2010 Tapis de Fleurs - Flower Carpet of Brussels

The flower carpet of Brussels occurs every two years and it is made predominately of Begonias with accents of dahlias.

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It is very difficult to photograph, as the entire carpet will not fit in the camera lens.  In the photo above we were on the balcony looking down.  D seamed two photos together to create a panoramic view.


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Begonias have long been associated with Belgium and have been cultivated in the Ghent region since the 1860's.

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Belgium produces 60 million begonias a year and is recognized as the world's largest producer.  With eighty percent of the crops grown for export.

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This robust plant is seeded in late January and they bloom all summer long.  The most beautiful blooms are selected to make the famous carpet of flowers.

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From design to execution, the carpet requires more than twelve months' work from hundred of volunteers.  This year's construction was interrupted twice by rain showers.

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The carpet requires an excess of 300 flowers per square meters, that approximately 700,000 begonias in every hue and shade.  

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The flowers are packed together one by one.  The only soil used is for the spaces between the floral pattern (where the green grass is).  

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The first flower carpet was created in Brussels in 1971.  Each year it is based on a theme, with this year's theme honors Belgium holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.  The presidency rotates throughout the EU every six months.

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Don and Donna visit - Amsterdam and Brussels


A beautiful day trip.

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Unfortunately I came down with a very sore throat (the first time I have been sick since we moved to Belgium) so D, D, and D ventured out to Amsterdam for the day without me.

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This entry is written through Donna's eyes, based on her travel journal which she wrote in daily and the photos were taken by D, all nine of them.  I take 500, he takes 8.

7:30 D woke us up and said it looked like a good day to visit Amsterdam.  Can we be ready in an hour?  We left the apartment at 8:40; took the metro to the train.  The train ride was 2 hours and 45 minutes.  We read and played cards (hearts).  I won the game!

We arrived in Amsterdam and it was a beautiful sunny clear day.

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First, we took a one hour canal ride.  It was an enclosed glass boat (like the one above Don's shoulder).  We saw houseboats from beautiful to shabby.  Our boat barely made it under one of the bridges.

After the boat ride we walked through part of the Red Light District to get to Chinatown where we ate lunch.  We had ribs, duck, veggies, rice and tea.

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We walked back through the Red Light District.  Some very attractive girls.  Some on the phone in the windows with red drapes.

Cathy's comment - The red light district has been on Don's "bucket list"....so glad he had the chance to see it in person!

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We walked around the city for awhileSaw the Ann Frank House, but the line was too long to get in.  Saw cafe smoke shops.  Cathy's comment - if you remember from an earlier Amsterdam Blog.....pot is legal in Amsterdam and they smoke it openly at the coffee shops. 

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Thousands of bikes in parking garage.  Lots of young people. 


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Walked through the flower market.  Don bought Cathy an Amaryllis bulb. 


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Back to train station.  Picked up sandwiches and water to eat on the train ride home.  A lady around 60 sat in our pod with us on the train.  She had several bags and a violin.  She drank a coke and was very chatty.  She told us she was a "busker" - a person who entertains in public places for money.  We got home around 9:05. 


Fun days in Brussels

A visit to the Victor Horta House and Museum.  He was Belgian and one of the most prominent Art Nouveau architects of the century.  Many of his designs survived the years including his own home which is now a museum. 

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 Don and D went to the car museum in Brussels where they have over 400 cars.  Don saw many he would love to own.  They ranged in age from 1886 to 1970. 


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Drinks at our favorite wine bar.  We like to stop by on Wednesday's on our way to the evening market.

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How sweet is this? 

After 50 years of marriage they are still holding hands. 

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They truly are our role models for a great marriage and I hope that we will one day see our 50th wedding anniversary!



Le Tour De France

The tour De France is making it's way through Belgium and today it went through Brussels.  The starting point for today's race is just one block from our apartment.  The area was crazy with paparazzi, chase cars, support buses etc....Very exciting!  


We got there early so we would have a good view for photos.  There were crowds of people all along the route.  This is the path D takes when he walks to work.



Here they come!


swishing by in a matter of seconds


In the yellow is Stage 1 winner, Italian, Alesandro Petacci, who escaped the terrible crash yesterday that took almost the entire race to the ground.


We are pretty sure the one in red is Lance Armstrong he is racing on the Radio Shack Team this year.

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And this poor fellow....we hope he catches up!


After the bicyclist go by, the team cars carrying the extra bikes proceed.  There were probably 40 team cars.  It really is quite an event.  They even had French Police on motorcycles that travel with the race.


A fun thing to see - but wow was it fast!



4th of July Celebration With the Eddy Merckx


Happy Fourth of July! 

Our new ambassador, Howard Gutman, planned a big celebration on July 1st so everyone could participate.  In honor of the up-coming Tour De France, he arranged a bike ride from the embassy to the Grande Place with Eddy Merckx leading the pack.


For those of you who do not recognize Belgian Eddy Merckx (and that would be me), many would say he is the greatest and most accomplished cyclist of all times.  He won the Tour De France 5 times. 


Here's Eddy (he told me to call him that) at the start with Ambassador Gutman.


D was between meetings and in a suit so we could not ride our bikes (like we have bikes) so we walked to the Grande Place and made it at the exact same time as the bicyclers.


Everyone then walked to the Manneken Pis were the Mayor of Brussels joined the group as they unveiled the new Manneen Pis outfit.  (L to R:   Eddy Merckz, Brussels Mayor Freddy Thielemans, cute bicyclist, wife of the Ambassador, and Ambassador Gutman).


The theme for the US and Belgium's partnership is "Our Future Together".  The Manneken Pis always has a curtain before the big unveil. 



During the first few seconds of the unveil his little pisser shoots WAY out into the crowd.  Which is good to know otherwise you could get drenched!




With the slogan "Yes We Can" on his hat and if you look closely he has both the US and the Belgian flag in his hand.




After the big event everyone went back to the embassy where there was a large tent set up with food and drinks and the Embassy/Nato band Article 5 played.  



Doesn't he does look presidential ?  I know his mom and mother-in-law both think so  :  )

We hope everyone had a fun 4th of July celebration too!







Never a dull moment in the city

We took a walk today and stumbled upon the gay right parade, called the PINK Party. 


I am not sure I really need any words for this blog...other than is was certainly colorful!



In so many ways!!!

























Just about everyone "came out" to support the cause!



A new outfit for the Manneken Pis



The Mannekin Pis changes his outfit frequently, but each outfit is usually only on display for a few hours.  He has hundreds of outfits.  When a new outfit is being introduced, there is always a celebration. 


This one was in honor of Portugal.






There was dancing....







And music.....




and drinking - they were giving out sample of Port wine, a very special drink from Portugal.




And of course, Jean-Pierre was there. 



He is at EVERY Brussels event - even events that have nothing to do with the Manneken Pis.  He is a blast to watch as he has replica of the Manneken Pis and he wheels it around the city.  When people come up to look at it.....


He "pees" on them with water!  He was especially funny on this day as he was perched on the corner and he was spraying cars as they went by.  This is a very crowded intersection so the cars have to come to a complete stop to make the turn.


This is when he gets them!  Everyone was getting a good laugh, even the people IN the cars!


Always a fun time to see the Manneken Pis get a new outfit!



Easter break with Maria and the boys


My cousin Maria and her two sons Liam (14) and Sean (12) came to visit us over their spring break from school.  Every day was jammed packed and we had a blast!


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Day 1:  They arrived on Good Friday.  We picked them up very early at the airport and after a shower, food, and a quick nap, we took them on a train to see the stately Beersell Castle


Built around 1300 out of red brick, vs stone like most castles of this time, it is one of Flanders greatest medieval castles.  Today it is just a shell, but so much fun to run around in.  


We were the only people there which made it even more special.  D ran ahead and discovered the torture chamber.  The rest of us were startled when we walked into the room and found him on the torture rack.


I've got my cousin right where I want her...I shall operate on her brain!!


I shall stretch you until you give me the secret information!


We saw the funniest sign outside of the castle - Beware!  Frog Crossing.  Unfortunately, we did not see any frogs crossing.


Day 2: It was all about eating.  We took them to our local market where Sean and Liam started the day off with waffles.


Next we visited The Grande Place, the Manneken Pis, the Jeanneke Pis, etc... and ate doner kebabs for lunch.


Cousins, but people think we are sisters.


The boys in the chocolate shop.


As always, there were crazy things going on.  


We ran into two "Hen-dos" (bachelorette parties in the US) where the bride's friends dress her up and make her beg for money.  Sean's was a dentist and although she looked like the more risque one......Liam's had very naughty giveaways in her basket!


 We had to introduce them to the Famous Brussels Pommes Frites (French Fries).  Did you know that the French fry was invented in Belgium not France?




After a long day of eating and walking - everyone was hungry!  So we stopped for more waffles and ice cream!


Maria did not order anything - but she sure kept stealing bites from Sean!


Believe it or not - we all ate a big roasted chicken for dinner that night.


Just as we were getting ready to leave for the Easter service, Sean pulled out his dress pants and he had packed the wrong pair - they were 6 inches too long!  You can guess that Maria was NOT happy!  We had to do a quick tape job....Which had us all laughing!


That evening we went to the Cathedral of St Michael in Brussels (built 1047), for an Easter service - a Gregorian Chant.  When we arrived the church was dark. 


The priests walked in with very large candles and each of us had a candle which was lit from the large ones.  The first 15 minutes was in candlelight.  It was very special.  I had to snap a photo (I know I know - not during the service!).  Blurry since I couldn't use a flash, but still interesting.


Day 3: Easter Sunday.  Maria, Sean and Liam went to another Cathedral for noon service.  We then ate a big lunch of Cassoulet and speculoos and chocolate bread pudding for dessert.  We then took a long walk in a neighborhood we knew was lively for a holiday.  


and some are lively no matter where they are!


We ate on the coffee table in the family room while we watched top chef, a British cooking competition show.


 Day 4: Maria, Liam, Sean and I hopped on the train to Ghent. 


We visited the Gravensteen Castle built in 1180 and walked to the top of the Belfry (built 1313). 


We had lunch at a nice Dutch restaurant.  It was Easter Monday, a holiday in Belgium, so most everything else was closed.


 Liam had what he declared the best waffle of the trip and after him eating 10 I trust his opinion!  Maria, Sean and I opted for Speculoos Mc Flurry's - Sean favorite sweet of the trip!

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That evening the boys played several hands of cards.


Day 5:  Brugge - a perfect day to visit one of the most beautiful towns in Europe.


Everywhere you look is a photographic opportunity.  This lake is referred to as the Lake of Love.  



An artist taking advantage of the beautiful street scene.  Think D will be in his painting?


Liam had borrowed Donald's sweater and scarf as it was a little chilly.  He decided he wanted to buy a scarf to take home.  We found this one and Donald gave him the sweater.  He is now looking very European!


I love this photo Maria took of me and D.

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A break for a beer.... some of us enjoyed ice cream instead.


and one last group photo!

Brugge group


Day 6:  We ate at our local pub and shopped for chocolates and gifts, and went to the Instrument Museum.  That afternoon, we went to the Wednesday food market and enjoyed a glass of champagne - A toast to a wonderful vacation!


We hope to see Maria, Liam, and Sean next year during spring break!

D2 and A visit


D2 had a conference in Brussels so they came early and spent a long weekend with us.  We visited Ghent and had a wonderful lunch.


Ghent has very beautiful architecture, it is so quintessentially dutch.


Several people have asked if Ghent or Gent is the correct spelling - the answer is both are right.  Ghent is the Dutch spelling and Gent is the French.


We always get ice cream when we are together.....from a truck, but homemade!



I love this photo - It looks like one of my collages.


Poor A - she seems to be taking all the photos on this adventure.

On Monday we explored our neighborhood.  This view of downtown Brussels is just a short walk from our apartment.


D, lining up the perfect shot of D2 and A in the Grande Place.


A local restaurant where we ate lunch.


As always, a fun time with D2 and A!


Holidays - London, Cologne, Rome, Brussels

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!




Grand Place, Brussels


Our holidays were very busy, starting off with a trip to Horsham and London for Thanksgiving.  Dave & Allison invited us to celebrate Thanksgiving with them.  We were making our plans when D got the word he had to be in London England on Dec 2nd for a meeting.  Perfect timing!

Allison made a wonderful feast for the four of us.  A very traditional Thanksgiving meal, with turkey (had to be special ordered), stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry and lots more.



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D2's upcoming holiday party was a costume party, so we all went to the "fancy dress" store to help him pick out a costume.  Little did we know how much fun this outing would be!




What we call costume parties, in the UK they call them fancy dress parties.  D jumped right in to help D2 find his fancy dress.



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How about these shoes?  This may be a new look for D.




Quite the dapper Sir Walter Raleigh......






A gladiator....





and we are not quite sure what this is.....rocker dude?





a few friends......




Sir Walter and Austin Powers....."yeah baby"


and last but not least.....rocker dude finds a date -  cat women!



D had to help me take off my boots as I could not bend over in this outfit    :   )

We decided that D2 & A should add the Fancy Dress store to the "must see" list for guests who visit them in the UK!

Now for some traditional British food, fish and chips.  Greasy and good!


and Father Christmas cookies


The best news we heard this weekend is that D2 and A have extended for two more years!  Yeah!!



On to London and their Winter Wonderland to see Father Christmas.



and the toy soldier




I do believe in Santa Claus!


Harrod's, the famous department store in London, had a Wizard of Oz holiday theme with giant ruby red slippers coming out the side of their building.



London had beautiful holiday lights in the main shopping district.  Umbrellas - how appropriate for London!



Cologne Germany

I took a one day bus trip with a group of women I do things with in Brussels to Cologne Germany to visit the Christmas market.  We had a crisp sunny day for our outing.  As with most European cities, Cologne has a beautiful old cathedral.  Construction of the cathedral started in 1248, and with interruptions, was completed in 1880 - over 600 years later!  It is one of the world's largest churches and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.



Cologne has seven Christmas markets spread throughout the city.  One of them was the Gnome market.




The German markets have beautiful ornaments.


All hand blown.


 and a few very interesting characters!




Early the next morning, we hopped on a plane and headed to Rome for a five day business trip.  There were several of D's co-workers from the states on this trip.  Ahmad and I are standing in front of the beautiful and famous Trevi fountain.

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I think this is a funny photo, the Trevi fountain looking like one of the junk trinkets for sale.

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Roman Ruins with a colorful blue backdrop. 

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There are Steelers fans around the world.  D is standing in front of the one and only Steelers bar in Rome.  The owner plays all the games live, and if it is a late night game, that means it would be on at 3 am!

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One night we were in a restaurant (not the steelers bar) and we noticed the waiters watch.


Turns out he was a huge Steelers fan!  Here I am with Donald's co worker Mike, also a huge Steelers fan, the waiter in white, and Mike's wife Pam.  We had a fun night talking about football with the Italian waiter!



They do not decorate in Rome like they do in other European cities for Christmas.  I did see a few glass balls hung in the street.
but these looked as if they might stay up all year long.


They did have a Christmas market with interesting street performers.

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We dropped some money in his can and we became fast friends!

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She was very graceful.  We think we saw her last time we were in Rome where she was a ballerina.


They stay completely still until you drop money in their cup and then they preform.


Rome is predominately Catholic so there were many religious decorations at the market.

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It was a rainy night which made for an interesting sky.

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I love this photo of D - shopping bags in hand, cool old car passing by.


One thing you can not skip in Rome is the Gelato!!!!




And a visit to our very own Brussels market which has the most fascinating carousel round I have ever seen.


I cannot find any information on the artist who created this creation.



Children can sit in the back of this crazy lizard.



I was very disappointed when I found out the merry-go-round was for children only!



Goodbye 2009!