Back to Brussels–Day 18

In the quest to always move east, we took a week out to roll around Belgium.  We are now back in Brussels for a last look before boarding a plane again.

                                                                     Who’s this guy??

                                He is a statue.  He is dressed up in a uniform.  He is a fountain and he is….!!

AHHHHH!!  Don’t get wet.  I found out this is Manneken Pis.  A rather famous fountain to commemorate…there are several stories.  He has been standing there doing his bit since 1618 so his origins are faded.  The one I like best is the small boy who found a way to extinguish the fuse of a bomb and save the city.  This guy is famous.  He has a better wardrobe than most of us and his outfit is changed often.  There is even a special museum dedicated to his wardrobe and, of course, we visited. 

                                   Only some of his outfits are on display.  The rest are packed in drawers.

                                                     Do you like Elvis?  Well, Elvis is in the house.

            This is taken very seriously as he has been there for close to 500 years.  It is considered an honor for him to wear a costume and the submission process is quite complicated.  He has been given honors by several countries.

            He is a great hero among us short inanimate people. Who else can attract a crowd with umbrellas to watch him go about his 500-year business. 

                         Enough of this culture stuff.  Time to find an even more serious place to escape the rain.

            Kind of says it all.  Nothing better on a wet day than a tavern with many taps and an underground room.                                                                                           What could go wrong? 

            A couple of pints later and I’m ready to go back out and see the sights.  We stopped at a shopping arcade.



                                            Rick bought a snappy hat that looks like his other snappy hats.

            We then stopped by the Cathedral des Saints Michael et Gudule.  I think the guard may have detected the previous pints as he pointed the way out.  Or at least one way out.

                                                 Must be time to board the first plane out to the east.

                                                     I wonder where this place may be?














Day 13 Or so Bruges, Belgium

Bubba started from Sacramento California 13 days ago.  He vowed to go east as far as he could.  He is now going west in order to go east again.  It made sense at the time.

I parked the rental car in the square next to the truck.  It won’t stand out.  Nobody will figure out I’m an American.  Just a couple of Belgian cars, right?

I wish this was the rental!

We were welcomed by this stylish, sinister gent and his two ladies.  The guy on the far right seems to have his doubts about this group.

Monsieur Sinister and his ladies seem to be watching me.  Maybe not.  I’m sure they are just local citizens out for a stroll.

Bruges is another city where the old buts up against the really old.

  The art and architecture blend into a space where you walk around with your head back and your mouth open.

I feel like someone unusual is watching me.   Wait, no, nobody unusual here.

I found this guy and shook his hand.  He looked like a good guide I asked if he would be my friend and he said it looked like the beginnings of a beautiful friendship.

He said his name was Rick Blaine and he had a little café in Casablanca.  He showed me some of the old and new and new old buildings.  Plenty of light, plenty of windows.

Whoa! Sometimes you shouldn’t look in the windows.  Are we back in Amsterdam??

Bruges has its own set of canals that give you a good view of some it the city’s finest buildings.

I still have that feeling of being followed.   Are peacocks waterfowl?

I mentioned the movie “Monuments Men” in the last post.  Bruges too has a work of art that was recovered by those WWII heroes.  The Madonna of Bruges by Michelangelo.

No joking to do here.  This is a work of art that truly leaves you standing still in front of it with no words to utter.   Its mere presence compels you to walk quietly and with reverence.

Straying into too much culture again.  I finally found a museum I like, The Bruges Beer Museum.  And I have a token!!

Now this is the stuff.  The Beer Museum gives you an iPad to guide you through and at the end you exchange it for three drink tokens or six if your companion doesn’t drink.

Properly beered up with for real Belgian Ale, it is time to put my earlier paranoia away about strangely garbed people following me away and get back to the hotel.

I sense a move to the east would be in order.



Still Eastbound, Day four, Day Five, A Wedding!!

            Niagara Falls.  The place of honeymoons and where Marylyn Monroe plotted murder in the film, Niagara.  Sinister wedding events abound.

            Heading a bit east from the falls I came to little town of Niagara on the Lake.  Just on the outskirts, there is a tiny, tiny church.

                                                                         It is not only small, it is the world’s smallest. 

                                    This chapel is Guinness book tiny.  This place is so small, they had to put the name on a sign out front.  It has been known to turn away basketball players due to height restrictions.  


                                              What can be done in a church that small?  I peeked inside and sure enough, there was a wedding going on.

            Yeah, that happened…again. 

That guy must have left his tux at home.

The minister and his wife posed for wedding photos.  They also doubled as best man, maid of honor, and wedding guests.  That about filled the place to capacity.  It is a tiny place when you have to go single file down the aisle.

            After the wedding what comes next?  The reception!  Or at least a trip to the pub for fish and chips and a pint of stout.

This was the Angel Inn on Niagara on the Lake. It was established in 1789 but this is the place after a remodeling in 1812.  The server told a tale of an uneasy guest.  In 1813, a Canadian militia officer, Captain Colin Swayze, missed out on the British retreat to hang with his new found lady friend.  He hid in a barrel in the cellar from the invading U.S. forces.  They entered the pub and probed the barrel with bayonets and pinned him to the spot forevermore.  He is said to roam the building but is harmless as long as the Union Jack flies over the building.

            The server gave me another pint to ease my fears.

Or not.  Must be time to head east again.  Where to now?








Seattle Sights

That’s a pretty corny title, I admit. Bubba ended his Route 66 journey in Santa Monica, fell off the pier and into the ocean and washed up in Seattle.
All that hiking up and down that needle into space wore me out. I practiced on a smaller version but it didn’t help much, other than attracting the attention of the clerk who must have thought I was trying to slip the thing into my shirt pocket.
Tower napper
I jumped down from that tower thing but I think I fell a little too far. I seem to be below the sidewalk looking up.
I seem to be in a city under the city. How do I find my way out?
Teller cage
These stores all seem to be closed…permanently.
Closed under Seatle
Plumbing! Expertly done too. Plumbing leads from the top to the bottom. If I follow the pipe I have a fifty-fifty chance.
Plumbers nightmare
I came out in a “plumbing fixture” where I was saved by this man.
Seatle Loo
In a twist that only makes sense in my world, I became a little hungry and thirsty so I thought I would go back to that market I saw earlier. Maybe one of these guys could give me a tip on where to eat.
He must have misunderstood me. He called me “Jonah” and tried to take a bite!
Fish Face
This guy picked up the fish, saved me, and threw it at another guy. Fish flinging could become a new Olympic sport.
Flying Fish
There has to be a place with fresh fish that aren’t so aggressive. This guy might be able to pick something out. The fish does look fresh.
Freshest Fish
Maybe a little too fresh. I found myself stuck on this island surrounded by these pointy people.
Rude Star
In need of rescue, I found someone to pull me from the water just in time to avoid getting a fish finger poked into my head.
I think maybe I’ll go for some fish and chips instead. I stopped in at The Pike for a taste of cool nectar.
Pike IPA
IPA is good, but this guy suggested a Barleywine. Any more tasting and I’ll be sleeping with the fishes.
Little body, big beer, and a slip back into the water. Where will I go now?
A Sound Photo

Cuban Cigars, Rum, and Bucanero

            While looking at the big Barbie car, I noticed an intriguing establishment behind it. 

            I’ve had experience with pubs in many lands and this had all the right vibes.  I’m not too sure what a Daiquiri is, and it is too bad that some hood sprayed his name on the side of the building, but I would give it a try.

     Inside I met the Ernest fellow who said he was a writer.  I told him I saw his writing on the sign outside.   He told me he had just returned from Spain and was trying to put his experiences onto paper.  I told him about my adventures and he said he would write a book about them.  I told him about how my body parts can come off now and then and he told me he’d call the book “A Farewell To Arms”.

     I whispered a story in his ear about my trip to the Salton Sea.  He said he’d write about it and call it “The Old Man And The Sea”

     Who are you calling an old man, old man?  He took me to another of his hangouts.  It was a pretty crowded place but he still managed to get us a drop to drink.  It might have been because Ernie’s picture was everywhere here.

     Back at the Floridita, with a few more drinks dissolving my plastic innards, I started to feel an itching on my face.  Was I turning into Ernie Hemingway? 

     I thought I looked something like this Che guy I saw on the side of a wall.

       A few more drinks, and a beret from Che, and I was having the party of my life.  Havana Club Rum and the local Tu Kola combined to be the drink of the moment.  Viva Tu Kola!!

     Ernie threw in a couple cigars.  They were pretty big, and fire and plastic aren’t always good friends, but the rum kind of offset common sense.  Salude!!

     Ernie disappeared, saying something about hunting in Idaho.  It looked like I was on my own, and just a little impaired.  Things started getting a little blurry.  I understand I often look blurry in my pictures but, this time, I was seeing the blurry myself.  When I walked, there were little hurricanes swirling around my feet making the steps difficult.  Suddenly, the ground tilted and ….

     Things were getting out of hand.  I had reached my limit with rum.  I knew what I had to do.  It was a hard choice but I had to do it for my own good. 

                                                                    I switched to beer. 

Cuba has a wide variety of beers available; Cristal and Bucanero.  I dove right in…and was rescued immediately.  Luckily, I had befriended Hallie earlier in the trip.  She now saw me in peril and moved quickly to save me from further destruction.

     She plucked me from my Bucanero diving platform and explained the evils of my ways.  I vowed to change my ways and to never repeat my bad behavior.  Until next time.

                                                            Now those cigars were intriguing…

Mendocino Views

     Bubba survived his trip to France, Italy, and New York…barely.  When we all got back home, he claimed he was exhausted from all the drama and needed a vacation.  We packed up and took a trip to Mendocino on the Northern California coast.  Bubba has his own view of this trip.

        After the big trip, I needed a vacation.  Off we all went to the Northern California Coast to see nature and stuff.  The coastline is rocky and dramatic, with waves crashing on the rocks like a scene from a horror movie.  I kept looking for Alfred Hitchcock and a flock of birds.  Coves and inlets give the area a jagged coastline.

I found a nice fence rail to hang out on but it was a little slippery.

Not wanting to end up bouncing in the sea like a little yellow buoy, I decided it was time to retreat to the tiny town of Fort Bragg and refresh myself.  A nice lady at the North Coast Brewery’s restaurant saw me and knew right away just what I needed.

She gave me a little glass and a big boost so I could sample some of their finest Old Stock Ale.  Ahhh! Just what a guy like me needed after a hard day at sea.

        After the refreshments, I took a nature walk.  There are a lot of strange creatures and plants in the area.  If you are patient and are here at the right time of year, you can see seals, whales, and a horrifying creature that confronted me on the walk.  I was terrified, and quickly picked up a tree branch to defend the lives of Rick and Spider.  It was a long and vicious battle but I soon managed to run away and escape the beast.

We retreated to our hotel as the fog rolled in.  While the temperature inland was in the 90’s and 100’s it was a cool 75 here and dropping.

Back in the room, I threw some logs in the fireplace and lit a match.  I soon realized that is not a wise thing for a plastic person to do.

Bubba was rescued from the fireplace and recovered in time for the next day’s adventures.

On The Road to Verona

Ravenna, Rimini, San Marino, and now Verona.  Where is Bubba going?  Right now he is bouncing around the north and east sections of Italy.  Those places are a little off the beaten path for most Americans, in fact we met very few Americans in our travels.  Most people stick to the well known spots but, if you are in the area (Venice), it would be a mistake not to carve out a few days to see the Roman and early Christian sites nearby.  They are sometimes just a short train ride away.  When we last left Bubba, he was going to hop a train while we took a car.  He instead decided to come with us.  Mostly he travels with us because he doesn’t walk far without being carried.

            Near the train station and across a very modern bridge is the bus station.  I use that term loosely as it is really just a big confusion called a parking lot with a ticket kiosk.  We bought our tickets and the attendant waved in the general direction of where we needed to stand to wait for the bus.  An Italian bus can be a borderline thrill ride.  It always adds a little suspense when you are not quite sure if you are on the right bus.  We took the bus to the airport where arrangements had been made for a rental car.  After Monaco, no one would allow me to drive so I sat on the dashboard.  I thought Rick and Spider were being very nice to me because they put a big screen TV on the dash next to me.  The show was kind of boring as it only had one channel and that seemed to just be a map.  Then I got a shock.  IT WAS ALIVE!!  Yes, it spoke and they called it by name, Kate.  Kate was very rude and did not reply to any of my questions.  She seemed determined to tell everyone where to go.  She would say things like, “In 300 feet, turn left.”  About halfway to our destination we all decided to take a look at the countryside.  We took a small road and Kate went wild.  She kept telling Rick to turn around and go back.  Finally they pulled her plug and wandered happily and quietly through the countryside and through a couple of small villages.  A little lost and wanting to get on with the ride, they plugged the aloof lady Kate, back in.  I think she was defiantly upset.  There was a hint of anger with undertones of revenge in her voice.  She sent us down one road and up another.  Soon we were climbing up a narrow road going up a small mountain.  Still she maintained, “Keep going straight,” in that superior tone of hers.  Finally a large iron gate barred the way with a huge sign saying “proprietà privata” We were stuck and I do believe I heard Kate chuckle.  Rick began a long drive backwards down the hill for about one mile.  I took matters into my own hands and settled the score with Kate.

I had to get all medieval on her case.  She behaved after that and took us straight to our hotel.

Another adjustment and she got us to the correct hotel, a former monastery outside the city of Verona. 

Staying at this hotel was another, more sedate bunch of motorcycle fanatics.  The roar of their bikes starting up was…well…not quite what we heard in Pisa.

The horns were downright embarrassing.  That night we found a “Brewpub” named Birreria BEFeD.  I’m not quite sure what the name means but they had a sort of fried chicken and a sort of Irish Red beer.

After a few pints I got separated from Rick and Spider and tried to find my own way back to the room.  I couldn’t find it but found a nice place in a town called Pescantina.  The room wasn’t much and the TV had only one channel again that seemed to be about underwater exploration.

I only hope that I can find them again.