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Road Trip Brussels Gent Luxembourg Maastricht Trier Bastonge then home

Road Trip Brussels – all I can say is WOW. I didn’t know what to expect and never expected Brussels to be so beautiful with so many vibrant neighborhoods. And the most beautiful square I have ever been in. It beats Paris, Rome, Venice, London, NY, Florence – its called La Grand Place. My pictures just don’t do it justice so you can see more at this link from UNESCO – a video. It was truly breathtaking. A lot of the ornamentation is covered in gold so the whole square looks like a jewel.
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In a walkway just off La Grand Place is the 1902 statue of local hero Everard ‘tSerclaes. Rubbing the statute is said to bring you a year of good luck (hope it works even though this is a reproduction of the original) and a guarantee you will return to Brussels. Everard was Lord of Kruikenburg and was killed during the fifteenth century when he was defending Brussels.

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Brussels is a city of great contrasts. It is the headquarters of the European Union with a section of the city devoted to that with high rises and lots of new buildings. It makes you wonder what was taken down to build the new.

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The population of the city is over a million with 2 million in the metropolitan area, and there are traces of civilization that go back to the stone age, the Romans were here and the original settlement that was to become Brussels was begun around 580 AD.

You see buildings that span the centuries with a building from 1600 next to one built in 2018 and any of them might have a comic strip mural painted on their side.

There are many, many parks and lots of green spaces, refreshing compared to many large cities. My favorite park was The Petit Sablon Square, just a few blocks from our hotel.  The park is surrounded by statues depicting medieval professions.

There is a lot of public art including…

You can’t talk about Brussels without the Manneken Pis being brought up. The statute was designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder  and put in place around 1618. It was replaced by the current statute in 1965. They make a big deal out of him, he has hundreds of costumes (like 1000 or so!) and his clothes are changed several times a week and a ceremony is held each time – go figure.

Belgium has more comic strip artists per capita than any other country. There are at least 50 murals and many statutes devoted to the art all over the city. Some of the popular strips born here are TinTin, the Smurfs, and Lucky Luke to name a few. To see more and read more about them follow this link.

One of the things we saw throughout Belgium was the Espalier and Pollarded trees.
I’ve talked about Espalier before but Pollarded is a new word for me.

A tree that has been pollarded (pruned) means the upper branches are trimmed to control the height of the tree. Because we were there early spring the new growth had barely started. After years of being trimmed back the tree develops these “knots”. They say this way of trimming actually extends the life of the tree.

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If I knew it, I had forgotten it (sorry Father VanHorn),  that Brussels is the world capital of Art Nouveau. There are over 300 Art Nouveau buildings there and probably hundreds if not thousands of buildings with Art Nouveau tiles on their facades. Victor Horta is the most well known, and his home is open to tour.

 

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A couple fun shots followed by signs…

 

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There were two walls built around ancient Brussels, the Halle Gate is the last remnant of the second walls of Brussels. The first wall was built in the 13th century, the 2nd in the 14th century. The Aneessens Tower is a remnant of the first wall.

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At the cities edge is the Atomium. It has nine steel spheres that form the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. It was built for Expo ’58, the 1958 World’s Fair. Five of the nine spheres, including the very top sphere are open to the public. The spheres house an exhibit of dedicated to Expo ’58, a restaurant, and a snack bar. It is GIANT!! 334 feet tall.

Reminecant of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe Brussels’ Triumphal Arc was built for the 50th Anniversary of the founding of Belgium.
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And yes, that is a giant carton of fries on the right. Everywhere in Belgium promotes their fries, but don’t ever say French fries!

There are a lot of beautiful churches and monumental buildings in the city.

After Brussels we visited Ghent, or Gent, which has a beautiful medieval city center, Trier the oldest city in Germany, Bastogne to see a WWII museum and a quick fly by of Antwerp.

Road trip Luxembourg Maastricht Trier – On our way to Luxembourg we stopped at the town of Maastricht. It’s the shopping mecca for miles around, designer clothes and lots of other high end shops.
The one I was interested in was the bookstore. Probably the most beautiful bookstore in the world in an old cathedral.

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Maastricht became well-known through the Maastricht Treaty and as the birthplace of the euro.     Maastricht has 1677 national heritage buildings . It was part of the Roman Empire, they don’t know when the Romans arrived but it is known they built a bridge over the river here in the 1st century AD.We went on to Luxembourg, and stayed in Luxembourg City.

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Luxembourg City

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I was embarrassed to learn how much I did not know about the role of this city in the history of the world. There have been inhabitants here for 35,000 years, since the Stone Age!  Today there are many offices of the EU here.

Outside of Luxembourg is the Luxembourg American Cemetery where more than 5000 American soldiers are buried along side General George Patton. The Battle of the Bulge took place here and over 90,000 allied troops lost their lives but won the war.
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It was very sobering.

We then travelled to the oldest city in Germany, Trier. It was inhabited by the Celts in the 4th century BC and the Romans conquered in the 1st century BC. It is home to some major Roman ruins.

The Gate The Porta Nigra, remains from the Romans as does the Basilica which was part of a large castle built by Emperor Constantine.
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In another part of town there are remains of the largest Roman Bath outside of Rome.

Other spots around town.

The next day we started making our way toward Brussels. On the road to Bastogne we saw these markers every kilometer. Liberty Road marks the route the 3rd US Army of General Patton and the French 2nd DB (armored division) followed in 1944 during the Operation Cobra.
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We stopped at Bastogne and visited the Bastogne War Museum. It was an amazing and sobering experience. I’d like to know if our government officials who have never gone to war no less served in the military, have visited some of these museums to be reminded of the devastation, and yes what happens if you don’t fight when necessary.
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The museum was very well done and the 3 theaters were actually movie sets that you were sitting in.
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The Belgium countryside was beautiful and every once in a while you’d see a castle or large chateau.
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Gent or Ghent is another city with a beautiful medieval city center.

Some people say Ghent is the place to go rather than Bruges. But I fell in love with Bruges, it seemed more intimate to me, yes there are probably more tourists there but I loved it!!

These disks measured about 4 inches across and there were dozens of them in the street, don’t know why but there they were.

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Everywhere you turn in Belgium they are selling chocolates, beer, fries, and waffles!

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A few signs…

Odds and ends around town.

 Met and amazing sculptor working in bronze,  Jurga.

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Whew! What an amazing trip. Had to end it with a nice glass of Kriek.
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Next Road Trip England, London and the Cotswolds to visit gardens!

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Road Trip Bruges

Of all the beautiful places we visited in the Netherlands and Belgium, Bruges was my favorite. Belgium was never on my radar but I think I will have to return.
I loved the scale of Bruges and it has lots of canals and old architecture.  The first fortifications were built in the 1st century BC, and the first city charter was in 1128.
These photos were my first impressions of the city.

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Burg square is one of the earliest inhabited places of the city.
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Market square – since 928, is ringed with guild houses, restaurants and chocolatiers.

b3b4b5b6     Like in Amsterdam they have a béguinage, what a peaceful place to live. And like in Amsterdam, the gates are closed at night and only those ladies that live there have a key.
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The city has many squares, parks, beautiful buildings, and hidden places….


…. and is well know for it chocolate, lace, and beer.

Bruges has been a center for lace making for hundreds of years. The top two photos are of a large lace map of Bruges that hangs along a canal.
Chocolate shops are everywhere!

There are often large sculptures in the windows made of chocolate, like the monkey, cartoon characters and the unicorn above.
There are 3 breweries in Bruges, and I’ll have to admit I drank more beer on this trip than I have in years, my favorite was the Kriek, made with cherries and other fruits.
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There is art on the buildings everywhere and lots of neat wind vanes….

At every turn there was something neat to see…
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The stations of the cross.

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As far as the language in Belgium, they speak Dutch in the north and French in the south and both in between. Somewhere I read you are better off starting in English if you are not fluent in either language. In Brussels the street signs are in both French and Dutch, but other signs are often in English! As much as I’d like to learn another language I’d really need to decide where I was going to spend the most time to decide what to tackle.
There are a few thing you need to watch out for, the most important is bikes and cars. In the old cities the streets are narrow and especially in Bruges the drivers go fast and don’t automatically stop if they see you at a cross walk, while in most of the other cities they did. And bikes go everywhere not just on the bike lanes so you really need to watch where you step.
Public art is both contemporary and not on the city streets and there is lots of it….

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We didn’t get a chance to see the windmills, but there are 4 along the edge of the old city. Originally there were 25 and they date from the 1700s.
This is not my photo but one from Free-City-Guides, just so you can see what they look like – on my list for next time!
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As usual there are lots of museums and churches. The museums include (to name a few) Archaeology MuseumThe Bruges ‘stadshallen’ and BelfryBruges Beer ExperienceChoco-StoryThe Folklore Museum, and the The Liberty of Bruges.
I did manage to visit a couple of the famous churches in the city. The Basilica of the Holy Blood and The Church of Our Lady.
The Basilica is famous for the vial that is said to contain a cloth with Christs blood on it, and the fact that it is two churches in one. The lower church is Romanesque, and the upper church is Neo-Gothic.
The Church of Our Lady, was just down the street from my hotel, and has an extensive museum. In its collection is Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. They are still uncovering frescos on the walls and ceilings,
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The sepulchres and the tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold are here and painted tombs from the 13th and 14th centuries.

And, as usual, here is my sign collection.

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At the southern end of the old city is Minnewater, the Lake of Love. There are over 100 swans that live here and they are taken care of by the city.
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As we saw all over Belgium there is a lot of espalier here. If I ever stay home long enough I would like to grow one on the garage side of my house.

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Part of the city ramparts.

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My last shot of the city outside my hotel window. As I said I loved everything I saw in Belgium. This post is out of order but I was excited to show how beautiful the city of Bruges is. BTW you will see many ways to spell the name of this city,Bruges, Brugge, Brugges.
I was also in Amsterdam on this trip, you can see photos from that part by clicking here Road Trip Amsterdam.
There are more posts to come about Ghent, Antwerp, and beautiful Brussels.
And since I’m home for a while there will also be posts about ART!!

 

 

 

 

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Road Trip Amsterdam

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Close to our hotel was the Opera House, The Hermitage Museum, the Skinny Bridge, Rembrandt Square and lots of great photo ops!

I loved all the 26 years at Carolina Creations but am also loving having more time to travel and do my artwork. The two – travel and artwork – go together – although I seldom do artwork when I’m on the road because I want to spend the time seeing everything I can possibly see. Traveling is inspiring to me, I see scenes that I want to paint, I see art I’ve never seen before and it gives me ideas to use in my own work from how to present something or a new technique. Creating art for me is a solitary endeavor so when traveling I also get to meet new people.

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This sculptures in Rembrandt Square depict the Dutch artist Rembrandt’s painting The Night Watch which is in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Museum. The sculpture was done by Russian artist Alexander Taratynov.

I decided this is my year to travel. Havana, Florida Panhandle, Key West, this trip, and more to come! Amsterdam has been on my list for a long time and it did not disappoint.
hook   Although the weather was cool and partially cloudy it was still beautiful! What was my favorite thing? I suspected the architecture and canals would be and I was right.
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I was going to do this whole trip as one blog post but after seeing just my photos from Amsterdam I’m not sure that the City by itself will fit into one!

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There was a lot I did not know about the city –
….     There used to be 300 canals and now there are only 100.
….     Most buildings have a hook coming out of their gable, especially if they are the tall skinny ones. In the old days it was used to raise and lower merchandise, a person had their shop on the 1st floor and warehouse above. Now people often live on the upper stories so when a person moves in or out they take out a window and use the pulley to raise and lower furniture.

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See the family playing chess in the background?

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….     Few Dutch go to church, so while there are quite a few church buildings, few are used for worship and many have been sold off for other purposes.
….     The semicircle of four 17th century canals is called the Grachtengordel, and while you can still get turned around, if you can identify the main canals you can usually figure out your way. Our sweet hotel, the Eden/Rembrandt Square, was on the Singel (The Singel was previously a moat around the old city.), which was a great location, across from the Opera, and from where I walked everywhere I wanted to go. The rooms were not large but were contemporary, very nice, and they have a great bar and restaurant.

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Lots of cheese shops.

After a brief introductory Tour with the tour group I tromped all over the canal part of Amsterdam by myself, not wanting to miss a thing. There wasn’t an area I felt uncomfortable in by myself.
I met two artists shortly after arriving at an outdoor show I stumbled across, it’s held only on Sundays and it was just around the corner from our hotel. Called the Outdoor Sunday ArtMarket .
Connie Van Rumpt works in paper mache.
connie     I got a sweet, tiny lady that sits on a shelf from her.
And I had a nice conversation about working in black and white with Wim van der Meij about his etchings and got this piece of one of the canals.
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I did find some neat boutiques in the Jordan district but I guess I wasn’t looking in the right place to find a lot of artist run shops.
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You (I) just can’t go incognito anywhere….. I walked into a store and immediately the owner said “You own a shop.” (of course I don’t anymore.)  I said “How do you know?” “The bag you are carrying. I have one just like it .” So we compared notes. Years ago, probably 10 anyway, maybe 14, when people were first buying reusable bag,s one of the first companies to make them was called Envirosax and we started carrying them at Carolina Creations. The particular bag I had in my hand was an ad for the company, which was a promotion for shops that ordered from them that first year, which gave me away. Go figure.
I also went into one of the coffee shops that sells marijuana – I just had to do it – and ONLY had a cup of coffee, but found it interesting that you could smoke dope there but you could not smoke a cigarette!

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The floating flower market Bloemenmarkt was ok, selling mostly bulbs but this one stall did have nice fresh flowers.
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The city has a museum for just about everything, 100+… the ones you might expect The Tulip Museum, The Cheese Museum, The Houseboat MuseumHeineken Experience, and some you might not expect like the Sex Museum, Torture Museum, Prostitution Museum, Erotica Museum, Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum,  Nederlands Uitvaart Museum Tot Zover the museum about funerals, Tassenmuseum Hendrikje the museum of bags and purses, just to name a few.
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I’ll have to admit I’m not a huge museum goer, it’s walking the streets I want to do when I travel, but the Van Gogh was one I didn’t want to miss, it was great and very well done. One thing I noticed in the extensive gift shop i saw no images of “Starry Night”, or  his “Cafe Terrace at Night” , they can’t use the images because they are not in their collection I was told. They are my two favorites.
If I would have had more time I might have visited the Rijksmuseum, the National Museum of the Netherlands with nearly one million Dutch works of art, The Amsterdam Museum, or the Museum Van Loon, (which is a canal house owned by the Van Loon family of the Dutch East India Company), the Ann Frank House, The Jewish Museum, Verzetsmuseum or the Dutch Resistance Museum.
amm10            We strolled through The Begijnhof, passing through this gate, which was built in the 14th century and donated to the Beguine for a place to live. It is at the medieval street level which is a little over 3 feet below todays street level. “The Beguine women lived as nuns but not within a monastic community. The Catholic Faith was banned in the 16th century, but the Beguinage was the only Catholic institution that survived, as the houses were privately owned by the Beguines. However, they had to give up the chapel. Later, a new church was built behind the facades of some of the houses, a so-called ‘schuilkerk’ (hide-and-seek church). ” (thank you Wikipedia).              Today women rent the houses and the outside gates are locked at night, but during the daytime anyone can wander through.

The brown wooden building is one of the two oldest wooden buildings in the city, built around 1465.
It was interesting to identify the types of gables on the buildings, Triangular Gable, Bell Gable, Neck Gable, Spout Gable and the Step Gable. Often depicting the period in which the building was constructed.
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You see wall plaques on many houses , before numbering was introduced, houses were identified by illustrated plaques.

As usual I had to take photos of signs.
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I knew there were a lot of bikes in Amsterdam, but I didn’t really know just how many, over 800,000. Almost every street has a bike lane and you take your life into you hands if you don’t stay off them and look both ways when crossing them.

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You might not be able to tell what this is but it is a parking deck for bikes, holding not nearly enough. Throughout the city there are tens of thousands parked on the street and we were told they pull about 12,000 a year out of the canals.
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Surprisingly I saw no bike accidents. But guess there are some!

There were lots of interesting things to see.

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assort3     There are eight windmills within the city limits, only one is open to the public. But in May they have a National Windmill Day. During this weekend you can visit hundreds of them all over the country, for most, it’s the only time they are open.
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The canal ride and dinner at night was enchanting.
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I’ve got more photos from Amsterdam I’ll share in the next post.

Next up – Luxembourg, Trier, Brussels, Bruges, and Antwerp.