Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Markets - 4

Still on my list of Christmas markets to explore are those in the French region of Alsace, about 5 hours away from Brussels. Some of the big ones are in Colmar and Strasbourg. But the smaller ones in Kaysersberg, Riquewihr and Ribeauville are also listed as worthy of a trip. Click on this link for a map of the recommended ones.

Some other links:

Article in the Times Online, “For Christmas markets with French flair, try Alsace”.

Christmas time in Alsace


France Mar article on the Alsace markets

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Markets - 3


For a trip to a German Christmas market you have a choice between Aachen or Monschau in the Eifel hills. With half timbered houses, cobblestone streets, brass bands I personally think Monschau, although smaller, is the place to go.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Christmas Markets - 2

Now if you are already tired of the usual Christmas market, try this Dutch market in Valkenburg near Maastricht for a change. It is an underground Christmas market in a cave system that the Romans mined out. The caves are beautifully lit, this year’s theme is Dicken’s  A Christmas Carol. Arrive early this market obviously gets busy. Two section of the quarries now have a market, the Gemeentegrot and the Fluweelengrot.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas Markets - 1

In close reach to Brussels you are blessed, or cursed depending on your disposition, by the availability of many Christmas markets. The most obvious is Brussel’s own “Plaisirs d’hiver”. Children pleasing activities such as ice skating, the most surreal merry-go-rounds you have ever seen (what about a rocket that shoots through the roof of the merry-go-round to scare your toddler…), a 40 meter ice monster, and of course your usual adult warming offerings such as hot spiced wine.


Do not forget to see the light show on the Grand Place put on by Electrabel, from 4:30 to 10PM. On Saturday nights a juggling troop starts at 8PM and until 11PM a guest DJ stirs things up.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Northern French Coast

IMG_7296_edited-2 Mers-Les-Bains

In 2 to 3 hours from Brussels you can reach some varied coast line in France. One of the advantages is to avoid the traffic that often plagues any drive back and forth to the Belgian Coast. The other is to see for yourself some of the images you have etched in your mind: the changing houses, the Art Nouveau houses, the chalk cliffs and towers of seafood.

IMG_7326_edited-1 Le Treport

From October ports such as Le Treport start landing scallops. Delicious sautéed with garlic in 3-4 minutes in a hot pan.


For bird lovers the Baie de la Somme is the site of a well known parc, the parc du Marquenterre. So with its mix of cliffs, pebble beaches, sand beaches and mud flats this area offers a good mix of scenery for the hikes to come before of after the seafood feasts!


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bouillon - Ardennes

With summer seeming to drag out it is still time to get out to the Ardennes. Bouillon is a good base with a nice fort and plenty of walks to choose from. From Bouillon you can drive to Botassart and its famous vista on the Semois river. This view is called “Tomb of the Giant” as the wooded hill trapped in the river bend resembles a giant tomb. A further drive takes you to Rochehaut with a nice view on the small village of Frahan encircled by another river bend.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Van Buuren Museum & Garden


Although this photo was taken during the summer of 2006 it gives you a good idea of how beautiful this garden is and of how it offers a great setting for leading sculpture exhibits. From 20.5 to 18.10.2009 the garden is putting on a display of Pol Bury fountains. These are fascinating moving stainless steel sculptures.

The garden themselves are built around the Art Deco house. The secret heart garden, the classic labyrinth as well as the Art Deco rose garden fit neatly in a very small space.

Museum web site

Where to find the garden:

41 Avenue Leo Errera, 1180 Brussels

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Antwerp – Wijk Zurenborg

IMG_5720 Talk about mind blowing architecture! Just type Cogels Osylei in your GPS and go to Antwerp to get your fill of neo, eclectique and Art Nouveau buildings from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. I do not know where to start: the contrast between the styles, the palaces, the kitsch and the subtle, the industrial and the organic… Don’t miss the group of “seasonal” houses or the group of “Time” houses.


IMG_5681 When you are tired of architecture and of breaking your neck peering towards the sky, head toward the Dageraadplaats for a nice mix of restaurants, wine bars and all. The public square ensures a nice little show for discussion over some Cava for example!



Some Links:

A view on Cities: Antwerp

Trabel: The Zurenborg District

Antwerp Tourist Guide: Zurenborg

And finally Wikipedia.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ohio and Natural Dyes

Just back from Ohio where we enjoyed plenty of varied activities. One of the fun afternoons was spent with daughters and cousins at Hale Farm, a living history museum of the early 19th century farm. Watching the candle making, wool spinning and brick making was fascinating for children and adults. My favorite color was actually the one resulting from onion skins.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

And of course the Cannes Film Festival...

Being around Cannes in May also means you can get rid of your crave for star gazing forever. Walking along the Croisette or watching the red carpet ceremony will undoubtedly lead to a rich catch. For us Fanny Ardant of Francois Truffaut fame ("The Woman Next Door", 1981) and Sharon Stone, ever so the Queen of Cannes with her fund raising gala for amFAR, the foundation for AIDS research. Even if you do not understand the star thing, the atmosphere in Cannes during these 10 days is fabulous.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Roses in May

I will continue my French Riviera posts with a recommendation that you go to Grasse during the month of May. This town is still very involved in the global perfume industry. During the month of May they have a rose festival and the roses in the gardens are at their best all over the riviera. There is a nice perfume museum and you can visit a few of the producers such as Fragonard, Galimard, Molinard and Guy Bouchara for example. But more importantly just take in the nice narrow streets of Grasse, enjoy a coffee here, a glass of Rose wine there,...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Around Brussels in 80 Beers

Was waiting for my turn for bread and croissants at the local bakery when I read about this new book release: a book by an American expat and a local about where to go to drink real craft Belgian beers in Brussels.

Around Brussels in 80 Beers by Joe Stange & Yvan de Baets.

Villa Rothschild

While you are near Saint Jean Cap Ferrat you just as well head to this beautiful villa with its themed gardens (Japanese, Spanish, desert, rose,...). Beautiful views... When you are done, take the car across the road down to the beach Passable for a quick dip and a sandwich.
Article on the riviera.


With a quick flight to Nice from Brussels (or an 11 hour drive broken up somewhere between Dijon and Chalon) you can end up in this medieval village perched up above St Jean Cap Ferrat in the distance. The view from the exotic garden is well worth the entrance fee. And a little article from the British Telegraph to illustrate the point.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Modave Castle

Belgium is overflowing with castles. Here is one not too far from Namur and Liege. They put on a beautiful Christmas display.


And for the adults on their way to Disney Paris you can stop at the horse museum in Chantilly. In reality kids love it too!

“Chevaux en fête”: one hour of equestrian representation
Every day except on Tuesday and days of show, at 2:30 p.m.

Disney Paris

Ok, so if you have young children, expect the week-end to be gorgeous and have figured out the pricing tricks of the Disney marketers, head out to Disney Paris!