Friday, October 28, 2011

Four Seasons of October

October arrived with summer-like temperatures in the 80s but has since seen winter-like weather (at least for this California girl), spring-like rain with the last flowers in bloom and lastly, autumn leaves just beginning to change color. Last weekend was sunny but near freezing - it would've been a shame not to make the most of the clear blue skies (not that rain stops Belgians from being outside). So, armed in three layers of clothing, we walked to the impressive Porte de Hal/Hallepoort tower. It's in a bustling area, between the Midi train station and busy Avenue Louise, yet it appears that few people notice this historic monument. Porte de Hal/Hallepoort is the last remaining gateway of the city's 14th century second perimeter wall. It was later used as a prison and now as a museum dedicated to fortifications and medieval cities. Although the sun was shining outside, we took our own sweet time inside, enjoying the comfortably warm museum!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Home Sweet (temporary) Home

Home will always be Northern California but it didn't take me long to feel welcome in Brussels. Take, for example, the baker around the corner who doesn't seem to mind that I'm barely able to spit out the words to order a baguette (so much for my high school French). She smiles at me as I walk in saying, "Bonjour, je prendrai... " (pointing to what I want). She then gives me a mini French lesson as I direct her attention to the raisin snails, which I'm pretty sure are not called escargot de raisin sec. She says "couque Suisse", I repeat "couque Suisse", she smiles, I smile, I pay her and I walk out with my raisin snail (I mean couque Suisse). Yesterday I walked in and what did my eyes behold but a beautiful rainbow of colorful tarts. Before I knew it, I blurted out, "Bonjour, je prendrai toutes les tartes colorées"! I'm starting to fit in pretty well here!  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Parc du Cinquantenaire/Jubelpark

October's here and, it appears, so is summer! Today was one of those days when all of Brussels was outdoors, very befitting for a day at Parc du Cinquantenaire/Jubelpark. This park and palace were built in 1880, under King Leopold II's reign, for the Golden Jubilee in celebration of Belgian's independence. It took another 50 years to complete the grounds and triumphal arch between the two large exhibition halls. The halls held trade fairs, horse races and stored homing pigeons while the grounds were used to grow vegetables during the war. Fast forward to 2011... Parc du Cinquantenaire/Jubelpark is a beautiful place to enjoy a picnic, visit Autoworld (one of the world's best collections of cars), Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Musée Royal de l'Armée et d'Histoire Militaire and the Great Mosque of Brussels. Today we found sunbathers, the finish line for the Brussels Marathon, flowers in full bloom and even Snow White! What a memorable day!      

Finished in 1905, this arch was based on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris