Monday, December 03, 2012

The Expat Guide to Having Fun in Brussels & Belgium by Doug Morris

I don't usually post anything that I have not written on this blog. However, Doug Morris is a great guy who has written a great book on Belgium. And so, I am posting his press release here for your benefit.
My only remark is that he says, "Belgium is an absolutely amazing place to spend a couple of years." 
I have been in Belgium almost 9 years and still think it's amazing. So, I suggest you buy the book and plan on staying a good long time or at least plan on coming back often... all the while checking back on Belgian Trips to know what else is happening in and around Belgium. 

Belgian trips, expats, expat guides, Doug Morris, The Expat Guide to Having Fun in Brussels and Belgium

If you are living in Belgium and want to make the most of your time while there, then The Expat Guide to Having Fun in Brussels & Belgium is the ebook for you.

The Expat Guide to Having Fun in Brussels & Belgium showcases all the best events and festivals on offer each month, along with the most enjoyable activities and places to visit for kids, families and adults, ensuring that no matter when you arrive in Belgium to live, you will not miss out on any of the most interesting, distinctly local, culturally significant, or just plain fun activities. Within its pages you will find information about great markets, playgrounds, parks, kids’ play centers, amusement parks, adrenaline pumping family activities, Christmas Markets all over Europe, unique cultural destinations, farm stays, bicycling, kayaking, paintball, land sailing, rock climbing, go-karting, a multiplicity of spectator sports to enjoy, social and expat groups to join, as well as periodicals filled with tons of great weekly events and activities all over the country.

Belgium is an absolutely amazing place to spend a couple of years. Brussels is a city of vibrant and diverse neighborhoods; Antwerp is stylish, edgy and hip; Ghent and Leuven are lively university towns; and Belgium as a whole is rich in cultural heritage, natural beauty, and fascinating history. Featuring a treasure trove of enjoyable activities, The Expat Guide to Having Fun in Brussels & Belgium takes away the guesswork about what to do, when, and where. So, if you are looking to fully enjoy your sojourn in Brussels, Belgium and beyond, this book is for you.

For more information on The Expat Guide to Having Fun in Brussels & Belgium, visit

To order a copy of The Expat Guide to Having Fun in Brussels & Belgium for Kindle, Kindle Fire, Apple iPad/iPod/iPhone, and other devices visit (Devices supported by this ebook download: Kindle, Apple iPhone/iPod/iPad, Android, Sony Reader, Blackberry Devices, Palm OS PDAs, Cybook Opus, Bebook (Endless Ideas), Papyrus (Samsung), Jetbook (Ectaco), Windows Mobile OS PDAs, Windows PC/PocketPC, Mac OS, and Linux OS.)

To order a copy of The Expat Guide to Having Fun in Brussels & Belgium for Nook readers, Apple iPad/iPod/iPhone, and other devices visit (Devices supported by this ebook download: Nook, Apple iPhone/iPod/iPad, Android, Sony Reader, Blackberry Devices, Palm OS PDAs, Cybook Opus, Bebook (Endless Ideas), Papyrus (Samsung), Jetbook (Ectaco), Windows Mobile OS PDAs, Windows PC/PocketPC, Mac OS, and Linux OS.) This version does not support Kindle. See next link for Kindle version.

Due to continuing changes in the eReader market, these lists are not inclusive of all available eReaders. If your eReader is not listed above, please refer to your device documentation for compatible file types.

Author Contact Information
About the Author
The author is a professional travel writer who has lived over 20 years in 10 countries on three continents. He has had 10 books published by four different publishers, has a travel column in Primo magazine, and regularly pens articles for a variety of periodicals. For more information about his other books visit or

Mr. Morris lived in Belgium for three amazing years, two of which he was the editor of the US Embassy news weekly, the Brussels Weekly, for which he received a number of awards for quality content and design.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Casa Batlló: An Architectural Masterpiece of Antoni Gaudí

The Catalan sun of Barcelona is a welcome embrace to the rather grey sky of Bruxelles (and only an hour and 40-minute flight away). Travellers who love the water, the sea and the sand of a beach holiday, but don't feel like getting wet, should head to Avenue de Gràcias. Amongst a plethora of architectural styles, they will find Antoni Gaudí's masterpiece at Passeig de Gràcias, 43. 

Gaudí made sure that anyone walking through Casa Batlló would not feel too far from the water. His oceanic palette and fluid frameworks in wood and tile englobe the visitor into a sea-like promenade without turbulent waves but with a rippling serenity.

Upon entering, visitors notice the rounded “corners” of doorways and windows. The staircase banister holds each hand in perfect form as it leads guests to Batlló's office and sitting rooms. Light shines from what looks like turtle backs and onto the wall motif resembling scales. Where Victor Horta's Art Nouveau comes across more flowery, Gaudí looks to the sea and its creatures for inspiration.

As if underwater and looking up toward the sunlight, Gaudí's choice of glass - its color and its shape - pull in the natural light of the Barcelona sun. In the office, a small skylight allows sunlight to naturally fall into place while being reflected in the mirrors strategically placed opposite of it.

Through the next doors, windows span across the two front rooms separated only by a sliding wooden door. The ceiling droops and curves poetically with the door's framework, avoiding any straight lines. Out the windows, the Batlló family appreciated watching the comings and goings on busy Avenue de Gràcias up until the mid-1950s. To filter excess sun, Gaudí designed stained-glass along the top of the windows in the form of disks and in progressive shades of blues.

His choice of colors and shades is equally apparent down the walls from a domed skylight in the middle of the building. By using darker colored blue tiles towards the top and lighter colored tiles towards the bottom, the Barcelona sun shines through this area giving the look of all one shade.

Tiles are a prominent décor element throughout the interior of the house as well as on the facade. Some enthusiasts have even ventured to compare the exterior design to Monet's lilypads. To use tiles in the rounded areas of the house (down from the skylight, for example), Gaudí instructed his workers to break the tiles geometrically to be fitted in and around curved areas. The two tiled pillars in the dining room, for instance, demand attention before allowing guests onto the back terrace. The Barcelona sun is again center stage as it shines onto the tiled terrace and off the tiled wall at the back of the garden.

Up the final staircase from the attic, visitors marvel again at the tiles (600, according to the official website) Gaudí used to ornate the roof. Compared to a colorful dragon's back, it invites adults and children to enjoy the magic of Gaudí's creativity.

But, Gaudí was not only an esthetic genius. His ingenuity upheld Art Nouveau's marriage of form and function. As mentioned earlier, he took advantage of the abundance of natural light Barcelona offers. Yet, the city is also known for its heat. To assure proper air flow throughout the building, Gaudí designed discreet air shafts, most notable in the attic. This storage floor was also used as a laundry for residents. Along the walls are upward-facing shafts (possibly the only straight lines to be found) that lead lower into the structure. From the roof, visitors have an even better view of the air flow possibilities by looking down, around the skylight windows. Another example is in the design of the interior windows, best seen in the sewing room. A wooden frame supports the window panes that let in light. Yet, on the bottom half of this frame, slats can be adjusted according to the desired air flow. Like a sea creature, the Casa Batlló possesses air passages, gills if you will, allowing the house to live.
Being the Gaudí's masterpiece it is, only volumes of architectural analyses could do the Casa Batlló proper justice. A visit to Barcelona would be lacking without a stroll up Avenue de Gràcias. If visitors haven't bought an e-ticket to skip past an understandably long line, passers-by still have the best view of the facade from across the avenue. Casa Batlló conveys the beauty and functionality of Art Nouveau while showcasing its unique Catalan influence.

For more information on visiting Casa Batlló, please see its website.

Related posts:
Victor Horta and His Art Nouveau
At the Home of Victor Horta
La Maison Autrique, chez un ami

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Le Revard: a Family Ski Holiday in the French Alps

Although we may already be longing for spring, it is finally snowing in Belgium. Ski dreams dance again in my head...not necessarily the sport but rather the ski holiday or sports d'hiver. Although I am more inclined to snowshoeing, my husband and daughters are the ski fanatics. A couple months after my youngest daughter turned three, she was already descending an Alpine slope, closer really to the classic “bunny hill” grade...but still!
At least once a year, we head to Savoie and stay in the small village of Méry located between Chambery and Aix-les-Bains, France. Just a half-hour drive up the mountain behind us, we arrive at a very family-friendly resort called Le Revard. Although this resort provides anything you may need for a relaxed, fun-filled holiday, close by are also La Clusaz and La Feclaz ski stations.

If you or your little ones are new to skiing or need a refresher course, private and group lessons are taught by the Ecole de Ski Française. At the end of the week, skiers take a skill test to earn their next star to advance levels. The smallest of skiers begin by earning their piou piou, ourson and flocon pins. Conveniently, skiers have all the material ready to rent at the shop overlooking the beginner hill. If you've forgotten your hat, you can buy that too. The people in the shop are incredibly friendly and often have a piece of candy for the children, whom they get to know throughout the week (or years).

Within snowy steps of each other, a hill specifically for sledging, paths for hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country ski circuits abound. What's more, which I absolutely want to try next time, is dog-sledding! As I was trekking in my snowshoes last December, I heard a pack of dogs coming up and around the path in front of me, I quickly (as quickly as one can in snowshoes) steered myself behind a tree. Much relief came when the dogs ran past with no concern for me at all. In fact, a group of about five people and their dog teams were following a guide. I chatted with one woman, as the man in front had trouble getting his dogs going, who said it was actually quite easy and fun. Dogs sledding is yet another way to breath in the magnificent white scenery.

Travelers can find the dogs at the chalet just before turning towards the parking lot of Le Revard, on your left. For specific information, consult the station's tourism office. Once parked, one only has to turn around 360º to situate the first aid station, tourism office, shops, cafés and restaurants... and on a clear day, Le Mont Blanc! For an even more panoramic view, turn right out of the lot and continue to the terrase of Les 4 Vallées. On a sunny winter day, tourists and locals marvel for the first or even the énième time at the vast beauty this regions offers.

Lodging at any one of the possibilities at Le Revard will be comfortable and convenient. One advantage of staying closer to town is, well, you're closer to town. Both Chambery and Aix-les-Bains offer a variety of cultural outings, shopping and star-worthy restaurants. As for Aix-les-Bains being Aix-les-Bains, it is the place to pamper any body or soul after days of cold, winter sports..or as the destination itself. At the thermes, book a treatment or simply spend the day between the pools (in and outdoor), hammam, sauna, exercise room, café, or just lounging with a good read.

Between the various winter sports, leisure activities and dining possibilities, a winter holiday in Savoie has never disappointed us. As a family, we have a great time all together in the snow...and it doesn't hurt mummy (or daddy!) to recharge at the spa before another rentrée.