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Island of Capri - a sparkling gem

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Our most recent adventure took us to the stunning island of Capri where we joined our travel buddies Allison and Dave.  This was NOT a business trip!  Capri is part of the Amalfi Coast and has been a resort area for centuries.   

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We flew into Naples and took a hydrofoil to the island.  Let's just say I am not a fan of the hydrofoil!  We stayed in Anacapri which is a community on the island.  It is a little less touristy than Capri Town.  We took a very small bus from Capri and drove on a very small road with a series of hairpin turns.  If two small buses needed to pass, there was barely an inch to spare.  As the road twisted and turned up the mountain, you get a splendid view of Capri. 

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This is our hotel's breakfast area.  It was a very sweet hotel and we were able to get a two bedroom apartment.  Well sort of, D2 And A slept in the living-room/dining room on a pull out couch.  We "won" the room in a Steelers/Ravens bet  :  ).  But I still feel guilty for actually taking the room so we need to make this one up to them!

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Capri is known for its handmade tiles,

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 which could be seen all over the island,

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........sandals,

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and lemons!

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Specifically, the Limoncello (lemon liqueur served icy cold).  The entire backyard of our hotel was filled with lemon trees.  The story goes, the Grandmother of the current owner was the one who invented Limoncello.  They were the biggest lemons we had ever seen.

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Lemons arrived in Capri in the 11th century and they have characterized the colors and the personality of the island ever since.  You can see the image on most everything.

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Anacapri is a very beautiful town with white washed villas and very narrow alleyways.   

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How many engineers does it take to read a map and figure out how to get around this little island?

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Obviously three!  As you can see from our outfits, the weather was crisp.

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Not sure if these are the bells we heard or not, but starting at 3 am every morning VERY LOUD bells went off every hour and half hour.  On Sunday at 6 am, they went off for several minutes.  No sleeping late in Anacapri!

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Colorful shells in a shop.

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Our second day we decided to take the VERY long hiking route along the western coastline to see the famous Blue Grotto.   The landscape was extraordinary along this rugged path.  There was wild lush landscape carved by the wind and sea.

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  and then you would pop out with a spectacular view of the sea.

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The water was so clear and an intense cobalt blue.

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This had to be one of the most beautiful walks on the island and we were very lucky to have the perfect day for our hike.  D2 and A were prepared for this event with their proper walking shoes.  D and I, on the other hand were trying to make our fashion statement, me in my boots

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and D in his loafers.

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Take a close look at these shoes as I will now show you where my nutty husband hiked in them.....

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Look hard....he is out there.  And if you think it does not look that far down, here is D's shot back up at us:

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He claims it was all for Flat Stanley. 

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Who is Flat Stanley?  D2&A's friends' 5 yr old child was doing a school project where they were to mail Flat Stanley to a friend who was in turn to take photos of Flat Stanley visiting different places and meeting new friends.  We are pretty sure this kid will have the best Flat Stanley story!
 
How is this for a picnic place!

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Our hike was dotted by sensational jagged cliffs.  Unfortunately, the waters were too rough so the boats were not running to the Blue Grotto.  Oh well, maybe next time! 
 
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That afternoon, we took a chair lift from Piazza Vittoria to the peak of Mount Solare (1,955 feet).

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It was a very peaceful ride and provided impressive views all the way up and back.

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At the top, was a break-taking panoramic view of the Bay of Naples to the gulf of Salerno. 

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It also provided a brilliant view of the Faraglioni, the famous rock formation.  It is said that a rare blue tinted lizard lives on the rocks and adapts it's scales to the blue tones of the sky and sea.

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The term Faraglioni describes a geological formation in which high sheer cliffs have been eroded by the sea and wind and form a point where sections remain isolated from the mainland.  They are made of limestone.

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It also provided a nice place for a drink after a long day of hiking!  Ah, this is the life!

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After our glass of wine, more photo shoots with Flat Stanley.  This series of photos is priceless!  D2 posing with Flat Stanley. 

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D and A going for the money shot....
 

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and the money shot!   Yep, this Flat Staley has the best trip ever!

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Our last day we visited the church of St. Michele Archangelo.  Built in 1716 in the form of a Greek cross.  It is famous for its hand painted majolica tiles which depict the story of Adam and Eve.

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You are not allowed to walk on the tiles, but can walk around the edges on wooden planks.  Best viewed from the choir section upstairs.  It was very unique and beautiful. 

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And we saw Villa Jouis which was built for Tiberius in the beginning of the 1st century.

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More great shots of Faraglioni from a slightly different view.

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and of course.....and afternoon Gelato break!!!

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We ended the night with a delicious meal cooked by D of Vongole Clams, fresh from the sea.  He bought them that morning at the seafood shop down the street from our hotel.

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and yummy appetizers by A made from all fresh ingredients from the island.  We dined and watched a beautiful sunset from our window.

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Another wonderful trip with our new friend, Flat Stanley!

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Don & Donna's Visit - Brussels, Ypers, Poland, & Brugge

EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE!

Don and Donna arrived just in time for one of our favorite Belgium pastimes, a parade. 

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This was a special parade, the unveiling of a new outfit on the Manneken-Pis.  

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With a theme of the Italian Carnival.

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It was very exciting for us as we have never experienced the unveiling of a new costume.  There is no rhyme or reason as to when they are changed.  We were also not aware that so much hoopla was involved.

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We started in the Grande Place at the beer festival.  We gave Don a small glass since he was still trying to get over his jet-lag.

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We marched through the streets with the carnival... 

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....to the corner where the Manneken Pis lives.  He was covered...awaiting his big unveiling.

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Ta-da!  They even had his "pisser" working so that is sprayed the crowd.  How funny!

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It was crazy that so many people were there for this event!
 

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D had to work several days during their visit so the three of us checked out our local sites.  We visited the Atomium, which was build int 1958 for the world's fair.  It is 334.6 ft high and the spheres measure a diameter of 59 ft, weighing 2400 tons.

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Elevators run in the tubes so you can travel from sphere to sphere, each housing special exhibits.  One of them is set up for children to spend the night.

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On a clear day, like the day we visited, you can get some beautiful views of Brussels. 

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One day we rented a car and drove to Ypers to visit WWI's famous Flanders Field.  In the center of Ypers is an excellent museum called "In Flanders Field".  We also went to the largest British Cemetery, Tyne Cot where 11,908 graves are registered.

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The city of Ypers was completely destroyed during the battles of WWI, but has since been built back to it's original state.  It is now a pretty little Belgian town with a great history and a great ice cream parlor. 

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 The Poland Trip
 

Donna has always dreamed of visiting Poland as both of her parents are Polish.  So we purchased four tickets on Wizz air and off we went!

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Our first stop was Krakow, were we explored the castle

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and the historical old town.  We also jumped right into some good ole Polish food; pierogis, bigos, smalec (double fried lard served on bread), sauerkraut, beet soup, all delicious!

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We planned to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, the German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp so we watched Schindler's list before we left and visited his factory in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow.

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The factory was under construction with a new museum to open next year so we really did not see much.  We did visit a Synagogue where D&D had a father-son chat wearing a yamaka. 

This part of town is being revitalized and they have many shops and trendy cafes.  For lunch we ate at a place that offered 36 types of pierogis - now that is my kind of a restaurant!

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We stayed at a very sweet hotel with only six rooms.  D and I had stayed there when we visited Krakow in the spring.  Donna is trying to decide what to have for breakfast.

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As with all our trips, we found lots of time for eating and drinking.  In fact, we came up with a logo for our visitors - Travel with D&D........You will not learn much, but you will eat well!

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Our visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau was certainly memorable.  1.1 million people (90% jews) were killed here from 1940-1944.  We had a private guide and all I can say is we all walked away completely drained.  I am going to just share the photos with you.  No explanation is needed.

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Photos inside the buildings were not allowed.  Which is probably goods as this was the most disturbing site.  In January of 1945, much of the camp was destroyed, but all buildings shown are original. 

I opted for black and white as I felt it would better represent the mood.  We also took color photos and a few are posted in the album.

It is hard to believe that something so horrific could take place in the world.  Let's just hope no one ever has to experience such a devastation again.

Part two of Poland - a happier journey

We continued our visit with a 2 hour drive to Zakopane, the mountain resort area of Poland.  This area is very well know for their quaint wooden houses

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and wooden churches.

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Here is a photo of our hotel.  We thought our hotel looked like a mushroom. 

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It was very pretty inside and in a very good location.  They spoke only a few words of English when we checked in. 

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We found a very fun restaurant that we went to both nights we were there.  Touristy, but we really enjoyed the music, the food, the dancing (no, not us dancing).  Look closely, we are in a sled!

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And kudos to Don for discovering the wonderful warm beer, a specialty of the area.  Even I, the non-beer lover ordered a glass the second night.

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The next day it was too cloudy to see the mountains so we drove across the border into Slovakia.  A first for all of us.

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We were surprised how colorful many of the little towns were.

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When we were driving throughout Poland people sold cheese and mushrooms on the side of the road.  The cheese is called Oscypek and it is a very salty smoked cheese made of sheep's milk.  It was good.

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We also stopped to buy mushrooms from an elderly women who did not speak any english.  Look how beautiful those mushrooms are.

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D and I pointed to a basket and held up what was equivalent to $3.00. 

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She dumped a big bowl of oyster mushrooms in a bag.  She kept patting my arm saying dziekujwe , dziekujwe (thank you).

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We think we got a good deal, but by her reaction, we think she felt like she got the deal.  I asked to take her photo and she giggled and touched her babushkas (scarf), so I guessed that meant okay.  It was a priceless moment.   We fried them in butter and ate with our chicken dinner the night we got back to Brussels.  Yummy!

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Now, the highlight of our trip - taking Donna to the hometown were her grandfather was from, Kamienica. 

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It was a small town, but we found the cutest restaurant to eat and quite large given how small the town was.  We cried (happy tears) and laughed all within the hour.  Don even danced to the polish music.

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It was a very touching day for all of us, but especially for Donna.  We ended the night and our Polish trip drinking Vodka.  A perfect time.

Brugge

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We had one day of rest and laundry and off we went to Brugge, one of the prettiest towns in Belgium.  A picture-perfect day.

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Brugge is known for it's beautiful lace where women still do tatting.

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It was a relaxing day where we enjoyed a nice lunch and leisurely boat ride through the canals. 

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 Sunday was Don's birthday and Car-Free Sunday in Brussels so we knew we would have a fun day.  There are lots of events that take place around the city on this day.

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After a relaxing breakfast with eggs and grits, we headed to the city center to get Don a special Brussels B-day cake.......waffles with ice cream!!! 

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He looks pretty happy.   Onto the Grande Place where another beer festival was being held.  These Belgians do love their beer and their parades!

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and in Brussels you also have to eat chocolate on your birthday.  Well really you eat chocolate everyday!

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I'll end this Blog with my very favorite photo, taken in the park just down the street from our apartment.  We had a GREAT visit and look forward to next year when they come again. 

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There are a few more photos in the Don and Donna album just click on the link in the upper right of the first page.  And....just an FYI - Donna officially has the title of visiting us the most in Brussels - this was her third visit!
 
 


Goodbye Summer and a visit from D2 & A

This Blog is a little late, but I wanted to share our summer.  We have had an unusually warm and dry summer in Brussels.  One day we got up to 93 degrees; and remember, no air conditioning over here! 

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D did not have any work trips in August so we decided to spend time exploring Belgium.  We enjoyed driving around the county-side with the top down.  Isn't this photo cool - it really makes you feel as if you are moving.

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One day we visited Durbuy a sweet little town an hour north of Brussels. 

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It's claim to fame is the littlest town in Belgium.  They have cute little shops and a Brewery where we ate lunch.  And most importantly, awesome ice cream.  I had one of the most unusual flavors I have even tasted - popcorn.  Sounds questionable, but wow was it good.

D was dieting this day so he only had a small scoop......

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and a waffle on a stick.  This was new to us.

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On this outing we also stopped by Bink Brewery. 

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They are a farmhouse brew and one of D's many favorites.  Their motto is "We brew it, We drink it, We sell what's left!".  As to the name...Bink is akin to "dude" but only in reference to the people of that area. 

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While we are on the subject of beer, another trip we took was to get two cases of "THE WORLD'S BEST BEER", St Sixtus, Westvleteren.

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Seriously, it has been rated at THE World's Best.  And it is not easy to get.  It is brewed by Belgian Monks and you can only purchase it directly from the Abbey. 

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It is not sold in any stores (well it is sold illegally in some stores for $14 a bottle). 

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Okay, so just drive to the Abbey and buy the beer.......not quite that easy.  First you have to check the calendar on the web-site to make sure it has been released for sale.  This occurs a few times a quarter. 

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Then you have to phone the Abbey to make your reservations.  Without reservations they will not sell you the beer.  Still seems pretty easy right?....forget it!  Getting through on the line is like winning the lottery.  They open the lines for two hours when the beer is released. 

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This was our third try and by "try" I mean both of us calling - non stop for 2 hours straight.  Well, D finally got through!  Can you tell how happy he is?

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For those of you thinking wow, he has enough to share - Forget it.  You must first be deemed "worthy" and they maybe he will share a bottle with you.  Note the logo on the glass.  There are over 500 beers in Belgium and each and every one has it's own glass.  And yes, D says it really is one of the best he has tasted.

D2&A's Visit

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Our travel Buddies D2 and A came for a visit.  We pretty much ate....

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AND drank the entire visit.

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A almost got us kicked out of our favorite ice cream shop for taking a photo.  If you remember the "Soup Nazi" on Seinfeld, well he is just like that.  It is very quiet in the shop and you stand in line single file to order.  He takes the lid off the ice cream, makes your cone and then puts the lid back on before taking the next order.

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He was not happy A was taking a photo and we were scared we would be licled out for life.  Thanks goodness we still got our ice cream! 

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He does have some unusual flavors.  On this day he had Wasabi and Sesame.

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The Royal Palace only opens for a few weeks in the summer.  So we took D2 and A for a tour.  It is very beautiful on the inside but unfortunately you cannot take any photos.

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The boys had fun in the children's section of the Royal Palace - making paper airplanes.  They are both Engineers you know...WITH careers in aviation.  The real test was inside where D2's plane flew the furthest.

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A celebration was going on in front of the Royal Palace with a monster blow up of the Manneken-Pis.  Too funny!  A symbol the city can really be proud of.

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and I don't think we have shared the partner to the Manneken Pis, the Jeanneke-Pis. 

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Speaking of engineers - I would like to share this photo of two dorky engineers in their european capri pants.  Note - that is peach beer in their dainty glass.

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We went to the "Beach" where they ship in tons of sand in for the summer.  They have food and music, swimming, volleyball, and games for the kids.  We could not get D2 to take off his Capri pants.  He wore them the entire weekend.

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In the evening we took them to our favorite tapas bar where the food goes around on a conveyor belt. 

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  A fun way to end a fun weekend!

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Breda Netherlands

The last weekend in August we took a trip to the Netherlands - to Breda, a small town about an hour north of Brussels.  It was a drop dead gorgeous day.  Cute town.  Nothing really historic, shopping, lots of cafes and a big church.   We ate lunch and did a little shopping, but it was the trip home that was so much fun.

We were on our way to Westmalle Abbey Beer, on a very small side street when I saw a tiny sign with an ice cream scoop on it. 

 

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Maybe not that small.

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I yell STOP - ICE CREAM!   D thinks I am nuts as we are out in NOWHERE.  He stops the car and check it out - a full cafe behind the barn - homemade ice cream!!!  Straight from the cow.  How fun!!  {actual cow at the dairy}.

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but the smell.........oooohhhhh manure!  Despite this small inconvenience, the ice cream was yummy.

 

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D had Westmalle beer ice cream!  Now that was interesting.  We would definitely go back...that is if we could find it!

 

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We finish our ice cream, drive two farms down and I say turnaround -there is a vending machine selling veggies. 

 

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Beautiful veggies and soooo cheap.  

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Three peppers for 1.10 euros.  Four tomatoes for .60! 

 

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n to the brewery - closed to tours.  We knew this but thought we could get a good photo of the old building.  Nope.  Completely covered by trees.

 

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We ended the day with the best frites and yes, that is mayo on them.  That is the true Belgium way to eat your fries.

 

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and D finally got to try a bicky burger.....what makes it a Bicky Burger?  Why the Bicky meat, bun, special dressing, special ketchup, hot sauce, roasted onion and cucumber.  Let's just say we had not been missing much!

 

Goodbye Summer!