Thursday, July 30, 2015

Open the hunt!

Did you also hear about the American hunter who deliberately killed - slayed - one of Zimbabwe's most beloved lions?

I think we live in a civilized world (although, sometimes you can doubt that, seeing all the atrocities which happen in parts more or less civilized...) in which we don't have to hunt anymore to eat.

I truly understand that ages ago it was necessary to hunt and kill animals. When they'd drop you at an unhabited place, you'd hunt and kill to, just to survive. But then you'd only take what you need, right?

Nowadays, people just want to hunt and kill for fun - and for prestige. It sounds nice to tell your 'friends' you have two elephants, one lion and one rhinoceros on your count. Such people pay high prices to get what they want.

But public opinion is against them. The American vet is now a hunted animal himself. Yes, an animal. I don't have a high opinion for people who kill for fun. I hope he'll have to stay in hiding for the rest of his life and that this will be an example for all others who like to go hunting in Africa!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Computers have a mind of their own

I don't know about you, but I find that my pc clearly has a mind of its own! First of all I must admit I have two laptops and one tablet. Yesterday, one of my laptops downloaded a new update and since then I am unable to go on the internet.

My other laptop, that of my sister and the tablet caused no problems. Probably it has something to do with my firewall. I think the only option will be to remove the antivirus protection and then load it up once more. Any computer specialists around????

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Don't feel my feet anymore!

Boy, am I tired! We've been painting the flat  (every room) as the weather was  not so good anyway. It's chilly (less than 20° Celsius) and there is always a lot of wind.

Well, better than the forest fires in the south of France, of course! This morning we heard our hostess in Saint Raphael, who was being interviewed about the fires for the radio news. I recall she was very much afraid of forest fires and so she asked not to smoke anywhere in the garden.

And our flat looks nice with the new paint. We just got finished tonight and have taken time to clean up the tools and take a shower ourselves. Now we still need to cook dinner - but hey, we're on holiday and we don't have to mind time.

But I'm very tired. Here is where you notice you're getting older... nearing 60, so not a spring chicken anymore!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Are we not alone in the universe?

Some days ago, I read in my newspaper that scientists have discovered a planet somewhere in orbit, which looks very much like our own. It is only older and bigger, but the scientists presume that life would be possible there. So they named this planet Earth 2.0

It revolves around the sun pretty much like our own Earth, and also has moons. We'll know more in 2020.

But it possible there exists some other form of life deep in the universe. Little green men, or flying saucers?

Perhaps we'll live long enough to find out....

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Summer storm

Today, our country and The Netherlands were blessed with a real summer storm! Here at the Belgian coast, the winds were high but not yet dangerous. Still, it was a real hardship to remain upright when doing your shopping for food. In Holland they had code red, which means the winds reached gale force and people were advised to remain inside. At Schiphol airport, most of the outgoing flights were cancelled and incoming ones had a hell of trouble to land. Ships remained in the harbor.

So while outside nature played its game, we decided to start painting our living room. The previous time was some 6 years ago... We are already finished with the kitchen and hope to be ready with the other rooms by Tuesday.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Yesterday evening, we went to see a show that was very much worth its while. It's named Tagad'Art and it's a spectacle created in the south of France.

A guy who used to work for Cavallia (a show à la Cirque du Soleil, but wit horses) was finally able to buy & train enough horses to start for himself. Along with his wife, he created a new show which is a mix of superb horsebackriding and the sort of amusement you can find on the streets of every big town.

The company is still small, and the spectacle intimate. That's what I like a lot. We had tickets which allowed us to sit on the best places (center stage), have a meet & greet with the artists and be allowed to visit the behind scenes while having a drink and a bite. I never refuse to pay a higher price for good tickets.

We were allowed to come very near to the horses (most of them Lipiazer, some of Spanish blood) and touch them as well. I'd wished we would have been allowed to take such a horse for a ride... I once had the pleasure to ride Lipizaners, while taking a course of dressure in Lipiça (now Slovenia). This place was the original place where the horses of the Spanish Riding School (Vienna) were bred, when Lipiça still belonged to Austria.

As we have been riding for a long tide, we also understand perfectly how difficult it is to have horses to the things they performed in the show. Congrats!

The show also included acrobacy on high level, performed by a couple which I think came from one of the former Russian republics, and a group of nice guys from various West African countries.

Knokke-Heist was the first stop of their tour outside France. When you have an opportunity to see this show, I can recommend it!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Folklore market in Heist

Each Thursday afternoon during the months of July and August, a folkloristic market takes place in Heist (part of the town of Knokke-Heist, near the Dutch border).

This market is a mix of genuine traders, but also of people who still practice the old art of making things. Like horse-smiths, weavers of fishing nets, the pealing of shrimp, .... Heist was - and is - mainly a village of fishermen. Lots of the old families have more than one seafarer in their family.

When my sister and I were little kids, our parents rented part of a house with such a fisherman. He was called Frans and was married to his Marie. The couple did not have any children or grandchildren, and so we were quickly embraced as surrogate grandchildren. More than once Frans told my mother she did not need to cook, as he was bringing fish home. He then prepared it in the old way of the fishermen and we only had to eat.... So we learned to love fish and everything else coming from the sea at an early age. We still do!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Reserve your spot with a towel

In summer, you can read funny things in your morning newspaper. Like today. Apparently, lots of hotels in Spain and Turkey are experiencing a real race in the early morning to put down towels on the chairs in the shade or near the swimming pool...

You'd imagine that someone who takes a holiday would want to sleep well and long. But no, around 6 a.m. the first one already appear to put down their towel to mark their territory.

Of course, this is not forbidden. But it's also not forbidden to take away that towel and put it somewhere else...

Well, you'll never catch me doing this. For me a holiday is something different than lying at the beach or pool all day. I want to see things, explore new territories. We were at the French Riviera two weeks ago, but have never been to any beach. We have been sailing though, and have walked a lot, despite the heat of around 33°C. I admit, we went for a swim on our return to the B&B, but then we only swam some lenghts and went back to our room to dress for dinner.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Europe: union or divorce?

I've always been wary of the European Union. Being a keen fan of history, I never saw how different European nations could join in one union. We're much too aware of our nationaltiy. Can you imagine France, Great-Britain or Germany to share the same laws and prices?

Now, with the soap around a Grexit, it has become more and more obvious the European model doesn't work. Germany - with Angela Merkel - has finally done what neither the Kaiser nor Hitler could manage: be the boss in the whole of Europe.

For a change, I totally agree with my fellow-countryman Guy Verhofstadt, a liberal. Only yesterday he mentioned in one of his speeches that either Europe should be one politically, or otherwise we can all better return to our former monetary values. Return of the Frank?

Today, in our national newspaper, there was already speculation about which would end first: the European Union or the kingdom Belgium. We have a mainly nationalist government, who like Flanders to be independent.

Most likely I'll see more changes in the rest of my lifetime. I've seen so many already - I can entrance classes of nowadays pupils just by telling how we moved from the old telephone to the smartphone or from writing messages on slips of paper to instant messaging.

Any others who like to share their opinion?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Where has summer gone to?

In Flanders, when people meet and they don't find an actual topic to talk about, they just talk... about the weather. They can keep going on for hours about that theme!

So bear with me while I complain a bit about our terrible SUMMER weather (!). This year, we've only had the one week of heatwave (which was just a bit too much, nobody needs that). All of spring the weather did not co-operate, and now it's supposed to be summer but feels more like autumn.

Most likely, when autumn starts for real, it will be either like winter - or we can get warm and sunny weather.

Yeah, the weather plays crazy nowadays. Didn't it used to be better when we were young???

Friday, July 17, 2015

When shopping, I hate it when ...

I know, I'm getting older. Nowadays I dare to speak my mind more freely than when I was  younger. One of the advantages of getting older, right?

This morning, my sister and I were in the supermarket. We always go early enough, in the hope to miss long lines at the tills. But when you go early, you are bothered by the shop assistants filling the racks. And they have a nerve. You, the paying customer, are in their way! Why can't they fill up these racks before the shop opens (which is only at 8 am) or when it closes (at 8 pm)? I said so to one of the women who asked if I could move out of her way (!) and got a very rude answer.

The problem is that in Belgium, people don't like to work when it's not between 9 am and 5 pm. Some jobs hardly find applicants because it involves night work or weekend work (like the police, hospitals, firebrigade, ...)

Most shops also close at 6 pm and are not open on Sundays. There is a lot of resistance to the plan of one of our ministers to change the opening hours of shops.

But in Great-Britain, and most likely lots of other places, shops are open until late and supermarkets are open 24/24, 7/7.

How's it where you live?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hate it when things go agley

Originally, I wanted to write my blog yesterday evening. But...

As the weather was not so good, my sister decided to check the roof for leaks (we have a flat at the highest floor of the building, so the roof is just above our heads). All seemed ok, but beneath one of the chimneys, there was a (very small) bulb in the plaster. So Chris wanted to fix this. She probed the bulb - and a big chunck of the ceiling came down!

Serious problems, right? We told the guy who's responsible for the upkeep of the building, and the roof will be fixed, but in the meantime we had to see that no more plaster came down, and afterwards needed to clean up the place.

We were busy until well past 10 pm and even today, you still find a light layer of dust on tables and furniture. So more cleaning today...

Yeah, right, I wish I were back in the south of France!!!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Back to rain and wind...

When you're used to sunny days, with temperatures between 31° and 33° Celsius, it's hard to cope with a low 19° and rain.... Yes, that's Belgium!!

Wish I were back in Boulouris, a village near Saint Raphael, where we stayed in Villa Verde (B&B). It was pure heaven and hosts Yves and Nicole did everything you asked for.

Also, the region is great. Saint Raphael is conveniently close to other places at the Côte d'Azur, like Saint Tropez, Antibes and Nice. We were also able to make a trip to Saint Paul de Vence, a village in the mountains where lots of galleries and artists are to be found.

Here are a couple of pics we made during our trip:

                                             Here's a sight on Saint Raphael from the sea

                                          View on the cosy streets of Saint Paul de Vence

                                                          Yachting harbor of Antibes

                                                     A picture of myself in Saint Tropez

                             And finally, one of the typical streets in the old town of Nice

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Back home and online

Hello everyone! Due to an unexpected slow internet connection during our vacation in the South of France, I was  unable to write my blog for some time. Today I'm a bit pressed for time but I promise to write more the coming days!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Living like God in France

Well, we're into our first days of holidays and right now we are staying in Saint Raphael in the south of France.

We are staying here at which is probably the best B&B we've dver been to. Villa Verde is the name and the owners are Yves and Nicole Vandewalle. They used to have a hotel and restaurant in Knokke-Heist but 15 years ago they got an offer thry could not resist, so they sold the hotel and moved to France. They found a derelict villa and completely renovated it, and added 5 guestrooms.

Your day starts with a gourmet breakfast, and in the evenings you get treated to a superb 4-course dinner, prepared by Yves.

Yes, life can be great!!!

Friday, July 3, 2015

How do you cope with heat?

As we're into our fourth or fifth day of extreme heat (which we normally don't have in our part of the world) I sometimes wonder how people cope with these extreme temperatures.

The humidity in the air is very high over here, so when it's over 30° Celsius, it feels like it's 50°. The sweat doesn't dry and remains on the skin. Not very pleasant, as  you can't just hop under the shower as you need to be careful with water...

I try to remain indoors as much as possible and don't do anything strenuous. When you just sit on the sofa and read a book you can cope. Running a couple of times upstairs to fetch things is not a good idea... nor is cleaning or ironing.

But despite the heat, I can eat just the same as always and I also sleep very well. I just open all the upstair windows when I go to bed and don't cover myself with a sheet. Just wear light cotton pajamas.

I remember another warm summer when we were staying at the coast (and we don't have airco there). It was 30° inside the flat (and perhaps 35° outside) and we were eating .... cajun stew! The sweat ran down my face into my plate but I ate with apetite as the dish was very spice, which I like.

When the temperatures drop a bit, we sit outside and have a glass of cooled drink (can be water with a bit of lemon in it, or a glass of white wine, or one of our excellent Belgian beers). That's pure heaven!

And what about you?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The mussel season has finally started

Do you like eating mussels? Here in Belgium they're HOT! Most of us can't wait until the new season (which is mostly around the end of June-beginning of July) begins, so we can have our portion of mussels Flemish way.

The best mussels come from just across the border, in Holland. I've eaten plenty of other mussels, but never I find them just as good as at home. We Flemish are the biggest consumer of these mussels.

How do we prepare these mussels? Well, you start by cleaning the mussels you bought. Normally they're pretty clean already, but best you rinse them twice. Then you cut a lot of onion and sellery. You take a very big pot, put it on the fire and let the mix of vegetables stew a while. Once they are ready, you take out some, then fill up your pot with mussels, put back the vegetables and season with lots of salt and pepper, even some chili pepper. Then you put back the lid and let the mussels cook for about 10 minutes.

Serve with fries, or just with plain bread. Smakelijk! (Do enjoy)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It's time for the holidays!

As it is 1st July, our two-month-long summer vacation has officially started. It's been pretty busy around the airports already.

Where do you like to spend your holiday? Do you want to linger at a beach (mind, that can be dangerous - see what happened in Tunesia!) or do you prefer the great outdoors? Or do you rather visit a city where there is a lot of culture?

Do you go trekking with tent and rucksack, or do you prefer a comfortable hotel bed?

Do you prefer a hotel or a B&B?

My sister and I prefer to go exploring. We like to visit different countries and cities, and we take time to visit a museum or any other cultural venue. But we also like to see a good show (whether it's classical, musical theater, a play, a pop concert) and we like to go dining when on holiday. Every now and then we like to sit an hour or so at a beach and go swimming in the ocean or sea. Right now we've planned a trip to Saint Raphael in the south of France, but that is mainly because we know the owners of the B&B we're staying at and it is meant to be a decompression cure for my sister, who almost got to a breakdown while trying to figure out the administration of 18 schools, on her own! One full week of doing just nothing will be exacty what she needs right now. Not thinking of the job will take some time, but I'll get her there. I have learned to cope better with stress and I can change modes as soon as I get home. Work is work, no more than that. And at home I like to do what I want without thinking of school or kids.