Wednesday 1 December 2010

Feeling rather festive!

We have spent the last few days getting into the festive spirit in Brussels (the city not the vegetable) where we stayed with Angela, a friend gong back to school days, and her husband David. 

The Eurostar whisked us from St Pancras to Belgium in a little over two hours, via the snowfields of Kent.  On arrival, Angela whisked us from the Gare du Midi into the Grand Place in the heart of Brussels, via wonderful galleries full of chocolatiers whose windows were groaning with chocolate St Nicolas figures and other Christmassy things.  

We enjoyed a short Son et Lumiere show which animated the facade of the amazing Hotel de Ville with snowflakes of light and a tumbling Father Christmas and peered into the full size nativity scene with real sheep, before warming ourselves up with mulled wine and a waffle at a historic hostelry nearby. Then it was on to Angela's house on the metro, with advice about how to navigate the system and use the ticket validating machine - so much easier when someone who knows the ropes shows you what to do! David was waiting for us when we arrived home and it was not long before we were sitting eating a splendid meal and catching up on news before bedtime.

In the days that followed, we did some sightseeing around the upper town where many of the grand public buildings are located, took in some culture at the Musee Magritte, not just the familiar surrealist images but much more besides. We also did a tour of the home and studio designed by Victor Horta, probably Belgium's leading art nouveaux architect - which was stunningly beautiful.  And took our first trip on a Brussels tram!

The next day we ventured off exploring on our own, visiting one of the city's best flea markets  - a sort of cross between an antiques fair, car boot and jumble sale.  Might have been tempted to stay longer, but for the icy winds.....On to the metro and up to Heysel to see the famous Atomium, a gigantic structure originally designed as an exhibit for a World Fair.  

We ended up back in the historic core as it was getting dark, eventually finding our way to the Christmas market in Place St Catherine, where the square was lined with hundreds of stalls and there were roundabouts, an ice rink and a big wheel.  Even better, the tented cafe in the centre was wonderfully warm and we were able to thaw out with vin chaud, before making our way back to Angela's house. 

The snow was falling thickly as we emerged from the metro, but that didn't stop us walking to a lovely local restaurant nearby for a meal out later that evening with Angela (David having gone to Finland for a work-related meeting). Thank you so much Angela and David - you are wonderful hosts!

Our journey back on Eurostar gave us wonderful views across the snowy landscapes of Belgium and northern France, and blizzard conditions in Kent as we emerged from the tunnel. Luckily for us, most of the snow had disappeared by the time we reached Oxford, so an easy journey home from the station.  

Although the pre-trial hearing took place while we were away, there was no news waiting for us from the solicitor on our return home so we still don't know what has happened in relation to Steve's damages case.  Let's hope that no news is good news.....

No matter....our trip to Belgium has ignited the Christmas spirit!  The advent calendar is on the mantlepiece and we have opened the first door/drawer (and eaten the chocolate inside!) Steve has finished designing the Christmas card today, so ready to start printing. I have been out braving the cold to start buying Christmas presents (and to pick up my bus pass - so an easy trip home with a heavy back pack!) One of our neighbours has invited us to a "winter warmer" on Friday week, and another friend has suggested a get together on New Year's Eve, so the social calendar is gathering some more momentum. 

I came back to the good news that four of my images have been selected for publication in an international photographic magazine - that's four issues in a row, so I'm well pleased!  Have to get on and look at the photos we took in Brussels now.....Steve was delighted to have received an unexpected phone call from Graham Sherlock-Brown just to say hello, how are you?  Graham is a fellow meso survivor whose PETAL philosophy (blog 20 June 2009) set us on the right track back in the early days post-diagnosis. He is now trying to persuade meso warriors to take up the pedometer challenge (double your steps over a specified time period). Maybe when the pavements are less icy......

I'm hoping that all the festive season preparations will help keep our minds off Steve's next hospital assessment which is fast approaching.  Keep your fingers crossed that it will bring good news for Christmas x. 


  1. Ha! Welcome to the Bus Pass generation, Linda. I've had mine a couple of weeks but with only 4 buses a day to the village there isn't much call for it. Somewhat ironically, the only use it's had so far is to get to the garage to pick up the car after its MOT.

    Glad you both enjoyed Belgium - I was in Kent at the w/end but escaped before the serious snow arrived.


  2. Loved the photo of the shop window. Belgium's a great place to go - but a dangerous place to stay, if you don't want to end up round as a barrel, what with all that good food, chocolate and beer. Fingers crossed for the next review