Park-hopping, Brussels and Paris

Park-hopping, Brussels and Paris

September 2014

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy

From Washington Dulles to Brussels, then on to Paris, we’ve been traveling by car, jet, bus and train since Thursday. We took a few morning hours in Brussels to stroll through a favorite park,

Petite Sablon,

and then through the Grand Place, counting the chocolatiers,

admiring a sky as brilliantly blue as in Aix.

In around 80 minutes we’ve sped through Belgium and northern France, and find a cute café. complete with quintessential Paris reflections across the way, to sit and wait for Stephen and Joy to arrive.

What fun it’s been to see these long-time friends so often in the last couple of months. They stayed with us in Virginia, then we connected again in Provence a few weeks ago, and now we’re staying with them in Paris.  We love their new St. Germaine area apartment – with another typical Paris view from our window.

Are we too tired for an aperitif in the gardens? Not at all – what a wonderful idea! So with a basketful of goodies,

we walk through Luxembourg Gardens,

spread out our nibbles and sips on a bench-with-a-view,

and chat and relax

until the whistle-blowing guards move everyone out for the night.  Paris, you’re as lovely as ever!

It Started in (Brussels) Venice

It Started in (Brussels) Venice

Sunday, May 26, 2014
Venice, Italy
 Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour on the Amalfi Coast, in Provence, or in Amsterdam/Belgium
Where have we been? Keeping so busy with a wonderful Venice/Veneto tour, then a week of working on our newest tour in France that we haven’t had a minute to blog!

First stop, Brussels, with enough hours in a layover on our way to Venice to go into the city. A quick 20 minute train ride, and we’re walking to the Grand Place, filled with colorful blooms of the Sunday flower mart.
A stroll down cobbled streets, taking in the scents, sights and sounds and a quick walkthrough the weekend antiques mart in the Sablon district, then back to the airport.

Next stop, Venice – where the streets are not cobbles but water,

and our city bus floats down the Grand Canal, past palazzos shedding centuries of skin, doors fading into the water,

We drop our bags at a little Cannareggio hotel (we’re saving the best hotel til our guests arrive!)
Once more we’re convinced that Venice is alive and well, as children whiz by on their scooters on a rare campo big enough to play, locals gather to listen to a young speaker preach on marriage and family, then join hands and sing and dance in a circle.

Over one bridge then another, past a traffic jam,

to a new choice for an alfresco dinner, then goodnight Venice

and early to bed.

Brussels in Bloom

Brussels in Bloom

Brussels, Belgium
Friday, August 17, 2012

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Why not join us in Bath, in November, for the Mozartfest?

A lush carpet of flowers blankets Brussels Grand Place for only 5 summer days every other year, and we’ve planned our flights to France to include a long layover in this capital city so that we can see the spectacle for ourselves. This is a last minute taking-care-of-business trip to our properties in France – we got the tickets shortly after getting home from France last week. Kirk’s is a mileage “deal” and he’s in business class, just a few rows ahead of me, comfortable in United’s Economy Plus. A few hours sleep on the flight, and we’re ready to roll in Brussels.
It’s an easy commute into town from the train station beneath the airport – about fifteen minutes (and 15 euros round trip) to Brussels Central Station – and from there, we’re just steps from the Grand Place, Brussels centerpiece, described by Victor Hugo as the most beautiful square in Europe – high praise from a Frenchman! We think this sign says Victor Hugo slept here. We enter the square across from the Hôtel de Ville, the town hall, from where we’ll be able to view the carpet from above, on the balcony.

We enter through the courtyard,

and ascend the anthurium adorned stairs. A plus to the 5€ entry fee to the balcony is the opportunity to see the interior of this glorious Gothic building.  We find out after snapping this shot that no photos are allowed inside. Too bad – we’d love you to see these magnificent rooms, hung with priceless tapestries. We’ve often seen wedding parties in the square outside, on past trips, and now can view the gorgeous  Salle de Marriage where the ceremonies take place.

It’s about 9:30 in the morning, and we’re glad for the pre-crowd space to take our time and appreciate the carpet below from all angles.

The majority of the blooms are begonias, and they’re placed right on the cobbled square – that’s why this carpet lasts only 5 days. There are also paths of gravel, patches of grass, and designs of chrysanthemums.

The theme is Africa, and the composition is squares of different patterns inspired by the continent.

It’s a treat to get an up- close view of the sculptures on this façade. Below the saints are smaller figures, called misericords in carved choirs that we’ve seen – not sure if they’re called the same on a façade. A sweet caress on this one,

and a loving kiss on this infant’s head – delightful!

Down below, we walk around the square to see all of the designs,

and then stroll up to the Sablon area, where we’ve often shopped the weekend antique stalls, and have a bite to eat at one of the original Pain Quotidiens.

Our most recent trip here was with the Flanders Tourist Office, as they showed off some Flemish jewels, such as Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges and Brussels. Today we have time to meander, past vintage shop signs painted on a wall,

through the lovely Galeries de la Reine, one of Europe’s first shopping arcades, where Neuhaus invented the praline (filled chocolate) in the early 1900s.

We can smell that luscious chocolate while we window shop – a summer purse, anyone?
We do our shopping elsewhere, as I discover that there’s a Brussels branch of my favorite Amsterdam designer, Cora Kemperman. Good news and bad news for Kirk. The bad news first… we’re spending euros. The good news?  He won’t have to shop for my birthday next month!