Thursday June 26th
Dear Family & Friends,
One more week down. A very full week spent in the wonderful country of Belgium.
First a little commentary…. Wow has it been HOT in Europe. This is the hottest, driest summer I have ever seen here. It has been in the mid to high 80s every day and it is 98 today in Brussels!!! Normally Belgium and England have mild summers with regular rain, but neither country has had significant rain in almost two months. That is unheard of. There is water rationing and what are normally lush green fields and parks have turned brown; It is looking more and more like California.
Whether this is caused by Global Warming I won’t get into the politics or science of it. I have a new theory about the end of the world.
The tattoo craze is all over Europe now too. Every city, both young and old you see thousands of tattoos. My prediction is- long before global warming does us in there will be generations of tattoo ink in the soil which will poison the planet and nothing further will grow….the end.
Another interesting aspect of Belgium is that is a very small country, almost half the size of California yet there are three different languages spoken here, Dutch, German, and French. Not all in the same areas. You can leave a Dutch speaking area by train and get off an hour later and they are speaking French. In Brussels there are neighborhoods that speak Dutch and others that speak French within the same city….Interesting.
Our first few days in Belgium we stayed in a tiny village called Ulbeek with a good friend of Bonnie’s who is also a glass artist named Mireille, and her husband Rudi.
They live in a wonderful home that is part of a 19th century beer brewery that they converted into a home.
We did some local site seeing, went out for some great Belgium beer and a steak dinner, as good as any I have had, and to a local antique fair. All good fun.
Europe is so relaxed about morality in that if it doesn’t hurt anyone it is none of your business. As we drove through a local town there was one block of what looked like stores but each window had a scantily dressed young woman advertising her “services”. Not that I am in favor of prostitution but then again it is none of my business. They don’t seem to have the morality police the we do always questioning what OTHER people are doing.
One evening I had a good political discussion with Rudi. He is a diplomat for the Belgium government so he has first hand knowledge of what is going on in Europe.
He was saying as Trump throws the world into turmoil with his erratic behavior and policies, the EU, China, and Africa are meeting right now to come up with plans to move the world forward without the USA.
They are forming their own trade alliances which we will be left out of. They are forming their own defense alliances which we will be left out of. Trump says NATO is a waste of money, forgetting that NATO nations are the only ones who sent troops to the Middle East to support our useless wars there after 911.
Rudi also expressed total amazement on how we tolerate the health care system we have. Belgium has universal health care and they seem very satisfied with it. He explained that not only is theirs a more humane system but far cheaper than ours. We spend 19% of our GDP on healthcare and only cover 65-70% of our population. Belgium spends 12% and covers 100%. I know as a business owner health care was such a big expense. Every year always costing more and delivering less.
The EU no longer trusts the USA, a sad commentary. The big issue he said being discussed is if this is the new future or will things change back after Trump is gone, and there is not much confidence in that.
He did say Trump was right on one issue. The tense relations between Russia and the USA are partly the USA’s fault. An issue I did not know about was when the USSR fell, Russia made an agreement with USA that the USA would not push for NATO membership with all the former USSR countries on the Russian boarders so Russia would not be surrounded by NATO. Somewhere along the way the USA decided not to honor that agreement which greatly angered Russia. Seems they have a long history of being attacked by Western Europe and are very wary of it happening again. Remember, Russia lost 20,000,000+ people in WW2 alone!
After a nice visit with our friends in Ulbeek we took a train to Brugge for a few days. Brugge is a beautiful Medieval city full of classic buildings, art work, statues, and flowing canals.
We spent one day just walking and exploring.
The next day we spent getting some culture. First we went to the Salvador Dali Museum. I have become quite a fan of Dali in my old age. Such a diverse collection of work and such an interesting character. Totally uninhibited and a free spirit. As someone who basically followed the straight and narrow in my family and career life (with no regrets) it still interesting to imagine what life would be like as a true bohemian free spirit.
Go to my blog to see photos of his work but be forewarned some of it is XXX rated….
From there we went to the Belgian national potato museum… there is no limit to the culture we take in. Bonnie and I are cultured worldly people.. 🙂
There has been a long standing debate about who invented the “French Fried Potato”. After touring this extensive museum I have learned more about the potato and fries than I ever wanted to know and I can assure you I will no longer call them French Fries, they are from now on either Belgian Fries or just fries..(or frits in Europe)
The people of Brugge and Belgium in general are very friendly people and their happiness index (How ever that is measured) is one of the highest in the world.
One morning before we left Brugge we got to talking to the owner of the B&B we were staying at. He was originally in the furniture business but recently sold his company and ran the B&B as a retirement business. Again politics came up. He expressed the same fear and frustration with what is going on with Trump and the USA. He did say the one positive Trump side affect was that Europe was uniting more strongly out of fear of Trump and the USA, than in years….
From Brugge we took another train to Brussels.
Brussels is a much larger city, but quite beautiful and exciting. We only had one full day there so of course we had to go see Autoworld, the Belgian national car museum. I was quite surprised. First the building it was in looked like something built for the worlds fair of the 19th century. Beautiful architecture. Second it was one of the biggest car and motorcycle collections I have ever seen. Gives Jay Leno a run for it. Finally it is one of the most eclectic collections I have seen. About 75% Belgian and French cars and motorcycles. I never knew Belgium built so many vehicles. Unfortunately most of the manufactures didn’t survive WW2 or the intense international competition after the war. Still quite interesting and a good selection of non Belgian vehicles such as Jaguars, Porsches, Model T Fords, Corvettes, Harleys, etc.
Bonnie and I love to walk around big cities together and we did our fair share in the short time we had. In about a day and half we walked well over 12 miles. The only down side was Thursday it was 98 degrees in Brussels!! Unheard of temperatures. And the beautiful parks were all brown due to the heat and drought.
Still we covered a lot of sites which you can see at my blog. It is a big one this time with over 200 photos so take your time.
Now I am going to give you a break. Tomorrow we are back in London. Bonnie and I are meeting our niece who is flying over to spend 9 days with me. I have a surprise for her that is sure to win me Uncle of the year award. Monday Bonnie flies home. I will miss her but she deserves a rest after all this traveling. On August 6th my niece will fly home and 4 friends from California are flying over to join me on a three week motorcycle adventure.I have to say it has been a wonderful time with Bonnie but I am getting anxious to get back on my motorcycle. So that is when I will start blogging again.
As we were leaving Switzerland this man ahead of us was boarding the train too. Thus proving that the Swiss also do the worlds greatest comb overs…
IT was Belgium independence day and they were have a celebration parade…
A traditional Belgium delight,,, blood sausage.
These photos are of historical buildings of Belgium preserved in a special area of Belgium.
A great dinner of steak and ribs.. In case you didn’t know Bonnie and I like to eat..;)
It has been hot and dry but wonderful sunsets .
A local antiques fair.
Our friends Mireille & Rudy enjoying a drink in their garden above and a desert out below.
One evening we went out for these low calorie deserts. They told me the Belgiums make excellent deserts with no calories so you can eat as much as you want and not gain weight…..
Low calorie Belgium deserts… at least that is what I keep telling myself.
When I saw this I was excited because I thought it was a classic car dealership, but in Belgium it just means used cars.. 🙁
Mireille’s mosaic studio and school.
The village or Ulbeek
For some reason this sign had to be in English..
A special glass for every Belgium beer.
I told Bonnie to behave once to many times and I had to take drastic action…..;)
The Belgiums have a way with chocolate..
This shop specialized in Belgium beer and stocked over 450 brands! In Belgium each brand of beer produces their own glass with their name on it and supposedly uniquely shaped to enhance the taste of their beer.
Here is just one section of the four flights of stairs to our room in Brugge. Every time out was a work out… 😉 Not to mention the fun of dragging our luggage down these stairs…
Our trip to the Salvador Dali Museum. There are a lot of photos here but I really wanted you all to experience the range of his work and ideas.. From bizarre to erratic to who knows what?? Skip this section now if you are offended by his bizzar ideas of sex.
Some people would say this applies to me..
After the refined if not odd culture of the Dali Museum we made our way to the Brugge Potato museum. As odd as it may sound we found it informative and interesting. I learned more about the potato than I thought I ever wanted to know and now understand the Belgium claim to be the inventor of the Fried Potato. So from now on call them Fries, NOT French Fries to keep the Belgiums happy.
The study of potato is an old and serious science..
How much can your write about a potato??
You can just see the pattion for potato in her eyes… 🙂
Love at first spud… This woman is a lot of fun, that’s one of the many reasons I love her.. 🙂
Nothing more beautiful than potato art.
EVERYTHING has a potato theme here.
Mr and Mrs Potato
Mr. Potato head…..
Even a potato themed scooter!!
After all that potato learning it was time for a beer.
OK So after the Potato Museum we did not eat potato for lunch but instead a non-Belgium Lasagna and a traditional Belgium dish of mussels.
Some amazing street musicians. To hear them play click on this link.
Wandering the streets of Brugge.
OK I had to share this bit of humor…. 😉
Off to a new city for exploring, Brussels.
Bonnie’s new favorite Beer..
Palace Square in Brussels.
WAFFLES!! A favorite dish in Belgium.. We calculated we would have to walk twice around the planet just to burn off the calories in this window… 🙁
I saw this in a local antique store.. I hate that items I grew up with are starting to show up in antique stores.. Makes me feel old.
Bonnie’s new favorite beer. Belgium alone brews over 450 brands of beer. Most brands also produce their own shaped and labeled glasses that are supposed to make their beer taste better.
We ate dinner here one night and their ribs were great. BBQ with a Belgium touch.
Not sure what this name is all about..??
The latest in Brussel’s fashion.
Indoor shopping mall, Brussels style
This was a movie playing at the local theater. I asked the theater operator to translate and tell me what it was about… sadly it is about the dying American dream.
You will see this image all over Brussels in every stored in every form. The story goes that long ago the mayor of Brussels son saw a fire, peed on it, and saved the city thus becoming the patron saint of Brussels. I guess that is one reason to be famous.
Couldn’t resist one desert. A Belgium pancake ( we call a crepe) with bananas, raisins, and a rum sauce.. Good!!
This is the subtle body language I get from Bonnie when I have taken to many photos of her.. Again very subtle, I have to remember to notice.
Europe is having a MASSIVE heat wave and droubt. This park should normally be lush green even in the summer. No rain in almost two months and it was 98 degrees today.
I found my people!!
Oh wow!! A Pacer!! 😉
While American politics shocks and scares the crap out of Europeans they do love our culture.
With a name like above and the looks like below who would believe that this car was not a big success?? Where are they today?
A list of famous Belgium race car drivers.. I didn’t recognize any of them.
One of the first electric race cars. There truly is nothing new under the sun, it just keeps coming back more refined.
This young girl was the daughter of a friend of Karl Benz. Originally his cars were called Benz’s. Mr. Benz had a good friend who was a Jewish doctor and Mr. Benz really liked his daughter who’s name was Mercedes. So in honor of his friend he added Mercedes to Benz and the rest is history.
Can you see the sheer excitement of seeing one more car museum with me!! 🙂
This building in the center of Brussels is basically the head of the EU. That’s All Folks! For a ten days…