Friday, September 21, 2012

The Road To Switzerland

 Ahhh, Switzerland!  The beauty here is beyond words.  This morning we drove to the two villages where my daughter in law's family has its roots.  They come from a long line of dairy farmers and the tradition was carried to America when Pam's grandfather started a large dairy farm in the Portland area.

Tunnel after tunnel... a major part of the Swiss highway system.  Our longest was over 4 miles long.  It is a great way to get through the mountain without disturbing the flora and fauna surrounding it.  The journey is a bit creepy though!

One of our infrequent hotel stays required us to walk through a small park to get to the restaurant for our breakfast meal.  These two yo yos couldn't resist climbing into one of the over-sized chairs found in the park. Once in, just try to move or get out!!!  I believe this show drew a crowd.

Within the city, buildings were painted beautiful pastel colors and many had gorgeous flower boxes.  We can tell that summer is drawing to a close and autumn is quietly moving in, changing the warm evenings to cool and mornings to misty clouds and much sharper temperatures in the 50s.  People around us are working as hard as the squirrels, cutting and stacking firewood for winter and cleaning their gardens. 

We left this town with heavy hearts, sure to miss the beauty and the warm and friendly people.  The car was packed and off we went, following Brenda's instructions to find Lichtenstein.  Why not, it's close and nobody has been there!  I'm excited!  We drove through windy roads for several minutes until I spied the sign below.  "Hey guys, we're in Germany!  Are we supposed to be here?"  No!  Another hour of driving and we were back to Switzerland, back to our city and ready to take a new route.  All in a day with  Brenda!

Our Swiss city had this beautiful centuries old covered bridge and we were back to take photos!

Pumpkins harvested from local gardens.  We found these in a wagon along the side of the road.  These are used for eating, not for jack-o-lanterns.

                                                              Next, on to Lichtenstein!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Whooo Wee, A Drive Into Luxembourg

We woke up pretty excited this morning, eager to begin our travel to Luxembourg as none of us have ever visited there.  I want to go everywhere I can and see it all!!

On our way out of Belgium, we stopped at Orval abbey, where the monks still live and study.  To pay their expenses  they have a thriving brewery and cheese production.  Both are well know and in demand throughout Europe.  The ancient abbey was bombed during the second world war, so a new abbey was built after the war and is still in use.  We were able to walk through the ruins which were still beautiful.

Exit Belgium with a heavy heart.  We loved the country side and the people.  They couldn't have been more kind and welcoming.  Luxembourg was a different place entirely.  Of course very small and we were seeing hills for the first time since leaving England.  Very green and pretty.

This 3-D ad for French Fries was at the bottom of the hill of our hotel.  We climbed the hill only to find that the hotel was closed.  We had another suggestion, so we left with Brenda plugged in to find our lodging for the night.  We have also discovered that Luxembourg is a motorcycle haven!  Very few cars, and even fewer with 23 women traveling!!

 Stone bridge over the river running through Luxembourg.

There are so few American tourists in Belgium and Luxembourg, they do not have Visa machines for the credit cards.  We can only use our debit cards to withdraw Euros to use.  Ugh.

Sue was really tired and not hungry for dinner tonight so Suze and I went down to check things out without her.  This happens to each of us at least once during the week.  Anyway, Suze and I were trying to translate the menu for the night.  We looked at each other and asked "Isn't cheval horse?"  Five minutes later we discovered that we had guessed right, the main entree was horse.  Oh man, we couldn't do that!  We both did soup without meat.  How do you pick a horse to eat?  How do you know if it's a good horse?  I have so many questions about the whole horse thing.

We had lovely rooms and great beds!  Something we treasure every time we find them.  And this room was huge too.  Yippee!!

In the morning when we left, we found this incredible little community of holiday cottages.  They were so cute!!  Teeny, tiny little yards, tiny little gardens and all had the little grandma (OK, I'm a grandma) figures of elves, gnomes, squirrels, deer, hegdehogs and bunnies.  A veritable fairyland for young kids... and grandmas.

Luxembourg still had the architecture very similar to Belgium with the tall stair-step fronts, turrets and tall windows.  

Can you believe MacDonalds with a McDrive through!  I believe we have only seen 3 of these since landing at Heathrow.  They all have had trustworthy bathrooms which often come in handy.

                                                               On to Switzerland!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Paradise Found We Think....

We learned of this Mill House Bed and Breakfast from a motor cycle couple we met at lunch yesterday.  They spoke little to no English and of course, we speak no Dutch.  So, all of us tried our best and eventually
we got the closest city written down.  We'll log that into Brenda, our GPS unit, and hope for the best!

On the way, we ended up behind this little cart drawn by a huge horse.  Note the dog kind of hanging off of the back.  This community was into sheep raising and they were moving fields so the sheep had more grass to graze on.  The cart would be parked, the horse tied up alongside the road near the current field.  The dog would hop out and the herder, in this case, the woman, and dog would go to work with the sheep filling the road.  The dog was incredible at keeping the sheep together and nipping at the heels of any stragglers.  At some point, the human herder would get ahead of the herd, open a gate and the sheep would be guided into the new pasture.  It looked so simple, but just one mistake by dog or human and there would be sheep scattered everywhere.  What a team! 

I love the little old Citroens that we often come across sitting in driveways.  Sometimes they are all refurbished, shiny and cool while others are in their original condition, still very cool.

This is the view from our bedroom window!  We found the old mill by chance, Sue spied the ancient wheel under the beautiful house above it.  We knocked and called out, but no one was home, so we pulled out our books and patiently waited for the owners' return.  After an hour, they did return and we begged for a room, actually two.  Suze got a beautiful room for one upstairs, it was serene and so beautifully furnished.  Sue and I drew the two bed room which is under remodeling, bright orange and brown... go Beavers!  The worst was the smell from someone who had broken the no smoking rule.  Uffda!!  We were so happy to be with the elegant owners, Benjamin and

The new puppy that no one could resist!  She was into everything and couldn't get enough petting and scratching behind her ears.  Too cute!

Another view from the back of the house, across the river and the old stone bridge.  If you can't relax here, then you have a major problem.  Everything was beautiful!

Sue reading on the terrace in the back, overlooking the river and the pastures beyond.  The perfect setting.  We loved it so much, the tranquility and the wonderful owners who only spoke French (Yikes!) we decided to stay another night.  Good bye Beaver room, Sue and I got to have a beautiful room next door to Suze.  We were also given a tour of the new construction which the owner is doing himself.  Since all original walls must be kept in place, it is a real trick to design around the old stone walls.  Ben has done an incredible job using old stone, timbers and beautiful fabrics.  Absolutely lovely.  The new floor will be a family unit with large loft bedrooms, parents bedroom, play space, bathrooms and a possible small kitchen area. If you are ever interested in any areas that we have visited, feel free to contact us!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Our First Market in Belgium, What A Surprise!!

After losing our internet connection for several days... We're back!  Photos are saved, so it's just our timing that's off.  So that never changes for us, we're always off!!!  You would be amazed to hear our language now.  We're not sure what it is.  Definitely a mix of the Queen's English, French, now a touch of German and Dutch, with Spanish thrown in when in a panic.  My dog won't even understand me!  Suze and I put our heads together to remember our high school and a bit of college French.  Two 1/8 brains working together sometimes pull up the right word.  Sue's job is to act out the word. It's a very entertaining act and we have drawn spectators. 

The two Sues enter the market after many narrow escapes dodging the mini cars and trucks in the small streets.  We just happened across this market and arrived 30 minutes before closing.

Flowers are available in every market.  Some are cut for making your own arrangements and bouquets and others are available for planting.  Gardens are really big over here.

We tried to take this little girl's picture but she wasn't too enthused about it.  We were all laughing, even her mother.  She was really having a good time eating her waffle.  Hey, we interrupted!!

Here's the main candy counter.  Kids would come by in flocks and fill bags full of the huge selection of different candies.  They were almost all hard candies and you could really tell which were the favorites.

Bras!!  They must love the bras here because there were 3 or 4 locations offering them.  All different kinds, just like the candies.  We were glad that they weren't being tried on in public.  Just sayin'.

This lady was so very happy to show us her little dog.  I think he was a puppy.  We thought he was the cutest little guy!  Very active and very friendly.  They take their dogs everywhere here and just love their dogs!

Oh yes, the vegetables!  For this section I chose the beautiful display of green lettuce and onions.  It was gorgeous.  Most people have a large vegetable garden here and eat from their garden. The extra is often sold in the market so others in apts. or the elderly can take advantage of the fresh offerings.

Oh yes, some of our favorites... the pasteries and desserts.  They are magnificent works of art, especially in the local bakeries.  Most use the local fruit and berries in season.  We have been so good, completely restraining ourselves most of the time!

Cheese!  Wonderful cheese!  We usually have this with some good meat and bread for lunch.  It's quick and we can carry it for a few hours without refrigeration.

Fish is bountiful even if we are landlocked.  Here in Belgium they eat much river trout, eel, and shrimp from France.  We haven't been searching out the eel, but have tried the other fish.

OK, this photo looks like pizza.  It was actually our last stop in the market, buttons, buttons and more buttons.  Every type is sorted by size, color and pattern and put into a separate tube.  The tubes are then sorted according to color.  It looks really cool, not like pizza!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Breakdown in Belgium, Thank You Hertz!!

Here it is, our 2012 breakdown.  We were happily driving down the autostrada in Belgium when our clutch decided to depart for transmission heaven.  Gone, completely gone.  Sue got us pulled over, off of the freeway and we coasted onto the side of a street.  We started walking then to look for a shop or somewhere open who could call Hertz for us. 

Since everything closes, and I mean everything, between 12:30 and 2:00, we were so fortunate to find a wonderful young woman in a mobile phone store who could make the call for us.  We were told that a tow truck would be finding us in an hour.  Great!  Much better than our 2010 experience with Hertz.  We went to find a cold drink and a quick sandwich.


Mike, our tow truck driver, was so kind and helpful, also a wealth of information.  We learned much about life in Belgium.  Mike works 2 jobs, his wife one job and spends much time raising their 4 year old daughter.  They feel that they can only afford to have one child if they plan on sending her on to higher education.  If she is not able to pass the exams, then they will be able to help her buy a home.

Our car being hauled into the Hertz office.  The agent there asked if we were bringing the car back with a full tank of gas!  What??!!  A new car was obtained and off we went.  Since Hertz is now 2 for 2 on breakdowns, it's time to find a new rental company!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Brugge, a Sweet Little City in Belgium

This is the first time for all of us in Belgium.  It is a beautiful little country, the seat of European government and the Euro, so very important.  It is super clean, the people are especially friendly and they are astonished that we are from America.  Not many Americans visit.  I am astonished that the Visa card is not taken here, so the girls will have to cover me here as the Pin number for our family card came after I left home.  Don't ask!!!  Everyone rides a bike here as it is very flat and it is a very agricultural country except for around Brussels. 

We wandered the city's little streets and visited their main landmarks.  Above is the massive town hall. A massive building where all local government is done. All of the local buses stop in front of this building at some point in their route.  The huge square in front of the building is for local gathering, theatre and music productions, horse and buggy rides ... just a busy place.

We marveled at the 500 year old brick work atop the old windows.  How in the world do you sculpt brick?
The designs were incredible and I still wonder where all of the handcrafting has gone in our busy world.  Time is definitely the problem.  Are you proud to be carrying on traditions that your grandmother passed on?  Are you passing these arts on to your children or grand children?  I see the love of creating things with their hands in my two boys.  Now his children are loving to paint, draw and paste and sew.  On to knitting and crocheting for them!   And we will start their dog treat business after I get home.  I do love working with them and wish that my Colorado boys were closer

I did find the gorgeous bobbin crochet that is so famous in Belgium.  It is so excuisite!  This shop also had some import pieces mixed in that I recognized form gift show visits.  Very tricky if you didn't know your stuff!

And then we found the tasty Belgian waffles.  The girls enjoyed them tremendously!!  We just chose the plain sugared, but you can have many kinds of fruit, whipped cream, candy sprinkles... anything you can think of!  Ice cream was a real stretch for them, but I remember having waffles wth ice cream and piles of fresh fruit for dinner on hot summer days in the summer as a kid.

Such a wonderful surprise!  On the way home I found this woman doing the bobbin lace in her door way.  Not a word of English did she speak and my Dutch is not the best... not a word do I know.  We communicated through oohs and aahs.  I bought a small piece of hers to take home and frame for my sewing room.  

Our day in Brugg was really fun.  We stopped on the way home and had dinner in a small restaurant in the tiny town where our farm house is located, Damme.  Of course before, we parked unknowingly in a no parking zone, so the resident came out to gently tell us.  We apologized, moved and she was happy.  There are definate rules, but we are unaware since nothing is posted.  We are working hard to be good American tourists!