A Travellerspoint blog

Country Three - Afloat

Expectations Dashed

Ah yes, it was a fine barge - Over 50 feet long and about 15 feet wide. (Compare to England: Over 70 feet long and 7 feet wide)
The Derrineel Awaits Us in Briare

The Derrineel Awaits Us in Briare


Capt Simon Faithful MD PHd

Capt Simon Faithful MD PHd


Notice the smiling picture of the Captain Simon Faithful, MD PHd . This is the last time I saw him smile for the next 48 hours.
We tried to start out with a good attitude.
Jim and Barb Start the Trip Smiling

Jim and Barb Start the Trip Smiling


We floated past the chocolatier's
We Pass the Home of the Chocolate Coupe

We Pass the Home of the Chocolate Coupe


over the Loire in the bridge canal.
We Pass Over the Loire

We Pass Over the Loire


The French countryside along here reminds me of an "untidy" Indiana.
Pretty Much the View

Pretty Much the View

Also Some Fields

Also Some Fields


Most of the time Captain Simon Faithful, MD PHd was shouting at us "sit down, pay attention, hurry up, look at me, get out of the way, be quiet, don't do it like that, you don't know how to mop this floor!"
A Spot of My Own

A Spot of My Own


Finally, I had heard enough. I needed to get off the barge for a while and ride the bike for a couple of miles. Although this was supposedly allowed, he started yelling at me. I had had enough and yelled right back at him "Shut the F--- Up!"
His eyes literally spun in his sockets. I don't think anyone had ever yelled back at him.
Barb and I Take to the Bike Path

Barb and I Take to the Bike Path

End of the Ride

End of the Ride


Jim spent every minute of the trip being treated like a slave - including being yelled at every time he tried to follow directions,
Work Harder Move Faster

Work Harder Move Faster


On the French canals, a lockkeeper is in charge at each lock. Most of the other barges and boats allowed the lockkeeper to take the ropes, open the gates, etc. However, Captain Simon Faithful, MD PHd refused their help and instead yelled at Jim the entire time to do it and to help the lockkeeper.
Jim kept smiling, I kept fuming,
Keep the Noise Down

Keep the Noise Down


By the way, Captain Simon Faithful, MD PHd is not really a ship captain. He owns six-week share of this barge with others, Obviously, he has an MD and PHd because he signs all his personal emails with that complete signature. He also flies airplanes and balloons. He also ad nauseum....
The only times he is not yelling is when he is telling you about all his other endeavors, talents, prestige.

I said I would give it 48 hours.
My traveling companions had expected something a bit more relaxing and pleasant also. We tried to keep up a good attitude. We did have some pleasant picnic meals. (Except, notice who is not smiling.)
Picnic by the Canal

Picnic by the Canal


One of the rules of the boat is that we all shared in the cost of the food and snacks. I fully agreed with that.
However, it also applied if we went out to a restaurant. We were not allowed to go out to eat at a restaurant unless Captain Simon Faithful, MD PHd permitted it.

Here we were on a canal within walking distance of the Seine,
Enjoying the Loire's Beaches

Enjoying the Loire's Beaches


I Dipped My Toes

I Dipped My Toes


There were three charming French restaurants on the banks of the Loire.
Could we eat there? Oh no, there was packaged pasta and canned spaghetti sauce in the cupboard that had been purchased before I came on board. Furthermore, there was enough food in the cupboard for two more days of meals "The French can do wonderful things with tinned food."
Well, I am not French and I did not come all the way to France to eat spaghetti sauce out of a jar and canned green beans for a week.

Barb and I spent most of our time either crying or cussing in the galley.
Jim spent all his time working like a dog and being treated like one,
Oh, I could provide more examples of how Captain Simon Faithful, MD PHd made this a most unpleasant experience. I think I would be better served by forgetting them.
I chose to jump ship at the beginning of the fourth day.
When the Sun Kissed the Canal

When the Sun Kissed the Canal

Goodbye Derrineel

Goodbye Derrineel


I certainly did not gain any favor with Captain Simon Faithful, MD PHd and I think I probably even lost the friendship of Barb and Jim.

Posted by pscotterly 23:44 Archived in France Comments (0)

Country Three - Je suis arrivé.

France - I have arrived.

I knew I was out of Belgium and in France when the train station became chaotic and the men stopped wearing deodorant.
Welcome

Welcome


Briare, a Small Town a Small Station

Briare, a Small Town a Small Station


But, here I am ready to start another barge trip.
Not Our Barge

Not Our Barge


This time, I start in the town of Briare and will float along the Loire Canal. The Canal was dug to follow the Loire River. The canal created a much stabler route to transport goods than the Loire.
Briare Town Park

Briare Town Park


There Is Always a Steeple

There Is Always a Steeple


Surprisingly, this town reminds me of a midwestern town in the USA. Although the buildings are very old, many are boarded up and others stand empty. Cars rush through town at a very high speed going from someplace to somewhere neither of which do I have the slightest idea.
Where Do You Want to Go

Where Do You Want to Go

Sculpture Garden Along the Canal

Sculpture Garden Along the Canal


Briare and the start of the canal are very significant. The canal port is on the opposite side of the Loire than is the actual canal. Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel of tower fame) designed a trough through which the canal flows. Therefore, you are floating over the Loire to get on the canal.
Pont (Bridge) Plaque

Pont (Bridge) Plaque

A Canal Runs Over It

A Canal Runs Over It

Start of the Canal Over the Loire

Start of the Canal Over the Loire


Next to the canal pont (bridge) is a little restaurant where I decided to have dinner.
As soon as I sat at a table, I read the menu. I guess I should have read it at the gate. The place is a chocalatiere and only serves ice cream and other chocolate treats.
(By the way, you will probably want to download Google Translate for the next two weeks if you want to read any of the links. I can only seem to find French links and they include a little British flag to provide an English version only infrequently.)
I could only figure out a few words on the menu, but after pointing at a nearby table the waitress and I agreed I was getting an ice cream sundae. I could figure out Schweppes Tonic on my own.
Oh My

Oh My

Chocolate Coupe with Caramel

Chocolate Coupe with Caramel


Imagine my surprise when holding my sundae dish to feel it soften! The dish was made of chocolate.
Quite delicious and even more than I could eat. I now know that coupe means cup in French and not a two-door style of car.
All Done

All Done


Their Turn for Dessert

Their Turn for Dessert


I will be joined on this barge trip by Jim and Barbara, the ATC couple who hosted me on March 29, 2014 on the very first night of my road trip that continues with this journey in France.
We happened to get off the same train from Paris, are staying at the same hotel for one night, and enjoyed a fine dinner. Tomorrow, we will start our one week journey on the Loire Canal to Decize, France.

Posted by pscotterly 23:54 Archived in France Comments (0)

Country Two - Bye, Bye

Belgium, Bye Bye

Bye, bye Belgium.
Time to leave Belgium
I made a bicycle tour around Leuven to look at what I liked.
I really like how people commute by bus, train, and bicycles
Seats for Two Small Children

Seats for Two Small Children

Room for Everything and Everyone

Room for Everything and Everyone

Seat for a Big Kid on the Front

Seat for a Big Kid on the Front


Foldable Commuter Bike

Foldable Commuter Bike


I took a circuitous route around the town.
Stella Isn't Small

Stella Isn't Small

Ancient Abbey Walls

Ancient Abbey Walls

700th Anniversary of Something

700th Anniversary of Something


Vibrant Shopping

Vibrant Shopping


Decided to Skip the Leuven Yarn Shop

Decided to Skip the Leuven Yarn Shop


The Steeple Shows the Way

The Steeple Shows the Way

I made a visit to the Leuven Groten Beguinage. Not sure why they use the different spelling here than in Mechelen.
Beguinage or Beginjhoff

Beguinage or Beginjhoff

Bee wit Flower

Bee wit Flower

One Small Part of the Grot Beguinage

One Small Part of the Grot Beguinage

I like the "feel" of Belgium. Everything is "so European," centuries old; they seem to be so organized, yet tolerant and accepting,
There is a huge concert happening in the area. Hordes of young people with tents and backpacks are going through the Leuven station. They have designated buses running constantly from the train station to the concert grounds in the country. I am told there are scores of volunteers (staff?) along the rural roads providing directions and instructions for parking and camping.
Organization and Tolerance

Organization and Tolerance


I tried to access the website to see if I knew of any of the performers. All this made me think of Woodstock (of course, I wasn't there. I was busy having babies and being a homemaker in 1969.) I spent the evening listening to the various scores and watching some documentaries on Woodstock. I guess other folks have learned a lot in the last 50 years - at least the Belgians have. Right click on any of these links if you want to hear and see how young we all were 46 years ago.
4.50 Euro Wine from the 5 Star Mini Mary

4.50 Euro Wine from the 5 Star Mini Mary

Bread and Sweets  from Natalie's

Bread and Sweets from Natalie's


I toasted my departure with a bit of wine from the local mini-mart and goodies the neighborhood bakery. The next morning, I was at the Leuven train station for the last time on my way to France.
Departing Leuven Station

Departing Leuven Station

Posted by pscotterly 13:59 Archived in Belgium Tagged belgium Comments (0)

Country Two - Antwerp

Give This City at Least a Week

Antwerp has a just slightly smaller population than Denver, Colorado.
But that is about all they have in common.
Antwerp has two train stations through which dozens of trains from all towns and cities in Belgium arrive and depart. When you come, get off the train at the Central Station. The other one is a stop in the residential suburbs.
At Central Station

At Central Station


Central Station

Central Station


Denver has two trains a day: one going west to San Francisco, one going East to Chicago.
Denver has RTD and the light rail; of which, grandson Bazil says "The only people who ride the bus are my grandmother and strange people."
Antwerp has a complete bus system, a subway, and a trolley all of which have over half a million riders a day,
Denver has the mile-long 16th Street Mall, with a handful of clothing shops, a Walgreens, a movie theater and a smattering or restaurants and tourist junk shops,
Hundreds of Shops and Shoppers

Hundreds of Shops and Shoppers


Antwerp has a city center of only about one mile in diameter, but the 16th century streets spread like spokes and crooked lanes with literally hundreds of shops and restaurants and at least half a dozen Markts in this area.
I love my town, but I certainly love European style shopping and transportation better.

I had two excellent meals in Antwerp, but I only took a picture of one.
Tilapia

Tilapia


I enjoyed one happy hour on the Groen Platts.
Happy Hour

Happy Hour


Some of you might know that much of Europe puts only one cube in the glass when yo ask for ice in your drink.
Belgium Is Not Stingy With the Ice

Belgium Is Not Stingy With the Ice


Antwerp Town Hall with Consulate Flags

Antwerp Town Hall with Consulate Flags


Antwerp's chocolate hand icon is apparently from the myth of Silvius Brabo who cut off the hands of people who couldn't pay the toll to cross the bridge across the Schelde river, but also saved the city from a giant when he cut off the giant's hand and threw it in the river. What is NOT a myth is that from the late 1800s to early 1900s, Belgium cruelly controlled much of Africa known as the Belgian Congo. The Belgians used forced African labor to harvest rubber and ivory. If they did not produce fast enough, their hands were cut off. Agents of the Belgian-controlled state charged with enforcing rubber quotas were best known for their policy of collecting the severed hands of Congolese who failed to make these quotas. Heaped in baskets and presented to European higher-ups, these gruesome, iconic testaments to the brutality of Belgian imperialism were kept as proof that the soldiers’ bullets were not being wasted.
I wish I would have not found this article when I was trying to find the meaning of the chocolate hands, doorknocker hands, and the statue in the plaza. I am sorry I purchased a bag of chocolate hands.
And now it seems like such a mellow country with citizens from many nations living so gently among one another, Maybe that proves that once people lose an empire and world power they become more congenial. Perhaps there is hope for our great grandchildren in the USA.
Flea Day in the Grote Markt with Statue of Brabo

Flea Day in the Grote Markt with Statue of Brabo


I visited four museums in Antwerp.
1. The Red Star Line
Emigrant Statue

Emigrant Statue


I had visited Ellis Island while in NY,NY. Now I could visit one of the spots where thousands boarded a boat between 1873 and 1931 and didn't touch land again until they reached Ellis Island.
From Antwerp to Ellis Island

From Antwerp to Ellis Island


This museum is in the actual building that housed the Red Star Line. I highly recommend it for anyone from the USA. Particularly, if you think your ancestors might have left from here. I assumed mine had, but I think they arrived in the US before 1873. I am going to research it further when I return home and locate more specific information.

2. The Museum ann de Stroom (Museum on the River)
Museum aan de Stroom

Museum aan de Stroom


The building designed by a Dutch architecture firm and the layout of the exhibits make it more of a thrill than the actual content. But that could certainly be due to the fact that I cannot read Dutch nor French.
Each corner is encased in waved glass that gives you a rather distorted but spectacular view of Antwerp. You can also stand atop the building until midnight.
Stroom Schelde through the Rippled Windows

Stroom Schelde through the Rippled Windows


Antwerp Can Be Gloomy

Antwerp Can Be Gloomy


You can visit the building on all the floors and the rooftop without paying to visit the exhibits.

3. The Home of Peter Paul Rubens
Street side of Rubens' Home

Street side of Rubens' Home


Side of Reuben House Facing the Garden

Side of Reuben House Facing the Garden

Reubens' Garden and the Original Portico

Reubens' Garden and the Original Portico


Rubens lived here in the early 1600s. With other residents since then, there has been considerable renovations to the actual home. It is still a striking building and surely emphasizes the wealth and luxury in which he lived. All the displays are either his works or items from his personal collections.
Looking Down on a Gallery

Looking Down on a Gallery


Bed with Accompanying Rubens

Bed with Accompanying Rubens

Dining Room

Dining Room


Linen Press and Cupboard

Linen Press and Cupboard


This man stood in this position for so long studying the right gloved hand in Rubens' portrait, I actually thought he might have fallen into a trance or died on his feet. Perhaps his arthritic back is like mine: Sometimes you have to send long, hard messages to your back and legs to get them to move.
Studying the Hand of Reuben

Studying the Hand of Reuben


4. The Plantin-Moretus Museum
Christopher Plantin was the world's first commercial printer. He lived and worked in this fine structure. His son-in-law and descendants continued the business in the same building. It has been a museum since the late 19th century.
I was told by several people this was the most beautiful museum in Antwerp. I had some trouble finding it. When I arrived I found myself in a small dimly lit room with nothing but ancient maps of Antwerp and the world printed by the Plantin presses. Because it was way too much to read and I can barely see in dimly lit rooms, I was not impressed and wondered why I had been urged to come here.
Then, I realized I was in a very small temporary exhibit. The real thrill was the 30 room home and workshop of the family.
Large Library at the Plantin Moretus

Large Library at the Plantin Moretus


Small Library at the Plantin Moretus

Small Library at the Plantin Moretus


Oldest Printing Presses in the World

Oldest Printing Presses in the World

Garden of the Plantin Moretus

Garden of the Plantin Moretus

Plantin Moretus Exterior Stairway

Plantin Moretus Exterior Stairway

Windows through a Window

Windows through a Window


Many of the walls in the dwelling rooms were paneled with the original gilded leather. Much of it had come from Mechelen, where we visited in a previous blog.

When I did not take the public bus, I strolled many of the streets locating these museume.
Not All Streets Are Busy

Not All Streets Are Busy


Still a Port City

Still a Port City

Look What's Coming to Town

Look What's Coming to Town

Look Who's Coming to Town

Look Who's Coming to Town


I Have No Idea Why

I Have No Idea Why

Again, I Don't Know Why

Again, I Don't Know Why


Original Water Source

Original Water Source


Restoration on All the Residential Streets

Restoration on All the Residential Streets


Much of the activity in many of the residential streets reminded me of the summer I lived in Bordeaux, France. Here, as there, constant sandblasting and renovation noise goes on the entire working day.

Posted by pscotterly 09:03 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

Country Two - Mechelen

Day Visits to Another Town

I was told Mechelen was an interesting town just one half hour by train. I decided to pop up there late one afternoon for a stroll and dinner.
Original City Gatehouse

Original City Gatehouse


Children Love This Sculpture

Children Love This Sculpture


Gallery or Paint Store Window?

Gallery or Paint Store Window?

I walked through the Begijnhof.
It is worthwhile to right click on that link to read about the Begignhofs (beguinage if you want to find it in English or French).
These areas date back to the 1500s and the crusades. Men marched off to the Crusades and many did not return either because of being killed or deciding they liked it in the exotic lands. Because women without husbands did not have the same rights as before, widows and children created cities within cities or just outside the city walls.
Historic Designation

Historic Designation


Here in Mechelen, the area is a UNESCO heritage site. However, all the homes are modernized and lived in. I tried to search for the cost of one to buy or rent, but had no luck. I couldn't get any good photos. Perhaps you can find some on line.
Modern Sculpture in the Klein Begijnhoff

Modern Sculpture in the Klein Begijnhoff

Roses in the Groot Begijnhoff

Roses in the Groot Begijnhoff


Contrast

Contrast


The hotel in the left of this picture was once a hospital. I have no idea if it is the same one referenced in this article. I think the hoop makes a startling contrast to the surrounding buildings and church spire. At night it is a changing display of colored LED lighting.
In Belgium, it seems just around every corner is something that must date back 500 years!

I stumbled on a beautiful garden gate and building that gave public tours to their "factrory. " However, I had no idea what I would be touring.
DeWit Medieval Symmetrical Garden

DeWit Medieval Symmetrical Garden


A Little Starter

A Little Starter

A Pot of Mussels

A Pot of Mussels


I had dinner at a delightful restaurant on the Grote Markt. I was chatting with a lady close to my age who had come in for an evening glass of wine. I asked her what the DeWit building was. She had lived in Michelen all her life and was obviously a woman of education and means. She didn't know what I was talking about and thought perhaps it had something "to do with the Jews."

When I returned to my house in Kessel-Lo, I Googled it.

I discovered that the DeWit factrory is the world's most renown restorer and cleaner of antique tapestries. The "something to do with the Jews" is a barracks where the Jews and Romas were held for anywhere from days to months before they were transported to work or concentration camps.
Isn't it strange that this woman could tell me about sites she had visited in the USA, but did not know what was less than a mile from her doorstep. Maybe she just had a senior moment.

Anyway, I decided I had to return to see both. DeWit only offers public tours on Saturday mornings. I was back at the train station in Leuven at 8 AM on Saturday.
To my surprise we all had to get off the train at the airport stop because they were doing work on the track. I was slightly confused and all station personnel seemed to either not know what was happening or could not take the time to tell me what to do.A delightful African-Belgian couple who could speak at least 5 languages took it upon themselves to see that the "old American lady" got the transfer situation figured out, boarded the correct trains, and knew when to get off in Mechelen.
I also met a woman from Australia who has some international importance because of the research and book she has written on sustainable architecture. She gladly took their direction also.

The Dewit was fascinating - at least to me! I walked in the garden gate at exactly the right time for the tour. I was concerned that because of the train delay I would miss the tour. Fortunately, there were only four of us. Generally, there are up to 20 visitors. I am thankful for the cloudy, drizzly weather.
Guide and Fellow Tourists

Guide and Fellow Tourists


Because I have just finished a weaving class, I was fascinated with the loom they used to weave tapestries. The one for the demonstration was hundreds of years old. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take pictures. I would have loved to send some photos of it to my weaving teachers and classmates.
The abbeys built these houses of refuge in the city during medieval times. The monks would stay here when they came to town or when they had to flee the abbey because war and disease seemed to run rampant and not even the abbeys were safe.
Oldest Part of the Building

Oldest Part of the Building

Former Refuge

Former Refuge


The Kazerne Dossin is a former barracks. Now, it appears to be offices except for part of it that is a memorial and another section devoted to genealogy research.
Some of the Faces

Some of the Faces

28,000 Walked Through This Doorway

28,000 Walked Through This Doorway


Interior Yard of the Barracks Today

Interior Yard of the Barracks Today

No Pots of Begonias Then

No Pots of Begonias Then


It is a very poignant visit. The displays contain a few small relics such as a passport, a few buttons, a letter, or a picture of someone who was held and transported through here.
A Seat for Every Transport Train

A Seat for Every Transport Train


There were 26 transport trains that hauled Jews and Romas. I think this quote from their website describes it best.
Between July 1942 and September 1944, 25,482 Jews and 352 gypsies were rounded up and transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and to a number of smaller concentration camps. Two-third of the deported persons was gassed immediately upon arrival. At the liberation of the camps, only 1,395 were still alive. On 30 May 1948, a commemorative plaque was attached to the façade of the Dossin barracks as commemoration to this abomination. Since 1956, an annual ceremony is organised to commemorate the victims.
Transport 26

Transport 26


This was the last deportation train. It went out just a few days after the date of my birth.
One room is lined with video screens. One screen is devoted to each transport train. As known, the information and picture of people on that particular train is listed with the information whether they survived.
Video List for Each Deportation Transport

Video List for Each Deportation Transport

Posted by pscotterly 00:56 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

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