C & A trip to France, Belgium and Isle of Man

Europe » Isle of Man » Douglas October 4th 2010

We’ve said good-bye to our lovely little Renault and the Continent. Our last night was spent in Leuven (no rooms in Brussels due to European day of action by unions against austerity measures) which is an old and vibrant university town, also famous for brewing Stella Artois, and where our Belgian friends live (see pic 1). We had a very nice dinner with them (salmon for me, scallops for A, frites for us both!) then headed off to the Brussels airport in the morning, bound for Isle of Man. It’s great to be here with my brother and his family - very relaxed. The Isle of Man is beautiful (see pic 2) and very interesting...... read more
Isle of Man

Europe » Belgium » Antwerp Province » Antwerp September 29th 2010

Tonight is our last in Antwerp which is large and very cool city in the north east of Belgium. We’ve had a good time here - running in the Strada Park in the early morn, walking through the cobbled streets and squares, looking in the shops (mainly window shopping as many do not open early in the week or early in the day), gazing out at Scheldt River (see view back to the town from the river, pic 1) and eating of course! We had a particularly great meal at the Grand Cafe Horta on Monday night - mussels for me, salmon penne for A, washed down with a lovely Chablis. Today we took the train to Amsterdam to see a little of the Netherlands and to visit the Van Gogh Museum. Looking out from the ... read more
Bicycles in Amsterdam

Europe » Belgium » East Flanders » Gent September 27th 2010

On Saturday we headed east for Ghent to meet with C’s Belgian friends. It was great to pick up with them so readily, having last met up in London six years ago. We wandered into the city stopping regularly for coffee, snacks and beers, and witnessing a freak hail storm. Ghent was busy and beautiful (see pic 1 -1402). Together we visited St Baafskathedrall to see one of the oldest oil paintings in the world, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. It was amazing. On Sunday we started with a delicious breakie at our B&B and then went to the Fine Arts Museum. We were both really impressed with the Flemish Impressionist paintings. After lunch at the museum we said goodbye to A&A for now (we will catch up again in a few days) and headed ... read more

Europe » Belgium » West Flanders » Ypres September 26th 2010

We’re in Belgium now. We arrived in Ieper (Ypres), in the rain, last Friday and were thrilled to find our hotel room had the most incredible view (see pic 1) to the Cloth Hall which was recreated after being destroyed in the war, and was also very close to Menin Gate. The hotel also had a great restaurant and we made the most of it that night... resulting in minor hangovers on Saturday. We set off in the car and visited a number of locations where A’s grandfather had been - Passchendale, Broodseinde Ridge and Dikkebuse. We also visited Hill 60. That evening we again went to Menin Gate for the daily and very moving performance of the Last Post (see pic 2). ... read more
Menin Gates

Europe » France » Picardy » Albert September 23rd 2010

We were surprised by the openness and vastness of the Somme region - similar big sky’ feeling that you get in the Australian outback. It gave us a small appreciation of how vulnerable the soldiers must have felt. We visited the major sites plus the towns where A’s grandfather’s division had spent time (according to the war diaries): Franvillers, Corbie, Fouilloy, Villers Bretonneux, Le Hamel, Proyart and Bray-sur-Somme. The morning as very foggy and meant the view from the Australian Memorial tower (see pic 1) was particularly atmospheric. We had many of the sites to ourselves but saw a couple of mini-vans advertising tours with names like ‘cobber tours’ and ‘true blue digger tours’ which provoked some cynical conversation between us. We ended our tour in Bellenglise at the rarely visited memorial to the 4th Division ... read more
4th Division

Europe » France » Brittany September 21st 2010

We’re now in the Somme but let me recap the past two days... We did go to Bayeux and saw the Tapestry - it was magnificent! (... and as we were walking in the street we were passed by the Google Maps vehicle so we look forward to seeing ourselves on a Bayeux street in a future edition of the Google Street View of Bayeux.) We drove on to Rouen, the city most commonly known as the site where Joan of Arc was executed. When we arrived we discovered the Muse Beaux Arts had an exhibition of Impressionist paintings inspired by the city so we saw a large range of works by Pissaro, Gaugin, Turner and other lesser known artists of the time and works by Monet. Particularly impressive were the grouping of five of his ... read more

Europe » France » Brittany September 20th 2010

As I type this I’m lying in bed in a Norman castle (albeit a small one) near St Lo. We’re in Normandy and heading to see the Bayeux Tapestry (it’s actually an embroidery as a learned friend pointed out) today. Just wanted to share a quick few lines and pictures from yesterday when we ventured to Le Mont Saint Michel. It was a great thrill to see the Mont as we came down the motorway. Ignoring the thousands of other people on their way to see it, it’s quite magical (see pic 1)-- such a massive structure high above the tidal sand/mud flats. Being Sunday morning Mass was on in the Abbey and we respectfully looked it (see pic 2). What struck me the most was the lovely smell of incense, mixed with the sea air ... read more

Europe » France » Brittany September 18th 2010

... apologies for extra delay, have had some technical difficulties.... It’s been a few days since our last instalment and we’ve been busy! Took a driving tour as set out in a travel book on Tuesday... learnt a lot about the author - he’s easily impressed! You call that a gorge?! Good practice for the driving and navigating skills nonetheless. Yesterday (Wednesday) was very wet so we put off our plans until the afternoon when we took a short drive to St Marcel to our south and the Museum of the Resistance in Brittany - it is located on the site of a battle that was undertaken to divert German attention from the D-Day landings. It’s amazing to think of what went on around in WWII. Apparently the local Resistance used the other house on property ... read more

Europe » France » Brittany September 13th 2010

After a quiet day at B&R's we set off again to see more of Brittany on Saturday: this time west to the region of Finistere. The weather was miserable but it didn't detract from the beauty of the the far south west. After a number of stops in Pont Aven, Concarneau and Pont l'Abbe we stayed overnight in St Gueuole (see pic looking out of hotel room attached). As we hadn't had enough of rocky views to the Atlantic we went north to Pointe de Raz then next morning -- the most westerly point in Brittany. We drove on to Quimper (where the Odet and Steir rivers meet, see pic) for lunch, having a look at the beautiful twin spired cathedral and then more fruit de mer for lunch. We finished off the day with a ... read more

Europe » France » Brittany September 10th 2010

We left our house for an overnight on Belle Ile, a little island to the south of us which we knew of as a place where Australian impressionist John Russell painted with Monet, Gauguin and Matisse. The two hour morning ferry ride through the Gulf was very pretty, lots of beautiful houses and yachts. We arrived in Le Palais and found a hotel (see pic 2) then decided to rent a moped so we could see more of the island, particularly the Sauvage Coast to the west where Russell had his artists' colony (see pic 1) -- it was as ruggedly beautiful as the paintings we had seen. We had a huge meal at the hotel that night -- between us we had crab, mussels, steak and salmon. A's steak was accompanied by the best frites ... read more
Belle Ile 2

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