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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Incomplete Notes on Our Belgium Trip

The reality about me is that I am a home body. I like feeling well rooted in a place. I often find myself wanting to rush home even when I am just away for a day, in town. While I am very interested in history and geography I am content to read and research about far off places while feeling no need to experience them first hand. I guess that make me an armchair traveller.

In my past, I have did manage to dislodge myself in order to move to Boston to go to Graduate School which was fairly easy since it was a shared adventure with my wife. I became in three years quite comfortable and rooted living in New England and could have happily spent my life in that part of the US if I did not dream of eventually returning to Canada and serve a Unitarian Church there. Eventually, after service a couple of churches in New England I returned home to Canada and my home town of Mississauga because I decided I wanted my son to be raised a Canadian. The time was right he was about to start school.
Once again, I was rooted in my home town working in a family business while seeking a religious charge in Canada. Impulsively, I gave into a long standing dream of mine which was to own a farm with a river running across it. ( if you can believe my high school yearbook, "He will own a farm and bird sanctuary some day!) I found it. The first one I looked at which is my home now in River Valley, with the mythic Temagami River crossing it. It only took the encouragement of my 11 year old son, Parker, when he said, "Let's do it!" for me to leave my home town and a family business behind to move to this small community.

I have not travelled much. I did visit several cities in the US and Canada to attend church conferences. When my brother in law was studying in Switzerland I took Parker and went to visit him and my sister there. And I took the opportunity to go to London on the way home and visit some distant relatives; and, to Cardiff Wales to visit my pen friend of many years who I had previously seen a decade earlier when she came to Canada for the summer I was getting married.

I had a couple of opportunities to travel while living in the United States. I came within two weeks of going to Oxford, England to study for the last year of my seminary training. In the end I stayed in Boston fixing up an old house in Roxbury, an inner city community of Boston, while becoming a peripatetic student taking courses at Andover-Newton Theological School, Boston University School of Theology, Havard Divinity School and the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University. I managed a rich academic year while being rooted at "home". But it was not the adventure of going to Oxford, England. I have come to regret not taking the opportunity when offered.

There was another opportunity I had to travel. It was during the Vietnam War. I was asked to go to Paris with a group of clergymen to meet with representatives of the North Vietmanese government. I think I used the excuse of not being able to afford the $500 to go to avoid travelling away from home. I have come to regret missing this opportunity also.

So you see my going to Belgium and Northern France is a big deal for me. I am determined not to pass this opportunity up. My friend, Lynne, has invited and encouraged me to go with her.
I am going! I shall long be grateful to her for this. It has broadened my horizons at a time I was feeling my world was shrinking and becoming rather solitary and stale.

For those who are interested, here is some, but not all, of our Itinerary.

We will fly to Brussels from Toronto on May 11 and return on May 26. Lynne's brother will meet us there and we will travel to Antwerp and his home. He and his partner Greet will be our hosts and tour guides. We will be staying in a lovely bed and breakfast place. Later after a trip to Flanders we will enjoy a stay in the elegant Hotel 'T Sandt .

This first day after settling in we will go to lunch in the center of town, the Grote Markt . (I will not be mentioning all the times we eat.) We will be having some lovely meals,I am sure ,with a view of eating the best of local food. Belgium is famous for its chocolate, Belgium waffles and beer. There are over 2000 varieties of beer brewed in Belgium. While I am a non drinker, I will allow myself to be tempted. See how adventuresome I can become!
From the town square, we can easily visit the Cathedral of our Lady, the Stadhuis and the historic river Scheldt. No doubt we will be fighting off jet lag at this point. Dinner will be at one of the restaurants on or near the Museumstaat.

The next day will be a day for Lynne's brother to show us some of the art of Belgium, of which he is very knowledgeable. In particular, we will visit Peter Paul Reuben's historic home, Reubenshuis . We will reach this museum by walking down the Meir, the major shopping district. We will also visit Museum Mayer van den Bergh. After lunch, off to visit
Sint-Carolus Borromeuskerk to see the great alterpiece by Rubens. Time permitting we will visit the Central Station, one of the grandest railway stations ( as you can see in this
You Tube Flash Dance ) and the historic and famous Antwerp Zoo.

By now I am exhausted and starting to think it is all more than I can take in. And it is only the second day. After a rest at the hotel, there will be another lovely evening meal.

The next day we will take the train to Brussels and walk from the Central Station to the
Grand'Place where we can see several things. First the delightful iconic cherubic statue, Mannakenpis. which they seem to delight in dressing up. Depending on the time we can also visit the Galleries Royales Saint-Hubert. Musees royaux des Beaux-Arts and Margritte Museum.
After a dinner in Brussels, we will return to Antwerp by train.

We will have another day of visiting museums in Antwerp or possibly a side trip by train or car to Rotterdam. The museums we might visit are Royal Museum of Fine Art,
Modern Art Museum, Fashion Museum, Plantin-Morestus Museum. As I write this I think I might vote for the train ride to Rotterdam.

The next day we hope to visit Zurenborg Quarter of Art Nouveau Architecture in the suburb of Bercham. We will also visit the Middlehiem Outdoor sculpture Museum. It be a short drive to Leir where we can see the Zimmer Tower and it's remarkable clock. We will end the day with a casual meal at our host's home.

If you have lost track, it is now May 17. We are checking out of our bed and beakfast and driving to Arras in France to visit the Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge. Lynne and I expect this will be a very emotional experience for us. We will spend the night at a hotlel in the city of Lille.

We will be driving on to Iepers (Ypres) where there are wonderful WWI and WWII museums.
Flanders Field Museum In particular, I look forward to seeing the Menin Gate which every day since 1927, at 8:00 PM they stop the traffic and a memorial last post ceremony is performed. On the Arch are over 50,000 names of soldiers who died liberating Belgium in WWI and whose remains were never found to bury. We will drive on to Poperinge for the night and check into "The Best Hotel in the World" where the owner/chef will prepare a "fabulous meal". So we are warned.

The next day we will visit, in Poperinge , the Talbot House, a very interesting museum. From here we will drive toward the coast and stay overnight in Blankenberge or Knokke.

This next day is our day set aside to drive to the medieval town of Bruges. It is a very historic town with much to see. We will take a boat ride of the canal in this city know as the 'Venice of the West". It was once the capital of the House of Burgundy, "the center of the Universe in the 14th and 15th Centuries". From here we will return to Antwerp and the the wonderful
Hotel 'T Sandt . Awe! such luxury. . . . . .a long way from River Valley.

It is now Friday May 17. Today Lynne and I are on our own as our hostess is preparing for the babtism of a young family member the next day. We have several options of things to do. We could return to Brussels. We might also visit the town of Leuven which has the
oldest Catholic University in the Worlds . I think we might visit the Canadian-Polish War Museum.

The next day is the babtism. It is an important family occasion which involves not only the church ceremony but a day long family party. We feel privileged to attend.

The next day or two we will have free spontaneous time to see anything we think we missed and just had to see or see again. It will also be time to do a little shopping before we head home and fly out of Brussels on May 26.

I am exhausted just writing this blog entry. If you view all the linked sites you may be inspired to visit Belgium or you may feel you already have by reading about the plans for our adventure.
I am expecting a wonderful time and hopefull I will have lots of pictures and note in my journal to share with others and use as a basis of some blog entries.

{If you managed to read this long post, you get a gold star of appreciation.}


At 6:18 p.m., Blogger amelia said...

I read it and I'm exhausted just reading it! That's the problem when you go away, too much gets crammed into such a short time.

When we used to visit England it was the same thing and between jet lag and running around, we were so tired we could barely take anything in at all!

All this having been said, I hope you have the most wonderful time Philip and also hope you take lots of pictures for your followers! You'll be blogging forever just to get all the pictures posted!!

At 9:30 p.m., Blogger KGMom said...

Sounds like a totally wonderful trip.
Don't forget--among the foods and tastes of Belgium--the mussels. They are wonderful also.
I am looking forward to photos and "I was there" reports.
By the way, I completely understand the homebody urge. When I travel, I do enjoy the trips--but homecoming is so much sweeter.

At 10:41 p.m., Blogger Loretta said...

My first star in a very long time! It all sounds wonderfull. Enjoy!

At 9:14 p.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Phew! I think we're all ready for a rest. What? You're still here?

Enjoy enjoy enjoy.

At 11:25 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

I'm jealous !!! Here's hoping that every day will be filled with wonder for you and your friend. Be sure to come back to us, though, we need your input.

At 3:08 p.m., Blogger Navigator said...

I think you are crazy to plan out such a schedule. I have travelled extensively to dozens of countries and I always found the best plan was to simply show up in the country and then see how I felt about what I wanted to see, depending on how energetic I felt. I always planned layover days where I did nothing but rest up. Seeing so many museums and art galleries is counterproductive. They simply become a big blur after about 3 days.

Frankly, I would stay full-time in Belgium, there is enough to see an do. Also, I am not sure if they are having their annual white asparagus festival at this time of year but if they are don't pass up trying it the way they do. And for sure in Brussels buy the French Fries -- you will wonder why they are called "French" instead of "Belgian" fries.

If you really must go to France, why not visit the new Juno Beach war memorial in Normandy where your uncle's name is inscribed. There was a second world war.

Finally, if you do go to the Netherlands, skip Rotterdam and go to Amsterdam (a much more interesting city from a tourist standpoint).

At 8:43 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phil: Sounds wonderful. Wow! What a schedule. And thanks for all the links for us to enjoy. Sounds wonderful. Enjoy!

At 4:32 p.m., Blogger Tom said...

Hello Philip
What great reading this is.... I like you feel the comfort of home and armchair... but I am sure this trip will be a fantastic one... one to move on from.... I wish you well my friend and will be thinking of how you are getting on.

I've not blogged much this last few weeks and I think my blog time will be less often at the moment... but I will always make for here when I blog.


At 3:21 p.m., Blogger Clare said...

I've been behind in my blog reading, so I am sending belated best travel wishes for you,
Philip. Enjoy!

At 11:29 a.m., Blogger judie said...

Philip, this sounds like a very busy trip. I do hope you enjoy it. Don't let that homebody soul stress you. Think "positive fun!" Take lots of interesing photos. When you get back, you can research them and have lots to blog about! xoxoxo


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