Friday, April 18, 2008

No time to update right now, sadly, but there are a few of our favorite recent things on the flickr page.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

And THEN...

The fabulous W. family came. It had been a while since we had any guests to show around, so it was nice. We had a great time riding the public transportation, eating waffles (Brussels AND Liege styles), tasting beers, and checking out all the hot spots:

The flea market at Place Jeu de Balle (where Jack conducted some actual haggling and H. bought a surprise birthday gift for R. that she managed to conceal for the entire rest of the trip), the Atomium, the Manneken and Jeanneke, the Grand Place, the Military Museum (surprisingly popular with the kids, and where the once-a-month market meant that you could find rare books interspersed with the planes) and the view from the top of the arch.

K. and C. each stayed with us one night, and they were the perfect guests, going to sleep early and never waking once (not really surprising since we walked them around till their feet were bloody stumps). K. was on a tear of finding stuff, first plucking a €5 note out of the gutter, then a picking a painting with two slices in it off a sidewalk. C. was brave enough to try some snails that H. got from a street vendor--not every day you see a kid doing that.

Friday, April 04, 2008

In the news

The travelers (or at least 1400 of them, probably mostly Americans) have spoken: Brussels is the most boring city to visit in Europe.

Brussels new North wastewater treatment plants opens to rave reviews from the birds. Look at the clarity of that effluent! At notorious "bad plant" Blue Plains, you can see a plume of clean water entering the turbid Potomac from the air. I think Aquiris needs to fine-tune their processes and at least get rid of that embarrassing trail of foam.

As soon as it hit spring we were treated to 5 days of intermittent flurries and snow. One day there were the biggest flakes ever. Jack wanted to compare them with 7 cotton balls in size, but I made him change it to 6.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

London end game

The next morning we got up, checked out, and hit the pavement. Somehow I got it in my head that the Brick Lane neighborhood, the center of Bengali life in London, was the place to be on a Sunday morning, when the markets were in full swing.

We hopped on the subway and headed east. The southern end of Brick Lane, where we started, was churchday-quiet. Yet a number of shops were open, putting out delicious aromas of exotic sweets. As we headed north, though, we found that the markets of vendors of secondhand and homemade indie goods were just getting going, blessedly free of hipsters wearing their Sunday morning hangovers like a mantle. We picked out baked goods at one stall and fresh-pressed ginger-carrot-orange-apple juice at another. We breakfasted while looking at graphic tees and handmade purses and funny ties in the former Truman brewery. Across the way at another, nearly-identical market we got a coffee and perused stalls of the same stuff. The t-shirt about how dolphins are gay sharks was funny, but not funny enough to buy and wear around. I guess we're just getting too old for that sort of stuff.

Further north the flea market vibe reigned, with blankets set out with all kinds of junk spread on the sidewalks. A few blocks on it changed again--cheap but new clothes, electronics, food and housewares. I believe one could literally get anything one wanted without entering a store, as long as quality wasn't a consideration. Jack bought a winter hat for a quid and a CD for 100 pence. The actual storefronts contained vintage goods (we wandered into one of the larger ones and Jack walked away with a midnight blue corduroy blazer for £5) and fashionable clothes and products (I looked wistfully at the cool but too expensive items). As we were saving ourselves for lunch, we skipped the famous beigel (like a bagel) shop, much to my eternal regret. I have no idea why I decided it wasn't worth it to bring some home.

The street market petered out on one of the offshoot lanes and it was back to quiet Sunday again. We walked off the map to return back to the main drag, passing by a farm-park with a variety of depressed-looking animals. Apparently there is a lot of bad Bengali food to be had in Brick Lane these days and you have to know where to go to get something decent. A side street brought us to Meraz for Handi-style Indian cooking, with hot tea to stave off the chill. We both got the specials, fish balls for Jack and lamb for me, which hit the spot. It was pretty dead in the restaurant, but everyone who entered (mostly to chat or get takeout) was well-known to the proprietor, who seemed to be an activist in addition to a restaurateur, if the conversation was any guide. After we ate the cook came out to make sure that we liked everything. Awesome.

Leaving our leisurely lunch spot, we visited the larger, more established-looking Old Spitalfields Market and got some postcards. A green spot on our map that we tried to get to was in reality a military academy, so we ended up in the small Bunhill Fields Cemetery next door that held the remains of William Blake in addition to a variety of nice old stones. At this point we were mostly killing time till we had to be at the airport, since there wasn't really anything we could delve deeply into before we had to go.

We headed through the Barbican complex, a large and depressing area of apartment and office towers done in the Brutalist style using a lot of concrete. It had skyways connecting the buildings one story off street level, reminding me of Rosslyn on a much larger scale. It housed the Museum of London, though, which was free, so we bided our time there until we needed to head for the train.

Once at Liverpool station we returned our Oyster cards for cash (tip: if you plan on doing this, make sure you give yourself about 15 minutes extra time) and hopped on the train. We dined at the airport and in the bathroom I saw those powerful hand dryers again. Last time I had been afraid to use them but this time I took the plunge. It looked like my hands were in that James Bond flick where he's in the centrifuge going out of control--the skin was being pushed backwards off my palms. It certainly dried my hands in a jiffy.