Brussels with its wonderful bakeries and whole host of beers.
On this years Easter weekend we visited Brussels staying next to Place Jourdan next to Parc Leopold and the European district .
Place Jourdan is famous for its cafes, bars and restaurants, for Maison Antoine, the frituur in the centre of the square and its Sunday market. This Spring, the square is under construction and currently undergoing a transformation so that cars park below the square and there is more space for pedestrians and tables from the cafes across the square – Maison Antoine has already moved to a new building on the square. Here you can buy frites and eat them in many of the surrounding bars and cafes. On Sundays there is a market and while the square is being renovated the stalls are setup along the streets which run from Place Jourdan – they sell everything from organic honey to flowers, oysters and champagne to many varieties of mushrooms. We went to the bakery Au Vatel for breakfast – with its fabulous croissants, pastries and superb cakes.
On the Friday evening we were passing the Cultural Centre in pedestrian part of Chausee de Wavre and saw that Lakha Khan, a sitar player from Rajasthan, was playing that night so we picked up some tickets – from outside the cultural centre looks like a building from the eighties but inside it’s a beautiful hall from perhaps the late 19th/
early 20th century with its art nouveau ceiling glass.
Round the corner from Place Jourdan in Rue Froissart is a wonderful second hand book store – Bouquinerie Thomas – full of bookshelves – a ceiling to floor collection of
books catalogued and ordered in categories from travel books to autobiographies and from English language books to magazines and photographic picture books.
Its an amazing place and somewhere you could spend many hours looking around. We came away with a few.
On Saturday, the rain held off and we joined a Marching walk in Roosdaal in Pajottenland. The mud filled walk looped round Roosdaal, past a dyke with WWII bunkers and along the Dender river.
On Easter Sunday the rain returned and we walked up to the Parc de Cinquantenaire with the impressive triumphal arch but it also has an amazing army museum next to it.
The museum has an impressive collections of exhibits ranging from the Belgian revolution to uniforms and through to firearms manufactured in Belgium – and there is a hangar with a vast array of aeroplanes and helicopters.
There are also a number of small exhibitions, one of which is Treasures of the Russian Empire – smuggled out of Russia by Imperialists and were donated firstly to an archive in Corbevoie in a suburb of Paris and then transported to this museum in Brussels
Where to go walking when in Belgium? There are a large number of walking clubs and there is a website (walkinginbelgium.be) that lists all the events in each area from each club throughout the year. Generally at the weekend or on holidays there are a number of walks not too far away from any part of the country. You can simply turn up and pay a few euros (unless you are a club member) to take part, choose the distance and off you go. The routes and distances are well sign posted and there are usually a couple of places to stop for refreshments (sandwiches, beers etc)
and getting your card stamped (Controls).
While in Brussels, we joined the Pajottenland Hekelgem – an 18km walk round the area of Affligem on a sunshine and shower day – with rolling countryside, woods and wheat fields – a short drive away from the capital. Lovely!
Its the May bank holiday weekend so its a trip to the North East and Newcastle with its grand classical buildings – from Central Station to Grey Street and from Pilgrim Street to the Tyne – and its location not far from the Northumbrian coast and countryside.
A City whose wealth grew from the black gold of the coal trade and with the trades which grew around this – a wander round the centre and the streets leading down to the Quayside where there is still evidence of the mining past
Fantastic weather and we took the train to Hexham with its beautiful Abbey and the rolling hills of the surrounding countryside with hedgerows in bloom and buttercup fields.
We took the train to Morpeth, north of Newcastle, and followed a walking trail to Bothal and back to Morpeth along the Wansbeck – a walk that took us through over 2km of pretty riverside woods in the deep river valley.
In May the snow is melting in Switzerland and we should be heading off to those Alpine meadows – we had that on Saturday morning with a wander down to Zug Altstadt with a view towards the Rigi mountain and the Zugersee – but that early summer sun came to nothing and it was a day for the cinema.
Not to be outdone by the rain and low clouds we went for a walk in through the damp and misty woods by Gottschalkenberg above Oberägeri – the woodmen had been busy arranging the newly chopped tree trunks in geometrical piles. Meeting the few other walkers along the way it is the custom to greet each other in Swiss German “Gruezi mitenand” / or do they think I’m Ferdinand….?
A misty walk
Symmetrical wood piles
With views to Zurich See and the Au Peninsula below – let’s do this on a fine day
And more geometry to be seen in a walk around Baar in the Swiss houses
And we returned for a few days to an unusually hot Buenos Aires before leaving for home.
While the UK and Europe were in the middle of Storm Doris, Buenos Aires was experiencing extreme weather – hot and humid with torrential rain in the late afternoon. The rain caused streams to form in the streets with every news channel report on the TV reported on these torrents in Buenos Aires and the struggling traffic – in Avenido 9 de Julio in the centre lagoons had formed and the cars and mopeds floundered around. We got drenched when we made a 5 minute dash round the corner to our bright and spacious Airbnb apartment in leafy Belgrano.
We had visited the immigration museum in Puerto Madero and on our way back across the small park area in front of Retiro Station, Arne felt something on his back and two girls came up to us and said that we had birdshit on our backs and started daubing us with water and tissues. Well we realised that it was distraction and we hung onto our bags and kept turning around while the girls tried to ‘help’ us to clean the ‘birdshit’ on our tee shirts. Extraordinary birds that got both of us on our backs (and my ‘hit’ was even in the shape of a zorro sign!) and not our heads. We then both spotted a guy not far away and at that point the girls disappeared. My t shirt was ruined as it was some kind of dark liquid which I couldn’t get off. I later googled ‘birdshit scam Buenos Aires’ and it is a regular type of scam around BA and in front of Retiro Station – they usually try this distraction try to get the day packs that people are carrying. I keep a small amount of cash in my bag and my cards are kept in my old running belt which is unobtrusive and well under my clothes.
This week it was extraordinarily hot in Buenos Aires – 37 degrees and humid. We had a couple of sticky journeys on the Subte and hot treks across the city so since there were a few cinemas in Belgrano so decided to retreat to the comfort of the air-conditioned cinema on a couple of afternoons – Friday is the cheap day in the multiplex in Belgrano ARS60 (£3) – and the films are sub-titled and not dubbed into Spanish. Mind you, the first part of ‘Lion’ when its set in India is in Hindi and Bengali………..
Colonia del Sacremento is in South West Uruguay – and we had planned that we could travel from Tilcara to Colonia in one day. It was a bit of a tight schedule as our flight from Salta to Buenos Aires was changed to leave a couple of hours later than when we originally booked.
Driving back to Salta from Tilcara we took the faster roads from Jujuy and so avoiding any jungle roads. In principal we had more time on our hands but perhaps we lost that when we arrived in Salta from a different direction……
The flight was delayed slightly – weather conditions (which made the flight marvellously bumpy!) – so when we got to Buenos Aires we caught the Colonia Express . There were a few choices of quite fast ferries across the River Plata to Colonia so we picked one based on our arrival time in Buenos Aires. All were about a 30 minute taxi drive away. It was a bit chaotic buying the ticket but we caught a ferry and got to Colonia in the early evening.
The old town is a world heritage site and we stayed in a delightful airbnb right in the historic centre with cobbled streets, pretty old buildings and old cars