What Really Happened That Week We Went To Brussels

This week we went to Brussels for 4 days. They were a quite good four days filled with shopping, food, museums and rain. Lots of damn rain.

We took photos as evidence of our epic journey. We didn’t document the rain because that would be stupid and at one point we were being pelted by football sized hail (might be a tad exaggerated). As Cat quite rightly puts it we experienced The Day After Tomorrow in weather conditions, that’s NOT an exaggeration. But enough about the weather!

IMG_0311On the Eurostar on the way to Brussels Mama paid for us to be upgraded to Standard Premier… The difference between the norm and this is amazing. You feel all posh as they bring you a meal to your table, they balance a tiny tray with your coffee cup, milk and sugars in one hand while pouring your coffee from a snazzy coffee pot in the other hand. Oh and the train is moving.

We stayed in a lovely penthouse near Grand Place. Such a stunning place owned by a lovely couple who had great tastes in the antique area.IMG_0318 This meant we could buy in and cook our own food which led me onto Cheese Fondue flavoured crisps… I’m still undecided on them. Speaking of food we all know what Belgium is famous for. If it’s escaped your attention it’s chocolate, beer, chocolate, waffles, chocolate and chips. We bought lots and lots of chocolate. We also bought some beer.

One of the nicest places to go walking (when it’s not raining loads) is near the Hotel D’Ville and the Grand Place. This is a beautiful courtyard type square that in summer is filled with vendors selling flowers and the likes. At this time of year it was quieter even with the tourists bustling around. You can also have horse drawn carriage rides from here and there’s a Starbucks and a tourist information centre. On the first night we actually ate in this area… We went to Hard Rock Cafe where you can get some very decent American food served by wonderfully friendly staff who aren’t afraid to sit down and have a chat with you. I know you don’t go on holiday to eat the same food but we make it our mission to go to the Hard Rock Cafe wherever we go so we had to do it.

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On the second day it rained. A lot. We walked up rue du Neuve which is a pedestrianised street full of high street stores. It can get quite busy but it’s worth a browse. We also had breakfast in one of my favourite cafe’s in Brussels. It’s a little place called Peck 47. They do gorgeous smooth coffee, excellent blends of fruit juices and some stunning food. I had Eggs Benny and Cat had Eggs Hemmigway. The Benny came wth loads of crispy bacon and really set me up for the day. We carried on shopping and buying chocolate after that then we went back to the flat to have a picnic and allow me to get some work done. There was a reason why I had to go to Brussels, journalism waits for no man.

Thursday may be the most profound awe inspiring day of my life. It rained a lot of the day, not all though! Then the meteorite hail came and I saw someone knocked out by it (I’m joking, it was probably close though) First off we went to BelVue museum which, when it’s open, is a lovely little museum about the history of Brussels and Belgium. It’s currently being refurbished though so we went to the Coudenburg part instead. This is a museum under BelVue.filename-img-0339-jpg

It’s the old Royal palace and as some amazing archaeological history to it. It won’t be everyones cup of tea but it is worth having a look around. Even if it’s just to watch the big door swing closed and shut you in. An even better part is finding your way out. You do get a map but when you’re that deep underground that you have no phone signal and you realise they’ve installed toilets and seats it can make you feel a little unnerved about the situation.

After this we had lunch in Green Kitchen their lovely restaurant/ cafe. Here everything is freshly made on the day and you can create your own salads or pick from the ready made quiches, sandwiches and soup. It really is a great place to go eat, most of the museums have great food selections to them and usually have great deals on.

IMG_0326We then took a leisurely, rainy, walk down to the European Parliament. This is where I work a lot of the time when I’m in Brussels. If you get a chance I would highly recommend the guided tours they have on. They must be one of the only working Parliament buildings in the world that gives almost full access to tour groups and the tours are available in the corresponding languages to the 24 countries in the EU.

Behind the EU building you’ll find the Science Museum which contains rocks, shiny rocks, sparkly rocks and DINOSAURS. Everything from big dinosaurs to tiny dinosaurs. The kids and school groups that were there seemed to be really enjoying it. I liked the dinosaurs too.

You might be wondering what part of my day was awe inspiring.IMG_0337 Well I met a certain little boy. A certain little NAKED Boy who is doing something that some people might laugh at and other people might be disgusted by. Yep I went and found the Mannekin Pis or as we Brits call him the Pissing Boy. This little boy is on souvenirs all over the city and is well worth the effort to find him and join the crowds to have a selfie with. At certain times of the year the locals like to dress him up in appropriate clothing so it’s fun to see what state of undress he’s in. As I mentioned he was in his birthday suit when I visited him.

I might add that me and Cat went to one of our favourite museums in Brussels on the Wednesday… The Belgian Comic Strip Centre. They have some awesome permanent exhibitions showing all the best of Belgian comics including the Smurfs. They look at the progression of the comic and how digital art as changed what we read and look at in todays comics. They also have a floor of temporary exhibitions which on this visit were the works of Fred Jannin and Jean-Pol. Take my word for it you’ll be smiling the whole way around the exhibitions and it’ll really open your eyes to the Belgium contribution to the comic world.

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I had fun on my Brussels adventure I ate lots of yummy food including, sushi and waffles. In fact I didn’t buy anything but food and drink. Oh wait I bought a flat pack t-shirt. I have a new found love for the French language because I really don’t get Dutch.

So as I write this from my Standard Premier seat on the Eurostar to London, in which we’ve literally just exited the euro tunnel to the great British sunshine (Fuck me there’s no rain!), the first message I receive on my iPhone to alert me I’m back on British soil is not a hello from my service provider but an alert about Jeremy Hunt, I realise I’ve had a pretty good week. Not all work, not all play but there’s lots of chocolate to eat and a naked boy to smile at on my photo album.

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  • We travelled to Brussels Midi Station from St Pancras International with Eurostar and booked our accommodation through Airbnb. Other alternatives are available.
  • There are plenty more places to eat and museums to go to in Brussels. We just wanted to show you the variation there is in the city and some of our favourites.
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Well Did You Evah’s Guide To WWI Films

In this household we watch a lot of films. I have a love for war films but I tend to find that the majority I do watch are WWII based. With this week being special, it’s remembrance day on the 11th November in the Centenary year of the start of WWI, I thought It’d be a good idea to educate you in the world of World War I films. Here I’ll pick 5 of my favourites that are memorable, shocking, and very different from each other.

 

War Horse (2011)

WAR HORSEHow this film makes me sob every time I watch it. Poor horses. This film is directed by Steven Spielberg and is based on the Michael Morpurgo book of the same name. The story revolves around Albert, a Devon lad, who joins up the war just to find his horse who was sold to the cavalry to aid the military effort. He vows to find the horse no matter what. The film basically follows the horse around and we see different aspects of the war from the frontline to a small devastated family who come to be in possession of the horse. It’s a touching story because it leaves none of the brutality and scariness out of the war. You basically fear for the horse. You fear for Albert searching for his horse. It’s a war film that takes you on a journey and makes you think more about what you’re seeing.

Paths of Glory (1957)

Paths of Glory is such a great World War I film because it shows the so called coward best-paths-glory-1957side of the war. Again this is based on a book, Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb, and the film is directed by Stanley Kubrick. The film follows four French soldiers who refuse to follow orders to undertake a mission because it is a suicide mission. Set in black and white we see the gore and devastation of the war, especially from a French perspective. The men are tried for cowardice and are eventually executed by firing squad even though their Colonel has fought their side. Paths of Glory is a film that really needs paying attention to, the cinematography and story are fantastic with so many twists and lots of WWI politics involved.

Wings (1927)

Wings is a silent film that still maintains and shows all the drama involved with war. It’s kind of light hearted for a war film in that Clara Bow’s character is in a love triangle, the wings-1927-002-mary-david-and-jacktwo guys go off to war thinking they’ve both won her heart then she becomes an ambulance driver in the war and unintentionally meets one of the guys in Paris, France. As in all silent films the drama seems a lot more intense with the music. The acting is superb and the romantic storyline running along the war will make it a hit for a broader audience. The ending is quite emotional with a twist of fate. It doesn’t seem as realistic a war film in todays terms but you have to remember before the 1950’s they made films on what sold well.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

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I chose this one because it’s based on factual events and looks at T.E. Lawrence’s time in the Arabian Peninsula during WWI so is completely different to the fighting and side of war a lot of films depict. Lawrence of Arabia shows us a lot of customs and difficulties a Western man might face in Arabia during the first world war. The fighting bares no resemblance to what the front lines in Belgium were seeing and the military there appear to be doing something completely different to the military in Europe. Peter O’ Toole and Omar Sharif bring life to the characters they play yet manage to have a military seriousness to the end. A great film to watch to get a different perspective on the war

African Queen (1951)

Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn star in this brilliant film set at the beginning Hepburn_bogart_african_queenof WWI in German owned East Africa. Again this is a different side of the war. Hepburn plays a missionary and Bogart is the captain of the little boat, The African Queen, who brings in all the mail. War breaks out and they watch the Germans destroy the villages. Brilliantly Hepburn decides that the little boat can be modified into a torpedo boat to sink the big German gunboat that is blocking the river, and the way out. Fun ensues and the chemistry between Bogart and Hepburn makes the film enjoyable while still being a serious war film at the same time. The African Queen is a film that you can learn a lot from while smiling as well.

 

These are just five of the films that I love to watch and find entertaining, daunting and educational at the same time. War films can be scary but some can be fun and romantic so everyone can watch.

Just remember, what those brave men and women did for us will never be correctly or sufficiently shown in a film. All that can be done is recreations for us to watch, and ultimately, enjoy.

War Horse is on BBC One this Sunday 16th November at 8pm. 

Early-ish night ramblings of a girl too excited to sleep AKA We just won Hockey.

Right so I’ve been watching the England women play hockey against the Netherlands in the semi-finals of the EuroHockey Championships (EHC) which is held in Boom, Belgium.

If you were planning on watching the replay over on the BBC STOP READING NOW… Or just carry on. It’s very exciting.

England were up 1-0 after a own goal (yay!) then Eva de Goede scored a superb goal to equalise (I would boo but it was a pretty awesome goal).

The second half saw Sally Walton stretchered off from a very serious, nasty looking foot/ankle injury. She received gas and air and even through TV speakers you could hear her moan in pain. Watching the replay of her fall over from side stepping made everyone watching wince.

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Photo courtesy of Getty images/ BBC

The 70 minutes ended at 1-1… So we went to penalties. England and penalties don’t usually mix but the last time we went to penalty shuttles (that’s hockey speak for penalty shot/strike) against the Dutch in 1991 we won. Alex Danson and Helen Richardson scored for us! But the Dutch equalized leaving it 2-2 out of 5. Sudden Death time *dun dun dunnn* All I really need to say is that the Dutch missed and Danson scored. TAKING US THROUGH TO SATURDAY’S FINAL!! Yes we beat the Euro and Olympic champions to get through to the final… ON PENALTIES. Take that football! I screamed a lot but it was very necessary.

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I digress slightly. The hero of this match was the superb England goal keeper Maddie Hinch. She’s like Supergirl on the pitch but in protective clothing. Watch a replay. She’s very quick and agile. A force to be reckoned with, I’m just glad she’s on our side.

So on Saturday at 3pm I will be watching the Gold medal match against Germany because, lets face it, it’ll be a great match. Until then my thoughts are with Sally Walton in hoping her injury looked and sounded worse than it was and with our girls for playing brilliantly!

For more information on Hockey or playing in your area visit http://www.englandhockey.co.uk and to watch the games live http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/hockey