Tag Archives: Grand Palace

Europe, 2006

When he was in high school, my husband-to-be (HTB) did a rotary exchange where he spent a year in Belgium. He lived with 3 host families over the course of the year, spending the majority of the time with the Renson family in the French speaking town of Dolembreux.

It was to this small town that we travelled next to visit the families and catch up with my HTB’s other friends while we were there. We stayed with the Renson family who lived in an old converted farmhouse. The children- Bill, Ben and Isabelle- had long since moved out and started their own families, but the dog (who only understood African dialect and French commands as she was an import from the Congo) remained.

We went to the closest city, Liege, where my HTB had attended school. The city monument was an unusual water fountain of sorts and the main square was awash with blooming flowers. I was introduced to the world of “real” chocolate at the Galler chocolate factory and the eating of much Cote’ D ‘Or, readily available in supermarkets here, but not in Australia.

One night, we went to a soccer game at Liege stadium. It was very cold, but the yummy thrice fried frites and waffles with added sugar lumps sure warmed us up!

Another night, we went to the pub where my HTB had spent many hours with other rotary exchange students and a restaurant owned by a well-known local friend of his, who took us to a night club where he had to knock on a door with a peephole for us to be let in.

I also discovered the convenience of Belgium, in that being such a small land locked country, it was close to many other European countries.

We went on a day trip to Luxembourg City and marvelled at the Grand Palace. The Grund (old city) was amazing and unlike anything I had ever seen before. From the top it looked like a little fairy tale village that you could walk down into and explore. We also had a nice lunch in a restaurant in the main square with the added company of Flo, one of my HTB’s friends who now worked in the city.

Another day trip took us to Aachen in Germany. We took in the gothic style cathedral, amusing fountains and quirky shops. We also had a nice lunch in a restaurant in the main square with added German steins.

We went on an overnight trip to The Netherlands to visit one of my HTB’s friends Jacqui and her husband. They picked us up in a BMW which had self-park and took us to Williamsted fishing village for dinner. The next day, we all went to Zeeland to see the dyke at Neeltje Jan (Waterland) where we enjoyed being kids for the day. There were seals, a fabulous water playground, sand sculptures and a windy hurricane tunnel.

Related posts: England, 2006

Thailand, 2002

On the way back from England I met my boyfriend in Phuket.

We stayed on Karon Beach and I found the area very touristy compared to other parts of Asia that I had been to. We climbed to the top of Rang Hill for a view of Phuket and the lovely Chalong Bay. We also went to the Golden Jubilee Lighthouse and the brightly coloured Wat Chalong.

As is the way with a lot of tours in Asia, when we booked in for the elephant ride tour we had the obligatory visit to the shell museum on the way there and the cashew nut factory on the way back.

The elephant ride itself was a great experience. We had to climb a platform to get onto a seat on the elephants and we went on a walk through the jungle and up a hill. Back at the elephant orphanage the baby elephants put on a show- painting and playing soccer. It was cute and entertaining, but I hoped the animals weren’t being exploited.

Another day, we went on a kayak tour through sea caves in Phang Nga Bay. I was dubious at first as I am not the most sporty person, but was relieved to find that we each had our own personal paddler for the day. My guy was cheeky and funny and made the trip more enjoyable.

We went to Panak Kho Diamonds cave, Panak Island Bat cave and inside Kho Hong. It was a surreal experience to go through a dark cave and come out to what looked like a volcanic crater with the sunlight streaming in from the open air.

One night we went to the Phuket Fantasea show. It was very commercial with a buffet dinner included and a mandatory walk through the cultural village which was basically just lots of shops. The Palace of Elephants Theatre where the elephant show was presented was a pretty impressive, obviously manmade modern structure and you had to pay extra to get your photo with a tiger cub.

Heading back to Bangkok, we took a canal boat tour on the Chao Phraya River by Klong boat. I loved the white Wat Arun which seemed to rise out of the water from nowhere. We also went to the Thonburi snake farm which had a scary snake show and tigers and bears in cages that were too small.

We went to the Grand Palace with its gold Phra Siratana Chedi, the Temple of Emerald Buddha and impressive Chakri Maha Prasat Hall. I liked the snakes on the rooves of the temples.

In Bangkok, the thing to do was shop on Khao San Road, and so we did. We also went to one of the infamous ping pong shows where the entertainers looked more bored than I did.

Upon reflection, my first Thailand experience was probably coloured by the fact that I was angry with my boyfriend at the time (we broke up a few months later) and I was willing to give the country another go- perhaps by going to a different area.

Related posts: Canada, 2002, England, 2002

Belgium, 1997

Sarah and I arrived in Antwerp and to see the huge Cathedral of Our Lady which was an overwhelming sight. I don’t think I had ever seen a cathedral that big before.

We strolled through the famous Grote Markt to the Brabo fountain.

In Brussels, we stayed in a tall house with friends of our friends from Zwagg. They took us to the Hotel de Ville (town hall) and the Brewers buildings in the Grand Palace for a cheery beer at the King of Spain. The first of many different flavoured beers that we tried in Belgium.

The famous Manneken Pis was so small that we almost missed him as we walked through the town square and we rubbed the Everard ‘t Serclaes for luck.

We visited the bizarre Atonium in Bruparck- a monument to the discovery of the atom which was shaped like an atom. The grounds had a miniature Europe, which looked even smaller from the top of the monument.

Whenever I go to a new city, I always like to go to a high viewpoint so I can get an idea of the layout of the place. So when we travelled to Brugge- a miniature city surrounded by canals- we climbed the 366 steps up the Belfry to the carillon bells. Nothing but flat land and orange rooves as far as the eye could see.

We found the Church of Our Lady with it’s a famous marble statue of Madonna and Child.

Every town in Belgium seemed to have a town square with town hall and a tall church.

We had our fill of waffles and headed from the small country of Belgium to the big city of Paris.

Related posts: Holland, 1997, England, 1997, I first started travelling, By special request, Home is where you make it, I first started writing