert was cafe gourmand - espresso coffee with a selection of tiny desert tastings.

Ahhh, yes - we are back in France.

Small postscript - we think we might have made an error by not booking into Reims for only an overnight stopover. More tomorrow on Reims in the Champagne region.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Amsterdam Museum

The Amsterdam Museum visit was on our last full day and well worth the trip. It was a tram trip with out too much hassle. I hour tram tickets under 3 euro and tram 4 virtually took us door to door.

The Museum is situated within the 1634 Amsterdam Orphanage. The main attraction of the Museum is the DNA exhibition which takes you through the history of Amsterdam with sound, image and movement plus relicts of past years. It depicts the growth of the city from 1000AD and how the land formations changed with the construction of canals. From the building of a rich trading centre of Europe, Amsterdam became the centre of world trade. The exhibition tells how not only Amsterdam became the centre of trade but also of art, literature and music. The museum houses, like the RIJKS Museum, many great paintings from the Dutch Masters. These are huge paintings and again I've taken a small portion as a vignette of the detail.

Thorough this narrow arch, you enter what was Amsterdam's orphanage which at times cared for as many 1000 homeless children.
Crests from families of the 1600s
This religious partial statue was located in one of the canals.
As Amsterdam renounced catholic faith, many of the images were defaced and thrown into the waters to be discovered centuries later.
This medieval shoe lay dormant and protected in the mud below the pylon footings which created the base for the buildings of Amsterdam. After many hundreds of years, it still retained its laces and showed very little deterioration.
This link to a trailer gives you an impression of what the Amsterdam DNA permanent exhibition is all about - certainly a great experience for us to understand the cities history.

This painting depicts some of Amsterdam's influential people over the centuries.
Looking down on Napoleon.

Could the early Dutch be the first of our modern Hipsters?

Pick the detail section from the painting above.

Governess' of the orphanage
Pick the detail section from the painting above.

The museum had a special exhibition of the fashion designs of Puck and Hans who as a bloke with no fashion sense at all, I have no idea who they might be. What I do know is the the colours and designs were very interesting to photograph. 

OK!!!! I stole this from the internet and now I'm wiser.
The fashion label ‘Puck & Hans’ was created by Puck Kroon (1941) and Hans Kemmink (1947). Their career began in 1967 when they opened their first shop in The Hague. In 1971 a shop in Rotterdam was added, and in 1974 the first Amsterdam shop was opened on the Rokin. They were the first in the Netherlands to sell clothing by Kenzo and a young Jean Paul Gaultier, alongside their own creations. Puck & Hans were well-known for their hand-painted silk blouses and belts made from toilet seat hinges. They were also responsible for the popularity of pinstripes. Their clientele included Loes Luca, Princess Irene and Marina Abramovic, but less famous customers also enjoyed buying a unique ‘Puck & Hans’. Even today they are still well known in the fashion world.

We left Amsterdam in two minds as to what we thought of it. Love the history and the museums. The canal system is amazing. The movement of traffic with bike lanes, trams and cars all seem to work very efficiently. Maybe ist something that Melbourne needs to look at in depth and maybe our CBD is getting closer to the Amsterdam example.

Amsterdam is a party town, particularly in the red light district where we stayed and maybe that's a good thing in that it harnesses the boisterous behaviour in that district. Its a little sad to wake in the morning to venture into the streets and see broken bottles and rubbish on the walkways. One morning as we sat have breakfast outside on the canal we saw an office chair and a bike wheel float by.
Once moving further into the shopping and residential areas and parks, Amsterdam takes on a more relaxing feel. I guess all big cities have contrasts to suit all.

Leon's obliquitory bike photo
We are now back in Brussels with Andrew for four days. Yesterday the hired a car to help move him from his old place in Wavre about 30 mins out of Brussels. His new residence is in Brussels which will give him more options to enjoy the city, its food, and culture.

Yesterday in Brussels was a shopping day for Sue and I and then relaxing in the bars with Andrew and his fiancé Ashley who arrived from England to spend some time with us. 

Today I hope to check out "AutoWorld", a massive vintage and classic car museum in Brussels, then tomorrow we catch up with "Ladybird" who is a fellow Blogger whom we have been in contact with for many years, yet not met. This should be very exciting as we probably feel that we know each others lives very well within the "Bloggers-sphere". (is that a word?)

After our fourth night in Brussels, we rent a car and will drive aimlessly to the Loire Valley via Reims, Fontainebleau and Orleans. More to come.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


We've walked the streets of the red light district with its "out there" whatever. You wanna joint, you wanna woman, oh there's another sex store.

Time to move on and discover the history and culture of Amsterdam. We paid a visit to the Resistance Museum which was confronting and definitely depressing. It left you with a feeling of why would one human do this to another. The jews of Amsterdam like France and Poland were persecuted by the Nazi and the museum depicted this with stories, film and documents. It reminded of  our visit to Oradour sur Glane in Limousine, France where on June 10, 1944 the Nazis murdered and destroyed a whole village as the war drew to a close.

On a more positive excursion, we visited the RIJKS Museum which presented the great Dutch masters through the eras. Some amazing work to be seen in ceramics and oils. The size of the paintings were amazing and the detail of the subjects enticed me to take some close ups of certain sections of the paintings.

The impressionist period has always been my favourite, from the French and also our own Australian impressionists of the Heidelberg School. Here are examples of the Dutch impressionist - no Van Gogh. He has a museum of his own that we didn't get to.

Tomorrow we hope to publish photos from the Amsterdam Museum which has a fantastic presentation called "DNA". This presentation in in the ancient building that house the Orphanage.
DNA presents the timeline of Amsterdam from its early beginnings to today.

Today we move on from Amsterdam and back to Brussels to help our son, Andrew move - that should be fun.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Amsterdam Station and the Canals

Have to say that we were quite impressed by the Amsterdam Station. We took the train from Ghent with Andrew to Amsterdam and stepping on the platform with our bags and looking around was like being enclosed in a giant birdcage. AS we were early and could not book into our hotel room, we decided to have a light lunch at the Station. The architecture certainly dwarfs Melbourne's Flinder's Street Station.

We've been in railway stations of Paris and Rome, plus many of the regional French stations such as Tours, Avignon and Marseilles but Amsterdam is by far the most interesting with the design and marble columns.

Arriving at Amsterdam Station
Looking towards the exit
Overlooking the exit.
It could be an opera house rather than a station.
On our first day we took a stroll to acquaint ourselves with the local district. A hotel was only a short walk from the station and in the middle of the tourist hub of the red light district.

We had booked into Hotel France which is located on a walking strip beside one of the canals. Hotel France is beside Molly Malone's Irish Pub where the hotel has a contract to supply breakfast. We've taken calling in during the afternoon to relax with a Guinness or three with our son Andrew after our day excursions in Amsterdam. The canal has a continual flow of tourist boats with the occupants enjoying the sun and a few drinks. Some of the tourist canal boats are quite luxurious.

Where we have breakfast and also an afternoon Guinness after seeing the sights.

Some arty-farty canal pics

Photo opportunities at every canal bridge.

We've walked many of the back streets of the inner Amsterdam district and being the tourist city, it is quite busy. The constant ding ding of bicycle bells is constant and the put-put of 50cc scooters are at least louder to give warning. The bicycle lane network is marvellous and we in Australia could learn more by example. One taxi driver explained that if you hit a cyclist, the driver is by law at fault and will be punished for the offence.
There definitely is a respect and a sense of patience with the sharing of the roads and pathways.

Opposite our hotel
Think I'm adding kgs due to the constant foods and drink in cafes such as this one. Usually we would sit outside however this morning it rained very heavily for 30 mins and then the sunshine appeared. 

Our next post will be on our visit to the Rijks Museum where we spent most of yesterday afternoon.