Entries in Belgium (63)


bluebells in halle

It's almost bluebell time in Belgium and bluebonnet time in Texas: 2 of my favorite purply-blue flowers :)
Here's a few shots of the Belgian variety last spring.. I hope to snap a few of the Texas ones in coming weeks.


beer and bouillon in belgium

I've a couple of Belgian advenutures to share on the blog today..

The first was a trip to the trappist brewery of Orval. If you'd like to know more about the interesting world of monks brewing beer, here's a good history for you. You may also remember the "most famous beer in the world" run I made a couple of years ago with a friend to Westvlateren (also Trappist). Opps.. you don't know about that bc I never blogged it!?

SO.. here's a quick story for you about the most famous beer in the world! It's called Westvlateren and it's brewed at the St Sixtus Abbey by monks in western Belgium. They brew a "6, 8 and 12" with the "12" being THE chosen one. Technically, it's not for resale, so the best way to get it is to call a number on a certain day and you'll be given a set day and time to come and collect your 2 crates! My friend and I made a pact to both call and after TWO HOURS, I got thru and 1 week later, we were driving the almost-2 hours to go pick up our guys some beer! (neither of us drink beer by the way, but it was more for the sport and fun of it for us) :)
You drive up to the abbey at the alloted time and they load it for you.

all the more fun with a friend :)

You may have noticed, this "most famous beer in the whole world" doesn't have a label. What's up with that?? When it comes to beer labels, well, beer drinkers for that matter, you need to look no further than Mr. Chubbyfoot. ;) He had a Beer App while we were in Belgium and recorded around 550 unique beers! (out of 800+) One of his favorite labels is from Orval. It contains a drawing from the legend of the abbey.. It's of a fish and a ring.

Here's the legend as it's written on the website:

"The monastery was born of an act of gratitude :

Matilde was a widow and her weddin-gring had accidentally fallen into the fountain. She prayed to the Lord and at once a trout rose to the surface with the precious ring in its mouth.
Matilde exclaimed : "Truly this place is a Val d'Or ! "
In gratitude, she decided to establish a monastery on the site."

Neat story and cute label to match. See for yourself on the right: It's a beer tin that we brought home as a souvenier. I love it!
Let me tell you about the collage on the left.
Do you like it? It's over 150 beer labels that D soaked, peeled and dried from Belgium. He had them sorted into folders and a couple of months ago, we decided to make a piece of art out of it to display. I've never seen him as nervous as when I was cutting and then gluing (Permanantly) these labels! But it was a fun project to do together and I was happy to lend my creative (and steady) hand to the cause.
Here's a few up-close shots for you to see the details..
This was our process for our expat friends who might like to do the same (or I could see it being a neat project with Texas microbreweries, etc..).
He divided his labels into the A and B list. I glued the B listers down like a wallpaper first to cover the canvas. Not really overlapping, but just trying to cover the whole blank slate. I didn't want any white space. Then we carefully placed the A-listers on top. A few were so special to him that he didn't want to cut or cover them at all, but most we cut to show his favorite part of the label. Then any extras or back labels, I cut the tiniest colorful parts: words, bows, details.. and we filled those in at the very end. We covered a 24x48" canvas, but instead of modgepodging over it all and risking the delicate edges coming up, I bought a frame at Hobby Lobby then had a piece of glass cut to fit over it. Voila! Hope you like it as much as we do!

And just when I thought I my beer-art making was over.. I stumbled across this colorful collection :)

Thanks for hanging with me on that detour.. now, back to Orval!

This particular abbey visit had plenty of haunting, romantic ruins for the history buff and a cozy cafe for the beer conessiours. I'll let you guess which of us appreciated which more :)

next up was a visit to Bouillon Castle near the French border in SE Belgium. It's a huge fortress on a bluff that boasts a great falconry show. It was a great castle to take Rachel and Kevin to and the cute owls were a bonus :)  I wish I had a fun story for you about my collection of bouillon cubes or something, but I got nothin'. Just enjoy the castle and birds, please.
Thanks for stopping by..

Next up: Berlin!


bragging on brussels

Although a large part of my photos from living overseas comprise of our adventures around Europe, we had many, many fantastic memories in our "hometown" as well. I'd remember to take out the camera when we'd have visitors of course, so here's a few from my sister in law and her boyfriend, when they visited last spring.
As you can see, bxl was really showing off with these blue skies upon their arrival!

Of course, The Grand Place is the first stop on any proper Brussels tour.. complete with a waffle, frites, chocolate and beer. Those are really the non-negotiables :)
We spent the afternoon at the Grand Bigard castle which puts on a great tulip show in the spring.. complete with castle, moat and covered bridge. We came here our first year and took my in-laws as well. it's a great alternative to driving all the way to the Netherlands if you're short on time during tulip season!
More Grand Bigard Pics.
Dutch Tulip pics here and here..

One last stop at the Atomium for good measure.. Danny and I came here for the first time 15 years ago on our first time to Europe as well. ahh.. young love :)