August 29, 2011

Brussels Redeemed

Nutmeg was last in Brussels a couple decades ago (more or less).  At that time she and her friends stayed in an unrated hotel – sometimes called a “youth hostel”.  It was a rainy depressing few days, the city was uninviting, the food marginal (keep in mind a student budget) and the place was filled with beggars.
So fast forward… the accommodations are not grand this time, although certainly a big step up from the hostel.  The sun has shone for 2 out of 3 days and the beggars are gone.  That is not to say you should not watch your pockets, just do so with the same level of caution you would apply everywhere.
Brussels  fast facts:

population of over 1 million
55,000 of which are European officials
over 200 different nationalities can be found (1 in 2 people have foreign roots)
the city covers 170 sqkm (10 times the sprawl of Paris)
home to NATO and the EU

Apart from being the centre of European…

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August 27, 2011

One Big Tree How Many Belge Firemen Does It Take

On our way back to Brussels we encountered a tree!
This was no small tree it cut off  four lanes of a highway and both directions of traffic, including our bus for over two hours.  The good news?  No one was hurt.  That tree would have flattened any of the small gas friendly cars on the road and done serious damage to any moving vehicle.  On top of stopping both directions of traffic, the other complicating factor was that the tree had pulled down, although did not snap a power line.  Traffic ground to a slow crawl as the vehicles inched forward into a “sardine can” formation (if you have ever spent any time in a French or Quebec ski line?  If so, you might have an idea what this started to look like).
Finally, a single fire truck arrived to the rescue.  This event occurred in the middle of the afternoon on a Sunday in crappy weather…so it took awhile…

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August 27, 2011

Waterloo or Waterlogged in Belgium

What a fitting day to visit the battleground of Waterloo!
February 28, 2010: Driving rain, 4 degrees celsius, 100Km/hr winds – down right ugly – do you get the picture?  This trip was optional for Nutmeg, not so much for Ginger but they both decided to go along and learn something.  What Nutmeg figured out really quick is to get out of the bus in the driving rain was stupid and she could learn all about the battle inside the comfort of the vehicle.  Ginger felt he should support his classmates and stand outside until he totally soaked along with the camera.
Here is a short version of the long version we heard on the bus:
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium. An Imperial French army under the command of Emperor Napoleon was defeated by combined armies of the Seventh Coalition, one an Anglo-Allied army under the command of the Duke of…

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August 22, 2011

The Dreaded European Shower

Nutmeg loves Europe and the UK.  What is not to love?  There is great history, wonderful art and architecture, fantastic food, endless wine and vast cultures.  They just have no idea about showers.  Europeans and the Brits love to differ on many things but the dreaded Euro shower is consistent from country to country.  In the UK they tend to love hot baths and view the shower as a demon invention, only necessary to serve North American tastes.  Broadly used in the UK and other countries is a hand-held shower.  What this means is trying to hold the hose and nozzle in one hand while trying to soap, shampoo and shave with the other – please advise if you have perfected this circus trick.  The only method that Nutmeg has seemed to find marginally successful is to sit in the tub and use the sides of the bath as a bit of a barrier.  Some bathrooms are quite modern,…

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August 22, 2011

Paris Eating Buyer Beware

How can it be Paris eating – buyer beware? Extra charges for bread, expensive bottled water, 15% built-in service charge, “tourist” menus, snooty wait staff…

So armed with that knowledge and a list of Zagat rated restaurants recommended by Saffron, Nutmeg and Ginger venture out.  Her suggestions are all fabulous from the outside! The lesson?  Make a reservation!! Nutmeg and Ginger are zero for three so far (this might be good news for the Visa balance):
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August 22, 2011

Paris To Do List

No matter how many times you have been to Paris there is always something to do.  If you have never been before the must-do list includes; Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, The Opera, Bateaux Mouches, L’Arc de Triomphe, Montmartre, Champs Elysees, Notre Dame and St Michel.  After you have hit the must do list there are endless museums, galleries, great shopping and fantastic neighbourhoods to explore.

Nutmeg’s favourites include:
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August 22, 2011

Don’t tell the French Italian Coffee is Better

Nutmeg and Ginger are staying in the Novatel in Paris, needless to say it is not the Four Seasons nor the Ritz.  What is interesting is the coffee service, or lack thereof at breakfast.  The hotel serves a breakfast buffet and in an attempt to cater to international tastes, serve everything from croissants and baguette to powdered scrambled eggs.  Generally speaking they do a decent job (stay away from the eggs).  The two “coffee” waiters for a room of 60+ have the following task; to serve coffee.  Nutmeg is amazed how these guys (she has tested her theory on both of them) have the classic Paris waiter attitude often found in street side bistros…. just because you are seated in my restaurant in my section and look like you might want a coffee does not mean you deserve one. When you finally do get a coffee you are so darn thankful you drink it.

Out on the streets of Paris…

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August 20, 2011

Paris France Not to be confused with any other

Nutmeg and Ginger are in Paris for Gingers’ school trip. The great thing about Paris in February is the hordes of summer tourists are absent.  This does not mean there are no crowds but rather that the crowds are made up of more locals, French tourists and Asian school trips.  The weather is pleasant at about 5 degrees Celsius, however, it is not spring so requires a good heavy jacket, hat and gloves.  There is no snow on the ground so the ladies are all strutting their boots.  Nutmeg, as some might agree has a boot fetish so this is a bit like being in a candy store.  The boots cover all styles although there is a higher percentage of the black flat sole, zippered, laced or both. Nutmeg packed light so must be content with the one pair she did bring along.

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August 13, 2011

Happy Valentines and Aphrodisiac Foods

Love it or hate it, February 14 is today. So hug your sweetie or give yourself a special treat.  Here is some background:
Saint Valentine’s Day (commonly shortened to Valentine’s Day) is always on February 14 (yes, boys, that is TODAY) to celebrate love and affection. The holiday is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine and was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496. Traditionally, lovers express their love for each other by presenting gifts (flowers, candy, cards). The holiday first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.  Aphrodite was the mythical goddess of love.  Aphrodisiacs were first sought as a remedy for sexual anxieties.

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August 12, 2011

European Coffee and Chocolate Capitals

Nutmeg is off to join Ginger on a school trip. She really hopes that a school trip in your mid-40’s looks a lot different then it might of in high school. Anyway, watch for updates from the coffee and chocolate capitals: Paris, Vienna and Brussels.

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