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Ireland – Scotland Part 1

Exhausted from Hurricane Florence I guiltily decided to go on the trip I had signed up for last fall. I’m glad I did. We set off on a two day train trip from Dublin with Railtours Ireland. We traveled south west through the countryside of Co. Kildare.

We visited the Cliffs of Moher, among the highest sea cliffs in Europe. We were there for about an hour and by the time we left the fog had swept in and you couldn’t see any of the cliffs. This part of the country is breathtaking.

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We drove along “The Burren“. The word Burren means ‘rocky place’. It looks like a a lunar landscape of limestone. We were told that though it seems like there is no soil it’s noted for its diverse flora and fauna, more diverse than anywhere in Europe. Migrating birds from the North Pole and from theMediterranean and points further south bring the seeds that grow in the crevices in the rocks. This area also has many times more rainfall that Eastern Ireland.

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We stopped at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park in Co. Clare.   The castle was built in the 15th Century and is furnished with period furniture and artifacts. I found the grounds most interesting – a 19th century Irish village with buildings from around the region.

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We eventually arrived in Galway, where we had time to explore on our own. One of the highlights was hearing a group of young Irish musicians performing on the street.

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Galway has a lot of young people and lots of tech jobs, It’s history began with a fort built in 1142. Through the Middle Ages it was a thriving port, it was involved in many wars through the ages, the potato famine of the mid 19th century and never regained strong economic growth until the late 20th century.

On day two we went to the Connemara region. When thinking about the area these are the things that come to my mind – few trees – thousands of miles of stone fences – narrow roads – windswept landscapes – mountains – fuschia hedges – sheep – lots of lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

We stopped at the Kylemore Abbey & Walled Victorian Gardens – which was built in the late 1800s by Mitchell Henry, a successful businessman and liberal politician. It changed hands several times and in 1920 it was taken over by Benedictine Nuns whose Abbey in Belgium had been destroyed in World War II. They opened a world renowned boarding school for girls and restored the Abbey and Garden. The Walled Garden covers 6 acres and had fallen into ruin. In 1995 the Nuns began restoring it and it was opened to the public in 2000. The garden had 21 heated glass houses and a work force of 40 gardeners when it was first established and was compared in magnificence to Kew Gardens.

We continued on the Connemara Loop which was hauntingly beautiful.

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There are only a few towns in the area and my favorite is Clifden.

We heard that if the sheep are on top of the mountain (in this case cows) the weather is going to be good….

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There are a lot of sheep in the area, and they are free range, so you have to be very careful driving on the narrow winding roads because you never know what’s around the corner.
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I loved this area – it’s kind of other worldly.
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We went back to Galway and caught the train to Dublin.

I realize that I know little about the history of Ireland, as part of my blogging after a trip I go back and research the places I’ve been. It was interesting that  looking around Dublin looks like a pretty new city, I made a stupid comment about maybe because it was bombed during WWII. I was corrected – Ireland was neutral during the war so was never bombed. I wondered what else I didn’t know! So have been reading up on their history.

Here is a great timeline.

My mom was a genealogist and I read in some of her papers that our ancestors came from Ireland way back during the time of tribes and clans around 200 A.D. in present-day Ireland. At that time the area a tribe or clan occupied was called a Lyne or Lynne. When the leader of the clan wanted to gather the people they blew a horn, our clan was near the sea and made use of conch shells for their horns, thus “Conchlynne.”  This tribe – Conchlynne – was located where the city of Belfast now stands. for some reason members of the tribe migrated across to Scotland and then south to Nottinghamshire, England where the name is found in the 1600’s. The name turned into Conklin somewhere along the line in the US. When first coming to the US they were glassmakers.

We aren’t going to make it to Belfast on this trip – that will have to wait until next time.

I wasn’t in love with Dublin but did find a few areas I liked. Here are few photos from around town.

Two things that have made a huge impact on this city – Heineken and the musical group U2.
Signs and decorations on buildings…

Learning about the book of Kells at Trinity College (founded in 1592) was really more interesting than seeing it to me, since you can only see two pages, but the lengths the monks went through to make it were extraordinary.  They made it on the isle of Iona, where we are headed when we meet up with others from New Bern.

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The best part about the visit to Trinity College was seeing the long room, the library in the same building (which houses 200,000 of the Universities oldest books). You would recognize it from the Harry Potter movies, They weren’t allowed to use the library in their filming but they based the one they created on it.

Next post….. traveling north to the Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland, and then Scotland. We really didn’t see a lot of either country but what we did see we really like.

 

 

 

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Colorado in August

I returned from Michigan with a few days to spare before going to see my friend Deb in Colorado. We made our base in Breckenridge. I can tell I’m getting old! There is a huge difference in 8000 and 10,500 feet. We lived in Aspen for 6 years at 8000 feet and after a couple days I got used to the altitude. 10,500 feet and 30 years later is an entirely different animal.

I huffed and puffed the entire week that we were in Breckenridge and when we went to Glenwood Springs and Aspen I really noticed the difference, I could breathe.

We arrived in Breckenridge at the end of their International Festival of Arts but were able to take in a few of the events.

Tree-O was pretty neat. We hiked part of the Illinois Creek Trail and found 3 musicians hanging from the trees playing music.
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We loved the troll created by Thomas Dambo who is an artist from Copenhagen, Denmark. He made this huge troll out of wood on the spot. Again to see it we had to hike up one of the trails for about a quarter of a mile, it was worth the walk. We climbed over the big pile of stones to get to it, once over the top I slid and sat down. Since I’ve gotten older I haven’t been afraid to ask for help. I stuck my hand out and a young man helped me down the rest of the way.

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In the first photo you can get an idea how huge he was! probably 14 or 15 feet tall.

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Another musical performance by Chirp! was up yet another trail. I didn’t know we were going to be hiking or I would have brought shoes other than my Birkenstocks. They sang a cappella and one of their songs really spoke to me. Here are part of the lyrics –
you gotta get up – break away – I won’t know peace til I find my place – guess that’s part of  the reason I’m traveling so much this year. Trying to figure out what is normal for me now without Michael and CC.

For two entire days we soaked in hot springs, both in Glenwood Springs.

  • Glenwood Canyon.

First the one Michael and I always used to go to when we lived in Aspen…..
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He always used to say, can you image what it would have been like to ride the train from New York in 1888 and get off here to soak? Glenwood Hot Spring the worlds largest hot spring pool.

The second hot springs day was spent at a new one called Iron Mountain Hot Springs,  which is a totally different experience. There is a small pool but there are also a dozen or so hot tubs, each with a different temperature.  It was very nice and was built only about 5 years ago.
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Both days were glorious!

Frisco was a real surprise for me, I’ve probably driven by it dozens of times but never stopped, always in a hurry to get home or get to Denver. It’s a beautiful little town just outside of Breckenridge, with some really nice shops.

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I’ve always been interested in railroads, especially steam, something about the travel, the lore, the intricacy of the locomotives, the architecture of the depots, so was happy when Deb agreed to drive up Boreas Pass. Michael and I drove all of these old railroad beds we could but never made it up this one.

IMG_0434This one over Boreas Pass was part of the Denver South Park and Pacific Railroad, which was built in 1882. The pass is at 11,481 feet, we made it to the top in a regular car. There were a few scary spots where you were driving on a cliff but all in all it was a pretty easy drive. We were surprised that people were camping along the way, some on a ledge. Usually camping isn’t allowed right along a road.

The nice thing about driving on these old railroad beds is that they are never steep, just a gentle grade. The railroad shut down service over the Pass in 1937 and began taking up the rails.

Another day we drove to Aspen, it continues to be one of my favorite places on earth.

This is the road out of the back of the entrance to Buttermilk Mountain. The house we lived in was on the top of this ridge.

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Every day when we lived there we drove pass the road to the Maroon Bells. Not a bad sight!
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My old workplace the Aspen Times.
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After our week in the mountains we returned to Arvada, make several trips to Boulder then one to Longmont to the Benson Sculpture Park . I’d heard about this park and the sculpture Show held there every year but really had no idea of the extent of their collection. Very impressive!

One of the sculptures is by Susan Pascal Beran – she did the Spider Lily Sculpture that sits in front of the Convention Center in our downtown.
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It was a great trip but now looking forward to some time at home……  little did I know Florence was on the horizon.

 

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Road Trip The Cotswolds part 2 plus the Chelsea Flower Show

Road Trip – The Cotswolds part 2 plus Chelsea Flower Show – click the link to see LOTS more photos. The fabulous trip continued…. we stopped at Bourton-on-the-Water to take a quick stroll through town, then went on to Bibury.

 

One of Bibury’s main tourist spots and overlooking a water meadow and the river is Arlington Row, a group of ancient cottages with steeply pitched roofs dating back to the 16th century.

Henry Ford thought Arlington Row was an icon of England. On a trip to the Cotswolds he tried to buy the entire row of houses to ship back to Michigan so that he could include them in Greenfield Village.

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IMG_8271Rolling Hills of the countryside. Some of the hills are quite steep because of the Cotswolds escarpment, a pie shaped area of limestone from the Jurassic period tipped on its edge. Some of the hills rise 1000.

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Throughout the countryside are stone monuments to those who fought and died in the First and Second World Wars. And everywhere are beautiful stone fences, laid up with no mortar.

A comment our guide said I thought was worth repeating. “We owe so much to the US, we could not survive without you, although I’m sure, your country feels it could survive without us.”

The very best garden in my opinion was Highgrove, The home of Prince Charles, and unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos. After hearing a taped presentation by him about the garden and his interest in organic I changed my mind about how I perceive him.

We had champagne High Tea, the gift shop was beautiful, the outdoor part was so well done I could do a dozen paintings just of it. The house was built in the 1790s and when prince Charles purchased it there was just a small kitchen garden. It is stunning and he and his gardeners have made it so it is beautiful in every season.

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Of course I always need to post signs…..

 

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And my two favorites…

Bourton House Gardens followed… an award-winning three acre jewel… winner of the prestigious Historic Houses Association / Christie’s “Garden of the Year” Award. The garden is surrounded by a stately 18th century manor house.

Another stunner followed that one –

Sudeley Castle… has nine individual gardens… all unique and beautiful. Elizabeth, Lady Ashcomb, is the current owner and lives on the estate.

It has played a roll in the history of England for over 1000 years. Can you imagine living in a castle where a queen is buried, you have your very own ruins and a large chapel too?

The castle was once home to Queen Katherine Parr, the last and surviving wife of King Henry VIII. Henry himself, Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, Queen Elizabeth I and Richard III have all played a part in Sudeley’s story. King Charles I (1600s) found refuge here during the Civil War, when his nephew Prince Rupert established headquarters at the Castle. Following its ‘slighting’ on Cromwell’s orders at the end of the Civil War, Sudeley lay neglected and derelict for nearly 200 years.

King George III was amongst those sightseers who came to admire its romantic ruins. Then in 1837 Sudeley was rescued by the wealthy Worcester glove-makers, brothers John and William Dent, who began an ambitious restoration programme which was continued by their nephew, John Coucher Dent, when he inherited the castle in 1855. His wife, Emma Brocklehurst, threw herself enthusiastically into Sudeley’s restoration, at the same time forging strong links with the nearby town of Winchcombe. It is the results of Emma’s dedication that are so evident in the gardens and exhibitions at Sudeley today. If you are interested in more history.

 

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I see a painting here!

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And on to the next town!
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We spoke to the owner – he said this wisteria is at least 180 years old.
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Red chestnut

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Loved traveling in a small group, we went on many one track roads that most tours would never have been able to go on.

While in the Cotswolds we stayed at Moreton-in-Marsh a market town granted its market charter in 1227.

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Curfew tower.
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Our hotel

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There were lots of topiary and garden decorations made from willow. I love all the plant supports made from tying twigs together. It would be fun to take a workshop on making them, if one exists in the US. They are everywhere in England.

Our last garden to visit in the Cotswolds before going on to Windsor Castle was Barnsley House… built in 1697 of Cotswold stone, is a perfect example of the English country house and garden. The acclaimed garden, with remarkable beauty, was designed by Rosemary Verey, recognized as the “Grand Dame” of Cotswold garden designers.
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I loved the way the kitchen garden was laid out, it was as beautiful as the rest of the gardens, combining vegetables and flowers. She helped Prince Charles with some of his gardens.

These snails are huge “Roman Snails”, brought by the Romans between AD 43–410 and they are protected. This one measured about 4″ long.

 

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We then visited Windsor Castle – the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world – we were scheduled to stay just across the street when that pesky wedding bumped us. People were still going nuts about the wedding which took place on Saturday and we got there on Thursday. We stood where they took their vows and right beside where the queen sat. Again no photos inside but the church is divided by a wall so most of the celebrities sat in the back on folding chairs and had to watch the wedding on a screen, so you at home had the same view as they did!!

I had been in London years ago and been to all the major attractions so this time I was interested in seeing the pubs and buildings whose outside are decorated with flowers.
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We did have a pint here!

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Our last day was visiting the Chelsea Flower Show.

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Of the sculptures my favorites were the Alice in Wonderland and Wind in the Willows. My VERY favorite was the Red Queen.

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IMG_8972I decided to walk back to the hotel, it was a couple miles through the city, I din’t realize that the commercial district around Sloane Square was having a competition – Chelsea in Bloom – so many store fronts were decorated with flowers.

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I failed to mention the last two nights in London we went to two private clubs – The Oxford-Cambridge Club, and then The National Liberal Club. Both were lovely but I bet you can guess which one didn’t have as many rules and was more laid back.

On the way back to our hotel I walked past Buckingham Palace.

And I executed my plan perfectly, as I got to Picadilly Street, exactly as I came out off of the “Long Walk” I was at the door of The Ritz.

It was quite lovely!
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A nice way to end an amazing trip.

When I got home I took my friends advice and stayed in bed all the next day and watched “The Crown”. It was a good plan!

What’s next? A couple sculpture workshops, then Michigan. Oh yes, in-between lots of artwork! I’ll post that too.

 

 

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Road Trip The Cotswolds a garden tour part 1

What a treat to join 7 others on a tour of some of the gardens and private homes of the Cotswolds. They have a charity program called the National Garden Scheme where gardens all over the country are open, with all income donated to charity.

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Generally these are private gardens and this is the only time they are open. After arriving in London we took off for the countryside. I had been in a little bit of that area about 35 years ago but had forgotten how beautiful and rural it is. Most of the area is protected from too much development and most buildings are built from Cotswold stone. It’s a honey colored limestone that gets a rich color as it is exposed to the weather.

The first garden we visited was in the town of Blockley, where Father Brown Series is filmed. In fact his church was visible from the garden – Mill Dene – as it was just down the hill from the church. This garden is built on a very steep slope and includes a waterfall and a millpond. One of the larger Cotswold villages and largely unspoilt, midway between Moreton-in-Marsh and Chipping Campden, Blockley was a main centre of the silk industry in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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IMG_8058IMG_8049Of course none of my photos do ANY of the gardens justice.

Chipping Campden is a small market town with a beautiful High Street dating from the 14th to 17th century.  A High Street is the primary business street in an English town.
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Market Hall circa 1627

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Banqueting Hall

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St James, one of the finest “Wool” churches in the Cotswolds. A wool church is one that was built in mediaeval times with money made from the wool trade.

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This was an amazing trip, sometimes visiting 3 gardens a day!

Hidcote Manor was owned by Bradenstoke Priory in Wiltshire until the Priory was disbanded by Henry VIII in around 1539. The manor house, was built in the 17th century as a farmhouse.

It is considered to be one of the masterpiece gardens in England. It was started in 1907 by Lawrence Johnston. Johnston’s garden design with themed “outdoor rooms” revolutionized garden design throughout England,.. and still influences designers today. Over the years many plants have been named after Johnston or Hidcote in recognition of his extraordinary talent and plantsmanship.

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Next was Kiftsgate Court Gardens… where three generations of women in one family created and shaped a garden to be one of the Cotswold’s most treasured. Kiftsgate gardens began in the 1920s by Heather Muir who had an organic approach, with a feminine feel, to gardening.
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We visited Blenheim Palace a grand country house built in the early 1700s. It is one of England’s largest houses. Blenheim is the birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill. The palace is the current home to The 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough.  I had been there about 35 years ago and didn’t take a lot of photos of the gardens. And we couldn’t take any inside. It was interesting that they were setting up to film a new Doctor Doolittle film.


Sezincote was the most unusual estate we visited. Built in 1805 it was enchanting!

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A pretty nice place to keep your farm equipment.

IMG_8528IMG_8524IMG_8522We were not allowed to take photos inside but here is a photo from their website. Again this photo does not do this room justice it was totally filled with light and looked out over the orangarie.

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I could have lived in this room.
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This is the view out the window.

Next post – more gardens – the Chelsea Flower Show, and a little bit of London.

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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.
last shot1
There is art on the buildings everywhere and lots of neat wind vanes….