Bed, Breakfast & Brussels

Our direct flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam on April 12th, 2004, lasted about eight hours, and then our drive from Amsterdam south to the village of Falaen, Belgium, took another three hours.  We were very tired and glad to arrive in a tranquil country setting.

When we got out of the car, these two white geese, and their reflections in the pond, were our first Belgian greeters.  They looked just like Americans.

As you can see, our second species of Belgian greeters were the four-legged variety.  That's our bed and breakfast in the background where we stayed three days and three nights.  We learned that in the 1800's the large home was a boarding house for girls.

Allan had arranged for our interesting stay here via the iternet.  We managed to get our heavy luggage up those steep steps that were totally open to the cobblestone drive below.

Today the stark but grand place is the home of Peter and Jessica and their little girl Lenka.  This young family taught us much about the country and the people because they could speak English.

Our huge room was upstairs in the castle-like building, and all of the amenities were very modern, as you can see.  But did you ever before see a square toilet?  It matches the square sink.

Across the street from "our house" was this large working barn and farm where it was fun to explore.

We determined the walls and moat were for protection back in the days of barbarians.  Jessica told us that there was a makeshift bar on the second level but it's only open when the locals stop by for a Belgian beer.

The barn dates to 1670 but the machinery is pretty modern.

One of the first things we did is go for a walk in the village.  Narrow cobblestone streets butt up to the front doors or homes.  Nobody could speak a word of English.  They only spoke French.

The small attractive church was getting a new paint job.  Its priest travels to say Mass from one village to the next.

We saw no strip malls in all of Belgium, but we found places like this that served beer and lunches to passersby, most of them on bicycles.  The menu was in French and so were the people, but we managed to order cold cuts and cheese with our wine.

Dinant was the largest nearby city, and we climbed some distance to get this beautiful view.  We also spent a lot of time at its restaurants and walking along the Meuse River.  We liked Dinant.

At a place called Leon's, one of the many restaurants in Dinant (and recommended by Jessica), we enjoyed a pot of mussels served with bacon and mushrooms in a sauce of cream and white wine. 

Allan wondered just how this one-lane pass was constructed through the downtown mountain.

It seemed that all the restaurants in Dinant, on the right, had extra seating capacity in outdoor/sidewalk cafes across the street, along the river.  On this warm day in April many people were eating outdoors and the river boats were starting to cruise.

The Catholic Church in Dinant had the largest stained glass windows that we've seen since the Sainte Chapelle in Paris a few years ago.  If you can find me in the picture, you'll get perspective.

Back at the farm, at our bed and breakfast, Allan said, "Take a picture of that duck with the blue bill."

Just a stone's throw away from our bed and breakfast (in the village of Falen) was another large home, owned by Sarah, a friend of Jessica, who featured fine French cuisine on certain nights of the week.  Allan ordered the salmon and I, a white fish.  Delicious.  This is where we encountered albino asparagus; it doesn't turn green because it's grown without sunlight.

After three days of relaxation in the country, we packed up to leave for other Dutch treats.

We hugged Jessica goodbye, but we didn't get especially close to the ducks.

The former boarding school was a pleasant and gracious home for us.  We noticed that so many places had been built to honor the Blessed Virgin.  Notice her prominent, built-in location, above the front door, just beyond the iron gate.

Brussels was a big deal for us, and especially for Allan who had to navigate the streets like a driver who knew where he was going.  Maneuvering the maze reminded us of driving in Versailles, just outside of Paris.

We made a point of stepping inside the Cathedral in Brussels, which is named the Church of St. Michael and Gudula.  Construction on the gigantic masterpiece began in the 13th century and took 300 years to complete.  It is pretty amazing.

Elaborate side altars exhibited stark contrast behind the white stone and dark woodwork.

After we finally found a place to park, we headed on foot for the Grand Plaza, encountering scenery along the way that was reminiscent of architecture in Brugge.

As we approached the Grand Plaza, the first building we encountered was the Brussels City Hall.  Allan is always enamored by City Halls since it's where he spends a lot of time on the job in Wayzata.

Somebody spent a lot of time carving a lot of people all around the perimeter of Brussels City Hall.

See Allan standing in the center of the Grand Plaza?  He is admiring what is today called the Music Museum.  The building has had many uses over time, at one point a storehouse for a Bakery Guild.

When you turn around in the plaza, you see me in front of this wall which is composed of five different buildings, each with its own architecture. 

And if you turn around again in the Plaza, you get more of the same until all four sides of the huge place have been photographed.

We followed one of the side streets off the Grand Plaza to a seemingly insignificant street corner where everybody, especially Japanese, were taking pictures.  We took a closer look ourselves.  That's Allan in the light denim next to all the Japanese. 

What was everybody looking at, anyway?

'Twas just a wee little boy doing a wee little thing.  He's called the Manneken Pis.  A legend says that a rich bourgeois had lost his only son in the crowd during popular festivities.  After five days, he found him at the corners of the Etuve Street doing what the little man is still doing.  It was in 1619 that the statute was commissioned.  Click here for the next chapter of Dutch Treat.

NOT the End

Love, Sue

Email:  Sue@PrintsPublishing.com

HomePage:  www.PrintsPublishing.com