Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Euro 2014 - On To Sightseeing - Day Two, Ghent Mega Tour

Wife and I on our own and in full Wife/de-I touring mode.  We've got a very nice rental apartment through Airbnb.  This was the first time we've used this service and it worked very well.  The pictures on the site totally represented what we got and the price given the location was great.

We had a light breakfast in the apartment and then went off.  Ghent is one of these towns that is on the 'bus tour route'.  That means that they aren't necessarily a place where lots of folks stay overnight but it is a place where the buses come in, dropping off their loads in the late morning and picking them up in the late afternoon.  Therefore when we got going around 9:30 in the morning, the town was pretty much deserted of tourists with the exception of bunches of tours of older folk.  Wife and I decided that this time of year - early spring - is old folk touring time (oh ya that would be us too :()

I liked Ghent a lot.  It's one of these places that is very easy to get around in a day and just screams Europe.

Along the banks of the River Leie
During the late Middle Ages, Ghent and Brugge became wealthy turning English wool into textiles

It was pretty chilly in the morning but we was having fun!

Building decoration is a common theme

15th/16th century

21st century

The Graventeen Castle or Castle of the Counts
Flanders (the part of Belgium we're in) was ruled during 15th and 16th centuries by the Dukes of Burgundy who were as powerful as the kings of France and England at the time.

Belgium is known for the variety of its beer and the quantity of beer drunk
My sons-in-law are all avid beer drinkers so I had to take this picture for them.

In Town

This is the town hall with which is kind of weird with two very different architectural styles

St. Nikaalskirk
(Saint Nicholas)

Scenes from the Belfort (Bell Tower) - The highest point in town

Looking toward St. Nikaalskirk and the River Leie

North toward St. Baafskathedraal

The fountain looked much more interesting from up here than at ground level

West toward the town hall

The Belfort seen from ground level

Food Porn

Wife and I have found as we get older that one big meal a day is more than sufficient when we are on our travels.  I've had great luck making use of TripAdvisor and we found this place that had really good food at reasonable prices.

Foreground left is rabbit stewed Flemish style (in beer), the omnipresent frites, and a gratin of seafood that Wife raved about.

A blurry picture of said rabbit taken from the bowl before the shot above.
It was very good and very copious.

Dessert was Belgian Chocolate Ice Cream

On a Boat Tour

Wife and I love our boat tours.
The sitting on the butt is a nice complement to our massive amounts of walking

Sometimes photographers cop a really smart ass attitude when they have their picture taken

The boat guide explained that in Ghent they maintain the facades of buildings in their original architectural forms and then build whole new buildings behind them.

This facade is the oldest in Ghent dating from the 12th century

 Our guide call this the 'Manhattan sky line of Ghent" where you can see the three largest towers of St. Nikaalskirk, Belfort, and Baafskathedraal all in one shot

Our guide didn't say what this was.
I'm calling it "Our Lady of Gas Attacks?"

By the time we were done with our boat trip is was 4:30 and we were tired and still quite full from our big lunch which we ate at around 2:00.  So we stopped at a grocery store near the apartment and got a couple of salads and a bottle of wine.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Euro 2014 - On To Sightseeing - Day One, Tulips and Ghent

It's been a totally lovely week with the #3 clan even with the introduction of the newest member.  I remember when #3 had 3.1 and was so freaked out about so many things related to living and dealing with a new baby.  Now she and 3A are like pros and the whole new baby thing is being dealt with aplomb. 

Wife and I are taking a leisurely 5 day drive from the #3's in Amsterdam, Netherlands to where we are renting a house for 3 weeks on the coast of Brittany, France.  We decided to spend most of our time in the Flemish part of Belgium as there are a couple of well known Medieval towns there that I've meant to get to forever but never got around to doing.

Wife wanted to take advantage of being in Netherlands in the spring to get some pictures of the famous tulip fields.  We took a cab from the #3's apartment to where we got our rental car.  Driving in European cities is always an interesting experience.  Fortunately it was very quick for us to get out of Amsterdam proper.  Unfortunately the destination we programed into our trusty Tom-Tom GPS was for a very pricey tulip garden.  We got off to a bad start with missing a key turn and having to wind our way through the town of Leiden until we figured out that the destination was wrong.  In these European towns finding a place to pull over, park, and get redirected is not easy either.  But we finally did and discovered the fields themselves were not that far away.  We were successful in finding them but unfortunately the tulips were past their peak.

 Then we drove on to the city of Ghent.  It was about a 2 and half hour drive.  Pretty uneventful drive.  We are renting a flat in the old part of town.  As we are very experienced with the issues associated with driving and trying to find parking in these kinds of areas, we were sure to get into town in mid afternoon to avoid rush hour traffic.  It all went very smoothly with us finding our place and a parking garage almost right away with no real issues.  We went shopping for some provisions for breakfast and then did a quick tour of our vicinity to get our bearings.

A neat side of a building on our way to shopping

A very typical little square just a block or so from our apartment

One of the major squares and churches (but not sure which.  We'll be more informed tomorrow)

Some other street scenes

Monday, April 28, 2014

Euro 2014 - Amsterdam Family Interlude - 4, Ye Gads! More Pictures of Life

The family interlude is about to end. It has been a lovely relaxed time for Wife and I.  Even with a newborn, things have been pretty mellow with four adults to handle the loads of children and household.  Plus it's been fun as always to be in different from New Mexico!

3.2 doing one of her favorite activities
Looking at the couch

Much, much play

Wife introduces 3.1 to Angry Birds

3A starring in 
"Waiting for the Tram"

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Euro 2014 - Amsterdam Party Series - Kings Day

King's Day is a BIG DEAL in the Netherlands.  Basically the whole country celebrates the King's birthday with a big party that lasts for 24 hours.  It's uniquely Dutch.  According to my son-in-law it captures the three critical values the Dutch hold dear - Selling, Thrift, Drinking.  The event is a curious combination of a party that is city wide starting the night before, with a break during the next morning for the single tag sale the city has all year, followed by another afternoon of partying.

We skipped the first night partying but went out to see the garage sale and check out the last afternoon of partying.