Thursday, August 17, 2017

A lot has happened in one week.

Although we didn't mention it on the Blog, we reported on Facebook that Sue took a tumble and looked like a black eye and sore back muscles, turned out to be torn muscles and worse still, two fractured vertebrae. This all happened four days before heading home from Paris. On arrival Monday night, she was in so much pain that we had her transported by ambulance to the Royal Melbourne Hospital where the factors were discovered by CT scan. Its been over two weeks since the fall and a week since coming out of hospital.

Today as I write this we have a "Celebration of Life" tonight for my father Jack who passed away while we were in Belgium. He was 96 - a very good innings although he was striving for a century - not out.

On to more brighter topics. The weather is miserable - no, not really. We are having a good dowsing of rain and the rural districts can do with it before the summer heads our way. It will fill the reservoirs and dams - the fields will turn green....

We have a creek that runs behind our block and in summer this becomes dry. Since the rains came, it is now a full flowing babbling brook. The ducks are enjoying it as well as the small ponds in the lower levels of the fields. Even the kangaroos are enjoying grazing on the soft moist grass.

Its been so wet that our pets don't want to venture out.

Trent Creek is normally dry in summer to Autumn and until recently was only a trickle.

I really should have put the mower in the shed before the rains came.

I took this photo from our back porch of the house. These guys come to graze at the back of our block most days.

After tonight's tribute to Jack, we concentrate on getting Sue well again and getting back to normal life in Trentham.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

REIMS and the Cathedral

It was time to move on from Belgium. We've been awfully mundane in our travels by staying in the rut of France and Italy (7 times now). Having said that, travelling back into France, the difference was extremely noticeable for us. Not long after passing the border of Belgium and France we turned into the fortified village Rocroi situated in the Ardennes region on the way to Reims.
I'd read about Rocroi in the DK travel books however we've never been in the region previously. We really on just stumbled upon the village as we do in our past travels be driving the non-toll roads. We are not cheap by avoiding tolls and in fact rich by the discoveries that come our way.
Stolen from the internet - the notifications of Rocroi are in the shape of a stylised star.
The village is one of the France's group of most beautiful villages and it certainly didn't disappoint on our visit. It is in the northern French Ardennes region. We took in a glass of wine outside a small bar and as we sat down an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair started a conversation. He told us that when 58 years old while riding his bicycle he had a very bad accident that put him in the wheelchair. We talked of cycling and in particular the Tour de France and the Australian riders of which he quoted many familiar names. We shouted him his beer.
There's a certain pride with rural french villages and there are alway plenty of flowers and a neatness about them.
Most fortified French villages still retain their covered markets.
It was time to move on to Reims. Our reason to take the route to Reims was to see the cathedral in which many French Kings were ordained. The first king of the Franks, Clovis was baptised in this cathedral. Joan of Arc after defeating the English brought the Dauphin of France here to be crowned as king. Its an extraordinary cathedral and we've seen many in France including Notre Dame of Paris, Poitiers, Chartres to name a few. The restoration process is also amazing by the skilled craftsmen reproducing the intricate stone sculptures as can be seen in the photos below.

From this to;

 To this:

The statue of Joan of Arc looks up towards the Reims Cathedral to where she brought Charles, the Dauphin of France to be ordained as King of France after the defeat of the English at Orleans.

At the coronation of Charles, Joan of Arc appeared in her armour with sword and her specially made gold robe.

Scenes of Reims.

After Reims, we moved on to Fontainebleau and then Orleans as overnight stays to visit friends who live in the Loire. More to come yet.

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.