Brussels,Waterloo, Antwerp,Leveen, Rouen, Mont St Michelle. Paris, Jim Hayes and Amsterdam

  Phoenix was another 112% day when my my plane departed for Dulles International in
Washington, D.C.  It was the beginning of August and for me, the beginning of another
adventure.  The Flight reservationist was sympathetic to my request for a forward seat on the
plane.  Especially when she saw the short connection time between my US Air arrival and
United Air departure in Dulles  for Brussels.  It helped that she was taking the same trip in
another week! I was the first aisle seat behind first class and if it hadn’t been for this obsessive
compulsive businessman twitching  and fidgeting the entire trip, I would have thought I was
in First Class.  I carried my bags on so when we arrived I went right to the departure gate and
was boarding shortly thereafter.  I slept through most of the night.

When I arrived in Brussels, I ATM’s some Euros, bought a train ticket and hopped the train

into Central Station in Brussels.  A short walk later, I was checked into the Madeline Hotel
right in the center of everything.  I took a four hour nap then a On/Off Bus tour of the city.  I
had been to Brussels on two different occasions. Both experiences were wet and in a beer fog.
  Now Brussels was a real and enjoyable experience.  The weather was sunny and the people
were friendly.  The next day I returned to the Bus Tour but got off at the site of the 1958
World’s Fair to see the Anatomic…this large structure shapes like a Atom complete with a
restaurant overlooking the city.  I quickly returned to the bus and got off near an
Antique Market.  There I spent some time browsing some amazing collections of antiquities…
not Flea Market junk you would find in Phoenix.

When I returned I took my Notebook to Toones , a bar/restaurant/theater that dates back to
1650 or thereabouts.  After eating there I stopped in an outdoor Cafe for “Wine and Watching”
.  Different street entertainers were everywhere.

  The next day I was off for Antwerp.  The train station in Antwerp, as well as the whole city, is
an architectural wonder.  It was raining a bit so I took a Taxi and tipped the lady…total 8 Euros.
I thought Helen had part of the house when I went to the door but only saw one doorbell.
 Expecting to hear a buzz that allowed me in, and then expecting to see a list of occupants and
intercoms to different apartments after entering, I was surprised when Helen greeted me at
the door.  The whole 4 stories was her’s for a month.  It used to be a restaurant at one time but
had primarily been a private residence for very wealthy people.  

It was Sunday and we went downtown…Iron Man world competition  and Mussels at the Elf
Gebowud to  waterfront Cafe and home with dinner at CityZen.  Dim Sum really nice place.
Monday….visited the downtown…museums were closed…lunch dinner and wine.
Tuesday….Zoo, Train station, dinner at City Zen again, Dietrich and Michelle at Makobe with
Tapas…anchovies, olives
Wed ..Brugge ..Antwerp…Elf Gebouwd…dinner at Makobe cancelled Flanders
Thur…Square Merry Go Round  Fiskbar Oysters, Crab Halibut
Fri …ReVista…Night Museums were Saturday so we went to Ciro’s for Horse, Mussels and
washed it down with Pinot Gris..$100 but worth it.
Sat…I got up early, did laundry and made coffee.  I moved everything into Helens room in
anticapation of her sister Carol arriving with her husband from Elmira.  They called when they
arrived at the airport in Brussels…it appears that Helen never gave them the address of the
house.  They looked in up in the yellow pages I guess and after a short bus ride, arrived in
Antwerp and took a cab to the house.  

I joined Helen and Carol for breakfast while her husband took a nap.  That evening, we all
went to the Museum then downtown to have dinner at the Elf Geboud…mussels , chicken with
Bearnaise , soup and a Belgium Beef stew.  I slept in Helen’s room that night after packing
and taking a quick shower.  I didn’t get up till 8:30 and everyone was waiting to get in the
room to shower!  We had coffee and discuss our meet up in Mont St Michele the next week
and I took the bus to the train station and was in Central Station in Brussels by 12:30.

 I secured my luggage and walked to the Beaux-Arts Museum and had a light lunch before
meeting Gene and Francisco across the street at the Magritte Museum.  It had only been
opened a month or so and was sold out.  Magritte was a surrealist Belgium painter and artist
that thrived around the 20’s and 30’s.  There were 16 of her friends that showed up for a
guided tour of the museum.  Her daughter Marcia and her son and his pregnant wife were
among the group.  An Aussie from Melbourne was there too.  I didn’t get a translator and was
just interested in seeing the show.  It was quite good though our guide was a bit too serious.

 At the end of two hours we all went out for drinks.  I thought we were having dinner so
ordered a half carafe of wine.  Everybody else had one drink and that was it.  I was a tad
embarrassed.  Most of the group departed after except for her daughter , boyfriend and
another couple that used to live in Larchmont , N.Y. and work for UpJohn Corp for 15 years.
 They were divers that traveled with Gene on her Travel dive trips.  They are off to Santorini
in the Greek Islands next.  I had Gazpacho then Waterzooi  with Chicken.  The rest all had Steak Tartar.  I will have to try that before I leave Belgium.  

Francisco drove us back to Gene’s home where he lives with her.  We sat up a little then when I awoke this morning they were gone.  I laid in the Hammock and played on the computer…read a little .  Very relaxing and a nice change from the bustle.  We will play Poker tonight and I am to make a salad from nothing for the meal…we shall see.

 The evening started with the three of us taking a side trip to Belgium wine country where we
visited a vineyard where the grapes are grown in Hot Houses.

 Quite interesting and the largest and sweetest grapes I’ve ever tasted.  We purchased some grapes and
 tomatoes to add to my salad for the pot luck , poker , BBQ party.

Genevieve had to take us both on a side trip to the University town of Leveen where she has
worked for 100 years.  It was quaint but large.  There are over 55000 students at what is one
of the oldest Universities in Europe. Cambridge, Barcelona, and Salamanca are the others.  
After we stopped to have one of the best pieces of chocolate I have ever eaten, she took us into
the University where she got her Doctorate or something like that.  She described her in her
long black gown approaching the entrance with all the faculty waiting in their gowns.  The
doors opened for her and all of a sudden they all broke out singing while she ascended the
staircase to the main hall where they placed a ribboned metal around her neck and then after
a brief speech she walked with the whole procession following her back down the staircase
and out the doors and through the town to the church where the bishop or cardinal blessed
the whole ceremony and said some Mass of sorts.
We walked around briefly then on the way out of town she drove us to a restaurant on a lake
where we had tapas, beer and met a wonderful waiter who asked where I was from.

 When I said Arizona , the first thing he replied with was…do you play Poker.  Then, after I acknowledged that I did, he said they play in this restaurant for free twice a week but advised me to visit a nearby Casino where he plays all the time.  Never the tournaments though the next night they were featuring a Belgium championship event that went for three days like the World Poker in Vegas but only for the title of Belgium Champ.

We arrived later at Christof and Christine”s home in the hills.  It was beautiful and the
Chicken was being roasted over a wood fire on the BBQ that he built for himself.  We sat at a
table made of a large antique wheel with a “Lady Susan” he created out of another smaller
antique wheel.  The terrace overlooked their pond with a small waterfall and his herb garden.
 Christine made a tomato salad with fresh Mozzarella and Basil while Francisco broke out a
large corked bottle of his homemade beer to sample.  Then we started with fresh radishes , the
tomato salad and Italian Red wine from the North of Italy.   The conversation, in two
languages, was lively and from the Tapas, we moved to  the salad with roasted potatoes and
the Chicken.  After we had some special dessert wine and roasted Apples stuffed with
cinnamon and almonds.
We then adjourned into the “Poker Room” for Pear or Apple Cognac and splitting up the chips
to begin the game.  The game went for 4 hours until 2:30 in the morning when I promptly , as
chip leader, went all in with 3 Kings and finished the Host off.  When he was out the game was
over….if he had stayed in, he would have kept us there all night.  He enjoys Poker as we all do
but both Genevieve and Francisco had to work early.
 I slept until 12:30 and never left the house.  Genevieve arrived at around 4pm and suggested
we visit Waterloo.

 When we arrived they were closing for the day so I really didn’t get to see much. She called Francisco and he met us at Waterloo then followed us to a nice country Restaurant called the Big Bike.  We were the only guests and ordered a bottle of wine to sip on the terrace while awaiting our order of Pig Cheeks and Lips in Salad, Brains in wine sauce and Razor Clams.  When that arrived, we feasted in the dining room while sharing our meal.  I ordered the Brain but never before had them fresh.  It was fabulous.  The Pig’s Face was served with chopped dill Pickles on a nice bed of butter lettuce and a vinaigrette dressing.  The Razor clams were steamed in wine with a garlic and parsley sauce.  Next course was Chicken Big Bike. A half chicken steamed in Garlic and wine with Celery, Onions, and tomatoes…very fresh and very good.  Also, Genevieve ordered Calves Liver with Vegetables that came with a tart sauce made with fresh limes, Creme Fraiche, and the drippings from the Liver sauteed in butter.  To die for!  Francisco ordered the homemade sausage that I think Chef Katherine ground fresh while we were waiting.  It was also great and served with a rich white wine and cream sauce.   I ate a Chocolate Mousse and we left after talking to the owner Michele and his wife Chef Kathrine.

I wrestled with Gene’s Opel and managed to drive to Waterloo for a day at the Museum and
Battleground.  We had an Omelette that evening , watched Pulp Fiction and retired for a new
day of Laundry and packing.  It was raining hard the next day when she arrived home early
to take us to Brussels for dinner???
 The next day we visited a Castle and
a Casino where I lost $50 and we left.  She made me buy a $7 pair of socks so I could get in
because she had never seen a Casino.  We ate at Henry’s , a very nice old restaurant in the
center of Namas? Nante?, beautiful town on the river. The steak Tartar and her pork ribs were
not that beautiful.  I treated since this was our last night.  
She came home from work to drop me at the Euro Car Rental at 1:30 and I drove to Rouen…
arriving at 5:30 I checked in .  When I discovered there was no restaurants or Bistro in the
local town on Montigny, I reserved a spot for dinner.  I had a complete meal for 32 Euros that
consisted of raw salmon and oysters, leftover duck that was lukewarm with overcooked
vegetables, two cheese with a wilted salad, and chocolate tart with fruit.  I got sick about 1 am
and every hour after I was running back and forth to the bathroom.  I had the Jaque Ricard
Revenge!   I reported it the next day but no one seemed overly concerned.  Either it was an
everyday occurrence or they didn’t understand my English?  I did have some food and juice to
hydrate me and left for Normandy.  Three and a half hours later I had made the halfway point
in Honfleur.  The holiday beach traffic was bumper to bumper in first gear for miles down an
85 mph speedway.

I made it about 3:30 in the afternoon….spent an hour and a half looking at a Cinema tribute
and a museum then tried to book a room for the following night but failed so left.  9pm that
evening I arrived at my hotel after futility trying to find a store open to buy some wine.  I paid
the hotel $10 Euros for a 1/2 liter and drank it with my meal I had purchased at the market in
Honfuer. I told the manager when I arrived about my illness but she said she didn’t
understand me.  I tried to book a hotel for that evening but no success…I will have to wing it. I
have spent too much time in the car and hope to change all that after today.  I spent 45 Euros
on tolls and 40 Euros on diesel fuel.  The car gets 40 mpg so though the price of fuel is double
compared to the US, the mileage is double so it is a wash…except I have to drive a small 6
speed manual transmission Opel.  Well I’m going to settle my bill and request a refund for
dinner. Off again
No refund…I paid them to make me sick…that makes me sick.  I followed another couple that
was checking out ahead of me because I noticed they had a GPS so figured they would get out
of town without getting lost.  They did but just after, they pulled into a gas station for gas so I
was on my own.  They took me where I wanted to be going and kept following the road until I
ended up back in Normandy in half the time with half the traffic.  I went right to the American
Cemetery.  It was quite impressive.  I spent the afternoon there then drove to Avranches to see
if they received my booking from the night before.  They did and I had a room…a bit pricey
but very nice.  I went to the Patton Pizzeria and had the Patton Pizza.  It was next door to the
Patton Bakery and across from the Patton Hotel.  The Patton Memorial was in the center of
the square.  It appears that he freed the town from the Germans and so they put a bust of him
with a tank and a monument in the town square.  I knew Gen Patton’s grandson and worked
for Gen. Abrams who was Gen Patton’s right hand man in the Battle of the Bulge when they
broke through the Siegfreid Line .  That was some of the worst fighting and American
casualties of the war. I sat outside to finish my wine and looked up at the sky to see an ultra
light flying over the monument while the sun was setting.  People were pulling up in there cars
and running in to pick up there Pizza’s to go and next door to get there baguette to have with
their morning coffee.
  I returned to connect with Helen and arranged to meet at the entrance of Mont St Micheal
at 10:30 the next morning.  I was at the entrance to the Cathedral Mont St Micheal and she
was at the entrance to the town of Mont St Micheal.  She found me after I endured three
hours of standing in line and pushing and shoving in a huge crowd  through the place in the
heat.  We went to her car but she had lost Ed and Carol who  had the keys to the car.  I needed
to get a room for that night for both of us but didn’t even know where we were going.  I got in
my car and agreed to meet her at the Mcdonald’s in the nearby town where I could get internet
access.  I decided on Renne , the capital of Brittany and booked a room.  She arrived with Ed
and Carol and we switched her suitcase over and left for Renne.  I pulled into the center, found
and checked into the “Dormitory” then went back and fetched the car.  We parked the car and
finished checking in.  It was so nice we decided to stay another night and just relax.  Now I’m
off to eat and drink. Weather is great. 
We had a great dinner at an outdoor cafe.  The first good meal I have ever had in France other
than Jim Haynes meal and he is an American.  We loved the town and decided to book even
another evening.  Came back early and retired early.  Awoke to a cold shower!  The repair man
came and fixed it but we must wait two hours before we can shower.  Oh well our breakfast
was great. I’m now in a nice Cafe on the street in Renne with my Cappuccino and enjoying the
view.  Two days later and we checked out with Citea and received my 10% discount. Highly
recommend this chain in France.  I drove straight through to Antwerp and arrived to catch Ed
and Carol walking down the street.  I dropped the bags, parked the car and joined them for
dinner.  I had a great Thai Chicken Curry and retired early.  The next day I returned the car in
Antwerp a day early and took a stroll through a Jogging Park inhabited by rabbits and
Hasidic Jews that cut 80% of the world’s diamonds in Antwerp. Tomorrow I’m off for
Amsterdam…oh, did I tell you, I bought a home today…hope to close on it when I return.
I arrived in Amsterdam around 1 p0m from Antwerp after three transfers.  I stored my
luggage and went to Smokey’s at Rembrandtplein.  The whole area was dug up for
landscaping and my favorite bar changed hands with better management.  I had a fresh juice
and a no nicotine marijuana joint…two hits.   I returned to Central Station , picked up my bags
and took the #4 Rooseveltlaan where Jeannette and Peter had my Hash, Pipes, Joints, bed
and a Sun Tan light to keep me from missing Az.
We drank too much wine…me….whiskey …Jeannette….near beer Peter. 

So I’ve been in Amsterdam  since that Saturday.  Sunday I walked for hours around
Amsterdam and stopped into Mulligans where the bartender still remembered me.  
Monday I don’t remember what I did.

Tues…I met Sanna at Boom Town Chicago and we had dinner then the show.  We met
Jonathan Whitcup from NYC who just moved to Amsterdam and set up house 8 months ago.
 He rode his bike to the show.  We exchanged contacts and Sanna took me to the Chaos Bar
and got me drunk.  I went to bed around 2 am after taking a taxi home. 

Wed I wandered around a bit and went to the Hermitage Museum then returned for a brief
nap then off to play Texas Holdem in a tournament at the Holland Casino.  While waiting for
the Poker room to open in walked Jonathan…he said he loves Poker and plays a lot there but
was not in my tournament.I lost and left to return early.

Thurs…I slept late and left for the Market where I bought some food for dinner on Friday at
Jeannettes then came back to have some Mint tea at Diva’s down the street.  That eve we all
went out for finger food at Orbit, an eclectic neighborhood restaurant.  Peter
and Jeannette treated me.   I retired early to take Magic Truffles.  I ate half the 15 grams
recommended to try it before consuming the rest.  It was the first time in 25 years I have done
any hallucinogenic drugs.  I always wanted to do the mushrooms but they were recently
outlawed in Amsterdam so now they get around it by offering Magic Truffles…a root and not a
mushroom.  It was like chewing on a nut.    It has been almost a half an hour…takes one
hour to take effect….so I am waiting to try the other half after I find out what the effects of the
first half are.  So far the music is starting to sound better….I’ll see how my Texas Holdem
game is on Poker Stars…I do believe my typing has improved but I need someone to monitor
this that can be objective….
Friday we went to a Cheese tasting in the center with some wine and chocolate after. That
morning I visited the Market.

Saturday Jeannette fixed Lamb Chops and we watched a James Bond film…I was getting sick
and staying in.

Sunday we went out to Eau du Vie for an upscale $300 dinner that I treated them.  Frankly I
don’t care for dinners out that run more than $50 per person.  It was good.  Today I am
nursing my cold…going out for Meds…and packing….D Day tomorrow.  Well that didn’t work
well….went to the Drug store and got some cough drops but had to go to the Pharmacy for
decongestant.  They only had nose spray and recommended another down the street.  They
were out of business.  The ATM didn’t work and the only other one was out of order. I took a
Tram to the Rembrandtplein but it was under construction so got off on the other side.  I
found an ATM and got some money but then couldn’t find a Pharmacy or the paintings I
wanted to buy that I saw in Rembrandtplein so took the Tram back and bought a bottle of
Scotch for Jeannette , poured myself a drink and packed. Done.

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