Monday, December 24, 2007

Brussels Christmas Market

We visited the Christmas market in Brussels yesterday and suggest you don't miss it. There is a large Christmas tree and live nativity scene on the Grand Place with real sheep. The Town hall is lit up in the dark accompanied by music.

The Christmas market is around the Bourse so buy some traditional items and enjoy some Gluhwein or hot chocolate while you walk round. When you have finished, I recommend a drink and maybe something to eat in my favourite bar, Falstaff, in rue Henri Maus, next to the Bourse.

British Vision Art Exhibition in Gent

We visited the British Vision exhibition in Gent for 3 hours and can recommend a viewing. It runs until 13 January.

British Vision’ is an overview of two centuries of British art, representing every major artist, including William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough, George Stubbs, William Blake, John Constable, Joseph Mallord William Turner, David Hockney, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Stanley Spencer, Graham Sutherland, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and photographer Bill Brandt.
John Constable's Flatford Mill

The exhibition brings together over three hundred works of art from public and private collections throughout Britain, in addition to loans from major collections in Europe and the United States of America.

The selection contains oil paintings, watercolours, prints, drawings, sculpture, books and photographs. These works illustrate two important features typical of British art from the mid-18th to the mid-20th century: a real talent for observing daily reality and landscape on the one hand, and a fascination with the visionary on the other hand.

Museum of Fine Arts, F.Scribedreef 1 - Citadelpark, 9000 Ghent - Belgium
Tuesday until Sunday: from 10am until 6pm. On Wednesday until 9pm. Closed on Monday,
December 25th and January 1st. t+32 (0)9 240 07 00

Entrance is 9€ for adults, free for children under 12 and the 3 € audio guide (E-NL-F-D) is recommended. Travel by rail on a shopping biljet for 7€ in December and January, children go free. See for details.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Chimay Beer and Cheese

I have just enjoyed a Chimay Rood bier, 7% strong, and Chimay cheese sandwich with some sweet mango chutney.

Chimay is one of the authentic Trappist beers from Belgium which means that the beer was brewed within the walls of an existing trappist monastery under the control of the trappist community. A major part of the sales revenue is used by the monks to support charitable works.

To enjoy a Chimay beer, you need the chalice-shaped glass to fully experience the aromas and the flavour.

Chimay Rood gives a silky taste on the tongue and a slight touch of bitterness towards the end. It should be drunk between 10º and 12º C.

Carrefour are selling a gift pack with one bottle each of Chimay Rood, Blauw and Tripel plus a glass.

Michael Jackson book - Great Beers of Belgium

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Crossover Crosswalk paint Hasselt Zebra Crossings

A Hasselt resident who arranged for 19 zebra crossings in Hasselt to be painted in fun designs was ordered by the judge on Tuesday to restore them to their original state as they break traffic rules ("inbreuk op het wegverkeerreglement").

Whilst many local people found the designs of art project Crossover Crosswalk original and fun, the judge found that children were looking at the designs rather than concentrating on the traffic.

For each day that the zebra crossings are not restored to their original black and white, a fine of 100,000 € is due. The projectleader, a lawyer, also has to pay legal costs of 123.95 €.

Read here about the English woman who tried to bring Christmas cheer to her road crossings

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lunch Garden meal deal

Steak and chips is the favourite meal in Belgium.

Lunch Garden are offering a great meal deal:
- Steak et frites
- saladbar
- chocolate mousse

all for €9.95 instead of €12.95.

You can't get much more Belgian than that meal. Smaakelijk eten. Bon appetit.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Brussels Airlines sale - Thursday 13 December

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When to travel? From 22/12/2007 until 20/03/2008
When to book? On Thursday 13 December 2007, from 6pm until midnight on
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Use EuroTravel, the one-stop site for travel to and within Europe.

Monday, December 10, 2007

God Bless Belgium - YouTube

Half a year has gone by since the 10 June national elections and still Belgium has no national government. The French speakers cannot agree to terms set by the Flemish majority and despite many rounds of talks, we are still at impasse.

Many have raised the question of splitting Belgium into two countries: Flanders and Wallonia.

This commercial was aired to raise the spirit of the proud Belgians to keep the country whole.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Center Parcs - €150 Discount

As today marks the arrival of the holy man from Spain, Saint Nicholas (De Sint), he has brought a fantastic present for everyone: a discount of at least € 150 on a fun weekend or midweek stay in any Center Parcs!

This special Saint Nicholas discount is only valid on bookings made by Saturday 15 December, for arrivals up to 10 March 2008. Only a certain number of cottages are available in the offer, so when they are full - they are full.

What about a great stay over the Christmas or New Year period? The two Belgian parks are located in Limburg and have every facility you could need.

De Sint and his Zwarte Pieten wish you lots of fun in A State of Happiness!

Center Parcs Saint Nicholas discount Use booking code CP2461.

My sons had lots of fun at a Center Parcs in Holland in August 2006 and keep asking when can we go back.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Vrouwensportdag Limburg, 13 November 2007

On 13 November 2007, over 700 Limburg women of all ages, shapes and sizes joined the 15th annual Vrouwensportdag in De Souverein sports centre, Lommel.

For only 4€ our gemeente Heusden-Zolder organized a coach, soup and coffee and we could choose from eight different programmes, each consisting of three sports.

Sports included: nordic walking, nature walk, laughter walk, yoga, pilates, aerobics, step, African Djembe dance, NIA, percussion, Latin Aerobics, spinning, aquagym, country dancing, folk dancing and bowling,

I chose Nordic walking which I always enjoy. Unfortunately, the initiation course was cancelled in my gemeente for the second year running so I am still looking for a beginners course to build on the odd lesson I have had in other places.

After nordic walking came spinning. I should have known not to enrol for this. Spinning is fast exercise on a stationary bicycle, sometimes sitting, sometimes standing, sometimes leaning on the handlebars and as if it was not difficult enough, varying the resistance so you are in effect going uphill. It was too much for me and I really do not know how the older ladies kept going, except for the fact that "Belgians are born on bicycles". I could barely walk for two days afterwards and going downstairs was painful in my calves.

The best part for me was discovering NIA brought to us by Gitte. She describes NIA as the balance of T'ai Chi, the strength of eastern martial arts such as Tae Kwon Do, expression, creativity and spontaneity of dance and the relaxation of yoga.

"Het evenwicht van T'ai Chi + de kracht van Oosterse krijgssporten + de expressie, creativiteit en spontaniteit van dans + EN de rust van yoga."

It was wonderful, combining all my favourite activities in one class which was at times powerful, graceful, free flowing, harmonious and always fun.

Gitte is the only teacher of Nia in Belgium and you can reach her on her Nia website. The site has beautiful poetry and illustrations.

If you are a Limburg woman, look out for the 16th Vrouwensportdag in November 2008.

Antonia Stuart-James is an English Hypnotherapist in Belgium helping people to make positive change.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Flanders-Netherlands merger?

Over five months since the 10 June election and Belgium is still without a government. Recently the Dutch newspaper 'Dag on Monday' announced that nearly half of the Dutch would be happy for Flanders and the Netherlands to unite in one country. (54% Dutch men, 36% Dutch women)

Many Dutch supporters of a merger think a new country with a population of 22 million people might enhance their political and economic power in the European Union.

80& of Dutch nationals say they are very fond of the Flemish. The Dutch like the Flemish Burgundian attitude towards life, their accent and their good mood and gentle character.

A Burgundian lifestyle generally indicates a more relaxed approach to life; open, frivolous and exuberant with emphasis placed on good food and drink, notably beer. The 'Roman Catholic' Burgundian lifestyle in the historically strongly Catholic provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg can be contrasted to the 'Calvinistic Protestant' more sober lifestyle of the Dutch living north of the rivers Rhine, Waal and Meuse. The Burgundian lifestyle is considered to be closer to the 'Latin' lifestyles in the southern, Catholic part of Europe.

Many Dutch support a Flanders Netherlands merger. Nowadays, however, according to US academic Luke Fleeman, "the term is used more as an identification layer to differ oneself to others, than that it is a true way of life. More in the Netherlands than in Flanders, true differences between the historically Catholic and Protestant regions have greatly diminished."

The newspaper said it decided to poll the Dutch because of the political crisis in Belgium. "Belgium is lame and the government formation continues to fail," the newspaper writes. "The language barrier between the Flemish and the Walloons appears to be an obstacle. It is high time for the Dutch to help out the Flemish. How? By merging Flanders with the Netherlands."

Between 1815 and 1830 the two countries formed the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and strong historical and cultural ties continue to exist, the text of the petition continues.

"We welcome the Flemish if they want to merge with us. Anticipating a possible merger, the Dutch Protestant reformed crown-prince has already married a Roman-Catholic wife," the petition says. "Princess Maxima may become the Belgian queen and Crown-Prince Willem-Alexander the Dutch king, but the Belgians can also retain King Albert."

The petition also points out a merger might end the competition between the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp, enhance the chances of the new merged state at the Eurovision song festival and strengthen the Dutch language.

Readers of the newspaper also suggested a new name for the merged countries: Netherbelgium, Orangeland, Deltaland, Lowlands and the Dutch-Flemish Federation.

source: Expatica 12 November 2007

This is all very well but in 1830 the Belgian people rose to a revolution to gain independence from the Dutch. I do not think they are in any hurry to reunite.

Chimay Beers and Cheeses

The BIERES DE CHIMAY is a company is based in Chimay, a small town in the south of Belgium. It employs 75 persons and the turnover for 2002 was 23 millions euros. Bières de Chimay bottles and sells the Trappist beers of Chimay, brewed within the Abbey of Scourmont under the control and responsibility of the Trappist Monks. Since 1862 the monks have brewed their premium beer, known today under the name of " Première " (75 cl (25.4 fl.oz.)). The Chimay beers are authentic Trappist beers, since they meet the necessary three conditions :

*They are brewed within the Trappist Abbey.
*Under the control and responsibility of the religious Trappist community.
*The majority of the revenue generated from its sale is used for charitable purposes.

Quality has always had priority over quantity. The success of the beers has led, step by step, to a present production level of 123.000 hectolitres (2.706.000 gallons) per year.

The Trappist Beers of Chimay, positioned in a constantly growing speciality beer market, are available in more than 40 countries around the world. They are Chimay Red, Chimay Blue and Chimay Triple

Chimay is an authentic Trappist beer that is it is brewed within a Trappist monastery, under the control and responsibility of the monastic community. Only 6 beers in Belgium can carry the appellation "Trappist": Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, Westvleteren and Achel.

Chimay also produce 4 cheeses. They have a truly unique character born from secular know-how and they appeal to every sensitive palate. Covered with forests and pastures and crossed by numerous rivers, the countryside of Chimay has always been a livestock-rearing area. And dairy herds mean cheese!

Since 1876, the Trappist monks of Scourmont have known the secrets of making this semi-hard cheese made from good milk from their farm and matured in the vaulted cellars of the abbey. Today, Chimay cheese is made exclusively with regional milk and the Trappist monks have modernised their production equipment. Technology has combined with tradition for the greater happiness of the connoisseur and Chimay cheese has adapted itself to high consumption whilst retaining its authenticity.

All production respects the great monastic brewing tradition and takes place, even today, in the original abbey buildings in spite of a net increase in productivity.

Since its renovation in 1989, the brewery uses all its modern technology to back up its exclusive knowledge which dates back to 1862. Even though the brewery only operates from 07.00 to 16.00 out of respect for the schedules of the monastic life, it produces every day two batches of 250 hectolitres (52,850 pts) each.

How to drink Chimay?
From what type of glass should you drink your Chimay?
Whatever Chimay you are tasting, it is essential to have a perfectly clean glass, with no finger marks or traces of grease. The Chimay glass is essential: only this chalice-shaped glass (called a Gourmet in the 18 cl (6 fl.oz.) version) will permit you to experience the aromas and flavours of a beer on which scrupulous care has been lavished throughout its production.

At what temperature should you taste your Chimay?
Chimay Red and Chimay Blue are ideally drunk at the ambient cellar temperature: from 10 to 12°C (50 to 53.6°F); a temperature which gives Chimay Blue a great richness of body and soul!
Triple Chimay should be drunk cooler, between 6 and 8°C (42.8 to 46.4°F).
Note however that Chimay Blue and Red can also be drunk colder, at about 8°C (46.4°F), when they will be found to be particularly refreshing.

What is the correct way to serve a Chimay?
Tilt the glass slightly and pour the beer slowly. Be very careful not to touch the glass or the head with the neck of the bottle. Then pour the beer in one go being careful to leave one centimetre of beer in the bottle. Don't forget to hold the glass by the stem to avoid any fingermarks.

What should you eat with Chimay?
It goes without saying that Chimay goes perfectly with the 4 Chimay cheeses. But Chimay can also be used as an ingredient in many culinary preparations.

Source: Alan McCulloch's blog

Visit Gueuze for information and book reviews on Belgian beers.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Belgian beer wins prizes

Belgian beers breweries won prizes in several categories of the 'European Beer Stars Awards in Nuremburg, Germany. The competition took place during the Nuremburg beer fair 'Brau Beviale'. More than 570 beers were judged and awards prizes in 40 different categories.

Affligem Brewery got the gold medal for its blond (white-coloured) abbey beer named after the brewery. The Affligem Double and Affligem Triple yeasting brews were awarded silver medals. Affligem Brewery is in Affligem, East Flanders. Het Anker Brewery from Mechelen won a gold medal for its 'Gouden Carolus' classic. The brewery De Landstheer in Antwerp province was awarded a gold medal for 'Malheur 10°' (Malheur is French for bad luck!).

The brewery De Halve Maan from Bruges received a silver medal for its 'Brugse Zo't and a bronze medal for its 'Brugse Zot Double' brew. 'Zot' is Dutch for 'crazy'.

Silver medals also went to the Brouwerij Roman brewery in the East Flemish town of Oudenaarde for its 'Sloeber', and to De Ryck brewery in Herzele, also in East Flanders, for its 'Arend triple'.

Source: Expatica 19 November 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fitness Club Membership in Belgium

According to an article in "De Morgen" on 21 November 2007, page 12:

- Only 5% of Belgians are enrolled members of a fitness club. This is the lowest rate in Europe with an average 7.8% and 16.4% in neighbouring Netherlands.
- There are 500,000 members of which 400,000 are in Flanders
- 80% (532) of 679 fitness clubs are in Flanders whilst 147 are in Wallonia.

This shows enormous growth potential and business opportunity.

The research was conducted by Fitness Organisatie.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Business Cards in Belgium

Finding a supplier of affordable but professional business cards in Belgium has been a challenge. The local shop charges a minimum of 125 € and I really only wanted a small quantity at low cost.

I was therefore delighted to find Print 24 who offer a choice of designs, colours and font sizes with a great offer of 250 colour business cards for FREE with just 7.95 € postage and packing. They have lots of designs and colourways to choose from.

If you want to order some cards, just visit Print 24

250 Business cards FOR FREE*

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mr. Bean, Rowan Atkinson in Brussels

This short film is rather chaotic but it is a bit of fun - Rowan Atkinson playing the part of Mr Bean on his visit to the Mannekin Pis in Brussels.

Beautiful Photo of Bruges - Brugge

Isn't this a beautiful photo of Bruges (English/French) or Brugge (Dutch)?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Week van de Smaak 2007 - Vlaanderen and Brussels

The 2nd Week van de Smaak (Week of Taste) will run in Flanders and Brussels from 15-24 November 2007. This is a Flemish festival dedicated to gastronomy - well eating and drinking in general with more than 700 organisers of more than 1,200 events.

Week van de Smaak 15 - 24 november 2007

There are tastings of world cuisines such as Italian, African, Turkish food - not forgetting streekproducten from the different areas in Belgium, demonstrations in hotel and catering schools, masterchefs, events in breweries, wine tastings, cookery classes including some for children, talks on typical foods, guided tours and various other events.

Here are some unusual items I spotted:
* "De Vijf Smaken op Zijn Brussels", a discovery of Brussels cuisine meeting at Sint Katelijneplein at 14.00 on 17 November.
* "Niet Elke Pater is een Trappist" discussing the differences between Trappist and Abbey beers, Brussels on 14 November, beers tasting included in the 10 €.
* How about a talk on sprouts (spruitsjes)?
* The Dag van de Geuze will be given by De Lambikstoempers in Halle, Vlaams Brabant on 24 November.
* Ecological cooking with pumpkin, Kortenberg on 16 November.
* Spanish tapas and sherries, Everberg on 17 November.
* Spices and drinks in the Middle Ages, Overwinden on 25 November.
* Blindfold dinner, Leuven on 20 November.
* Marzepan, talk at the Suikermuseum in Tienen.
* International pancakes workshop in Antwerp throughout the festival.
* Reading of Poetry about food, Antwerp on 18 November.
* A meal from the time of Keizer Karel in the 16th century, Rijmenam on 21 November.
* Belgian beers tasting, Hemiksem on 21 November.
* Pizzas cookery class for children, Putte on 21 November.
* Tea and coffee tastings in Turnhout.
* Children cooking with syrup, Borgloon on 21 November.
* Nostalgic cookery class, Bree on 22 November.
* Bangladesh cuisine tasting, Genk on 17 November.

A Dutch language class in Brussels will offer typical dishes from their homelands with explanation. There are a couple of film events about chocolate.

Some mayors are doing their bit by cooking for the public such as in Laakdal on the 18th when the mayor will be cooking spaghetti; in Genk, pasta on the 23rd and on the 18th, the mayor of Kalmthout will cook Italian fish soup.

The Flemish bookshop Standard Boekhandel are running a free tasting of Jenever all day on Saturday 17 November in all their shops. Throughout the festival they will display tasting tabels with gastronomy books at special low prices. Marc Joye's book "Feestelijk met Bier" is available for just 5 Euros with a coupon in the brochure. The coupon also gives a discount on cooks about vegetables, desserts and wine.

Some Spar supermarkets will have cookery demonstrations and tastings.

A special feature this year is EETiKET, about children (aged 6-12)and restaurant culture. The idea is that children should enjoy going out to eat and be welcome in restaurants. More than 90 children-friendly restaurants in the brochure welcome children and a section of the website is aimed at schools.

Looking ahead, the lovely town of Lier south of Antwerp will be bidding for the title "Stad van de Smaak 2008" with Oma's smikkelport, a turn of century menu, local products on the Zimmerplein (don't miss the Zimmer Tower), wine tastings, a culinary quiz, Moroccan pizzas, Portuguese specialities and more. Kortrijk hold the title in 2007.

A Free brochure is available in public libraries, Standard Boekhandel and Spar supermarkets with activities divided into provinces and listed under town names. You can also find details on the website.

Click here for info

Echt lekker!

For travel to Belgium, visit Eurotravel

Monday, November 12, 2007

Leonardo Da Vinci Exhibition in Brussels

We visited the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition on view at the Basilica Koekelberg in Brussels. This is one of the most complete exhibitions ever on one of the greatest thinkers of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci .

The exhibition, Leonardo - The European Genius, will run until 15 March 2008 at the Koekelberg Basilica, the fifth largest church in the world and the largest Art Deco building ever constructed.

It is presented in four separate themes:
– Leonardo the man from Tuscany to the Loire Valley
- Leonardo the artist with sketches, paintings, sculptures
- Leonardo the engineer with reconstructions including machines and bridges
- Leonardo the humanist with his mysterious reversed writing and collection of codices by the master.

As such, the exhibition presents all the different aspects of his work and the legacy that he left behind to Renaissance art and science, through to the modern day.

There are original works including the Codex of the Flight of Birds and Leonardo's only self portrait, many of which have been lent by major museums worldwide. Obviously, the Mona Lisa "La Giconda" is too fragile and valuable to be lent. The original "Last Supper" is a fresco in Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan but the copy in Belgium's Tongerlo copy is apparently so faithful to the original, that it was used as a model for renovation of the original. Interest in the Last Supper has been heightened by the novel "The Da Vinci Code" and reference is made to this and the possible significance of Mary Magdalene. The semi-nude portrait of Mary Magdalene holding a veil over her bare breasts had been unseen for fifty years when it was found five years ago in a private Swiss collection. It had previously been attributed to Da Vinci's pupil Giampetrino.

Leonardo (1452-1519) was also a famous engineer and the exhibition shows 45 working models based on the master's designs and all built to scale, including a parachute, helicopter, sailplane, automobile carriage, floating bridge, a double-hulled boat and a 20 metre swing bridge that has never before been built. My children loved seeing these models and wanted to borrow a book about Leonardo's inventions from the library.

This exhibition is spread over 3,000m² so there is plenty to see, interspersed with short videos which set the scene of the various locations in Leonardo's life. Over 100 original works from other artists are also displayed giving context to themes and subjects including Raphael, Michelangelo, Canaletto, Albrecht Dürer and Hieronymus Bosch.

An interesting fact is that Leonardo was left-handed and developed backwards mirror writing so that he did not smudge the ink. Many facsimile copies of his original notebooks are on show.

I most enjoyed the section on the Vitruvian Man. Leonardo (1492) based this on studies made earlier in the 1st Century calculating the exact proportions of every part of a man's body to another. Extremely detailed measurements and calculations were made of this average sized man.

Leonardo -The European Genius site is
Entrance price: 10,00 € adults, 8,50 € 6-18 years, Free 0-6 years
Walkman audio guide available in choice of four languages: 2,50 € (recommended)

For ways to travel to Brussels visit Euro Travel

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembrance Day - 11 November 2007

Today is Remembrance Day - L'Armistice - Wapenstilstand. I heard that the oldest British survivor of WWI is 109 years old.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele (old Flemish name, Passendale in English), a First-World-War offensive that became a symbol of the violence of war in its most gruesome and senseless form. In remembrance of the 500,000 soldiers who lost their lives, the municipalities of Zonnebeke, Heuvelland, Messines and Ypres have marked the anniversary with a series of events coinciding with the phases of the original offensive. The events, have taken place over five weekends between June and November. The last, this weekend, remembers the Canadians.

Fought in 1917, the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres (Ieper), was one of the major battles of the First World War. British, ANZAC and Canadian soldiers fought against the German Army for control of the Belgian village in a battle that lasted three months and claimed the lives of over 500,000 soldiers.

The British soldiers could not pronounce Ypres or Ieper so they looked at the French spelling and called the place "Wipers".

Memorial Museum Passendale 1917
The Long, Long Trail
BBC: Battle of Passchendaele
Wikipedia - Battle of Passchendaele

Appropriately, this poem was written by a Canadian officer:

In Flanders Fields
The poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
- Canadian Luitenant-Colonel John McCrae in 1815 (1872-1918)

In flanders Fields Museum 057 23 92 20 Ieper

This video shows real footage of the battle accompanied by Iron Maiden's song.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Magical Christmas Markets in Belgium

It is cold this weekend so time to think of warm cheer and the enjoyment of a Belgian Christmas market. St Nicholas (Sint Niklaas) arrives on 6 December to visit good children. Shops abound with yummy treats such as marzipan, flat hard cakes known as ‘klaasjes’ and ‘speculoos’, a hard gingerbread molded in the form of St. Nicholas.

Christmas markets are an old holiday tradition in Belgium where both locals and visitors can shop for original and traditional decorations along with other Christmas goodies at open-air stalls in the heart of the city.

Many towns and villages throughout Belgium hold Christmas markets. Most will be aglow with colorful illuminations around their main streets and shopping centers.

In all major cities, shopping will be possible on the four Sundays preceding the holiday. The local Tourist Offices can provide visitors with details on the numerous nativity scenes on display, Christmas markets, concerts and other seasonal events.

Brussels will hold its annual European Christmas market on the Place St. Catherine, from 1 December to 1 January. (M-F: 11-20h & Sat/Sun: 11-22h)

An array of products will be available in a warm and friendly atmosphere. This market with its cheerful lights, delicious aromas and a vast number of stalls promises a true holiday atmosphere. In addition to the Christmas Market the Brussels ice skating rink offers fun for all. This year for the first time a separate small skating rink invites toddlers to enjoy this wonderful winter sport too. And the holiday atmosphere would not be complete without a visit to the Grand’Place decorated in festive lights for the occasion. For more information:

Antwerp – 7 December to 6 January
Bruges 24 November to 6 January Christmas Market in the historical center of the city, also on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Gent – 7 to 24 December
Ieper – 30 November to 26 December
Leuven – 12 to 16 December
Liege - 155 decorated wooden cottages form a magical Christmas Village throughout December. Details 011-324/254 9797. The East Cantons is an area to spend a few hours. Don’t miss the opportunity to attend a Christmas concert given by regional choirs and musical societies during the period of Advent, when the Christmas lights appear! Tourism Office of the East Cantons at Tel: 011/328022.
Mechelen – 14 to 16 December
Ostend 30 November to 24 December, Christmas market with ice rink – 8 December to 6 January

For various ways to travel to Belgium, visit EuroTravel

A visit to Malmedy

We visited Malmedy, in the Eastern Cantons of Belgium, between the Ardennes and Germany. This region was part of Germany until 1920 when it was awarded to Belgium as war retributions. Malmedy was annexed again to Germany from 1940 to 1944. The city was severely damaged during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. Bombings killed 219 and destroyed most of the historical houses of the downtown. 700,000 German-speaking Belgians live in the Eastern Cantons,nearly 1% of the population but the people of Malmedy speak French.

Malmedy won the title of the most beautifully flowered town of Europe in 1996.

Malmedy sits on the edge of The “Hautes Fagnes” (Hoge Venen). "This vast empty territory where Belgium touches the sky has inspired many painters and poets. Merciless with the inattentive wanderer, mysterious in the fog, gorgeous under the sun or the snow, the “Hautes Fagnes”, land of legends and wild-life reserve should be visited with respect."
Nature Centre of Botrange: 080 / 44 57 81 4000 hectares of grote natuurpark

A bit of Linguistic History
"Malmedy was formally annexed to Prussia in 1822. In 1853, King of Prussia Friedrich-Wilhelm IV visited Malmedy and said he was so happy to have in his kingdom "a small country where people speak French". In 1862, Bismarck was appointed Chancellor. The suppression of the French language in all administrative documents was required in 1863. The Municipal Council, presided by Mayor Gustave Piette, officially protested and quoted a text of the Prussian government from 12 August 1823, which recognized that French had always been the mother language in Malmedy. In March 1866, a "magistral" letter from the Regency ordered the Municipal Council to translate its proceedings in German, which was received with another protestation. In September, the President of the Rheinzprovinz announced that the Minister of the Interior had cancelled the previous Decrees and that the use of French in the administrative documents was allowed again. However, the Regency asked again in August 1867 the German translation of the documents. Mayor Piette resigned and was succeeded in March 1868 by Anton Andres. He was from Büllingen (Bullange) and German-speaker, but he allowed the debates to be made in French and provided German translations to the Regency. The two local newspapers were still published in French, La Semaine since 1848 and L'Organe de Malmedy since 1880. An attempt to found a German newspaper failed."


Local dishes include game, trout, Malmedy kiss (baiser de Malmedy) pastry and the Russian salad (salade russe); this (very) mixed salad is made only during the carnival and recommended to get rid of hangovers.

We ate in A Vî Mam'Dî on Place Albert Ier, Tel 080/396366. The waiter welcomed us in four languages and spoke all four very well. I chose Waterzooi Gantoise (not at all from Malmedy, I know) and my husband ate the local pork in Malmedy beer. We recommend the beer which we have not found elsewhere but the nearest in taste would probably be Blond de Ciney as Ciney is not far away.

The Malmedy Massacre
Just outside Malmedy is a memorial to the 86 American soldiers killed by German Troops in 1944. I found this info on a site about the film 'Saints and Soldiers':

Q: What is the historical background of the "Malmedy Massacre" and what part did it play in WWII?

A1: On December 17, 1944, the US Army's Battery B, 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion passed through Malmedy, Belgium and soon after encountered a German unit led by Colonel Joachim Peiper. Knowing it to be one of Germany's most effective and brutal units, the American soldiers quickly surrendered, as they were armed with nothing larger than machine guns.

Nearly 140 men were disarmed and taken captive. When a few of the Americans attempted an escape, the German troops opened fire on the prisoners. Eighty-six soldiers were killed while an additional 43 managed to survive by playing dead and fleeing into the nearby woods. Through a frozen wilderness during one of the coldest winters on record, survivors filtered into Malmedy, giving the event its name. Word of the horrific event spread quickly, giving the Americans more determination and resolve to finish the war and return home.

Population: 11,400

Malmedy is a lovely small town, an ideal place to visit on a weekend for a leisurely meal and drive around the area.

I heard yesterday (9 November) that the Eastern Cantons had a snowfall of 10cm.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Belgium top research country

Thu 08/11/07 - Readers of US publication The Scientist have chosen Belgium as the best country in the world for scientific research. Researchers in the US, Canada and western Europe were quizzed about their experiences in scientific research centres across the globe. (Belga) Belgium came out on top.

It is the first time ever that Belgium has featured in first place in the "Best Countries for Scientific Research" ranking.

Last year Belgium came home in fifth position. The United States was ranked second, Canada third.

The Internet poll also identified Ghent University as one of the best environments for scientific research for academics in Europe.


Shoe Size 62

I saw this shoe in Hasselt, Belgium. It belongs to a Ukranian man who is 2.57m tall, weighs 200kg and has a 62 shoe size!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dinosaurs Museum in Brussels

The Museum of Natural Sciences reopened on 27 October with Europe’s largest dinosaur gallery which will emphasize science and authenticity. With the famous iguanodons of Bernissart and lots of new dinosaur skeletons and casts as well as interactive exhibits and an on-site paleontology and geology laboratory for children.

Museum of Natural Sciences
Rue Vautier 29, B-1000 Brussels (close to Park Leopold)

Tuesday to Friday from 9:30 to 16:45;
Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00;
during Belgian school holidays in autumn, at Christmas, carnival and Easter: week-end schedule (closed on Mondays).
on 24 and 31 December the Museum is open until 3 p.m.

Closed on Mondays; on 25 December, on 1 January, on 1 May;

Admission prices: Adult € 7.00, Student € 6.00, 6-17 years € 4.50, 0-5 years Free
Lower prices for groups 15+ and guided visits possible
Taking photographs and making video films is allowed in the Museum, provided the pictures are for personal, non professional and non business use.

Visit Dinosaurs website

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Kingdom of Belgium Koninkrijk België

Here is a lovely compilation of photos from Belgium.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Everybody Eats Well in Belgium cookbook

I am trying to find this cookbook so would be very grateful if anyone can tell me ( where it is on sale or if they have a copy for sale. I cannot find it on or

A collection of over 250 recipes from Belgium, where there are more 3-star restaurants per capita than any other nation. Among the recipes included are Flemish carrot soup, waterzooi of chicken, Belgian steamed mussels and little chocolate nut cakes.

It's a country that boasts more three-star restaurants per capita than any other nation--including France. It's a country where home cooks--and everyone, it seems, is a great home cook--spend copious amounts of time thinking about, shopping for, preparing, discussing, and celebrating food. With its French foundation, hearty influences from Germany and Holland, herbs straight out of a Medieval garden, and condiments and spices from the height of Flemish culture, Belgian cuisine is elegant comfort food at its best--slow-cooked, honest, bourgeois, nostalgic. It's the Sunday meal and a continental dinner party, family picnics and that antidote to a winter's day.

In 250 delicious recipes, here is the best of Belgian cuisine. Veal Stew with Dumplings, Mushrooms and Carrots. Potato and Leek Stoemp. Smoked Trout Mousse with Watercress Sauce. Braised Partridge with Cabbage and Abbey Beer. Gratin of Belgian Endives. Flemish Carrot Soup. Steak-Frites. Belgian Steamed Mussels. Belgian Steamed Mussels. Cognac Scented Flemish Waffles. And desserts, some using the best chocolate on earth: Belgian Chocolate Ganache Tart, Lace Cookies from Brugge, Almond Cake with Fresh Fruit Topping, Little Chocolate Nut Cakes.

As Belgians explain it, since one has to eat three times a day, why not make a feast of every meal? 57,000 copies in print.

"Everybody Eats Well in Belgium"
ISBN13: 9781563054112
ISBN10: 1563054116

Recipe for Carbonades Flamandes or Vlaamse Stoverij

Flemish Beef Stew Cooked in Beer (Vlaamse Stoverij or Les Carbonades Flamandes)
Serves 6 to 8
Source: "Everybody Eats Well in Belgium" cookbook

Beef stew cooked in beer has long been part of the culinary heritage of Belgium, and it is still one of the most popular stews in Flanders. Through the ages, the recipe has varied, and every mother passes on her "secret" to her children. My mother likes to add some liver or kidneys to the beef, which certainly gives the stew a more distinctive flavor. My grandmother likes it, more "sweet" and adds a slice of pain d'epices, an old-fashioned honey spice, bread, or even a slice of country bread spread with a strong mustard. These spicy and sweet flavorings have been an integral part of the Belgian palate and cuisine since the Middle Ages.

The following version is a basic one and my favorite. Like many other stews it is best made a day or two ahead since it improves in flavor. The success of the dish depends greatly on the quality of the beer you use. Look for a rich, dark, and slightly bitter beer, such as Rodenbach or a dark Abbey beer.

Serve this stew with French fries or boiled potatoes, applesauce, and plenty of "golden ambrosia," the name the old Belgians gave to their beloved beer.

4 pounds boneless stew meat,such as chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 large onions (about 2 pounds), thinly sliced
2 bottles (12 ounces each) Belgian beer
2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 tablespoons red currant jelly (or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon cider or red wine vinegar

1. Season the beef cubes with the salt and pepper and dredge with the flour. Shake off any excess.

2. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large heavy skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the beef cubes and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Work in batches so as not to crowd the beef cubes, or they will steam instead of sauté. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, if necessary. Transfer the beef cubes to a heavy Dutch oven.

3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the onions and cook stirring occasionally, until browned, about 15 minutes. If necessary, raise the heat toward the end of the cooking time. It is important to brown the meat and the onions evenly to give the stew its deep brown color. The trick is to stir the onions just enough to avoid burning the but not so often as to interrupt the browning process. Combine the onions with the meat in the Dutch oven.

4. Deglaze the skillet with the beer, scraping with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits, and bring to a boil. Pour the beer over the meant. Add the thyme and bay leaves.

5. Simmer, covered, over low heat until the meat is very tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Before serving, stir in the red currant jelly and vinegar; simmer for 5 minutes. This sweet-and-sour combination will give this hearty stew its sprigs and bay leaves. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.

Note: If this recipe looks like it will make too much for you, go ahead and prepare it anyway, for the stew freezes beautifully. Then you have an instant dinner awaiting your pleasure.

Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook
by Ruth Van Waerebeek with Maria Robbins
Illustrations by Melissa Sweet
Workman Publishing ISBN: 1-56305-411-6 (Paperback)
ISBN: 0-7611-0106-3 (Cloth)
Reprinted with permission

Friday, October 26, 2007

Rude Belgian Chocolates

Belgian chocolates are famous the world over but forget dainty shaped pralines, have you ever seen chocs like these?

I saw them in Hasselt.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Poster for Women

Ijust saw this cheeky poster aimed at women. The caption means,
"Ladies, save for your pension."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hasselt Genever Festival

20 and 21 October 2007 are the dates to be in Hasselt, Limburg for the 18th Genever (Jenever in Dutch) Festival. Hasselt is the Belgian capital for this strong schnapps type drink. The National Genever Museum in Witte Nonnenstraat 19 produces Hasselt genever in the authentic 19th century distillery and after official approval by the Mayor at 3pm on the Saturday, everybody is invited to taste in the museum courtyard.

The Borrelmanneke's treat
True to annual tradition, the "Borrelmanneke" statue, the symbol of genever production in Hasselt, buys a drink on Saturday. At 4:30 p.m. the water of the fountain becomes genever.

There is a full weekend programme of activities for the whole family to enjoy. The Waiters Race (Kelnerwedloop) will run through the town centre at 3pm on Sunday from the Molenpoort, the winner receiving his weight in genever.

Pub "Den Ossekop" (The Ox Head) on the Fruitmarkt welcomes visitors to entertainment in a tent from 1 to 8pm on Saturday and 1 to 7pm on Sunday.

There will be several sites of street animation and music. The Dramglasses Fair (Stoopkeskermis) on the grote Markt offers a fair with a carrousel, music and of course a bar. The Genever Fair (Jeneverkermis) on Jeneverplein will be organized by the Rotary Club offering ambiance and folk games.

Exhibitions and Sales
National Genever Museum - 25 years of Genever (free entry)
Antiques and flea market on Kolonel Dusartpein from 8 to 1 on Saturday along with a trade fair for drink-related publicity and advertising articles.
Second-hand book fair on Molenpoortplein from 10 to 6 on Saturday.

Free guided walking tours of Hasselt - book with the tourist office.
Genever cruise with Rederij Limburgia
Rollerskating on Sunday from 10.30 on the Kolonel Dusartplein.

Culinary Highlights
Taste Speculaas (local cinnamon based biscuits) and geneverpaté
Genever dinner with various dishes based on genever - book at the tourist office

Travel by train
The railways are offering a B-Daytrip to Hasselt (nr 355) from any Belgian station from €12.90. Otherwise I suggest travelling by local bus and leave the car at home.

Hasselt Genever Festival website
Hasselt Tourism
Belgian railways

Monday, October 8, 2007

Affordable Housework Help with Diensten Cheques - Titres de Service

Dienstencheques or Titres-service provide a useful system whereby reliable housework help can be found. Agencies hire the staff, train them and check references then accompany them to the employer's house to brief them on what work is to be done. They ensure that the employer and employee are both happy with the service. The employer can allow a stranger into their home to do chores without worrying.

Workers can be hired for the following chores:
Inside the home: cleaning, window-cleaning, laundry and ironing, preparation of meals, small sewing repairs.

Outside the home: shopping errands, ironing and sewing elsewhere, driving elderly or handicapped people in offical transport. (Excluded: delivery of hot meals, furniture, household appliancs, AV equipment, newspapers and magazines.)

Not allowed: plumbing, electrical repairs, painting and decorating, gardening, babysitting or childminding.

The cheques can only be used in the private domain, not for commercial cleaning or work within companies.

The hours worked are paid with cheques, one per hour. The price of each cheque is 6,70 € but 30% of this may be offset against personal taxes so that each cheque has a real cost of 4,69 €. There is a limit of 2.310 € per year. For example,
Exemple 1 : Exemple 2 :
Purchase: 120 cheques
Total cost: 804 €
Tax saving: 30% of 804 €, = 241,20 €

The agencies are subsidised by the government receiving the difference between 6,70 € and 20 € per cheque. By so doing, they help to control work in the black economy. The workers receive an indefinite work contract and social security is paid thereby providing the benefits not available to those who work in the black. They are also covered for work accidents and receive holiday pay.

Here are the statistics for the system in 2006:
- 420.000 users of the system
- 35.000.000 cheques were ordered
- 1.450 recognised agency employers
- 32.000.000 hours worked
- nearly 29.000 workers benefitted from a work contract (2005, source : enquête Idea Consult).

You can find out full details here.

I think it is an excellent system which benefits all parties involved.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Studio Job Exhibition in Hasselt

"Studio Job is a love-'em-or-hate-'em Belgian-Dutch design duo". - Time Magazine, in an article about the 100 top most influential interior designers. The International Herald Tribune wrote, "A Dutch duo that rejects function, with flair". The New York Times has also followed the work of Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel, so called Studio Job.

They have designed commissions for Bisazza, Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum and Swarovski. Their work is to be found in the Groningen Museum, Stedelijk Museeum in Antwerpen and the Centraal Museum in Utrecht. Exhibitions have also been held in The Museum of Modern Art/MOMA, New York; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Dutch Textile Museum, Tilburg; Paris, Milan, Basel and now Hasselt in Z33 until 7 October.

Simply stated, their work is design of household objects, mainly in bronze, wood and glass, usually oversized and probably impractical due to their size and weight. The items are one-off or limited edition of a few. The Studio Job couple see themselves as designers due to their design school background but rather of collection pieces than items in mass production. The question to the viewer is whether this is art? Certainly iconographic.

Here are some more links about Studio Job:

My photos of Z33 exhibition on Flickr
International Herald Tribune
Vivid Vormgeving (English)
Design Sponge Online
Vivid Vormgeving (Dutch)
Milan 2007
Milan Preview (English)
More photos of Studio Job on Flickr

© Antonia Stuart-James 2007

Friday, October 5, 2007

Scouting in Belgium

Scouting in Belgium is 100 years young in 2007. My sons have joined the local Scouts in Bolderberg, where there are 180 members. They meet every Saturday from 08.30 to 12.00 and my 6 year old cub cannot wait for the next Saturday. They came home muddy from an obstacle course in the woods, swinging on a rope over a stream, building a logs bridge and walking over a beaver's dam. In Summer 2007 they took 75 kids on camp.

For those who understand Dutch, here is what they say on the local Bolderberg website:
Scouts Bolderberg is opgericht circa 1979. Het scoutslokaal is gelegen in de kluisstraat, achter de basisschool en is te bereiken via de parking links van de school. Momenteel hebben we onze intrek genomen in de nieuwe materiaalloods langs het Nieuwe kerkhof en in de toekomst zou daar ook een nieuw lokaal moeten komen want ons huidig lokaal is te klein geworden. Meer hierover bij 'vzw' op scoutswebsite. De Scouts is de enige jeugdvereniging van Bolderberg en heeft elk jaar weer een groeiend aantal leden, momenteel zijn dit er zo'n 160. Achter deze werking staat een dynamische en enthousiaste leidingsploeg van meer dan 20 personen. Er is iedere zaterdag een activiteit van 8u30 tot 12u. Het scoutsjaar start eind september en eindigt half mei en in juli gaan we als afsluiter van het scoutsjaar met de volledige groep op tentenkamp. Welke zijn zoal onze activiteiten? Pleinspelen, stadsspelen, bosspelen, dropping, para-commandocross, knutselen, trektochten (ook in het buitenland voor de oudere tak), vlottentocht, bekentocht, verschrikkingstocht, survivaltocht,... Scouting, da's durven! Ben je geïnteresseerd of zit je met vragen, aarzel niet en contacteer ons!

Mission Statement on Scouts UK website:
"The aim of the Association is to promote the development of young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, social and spiritual potential, as individuals, as responsible citizens and as members of their local, national and international communities.

The Method of achieving the Aim of the Association is by providing an enjoyable and attractive scheme of progressive training, based on the Scout Promise and Law, and guided by adult leadership."

They go on to say:
"The Scout Association provides adventurous activities and personal development opportunities for 400,000 young people aged 6-25. Internationally, we have over 28 million young people enjoying the benefits of Scouting across 218 countries.

Personal development means promoting the physical, intellectual, social and spiritual well-being of the individual, helping them achieve their full potential. In Scouting, we believe that young people develop most when they are 'learning by doing,' when they are given responsibility, work in teams, take acceptable risks and think for themselves."

My older son said scouting will help him to overcome his fears of heights and the dark. I believe scouting will be a valuable development path for both boys.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

There are Nine Million Bicycles in Belgium

One of the reasons I love living in Belgium is the cycling. Apparently there are just over 10 million people and, as the song goes "There are 9 million bicycles in Beijing…", last Sunday it seemed like Brussels had at least that number. Sunday was 'Car Free Sunday', part of European Mobility Week.

"All 19 Brussels municipalities took part, with cars, lorries and motorbikes - except those required for professional reasons - banned from the roads. This was a Europe-wide initiative and the EU estimates that around 1,000 cities and municipalities answered the call.

The event was a massive success, a day with very few cars on the roads, instead they were chock-full of cycling, rollers-skating hordes. People were travelling basically on anything on wheels that did not require to be petrol-driven. Entire families cycled past, the very little ones following their parents like obedient ducklings in their yellow safety jackets.

Many districts organised side-events to keep the populace amused. In the Brussels Park, in front of the Royal palace, the countryside came to town, and everybody and his brother was out. Free public transport for the day undoubtedly helped swell the numbers. About half of the street had been laid with grass and picnics were spread out to the sound of wine-bottles popping. If only it could be like this every weekend. But then again there is no guarantee of a strong sun beating down every Sunday."

(Extracted from an article by Paul Morris, Editor, Expatica Belgium
26 September 2007)

Here in Limburg, most of the terrain is pretty flat and we have a cycling network set up with blue signposts telling us the direction of the next post. The map costs €7.50 and it is easy to plan a route, whether through towns or countryside - allowing for pit stops, of course. I even found a website today of Flemish cyclists who plan their routes around stops for Gueuze beer. Drinkers after my own heart!

The children are encouraged to cycle to school and a teacher leads about 30 every day as they cycle home, all wearing safety helmets. They even have cycling tests at school and a large covered area with bicycle stands.

I also find it wonderful to see so many people of retirement age out cycling for exercise and enjoyment, not just popping out for a loaf of bread. I have been invited to join a local women's group who meet every Tuesday to cycle about 35km. Most of the members are much older than me but, as a very rusty cyclist, the most I have cycled recently was 7km so I shall have to practice before I can join the ladies.

Gueuze - Belgian "Champagne"

Actually, Gueuze is a Belgian beer but with a slight fizz and a popping cork, it is often called Belgian Champagne. I enjoy it so much (and so often) that I have dedicated a website to Gueuze:

Click here to visit Gueuze

Whilst looking for more links on Gueuze, I found a website on "Beer and Health" which included an article on Alcohol and cancer,
"For a number of cancers, the risks possibly does increase with moderate drinking. More research is needed to clarify matters here. Up until now most information has been collected on breast cancer, where there is a slightly increased risk for moderate to heavy drinkers.

The influence of alcohol, and beer in particular, on the occurrence of cancer has not been widely researched up until now. Certain trends can indeed be noted. Some studies point to a high alcohol consumption mainly increasing the risk of gastrointestinal tract cancers.

More recent research into other components (ie. not alcohol), including the phyto-oestrogens in beer, point in the direction of a protective effect."


Indoor Ski-ing in Belgium

Last weekend, Snow Valley in Peer, Limburg, Belgium held an open-door weekend when children and adults could enjoy one hour FREE ski-ing including hire of equipment. This was an offer too good to resist.

Apparently the indoor skipiste in Snow Valley, Peer has a piste of 235 m long by 30m wide served by 3 poma style lifts and a kids' piste of 100m with a conveyor belt.

For snowboarders, there are kicks with rails, big air, fun box and quarterpipes.

Visit the site of SnowValley, Belgium

My photos of Snow Valley on Flickr