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Belgium by Barge

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S: Belgium by Barge 2011

FC: Belgium by Barge September 13-25, 2011

1: In September of 2011 Barb and her friends Barb Kinney, Betty Cahlander, Phyllis Umolac, Karen Hansen, and Jo Lehnen went to Belgium on a Road Scholar tour. After spending two days in Brussels on our own, we met up with our guide Jean Louise and 18 fellow travelers. "I remember the first thing that happed was Barb and Jo being crowned as Princesses because they didn't have to handle their own luggage at the airport in Minneapolis." ~~ Phyllis Our real adventure began in Newark where we boarded our plane for our 7 1/2 hour flight to Brussels. "We knew we were getting close to the end of our l-o-n-g plane ride when Barb and I saw the beautiful red sunrise and the millions of lights that we assumed was London." ~~ Phyllis

2: We arrived in Brussels at 7:15 am and caught a taxi to the Hotel Bedford. We immediately set off to explore Brussels and find somewhere to have breakfast. "How long it took us to find a place to have breakfast our 1st day in Brussels. Thanks to Karen for asking someone for help so we didn't have to eat at McDonalds! " ~~ Phyllis Manneken Pis -- (literally Little Man Pee), is a famous Brussels landmark. It is a small bronze fountain sculpture depicting a naked little boy urinating into the fountain's basin. He pops up in every souvenir shop in every form...including chocolate. | Brussels

3: Breakfast was oeufs and pain -- eggs and bread -- with lots of jam.

4: Grand Place

6: A ride on a double decker bus took us on a tour of the city. Among the sites were the European Union headquarters, King Albert's palace, the Atomium and Triumph Arch.

7: Every beer has a special glass | Belgium Waffles | The Bourse

8: We had mussels and frites at Chez Leon on the rue des Bouchers | We had mussels in Brussels and all kinds of beer. Musicians and beggars approached us too near. Everyone wanted a part of our purse, One woman even put on us a curse! ~~Karen

9: The accordion player at the restaurant on the "butcher street" We were so delighted with his playing only to be admonished by the waiter that the man's friends were waiting to steal our money. ~~Barb K | One of my favorite memories was searching for the restaurant to have mussels, frites and beer. Never dreamed I would want that stuff. Well we all loved it; all but Phyllis. ~~ Betty

10: I remember my very good friends helping me find The Mall so I could get Dalton a soccer jersey. And on the way to the mall we stopped at this book store and Karen got all kinds of goodies for Dummies, which she gave to us. ~~Jo

11: "BK warning me that without our hair covered we might be attracting too many Muslim fellows." ~~ Karen | The Greek fans that were in town for the soccer game. But we never found out who won that game. Greece must have lost. We didn't hear any more drumming, cheering or chanting." ~~ Phyllis | After searching for a place to eat a late lunch, we learned that restaurants are closed between lunch and 6 pm. "There was the deli where 2 elderly ladies translated for us and most of us ordered the "American" sandwich. Ugh" ~~Phyllis

12: We met up with our guide Jean Louise and the other 18 members of the tour at the Brussels airport. We boarded a coach for a ride to the medieval city of Bruges where we checked in to the Hotel Aragon. | Bruges

13: "I wanted to take the boat ride through the canals of Bruges because of the wonderful video in the movie In Bruges Betty volunteered to go with me. Too many people and too many boats made the experience a little less than I'd imagined, but it was still wonderful." ~~ Barb | Jo and Barb K wave goodbye

14: Brugge gave us a taste for waffles and art, Museums and lectures were such a great start. ~~ Karen | A local guide took us on a tour of St John's Hospital Museum where we saw paintings by artist Hans Memling. We saw a beautiful bridge, almshouses for the poor and the beer wall on a walking tour of the city.

16: Jean Louis was our clock-watching guide

19: Bruges at night

20: We met up with our barge Quo Vadis in Bruges. Tiny cabins, tiny bathroom, and a "luxurious" closet that was two hooks behind the door.

22: We relaxed on deck and waved at the locals as we barged to Ghent. At our first moor in Oostkamp, we walked ashore and visited the site of a battle between Canadian forces and the German army in WWII. There is a monument made of German tanks and a plaque to mark the event. While going through a lock we spotted something floating in the water. A dead eel! Don't tell Alf or he'll cook it for dinner. The tide was out when we reached St Amands and the fishing boat sat high and dry.

23: Barging

24: Oudenaarde | We had a sidetrip to the Flemish town of Oudenaarde, known for its magnificent wall tapestry. We visited the Gothic town hall and saw some beautiful silver and artifacts. An unexpected treat was seeing the huge Belgium horses that were part of a town celebration.

25: Ghent by night | "I remember the wonderful evening walk in Ghent to see the city awash in lights." Barb K

26: Ghent | In Ghent we started the day with a visit to the St Bavo cathedral where we saw van Eyck's The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb Later we went on a walking tour of the medieval central of Ghent. It is as beautiful as Bruges and a lot less crowded. | Guild houses were built narrow, tall and deep because taxes were based on the width of the facade. | The Flute house, where the British stayed during the signing of the Treaty of Ghent

27: After lunch and some exploration on our own, we found chocolate shops and postcards. But the linen shop we spied the night before was closed up tight. | Mad Meg | Belgians of all ages rode their bicycles.

28: Castle Laarne | We had a guided tour of the castle in Laarne. Surrounded by water, it was built in the 12th century. Thirty 'witches' were burned at the stake at the castle. | Susan made sketches of the castle in her journal. Later she colored them with watercolors.

29: Sint-Amands | We moored at Sint-Amands for the night. The poet Emile Verhaeren's tomb overlooks the river Scheldt

30: A Beer Tasting | Cap't Randy shows the the whirlwind in the Duvel | Alf gives us a lesson on Belgium beer

31: "I could get used to this." | Gary and Cap't Randy astound us with their musical talent. "Can you play this one?" "I'll see if it's in C." The rest of us sang along with gusto!

32: The Food | Bitteballs | "Remember Alf. Each evening he would announce dinner, 'Ladies and Gentleman, for tonight I make for you...' and then proceed to tell us what he was serving. I think we all fell in love with him." ~~Phyllis | Alf cooking up another spectacular meal for us in his tiny kitchen.

33: "Our handsome chef gave the menu most evenings and always ended by saying a hearty and quick ENJOY". ~~Karen | Breakfast buffet

34: We docked at Willendok where a Sea Shepherd anti-whaling ship was our neighbor. | Antwerp | We barged to Antwerp, going through locks and seeing the busy river traffic as we got closer to the port. "The captain went full speed ahead so we could get through the locks early in the day instead of evening or next morning. And how happy he was that he made it so we could spend more time in the city. " ~~Jo

35: We walked on cobblestone streets to the market square to view the Renaissance-style town hall. We went into the Cathedral of our Lady, the largest Gothic cathedral in Belgium and home to several Rubens works .

36: In the Red Light District Leaning out a window high, appeared a bored and portly guy....showing his 'wares'. Millstone Collar Meet at 2:00 by the Rubens Statue "We are complete?" "Now we are so complete." Winding stairs to the WC "Our short time in the diamond district after a very long, fast walking trip there." ~~Barb K

37: Antwerp was full of old buildings and lace. Castles and cobblestones all over the place. History and statues, good food and good drink. Information overload we're beginning to think ~~Karen | Art was our focus in Antwerp as we visited the Rockox House Museum, the Rubens House museum and the Museum Mayer van den Bergh. We learned about Rubens, Bruegel, Bosch, and more.

38: Willebroek | Walter, a local friend of Jean Louise, conducted a beer tasting for us at his pub. The charge? 6 euros The dog just slept through it all. | Walter's pub | Walter gave us a lesson on Belgium beer

39: A foggy morning on the canal. | We walked into the small town of Willebroek where some of us bought genuine Belgium linen table runners.

40: One night some of us stayed up later than usual. I believe Barb was drinking some expensive Scotch that she would buy 2 euros worth at a time. ~~ Jo | Beer

41: Chocolate

42: Breendock | A former concentration camp, this imposing fortress housed 3500 prisoners during WWII and is one of the best preserved camps in Europe. | A sobering experience

43: Bunks meant to sleep 1 man per bed, held 6 men per bed. | Arriving prisoners were forced to stand for hours facing the wall. | Communal toilets

44: Lier | We continue on to the pretty town of Lier for lunch and a city tour. We visited the city hall and a beautiful beguinage, a row small houses. Beguines were members of ascetic or philanthropic communities of women. The town square was under construction and they were taking advantage by doing an archaeological dig. We were surprised to see many surfaces covered with crochet work. Bikes, banisters and sheep legs included.

45: Zimmer Tower Clock Wonder Clock St Margarita Kirk

46: Brussels - Redux | We joined our Barge in Brussels for our last night on the water. Imagine our dismay when we had to walk that steep gangplank. The Captain's dinner ended with Baked Alaska. Goodbye to Wladi, Cap't Randy and Alf | Contrails decorated the sky at sunrise over the canal in Brussels.

47: The Museum of Fine Arts was our last museum and our last museum gift shop. Then it was off to explore more of Brussels. It was a festival day and the city was full of people and parades. | Barb and Barb K try the frites and mayo...another Belgian treat.

48: Our Fellow Travelers | Bob & Mary Tonti Milwaukee, WI Mary was super friendly and Bob was super helpful. | Gary & Bebe Fallick Lexington, MA An interesting, fun couple. Gary whipped out his harmonica whenever possible. | Pamela Wardwell Kingston, NY Pam had just written her first book. We all ordered it when we got home. | John & Ann Joyner San Antonio, TX John worked in India. | Cheryl Carter Florida Cheryl took lots and lots of pictures. | John & Susan Shenk Portland, OR Susan's journal sketches were awesome. John was always up-front in the museums

49: Dick & Barbara Yonck Sequim, WA Dick showed Jo and Phyllis how to play Canadian cribbage. | Dale & Eleanor Holland Virginia Beach, VA Eleanor was one of three artists on board. Dale wished he was home.

51: The End | Captain Rendert Jande de Waard, owner/operator of the barge Quo Vadis - Holland Wladi - Crew - Poland Jean Louise - guide - Belgium Alf - Chef - Holland | Coach driver - Gilbert "Joe Bear"

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