TWO Belgium bank holidays this week so it has been wonderfully relaxing, only two days in the office and now I’m writing on the normal Friday skyping in to Care in London.

Here’s a wee photo diary of my week…

Every year the king opens up his greenhouses to he public for just a few weeks in the spring. These are not just little behind-the-garage-with-seedlings-for-the-vegetable-plot greenhouses but huge ornate buildings with intersecting glass corridors designed by some guy called Alphonse Balat who is apparently famous.

I went early on Saturday to try and beat the crowds (kinda worked) and after a few issues finding the right bus, got there. I decided that if I was a policeman, standing in the beautiful grounds of the palace in the sunshine all day would not be such a bad assignment. Although I might have been in danger of falling asleep and then being unavailable to tackle to the ground the granny trying to take a sneaky cutting of the fuschias. (That didn’t happen by the way but it’s a fun visual image).

In the afternoon I had a few more issues with the tram system (n.b. the trams at Montgomery Roundabout are all UNDERGROUND in case you ever need to find them) but then got the 94 out to Tervuren, a town just outside Brussels where it seems a lot of the expats with families like to live. Tervuren is home to the Africa Museum built by King Leopold II, a bit of a meglomaniac by most accounts, who was oh-so-proud of his activities in the Belgium Congo and wanted to show them off to the Belgium people.

It’s an impressive building and has some really interesting exhibits, about the colonial expansion in Africa, focussing on the history of Congo and it’s independence. Lots of photos and the normal galleries of masks and stuffed African animals. I just came away feeling overwhelmingly sad, which the sunshine and beautiful gardens outside had trouble to dispel.

Wednesday was our day off instead of today and Jo and I (very relieved that the train strike was called off) got the train to Antwerp. Yes, to see the city and cathedral with its two Rubens paintings and the big Grote Markt. But mostly just to shop. And we were justly rewarded for our patience in enduing accidentally getting on the slow train on the way by the huge aray of shops – soooo much better than Brussels! A very successful day was had in which we found lots of things we needed (TWO pairs of shoes for me – if you have spent even a few minutes with me in a shoe shop and seen the state of my curent shoes, you will realise what a remarkable feat this was for me).

In the afternoon we found this wonderful coffee shop which had renovated the cellar into seating area: unique and characterful which is always very satisfying for Joanna and I…

Thursday morning was an early start, unusual for me on a holiday you may be thinking. And I would agree. But this was special. Jo had had the inspired idea of organising the first Brussels Flea Market Challenge, in the spirit of English tv shows such as antiques roadshow and that other one where the contestants all compete to make the most money. Well we didn’t do that, but we did make it to the flea market at 8am, to meet up with some friends, all of whom came ready with their 10 euros and their best bartering powers at the ready!

So our total purchases included a huuuuge mirror, an old picture frame, a pair of glasses, a teapot for one, and – my own purchase – a three-tier cake stand! I don’t think we ever decided who won although my prize would go to Daniel who tried on every pair of glasses on one stand until he found the pair that closest matched his prescription and therefore bought them. They are definitely a unique style.

We rewarded ourselves with High English Tea back at our flat in the afternoon. The best way to finish off a day!

And the fun is not over yet because Jen arrives tonight for the weekend and a very special concert on Sunday night by a very special male group from the USA whose music most of my readers would almost certainly object to. We however are VERY excited to relive our teenage years for one night. I think I can remember most of the lyrics! Guesses on a postcard…

ed – just realised I already gave you the answer in a previous post. oh well. :)

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