29. Fatty Arbuckle, a Priest’s Affaire and Gangsta Granny.

Bonjour Madames and Monsieur’s,  Est-ce que vous etes mariee – K ?,

Most French villages back BC, i.e. Before Collingwood, were established  next to a river, creek, abutting marshes or good arable land. The village of Sancerre is set on top of a prominent hill which is only prominent because it rises abruptly all by itself. Its self contained like a pimple on the landscape with a contagious disease. All about are hills of equal height but they shake hands with adjoining hills with an irregular dip between like they are line dancing. Being prominent and stand alone, it was a good defensive possie as back BC, everybody else apart from your tribe, wanted your possessions including goats, daughters and plonk. If you had a good baker then he was taken as well.

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Yeh, its hard to read – get over it. Thats a plan of Sancerre all dictated by the shape of the hill on which it sits and Monsier Higgly Piggly. Julius Cesar’s Village Planner’e.

Over the years the Sancerrian’s built ramparts, a thick defensive wall with six towers, arrow slots, places where you can throw dung beetles down on the enemy and holes where you could surprise Fatty Arbuckle with a sharp pike thrust into the belly button. Only one tower remains, the Tower of the Strongholds, Tour des Fiefs in Froggy speak. This tower is where they lit a fire on top to warn and call in the surrounding peasants from the lower fields that approaching were Vladimir Putins, Donald Trumps, Seventh Day Adventists and Tupper Ware Party organiser’s. Why are you telling me this sonny boy. ‘Well Mum,  when we fought the Protestant kids at Tiger Snake Swamp, it would have helped if we had knowledge of the terrain’. Yes dear. Have you been sipping from my sherry bottle again

I’m once again walking down the steep hill away from Sancerre’s Ramparts, this time on the correct path towards the Carefour Market at the bottom of Sancerre’s pimple. I divert half way into Sancerre’s Cemetery which is on a slope. Everything here slopes. Its a very old cemetery judging by the crumbling, friable headstones with lettering weathered away. The earliest I find is 1735, fifty three years before the drunken orgy that established the white invasion of a great southern land, Terra Australis Incognito. Due to the slope and inadequate foundations, many grave slabs and headstones lean or slide to hug the grave next door. Gravestones are having affairs. Theres a few very small Mausoleums, stone walls infilled with stained glass, wrought iron, steep pitched slate roofed, fancy entry door, embellished surrounds and inside in the near dark, I’m expecting bones.

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Sancerre’s cemetery. Bewt view.

No, theres marble plaques lining the walls, all similar about 30×30 cm, black engraving some faded all dusty. I wonder where the bodies go. About centre of the cemetery, there’s a stone plinth topped by a cross and on one side, a marble plaque engraved thus, A La Memoire de PHILLIPE BOURGEOIS 1756 – 1836. Cure de SANCERRE pendant 38 ANS. Translating that lot with my french schoolgirl Sue, it seems Phillipe was a priest in Sancerre for 38 years. Living till the excellent age back then of 80, is testament to having an affaire with God, hearing all the village gossip and affairs of the heart in the confession box and to altar wine keeping the brains nutrient flow stimulated. And dare I say, being single.

Down on the lower level of the cemetery, left hand side when you go have a squiz, are a neat double row of graves, concrete surrounds, crosses, all painted Dulux White sparkling gloss like yesterday. Theres a French flag fluttering and these 24 or so graves, are those of Sancerre soldiers who died in that gratuitous 1914/18 war.

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Sancerre cemetery – graves of WWI soldiers.

Australia’s Federal Politicians most of them intellectually undernourished, continually have gratuitous egotistical faction driven skirmishes and group factional hug in’s. With marijuana laced biscuits. All leading to them placing pikes, daggers and goobies in each others CV’s, media outlets and in the IKEA instructions for assembling a Politician in Canberra. Complete with a Chinese Allen Key. None of them want what we voted for, which was a full days play at Old Trafford. They, the pollies, keep pulling up or knocking over the stumps, arguing with the Umpires, rubbing their balls on the ground or sandpaper hidden in their undies. And, they hit the captain with a bat as he dropped a catch. In the dressing room, they all sulk because the opposition won the referral’s to the third umpire whilst the Captain holding the teams well worn balls, looks like a man condemned by the Inquisition.

The Carefore Supermarket at the bottom of Sancerre’s pimple and I get along well, albeit I cannot understand the items on the shelving all in Froggy writing and everybody is in Froggy speak mode. Mind you, the wine, beer and whisky speaks its own language of music, love, laughter and aspirin. Its a clever layout with wine bottles occupying half a row alongside the veggies, then another row alongside the breakfast cereals, and on the end racks of the rows.

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Our Sancerre Garrett – schoolgirl Sue ready to put her nose bag on but beforehand, she drinks at the font of good cheer.

Down the far corner, where there are all the nutrients and vitamins essential for human life on this planet, is a mini Dan Murphys with grog of all sorts just sooo cheap. And like Woolies and Coles in Oz who place the other sort of healthy and/or necessary things you want most like eggs, bread, cheese, lollies, potato chips, toilet paper and McCains 50% less fat frozen chips, well spread out, so you get confused and your mind goes into ‘Compulsive Buy Mode’. Hence, as you pass shelving with red special stickers, wine and beer bottles, subliminal music plays. Its Dolly Pardon singing Nine to Five, and you finish up with a trolley full of plutonium and six cartons of Puligny Montrachet. Whilst at the checkout they play Barry Manilow’s Copacabana with Lola She Was a Show Girl which gives everybody apart from Bogans, a dose of diarrhoea and a hurry along to escape Barry and Lola. Cripes sonny boy, next time grab your old Mum two bottles of medium dry sherry. We seem to be going through a lot.

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Sancerre – cute but perhaps fire prone house on Rou Pour Olives? Sorry, my map is crinkled where the word ‘Olives’ is. So is it olives?

With backpack full of goodies plus a carry bag, I leave the Froggy Supermarket and trudge like a hunchback across a busy road and another, watching every direction including up and down, in case young Rueben on his Vespa is tearing along as he’s late for his 50th affaire. This week. I’m early, bus back up the hill to Sancerre does not leave until 1132. I fiddle about a bit at the bus stop, have a scratch, check out the neighbourhood and spy a Bar/Cafe. Its open. I’m in with my groceries to meet Gangsta Granny. Well, she looks like Vito Corleone’s’ grandmother. She’s old, botox looking face not helped by grumpy wrinkles. Cuppa tea S’il vous plait. I get a cup, pot of hot water and a small wooden case, glass lid, in which there are a selection of 12 tea bags in small compartments all with Froggy writing. As I consider myself sophisticated, and do not want Gangsta Granny behind the counter to consider me a dolt, I choose what I think is normal T. Its not. Its Peppermint T. I am a dolt. I drink it anyway and depart with an Au Revoir to Gangsta Granny before she phones grandson Vito to organise another horses head. The bus arrives on time and to demonstrate just how far the Fifth Republic is behind the times and why Emmanuel Macron is tearing his hair out trying to reform work practices, Marcel, the bus driver, has to manually fill out a slip of paper, my ticket, for my 2 euro bus ride. The bus is on a narrow road and theres some 20 cars behind held up by Marcels bus as he enters 44 letters/numbers onto the paper slip. The bus service number is entered, date goes in, then the  village and bus stop I get on at, then my destination and bus stop, then he marks a column ‘Tariff’ then the amount I paid. Whew. All the cars behind wait patiently,  That was my second walking trip to the supermarket down the hill but I must be learning as I got the bus back up the hill.

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Sancerre opposite the Touriste Bureau – its on eof those Panorama possies and where I met Julien the frenchman and my new cobber. Thats the Chup a Chup soldier trees.

Part of my house husband role whilst the schoolgirl Sue is learning Froggy Speak, I prepare gruel for brekky, make play lunches, lunches, occasionally dins, get to pull the cork out of the wine bottle, the French are not into Stelvin Screw Tops, maybe in another thousand years, get to do the washing up and some of the shopping. To enhance the learning Froggy experience, Sue’s school requires its students to go down to the mid week open square market at Saint Satur. Down the hill. Again. I’m invited as I can act as a mule to carry things, a sort of Francis the Talking Donkey. A 20 seater small bus driven by Marcel, part of a regular daily service I now comprehend, but on seeing our crowd of women leading a donkey, he waves his arms in the air at all the Madame’s and at filling in a ‘ticket’ for all of us and just does one. Sacre Poop he says. A Froggy expletive I translated for your benefit from what he actually said in Froggy speak.

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Sancerre’s Wine Bureau. Plonk plays a large part in Sancerrian life. And ours at the moment!!!

He takes us down to Saint Satur’s Place de la Republique, the village ‘Square’. Theres a higgly piggly arrangement of vans, benches, awnings, refrigerated cases, trucks and cars. Strolling about wearing aprons, are boofy Froggy men with thick bushy hair, matching eyebrows and tummies. Its open air so they drag on Gauloises exhaling smoke, and steam from their other orifices. Team Language School descends like the Huguenots are attacking and devour fruit, vegies, meat, fish, bread, smallgoods and cheese. Linda purchased the exclusive Roquefort Blue Cheese, rating on the smell scale, up there with soldiers socks. She rode in the back of the bus with the cheese in her hand out the window. Now we have food supplies for several months but I may have other shopping expeditions to top up our wine, whisky supplies and buy medium dry sherry for Mum.

Bonsoir, Bonjour, A bientot and Au revoir from French Sue 😘 and the Huguenot, Moi 🤪

 

 

 

 

 

 

28. Chup a Chup Trees and a Man named ‘OF’ who has a near Terminal Sook.

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Short inviting walkway leading off Rue de Jorge to the door where back in the 17th century, a Count lived. The interpretative sign reads, Path leading to the Counts oven. The use of the oven was mandatory in the Middle Ages and was deemed a ‘banality’. What does that mean? Rue de Jorge is barely 1.5 metres wide and runs down one side of our ‘Garrett’.

Salut,

Tuesday morning. Sue’s at her French Language Classes. A one minute uphill walk away. I’m ‘on the loose’ so I’m off exploring this small unique, enchanting hilltop village of Sancerre. Strolling up and around the twisting Rue’s, via ‘Rue Saint Dennis’, ‘Rue des Vieiles’ into the shortish narrow ‘Rue des la Tour’ and the town centre where a few Cafes are setting up. Beautiful sunny day, not a cloud to see. Through the town centre, a ‘Bonjour’ here and there to Madame’s and Monsieur, sometimes they answer back, others look at me as though I’m Chewbacca enquiring as to the whereabouts of Hans Solo. Down hill slightly on ‘Rue Porte Cesar’ past the exclusive very french Chateau which is mostly hidden behind a high rock wall, further obscured by ancient grand trees and end up at Esplanade Porte Cesar where there’s a ‘panorama’. A place to take photographs. Away to the right, theres a small park with ten Chup a Chup shaped trees in two lines, with at the end, one of those 22nd century automatic stainless steep toilet cubicles. Its like a Tardis where its roomy inside, one can say Hi to a Dalek, do their business and get a shower if they are not careful. It does not look out of place discreetly positioned down the end of the small esplanade against a 15th century rock wall.

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Thats the village of Saint Satur with about, fields of grape vines. Theres a short cut down the steep hill thru those trees to the village. I know there is.

In front of me IS a sweeping Panorama out over the Loire River valley, with the river way below down a steep embankment, across a few rolling low hills. The river looks shallow, sand banks showing, barely flowing as its been a dry summer. Shimmering light slightly distorts fields where neat rows of grape vines march up and down the hillside following the contours. Flashes of the cream limestone soil shows through the vines. Groups of trees huddling where man has not cleared due to the terrain or soil, houses dotted about and there’s the lower down village of Saint Satur squatting all disjointed, fallen like Humpty Dumpty at the bottom of the proud walled hill where Sancerre sits. I hope neither Paris Hilton nor Posh Spice, the Nouveau-Riche, finds out about Sancerre. Leave it alone please 14 second famers.

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Sancerre – we love it.

Way away to my left, as I slowly move my sore neck, Why have you got a sore neck Sonny Boy, the ‘panorama’ is spoilt by two enormous chimneys chuffing out shrouds of bluey grey smoke. Its the Chinon Nuclear Power Plant one of 19 plants and 58 nuclear reactors that France has. One is never far away from a Nuclear Reactor in Froggy land!!!. These plants supply 75% of Frances energy needs and the country earns 3billion euro’s annually from the sale of power to adjoining countries. The Chinon plant draws its cooling water from the Loire River except in 1986/7 when the river froze and the army had to blast open the intake pipes. Then in 2004, radioactive sodium was released into the atmosphere during a ‘leak test’. Somebody forgot to put the diapers on the reactors. Don’t worry about a Chernobyl happening here as it could happen anywhere in the world. The US has 99 reactors, China 39, Japan 39, this after they shut down their Kamikazi (Tsunamis) prone plants. Russia has 35, India 22, Canada 19, the UK 15 and so on. Oz, nary a one but we should be talking about it. Open the dialogue. Bob, Richard and Sarah Hyphen will of course, spit lentils, froth at the mouth and chain themselves to a passing Black Hole. New generation plants are ‘safeish’, so says Dr Strangelove and if theres a problem, the radioactive cloud will drift east from Oz and get rid of those pesky bully New Zealand Ruggers players who we never seem able to beat. Its cheap power, virtually greenhouse gas free and nowday’s does not need to be close to a water supply for cooling. However, they need hot air. Canberra or Barnaby’s constituency would be a perfect location.

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More quirkiness in Sancerre. Beyond are the ‘fields’ of plonk’.

There I stand, musing deeply and I need to these days as the hard disc drive and the  wiring in the cranium are shorting out due to wear and tear, rust, whisky fills the capillaries giving nutrient rich blood the heave ho and due to a life spent slightly outside the bounds of normal social intercourse. There’s a tap on my shoulder. Is it God or the Devil calling me. I turn and theres this youngish late thirties well built man, pleasant face, he’s gibbering on in Froggy Speak. I do not understand a word. In these situations I pull myself up to my full five foot ten, puff the chest out and say in Oz Speak, I’m an Aussie. He looks confused. As am I. I immediately follow this up with putting my arms in front, hands down and hop a bit whilst softly singing Skippy, Skippy, Skippy. He looks at me completely bemused as though I’m the Second Coming and/or a lump of smelly French Cheese. I confirm his thoughts by saying Parlavou la Francay which I do automatically in France when I feel I am not in control of the situation. I’m definitely not in control and compound our flourishing friendship by saying those Froggy words which Sue tells me means, Do you speak French. I know he’s a Frenchman by the number of ‘wee’s’ and ‘oui’ and ‘bonjour’s’ he says. We settle down and our relationship develops hiccup like. He is here as either his brother has died and is to be buried and/or ashes spread at Sancerre or his brother is getting married and the man in front of me is scouting locations for the bucks party and/or the nuptials. Pick one Des.

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Sancerre – Sue’s language school, COEUR DE FRANCE. When the school bell rings, I send her off with a clean hanky and her play lunch.

I explain with more Skippy acts that I am an Aussie tourist. He writes his name on the back of my Froggy Phrase book as ‘Julien’ and I learn that he is an accountant in a town about 20 minutes away. Married with an eleven and a four year old. Pigeon Pair. We must look like two Mime actors to any observer. Slowly getting to know each other we decide to go for a cup of tea up the ‘Rue Porte Cesar’ to Sancerre’s main Square. I nearly upset our budding friendship when I tell him my name is Des. He looks at me again as though I’m a lump of Froggy Cheese until I grasp from him, that the word ‘Des’ in Froggy speak means, ‘of’. Nobody in the correct cranium hippocampus balance in France, apart from those who drink Absinthe followed by several triple espresso after their child is born, would call a child ‘Des’. We have that cuppa tea at Cafe des Arts which proves the point. He uses his iPhone translator app to give me more info on his life and I do more Skippy acts. Outside in the sun we shake hands, lifetime friends and exchange email addresses. We do have a second coming as schoolgirl Sue appears out of the blue with her classmates. Julien cannot believe that I am Sue’s husband. I feel that way every day. He shakes his head as Sue and Julien go into Froggy Speak and start pointing and laughing looking at me. Sue tells me that Julien is here to take photographs from all of Sancerre’s ‘Panorama’ locations of which there are five. I present him with my map showing those possies. He is delighted and after due consideration, I determine that he would be a shoo in for the first Froggy Speak PM of Australia.

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Sancerre – another vine covered house.

Later after lunch, having settled down via a small glass of Stella beer, at the said same Cafe des Arts, I go for walkies intending to find the ‘Market’ down the hill at the village of Saint Satur. I had the wife’s wish list. My first mistake was going right at (Rue) Ramparts des Dames instead of left as everybody told me to. I’m a ‘smarty pants’ and go right because I can just about touch the village just there. I see it through the trees at the bottom of a steep incline. Des or ‘Of’ as I am becoming known, is going to find a short cut down the hill full well knowing that everybody from Julius Cesar in 51 BC, the Huguenot’s, Franks, Goths, Vikings, Napoleon and Hugh Jackman had failed at finding a short cut into and/or out of Sancerre. I soon discover that Froggy roads and tracks do not follow steep inclines. Like in Oz. I knew that, but I’m stupid. My route leads me to traverse several longitudinal goat tracks, jump fences, walk through vineyards, wave to Froggy Vigneron’s, cross a long bending road aqueduct  and find the village of Saint Satur. But its not the Saint Satur where we got our groceries on the first day here. I wander around a bit, ask directions at a Citroen workshop who no understand. If I had wanted a de-coke of the exhaust pipe, then they would have taken the time to try and understand. I’m lost and consult my iPhone Google Person but ‘Of’ mucks it up.  I walk on in a near deep terminal sook until a miracle. Theres the supermarket and alongside it, the ‘right’ road that leads back to Sancerre. I’m overjoyed and instead of getting all the goodies on the ‘wife’s list’, I consider buying a small bottle of Absinthe as I’m hyper, out of my sook, and want to be a Frenchman named ‘Of’. I walked near 22,000 steps or near 18k’s that day. All as per my Apple Fitbit tracking device which does not tell fibs. ‘I occasionally do Mum’. Your’e a naughty at times sonny boy. Have you been to confession?

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Sacre Bleu and Arrrggg!!!

Each evening, when the Good Wife is not out gallivanting with her classmates, or on a wine degustation after school meet, attempting to sip their way through all of the Loire Valleys wines, we chat. Its a requirement of our marriage manifesto, in the small print. The Good Wife downloads her lessons, the bits she thinks I will understand, there goes sixty seconds, and I download about my expedition around the perimeter of Froggy Land. Another thirty seconds gone as I skip the bit about me being a ‘goose’ like Barnaby. I tell the Good Wife what we are planning to have for Dins that evening, as I’m the ‘house husband’. She, the French lady I live with, changes that to something edible that keeps my gut orchestra playing Peer Gynts ‘Morning’. Even though its evening. Moi gets to choose a beer, and from Her cellar, She chooses a vino.

After dins, we go strolling, chuck a ‘Bonsoir’ here and there. Its still daylight at 8pm, many people are about so we join in and have a Kronenbourg Beer each at ‘La Connetable Cafe’, come Brasserie come Restaurant. It has a large screen TV showing Froggy men running around chasing a round ball. In the bar with all the noise, you would think that the Huguenots were at the village Ramparts as Froggy men shout, gesticulate angrily at the screen whilst making rude noises like ‘Oiu’, and ‘Holy Sheet’. When the stress level goes up another notch, they go outside to drag on a foul smelling Gauloise or two, emit Trouser Bugles and continue waving their arms about excitedly to demonstrate that Ruben should have used a ‘header’. Sacre Bleu!!!

Au revoir from Me 😇 and the French Lady, Oiu 👩🏻

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

27. Monsieur Higgly Piggly, Vibrating Yoga Pants and Fook No.

SANCERRE EDITION. We are to spend three weeks here at Sancerre. Lots of boring stuff follows as Des tries to describe a hilltop village where they had to invent words to describe it. Bizzare, quaint, whimsical, capricious (settle down Des), but definitely pleasurable to the mind, eye and the taste buds. We are in the Sancerre River Loire valley wine area. Wee. Salute!

Saturday 22nd August. In two hours from Paris we arrive at Bourge’s Train Station, sorry, Gare de Bourge’s. Its pandemonium as our crowded First Class offloads together with the 23 other carriages containing paupers. Here, we all become ‘one of the crowd’. I like it that way. Bourge’s is big smoke. Population now 66,786. Julius Caesar came along in 52 BC and demolished the town killing all its inhabitants apart from 800 whimpering sooky souls. You can bet of those 800, about 50% were young strong boys and men prepared to work without whingeing. The rest would be pretty girls and women who were prepared to cook and have a lie down without whingeing when foot soldier Flavius Interuptus felt the urge. The town is located at the junction of the Auron and Yevre Rivers and has a Gothic Cathedral which has a World Heritage Listing. It is also famous for its ‘half timbered houses’. The other half, the bottom floors, are stone. There was a shortage of stone as Julius Caesars team of ‘whimperers’ used all the stones from the demolished houses, and the nearby quarries, to built a defensive wall about the town, a Temple to JC and a Beer Hall Pleasure Palace for Team JC. Thats it. Bye Bye Bourge’s.

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Sancerre France. Thats the Hunchback in the jungle green coat.

We follow hurriedly along the platform after Sue’s new girlfriends, Bronwyn and Janice, Aussies, as they seem to know what they are doing and where they are going. Somebody from Coeur de France, Sue’s Language School, is switched on and has organised an 8 and a 4 seater taxis to transport us to Sancerre 25 k’s away, where we are to spend 3 weeks speaking Froggy. Apart from Moi. Its all ‘girls’ in our cab apart from Marius the driver and Desmond. There’s much gibbering as we motor to our new home. Most of it I cannot understand as my deaf left ear is facing the gibbering. I try to re-connect with that A380 to land it safely at Perth Airport or into that part of Guildford near to Alfred’s Burger Joint. But the lines are down. I hope Elle is still secure in her First Class capsule awaiting my return.

The countryside is pleasant once we clear the crass commercial and industrial outer fringes of Bourge where they seem to utilise, as in Oz, horrid looking ’tilt-up-concrete’ structures to house Tyre Marts, Mechanics, Kitchen Re-modellers, Gyms, Lighting, Carpet, Tile outlets and I shut my eyes until Sue behind me jabs me in the ribs.

Hey, this is pretty countryside. The road dips and weaves gently like the hills about, where paddocks of beige corn await ploughing. Then fields of grape vines tumbling steeply down the hillsides their leaves fraying as autumn moves towards winter and new life. Pockets of verdant green trees, trickling creeks, farmhouses that could only be French with steep slate roofs, dormer windows, chimneys topped by clay pots, slated hoods over the entry door, recessed windows with bright blue and dark timber shutters drawn back. Pots of bright red geraniums brighten the cream rendered walls. I love it.

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Sancerre. The house with the white car in front, dates from the 15th century. To its right, is a major Rue taking traffic down to a large village square.

Sancerre the village where we are to spend three weeks, had 2,511 residents in year 1810. At the 2008 census, only 1,697. A decline of 36.9%. The young have departed as there is no steady reliable work. In recent decades, rich Americans and Parisienne’s realised the magical qualities and quaintness of Sancerre, plus the cheapish house prices, have purchased run down ‘houses’ which are all leaning against and on each other. They renovate them and come for the holidays. And the wine. The village built on top of a natural fortress rising 312 metres and dwarfing the surrounding rolling hills, was laid out in drunken cobweb style by Monsieur Higgly Piggly who worked for Caesar. Extremely narrow Rue’s barely 3 metres width, squiggle about, meet up at small squares, then refreshed at the open space, take off again squigglying in a different direction. Perhaps it was all to confuse the enemy who came puffing up the hill, breached the rampart’s, then ran around in circles like they were in a maze. They were.

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Sancerre. ‘Backside’ of the magnificent ‘Coeur de France’ language school that schoolgirl Sue is attending.

Down below is the River Loire. At 1,022 K length, the longest in France. Fed by eight other rivers. In flood, its a mighty force and is still in reasonable shape. Unlike Australia’s longest river, the Murray at 2,508 K, which is in appalling shape due to fiddling by inept, certifiably stupid politicians, bureaucrats, Nimbys, Dinks, brown nosing developers and those wearing Vibrating Yoga Pants. Tasmania has a river named ‘Break O’Day’. Love it.

The taxi off-loads us and our luggage onto a small cobblestoned downhill sloping square outside the Coeur de France. The language school. A grand three story building with a courtyard ‘out the back’. All the ‘schoolgirls’ disappear inside for a chin wag as they did not manage to discuss their whole lives and shopping expeditions that they had been on, in the taxi. I stand outside guarding the bags and saying ‘Bonjour’ to the occasional local who struggles by up the incline into the maze. Bored after an hour, I manage to arrange and balance the bags and their wheels, so that they do not charge off rattling across the cobblestones and down one of the Rue’s. In any direction I walk from the bags, about 20 paces at most, I come to a ‘house’ of two, three storeys, old, ancient, all a bit tatty. One of them, unoccupied it seems as its a very tired house, dates from the 15th century. I turn and walk back checking that the bags have not gone walkies.

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Sancerre from the top of the only defensive tower, one of six, remaining. Its 193 wonky timber steps to the top.

Five Rue’s lead off or take flight from the cobblestoned ‘square’, all of them bend away. There are no straight line Rue’s. On the lower side of the square, two of the Rue’s nearly come to a point where theres a cute two storey steep slated roofed house. A weary looking, cobwebbed Taxi office below with largish plate glass window, single door and upstairs, two narrow windows with lace and gingham curtains from which an old lady spies on me. I wave, the curtains fall back.

Marianne, the headmistress and co-owner of school with hubby Gerard, disperses her schoolgirls into various Garrets nearby. We are taken down Rue Porte Vielle with Jeany a pleasant plumpish American lady near 70. Into what seems a narrow fronted House with an extremely steep pitched sideways running skillion roof. Inside, up 16 stairs lugging bags, and Jeany thats your apartment and Madame Sue and ‘Him’, the other called ‘Balzac’. A big surprise. A nice apartment, smallish, but all mod cons.

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Our Sancerre ‘Balzac’ Garret. Sue studying her school schedule to see when the next ‘girls only’ wine degustation walkies takes place. Thats the ‘kitchen’ beyond and winding stair to bed and bath area on the right.

Cream tiled floors laid in square pattern, heavy 10cm x 150cm ceiling joists overlaid with flooring boards all supported on 30cm x 30cm adzed tree trunks that the white ants had a go at 400 years ago. Its rustic meets NY Chic. Settle Sonny Boy. ‘Yes Mum’. The lounge, a couch, relaxa chair, TV, DVD. Over there a round dining table to seat four, kitchen nook with oven, MWave, hotplates, full size fridge, plenty of ‘stuff’ to cook with. Sue is happy. Two windows looking three metres across into neighbours windows. Soon as they know our apartment is occupied, their curtains are drawn and shutters go across. In one corner of the lounge, a part spiral staircase in timber, narrow tread, fourteen of them, up to arrive at a small lobby. To the left, a bedroom. Sue’s side of the bed has a sloping roof which does not clear her head. Mines OK. I move the bed across so she no knock her cranium. To the right a large bathroom come laundry with a WM and a dryer. Tiled floors up as well but laid in diagonal pattern. One of those ‘Interior Designer’ personages has been here. Everything is thought of except wine, beer and whisky.

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Part of Sancerre’s main town ‘tourist’ cafe ‘square’.

An hour later we are back in the ‘square’ and taken by taxi in groups of four to the ‘market’ down the hill at the village of Saint Sanur. Young Foort the taxi driver speaks no English. I no French, but I manage to find that he has three children. All small girls. Its a modern supermarket with two of the 12 or so rows of shelving given over to wine, beer, spirits and song. And I do, buying a 700ml bot of Jamesons for 30AUD. Sue a bot of white wine we are not overly sure of what or which grape. Hopefully not vinegar. Back up the steep hill to Sancerre, unload, and we are off with our map walking excitedly. Well, as excited as two elderly people can be, to see what the village holds for us. We much like what we see. Row after row of two to three storey wobbly thin aged houses, cottages all cheek by jowl, gable and hipped roofs, some skillion, all steep, mostly slate covered with many dormer windows. Higgly Piggly laid out the roofs also. Occasionally flower boxes brighten the scene, vines creep up here and there covering walls. Narrow public passages, tunnels and laneways lead off, then twist to interrupt tantalising views. Cats prowl warily in the shadows.

The main largish town square, Nouvelle Place, one can walk around its perimeter, being careful not to get run down by a car, in 5 minutes. Its not big. ‘I didn’t say it was big Mum, just largish’. Located near to the top of the ‘hill’ on which Sancerre is set, it has a spacious tented structure set up, no side panels. Here the village holds concerts, plays, dances. About, canopied sitting areas where the many cafes surrounding tend to their patrons. A Tabac shop, three flash looking wine purveyors, six of so cafes/restaurants, more down the steep side Rues, frock, gift shops, wine bars, curiosity shops, two bookshops. French books in the bigger one and the other a knick knack tourist orientated shop has a few second hand english novels.

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Thats Father Desmondo, CP with Bar, preaching to Sue about shopping and the effect too many wine degustation meets with her schoolgirl friends can have on the skin.

Theres a Charcuterie (small meats), a Boulangerie (baker), a Patisserie come Chocolatier, few churches, heaps of history, quaintness, archaic buildings, one remaining defensive tower, a rather posh Chateaux right on top of the Sancerre’s peaky hill, and a tourist bureau. No fuel station, no supermarket. Perfect. Cars, vans, an early morn big rattly red tractor with red trailer, crawl/hurry up and down the Rues, grinding gears, revving motors. There are no signs to indicate which way the traffic should flow. Its France. The sidewalks, pavements where they exist, are barely one person width then melt into a kerb then widen again. One stands flat against a building as a vehicle passes slowly, hopefully. Young Raphael, Juliette and Ruben zip exuberantly past in Dads old tiny Peugeot van rushing to meet James Dean or their first ‘la affaire’.

Sue’s school mates are from all over the world. Molly (Mary) from Alaska, Kris NY City, just semi-retired. She is going to work her way through the local wine list. Hope she needs help. Rosie, from Washington DC, Lynda from Canada, Jo-Ellen from Alaska and NY City, Lilly, South Carolina, Christina South Africa, Janet New Zealand and our Aussies Bronwyn and Jan. Theres more but their names and impressions they made, fail me. A few blokes but they don’t count. All are from middle age to earths late Cretaceous period. Like Moi. Lawyers, editors, journalists, learners, academics regardless. So they say. Sue passes me off as a former Oz PM.

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Sancerre’s Chateaux right on top of the fortress hill. I had to stand on tippy toes to get this shot as its verboten to go anywhere near the Chateaux. Apparently. Wee.

Rumourmongering over the years, I love rumours, is that Julius Caesar had a fort come palace built up on the hill where Sancerre now sits. Thats Oinks ago – about 52BC. Its a great defensive position for those who do not want to cark it early in their allotted lot as foretold by the Chinese Tea Leaf Reader, Fook No. Anybody wanting to run you through with a pike, sword, dagger, hit you with a mace, their Caltrap or brush Plutonium onto your hand, has to climb the bloody hill, through the bracken, poison ivy and then, puffing like buggery, scale the defensive wall. This whilst Sancerrians chuck boondies, pigs trotters, left overs, spores of the Black Death and warm Number Two’s at you whilst their noble Sancerre leader, Peppin de Short, sends an urgent ‘help’ smoke signal to Hugh Jackman.

The Coeur de France Language School girls are off on another Wine Degustation walk/tour in 40 minutes. At 1730. I’m invited as I’m rude to them. Thus remind them of their husbands/boyfriends/partners/girlfriends/trans/LGBHJZXzzz. I need to go put my make up on. And my false teeth in.

Ooroo, Bonjour and Wee from Her 😘 and Moi 🐒.

 

 

 

26. Kettle Black, Scrambled Eggs and the Flight of the Bumble Bee.

Last Thursday evening at 8.30pm, we are in a Paris Taxi. Satchmo is driving. He’s as black as the bottom of our circa late 1940’s Dundas Road kettle. Wife and three adult kids at home. He’s a happy chappy and shows us a piccy of his three kettle black kids all smiling. Its rush hour. Its been rush hour since Napoleon died. About us in a Narrow Rue, is a conglomerate, a jumble, a chockablock ravelling unravelling metal tapestry of Renaults, Citrons, Peugeot’s, Vespas, Buses, eScooters and devil may care bicycle riders and pedestrians. Other chockablock Rues weave together with ours into a larger Boulevard where we are all crudely woven together momentarily, then unravelled again as we enter another narrow Rue. Its absolute mayhem but this is Paris. Stop start motoring, screeching, revving, shouting, pointing, gesticulating rudely, near misses as nonchalant scooter and bike riders weave carelessly through the swarming vehicles.

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Paree – typical street scene at 0800. Its Saturday morn. Traffic still asleep.

I admit that I chose our Paris Hotel. I also admit that I made a huge mistake. I could tell that from the outside. A bland concrete structure, seven stories, narrow, no embellishments. On the web, the Hotel Devillas looks fairly swish. I now understand that that notorious ‘Photo Shopper’ come web designer Mgumba in Nigeria and his Uncle Botswana, designed the web site. The price per night was extraordinary and we should have purchased a Mini Cooper instead. I imagined and told my bride that there was a large foyer, a reception desk with uniformed people where the air was permeated with the aroma of warm Fromage de Chevre Croissants.

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Paris – thats the Eiffel Tower in the far far distance.

We enter through an air lock I now realise is to stop fresh air entering the building. There’s old Pierre, balding mid sixties in night porter come receptionist come concierge roll wearing a Tarshay shirt and his Boules trousers. Theres a sign stating, Dogs up to 5kg are allowed at 20euro per night. He reluctantly drags himself away a computer screen where he is watching Marionette and the Paris Boules Team having a Knees Up.  Hands us a plastic card number 103. For the cell of the same name. The lift, cripes the bloody lift. It was left behind and partly destroyed during the Revolution of 1789 when a mob of Froggees seized the ‘Invalides’. Then, led by Hugh Jackman, they stormed the Bastille and left our Hotel Devillas lift suitable only for two persons of 60kg max with small suitcases and time on their hands

At first floor level where there are six cells, we are extremely apprehensive. The bride thinking, I know what she’s thinking at times but only when she is concerned like she is now, she’s thinking, ‘Just how did I get involved with this goose’. Where do I start with our cell 103. No I cant, it troubles me just as did all those graves at Villers-Bretonneux.

‘Strewth Mum, our sleepout at Dundas road was paradise compared to this. Our towels never smelt of cigars and with the kero lamps, we could see to read our comics’. Yes sonny boy, your Dad and I did our best. Now, before you go nye nye, would you like a jam tart with cream?

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Paris. The Seine with houseboats on a grey morn.

Paris like Amsterdam, Venice, Brugge, London and Barnaby’s Hat, have been loved to death. Too many people, especially now as the Chinese and Russian upper classes are issued with passports. Possibly so they do not return. In Paris, there are road and pavement works going on absolutely everywhere. But nobody’s working. There’s safety barriers, hoardings, holes, a jumble of cables, steel rods, a bloody mess and its left. Pieces of pavement are missing where Gaspard and Raphael have removed a section of 1789 cobblestones, a section of 1889 concrete, followed by a smidge of 1989 bitumen then gone to smoke a packet of Galuloises, munch through several Jambon Croissants together with triple latte’s followed by shots of Absinthe. And they forgot to come back. Pourquoi and Wee.

Sue and Des walk, one with eyes down watching for pavement changes in level and doggy doos, the other watching out for 18 year old Ruben tearing along double dinking Madeleine on his eScooter.

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Sue is more beautiful than Notre Dame Paris looming in the background. Back in 2012, its freezing cold, Sue and I climbed the spiral stairway in that left hand tower to meet the Hunchback. Wee.

November 2012, a special somebodies birthday. Sue and I rented a Garrett in Paris accessed via 93 narrow curved stairs that abseiled about a one person steam, chain and cog driven lift. We spent two weeks exploring Paris. It was busy even then and memorable. For on that birthday, on a ‘Skip the Lines’ tour, there’s only four of us including guide plump Marnie, we are on the ‘Ile de Lacite Notre Dame’. An island in the Seine and its bloody well drizzling, freezing cold, wind factor force ten, hands, fingers near solid ice. I say, ‘lets go have a splash of whisky in a coffee’. All in favour say Aye or Wee’. They did both. So there we are, on my birthday, drinking whisky and warm water, called a ‘grog’. And its 10am. Fan-bloody-tastic. So we had a second. Then suitably warmed, we resumed our ‘Skip the Lines’ tour and went climbed the spiral stair up the Notre Dame Cathedral to see where Quasimodo once lived and played with his bells. Up top on the church rampart’s, Gaspard and Raphael had been here installing a bit of a chicken wire safety fence and went off a few years ago and forgot to return and install the heavy duty fence. It was a long way down and scardee cat Des hugged the wall.

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Paris’s Pantheon. Rome wins with its Pantheon.

On our current one day in Paris, we saw Notre Dame in the distance. Amiens Notre Dame is twice the size and better. Walked along the moody, slow flowing Seine, then through the magnificent ‘Jardin Des Planter’ park. Alive with flowers full to overflowing with colour, magnificent soldier rows of plane trees moving into shedding their now stained summer leaves fluttering down, fountains, statues, ice cream vendors surrounded by grand morbidly grey stone buildings. Past the ‘Pantheon’, Paris’s answer to Rome’s, into ‘Place Monge’ where the afternoon crowd were enjoying drinks, playing watch the movement whilst dragging on ciggies and talking machine gun like in that lilting French that started many an affair. With other peoples husbands/wife’s. Apparently.

Our exorbitant cell 103 rate at Hotel Devillas included brekky. So there we are, showered, dried using ciggy smelling towels, and descend at 0700 hours into Level Minus One. The bowels of Hotel Devillas. Here Clotilde, a thin worried looking lady of some 50 years, is in a dither as her 1950’s Americano Coffee machine no work. This is the type of machine one finds in lonely Australian outback roadhouses operated by people who think a coffee comes ready made by placing a cup under a spout and pushing a button. These places are staffed by people who were refused membership of the Coffin Cheaters motorcycle club and decide as they cannot beat up people, they will beat up their coffee and food. Breakfast here at Hotel Devillas is the usual wonderful French morning Cuisine of croissants, from a packet, buns, ditto, ham slices and cheese slices, double ditto, corn flakes, coco pops, a petri dish of fruit pieces and cold boiled eggs. They get better food in Prison. Poor Clotilde, as she rushes from her laundry room, just there, back to clean up plates, check her faltering coffee machine and make us a plate each of scrambled eggs. Clever, eagle eyed Sue noticed a small partly hidden flyer that stated scrambled eggs were available. Ask Clotilde. We did. She makes them from real eggs. No egg powder. Clotilde then rushes upstairs as Pierre on reception wants one of the ‘cells’ prepared for another inmate. They multi task here.

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Brekky at Hotel Devillas Paris. Plus Coco Pops, Corn Flakes and a petri dish of fruit.

Evening, we are out walking past cafe after cafe, all chokas with the Friday knock-off crowd, canvas awnings spread out over the pavement, chairs, tables set higgly piggly, fairy lights twinkling, traffic crawling then accelerating then crawling, sirens wailing as police vehicles rush here and there, trains on an elevated bridge rattle by, dogs lie in a lap or tied to a chair leg, people chat excitedly as they sip their wine, beer , cognacs whilst nibbling olives, small chunks of bread and its all very French. We eat in our cell as Froggy food does not agree with my gut orchestra which at the moment, is hesitating between Peer Gynt’s ‘Morning’ and Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’. We sleep reasonably well despite the soft mattresses, the smell of sheets washed in Cigarette Detergent by Clotilde down in level minus one and the never ending wail of police sirens.

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The lovely Sue making our dins in her wardrobe kitchen at Hotel Devillas Paris. Her husbands gut orchestra is playing ‘The Flight of the Bumble Bee’.

Saturday, a short walk to Paris’s train station Gare D’Austerlitz and at 1150, platform 14, we are sitting in our carriage, First Class seats awaiting Thomas the Froggy Tank Engine to chug off at 1207 to Bourges over two hours south. We are still sitting there near 45 minutes later when a hurried, harried Froggy man comes over the train intercom and tells us in rushed Froggy Speak, and I translate this for you as, ‘Si trin no go. She’s a broke. U goa to nother trin over dere. Upa da Republica. Wee’. I pack up all my toys, book, newspapers, computer, plus cables, small container of oat biccies and 50ml bot of Jura 10 year old. Sue, thankfully waits for me. We tug our suitcases out of storage at back of First Class, lift down 4 steps, they are heavy, then follow the maddening, rushing concerned crowd around to another working train on platform 19. Here we lift our suitcases up 4 steps, stow and find seats as unlike our previous seats which we were assigned, Rafferty’s Rules apply here. I’m borderline sulking and do not bother getting my toys out as I doze. Whereas effervescent Sue has found two Aussie ladies to chat to across the aisle. And blow me down, Sue interrupt’s my dream of flying an A380 into Perth Airport with Elle McPherson on board, to tell me that the two Aussie ladies are going to the same French Language School as she is. For the very same three weeks. I shamelessly fain excitement as I am keen to get back to the joystick of the A380 and re-connect with Elle.

Besides Sue, it turns out that there are eight other people on the choo choo who are all headed to the same language school. Yanks x 3, Canadian, NZlander and 3 Aussies. Plus us. I’m the only male – they are all of the other species. The Shopping Species. Scary. I’m not going to the Froggy language school as I have enough difficulty expressing myself in Australian. Plus I need to brush up on piloting an A380. Bonjour!!!!

Ooroo from Sue 😘 and Des 😇.

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Place Monge Paris.

25. Roll Mops, Hitlers Dad and Six Aussie Mates.

Sunday in Brussels Belgium. Once a year Brussels streets go motorbike, car, truck free. Todays the day and the place is absolutely ‘thronging’ with people walking about without being concerned with being run down by tattoo’d Wilhelm on his eScooter travelling at 50kph. But we are on a train heading towards the German Border. Sue is excited, eager to see what the day unfolds. We have two train changes and a bus to a three way intersection bus stop named ‘Nowhere’. Near to a place named ‘Herk de Stat’. To meet a man named Jan, pronounced ‘Yarn’. We have never met him and from all too brief email contact, a few SMS’s and two phone conversations, Sue considers he is elderly, will be presentable, wearing a suit and will not be Ivan Milat’s Belgium cousin.

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Village of Herk de Stat and thats Sue’s 1961/2 boarding school where they serve up Roll Mops as Battered tasty deep fried Snapper

Back in 1961/2, three Aussie girls were placed in a Convent Boarding House come School at ‘Herk de Stat’ Belgium as Dad, an engineer in the Oz army, was posted to Germany. The eldest of the three girls was Sue with her younger sisters Maggie and KK. Sue is going back to that very same school for the first time since 1962. Now closed but with elderly nuns still in residence. Yarn, the man who is not Ivan Milat’s cousin, arrives at ‘Intersection Nowhere’ on schedule in a small body panelled damaged Citroen Car that he uses to, ‘drive thru de fields’. He is not elderly, age late 40’s, wears a T shirt, rough trousers, shock of thick hair, with lots of grey streaks, speaks reasonable English and needs to have shower. We speak no Belgium, Flemish or French. Well, Sue has a smattering of French and gets by. His, Yarn’s day job, is as supervisor of an IT firm for which he has a swish car. This day he is on Historic Tour duty with two Aussies in his ‘field car’ and we all ‘hit it off’. Yarn is beyond enthusiastic about his town, its history and especially about Sue’s old convent/school which is sadly, falling into disrepair. For as Yarn says, Theres history everywhere in Belgium. How do you rationalise spending money on this building when there are a thousand others ahead of it in age and need. I translated that from the Belgium English.The town where the school/convent is on the main street, is ‘Herk de Stat’ meaning ‘Herk the Town’. This is due to there being nearby another town named ‘Herk’. So theres now Herk and Herk the Town. Monty Python could not do it better.

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‘Art Deco’ entry Portico to Sue’s Belgium Boarding School whilst we await ‘The Nun’ opening the door.

After spending three hours with us, Yarn has to get back to ‘his girlfriend’. His wife having gone ta ta. Between his girlfriend and him, they have six children coming for a BBQ lunch today. Every Thursday night, Yarn joins his mates at the ‘Herk de Stat’ Tavern and they each drink six 8.5% Duvel beers. He does not drive his ‘Field Car’ home as he is giggling, cannot see, is unsteady on his feet and may possibly die and pass onto the other side. Here in intergalactic space, the Devil, God and Chewbacca are having a deep and meaningful about who should claim his soul.

Sue’s memories of her Belgium boarding school revolve around eating fish and chips as a special treat one lunchtime a week. This was no beer battered snapper caught using environmentally registered hand lines in a renewable fish pond in Thailand. But a fish consisted of ‘Roll Mops’. They look like a Jurassic period science experiment rolled up in a jar. Made from pickled left over sun enriched herring fillets they came with hot potato Frites. The ‘Roll Mops’, are akin to eating pickled pigs trotters or marinated tongues from used Dunlop Volleys. After Roger and Nadal had finished a five setter. Sue detested ‘Roll Mops’ and usually managed to trade them away for chips or slices of salami. Sue’s a smooth talker. But youngest sister KK, a ‘Roll Mops’ hater also, never managed to trade them off to another schoolgirl.

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Sue and Yarn in Chapel of Sue’s 1961/2 boarding school.

This caused one of the nuns to stand over KK to ensure she ate all her ‘fish’ and chips and was thus full of pickled fish for the schoolwork ahead. Breakfast was a continental one featuring buns, bread, cold meats including Horse. Also manufactured meats possibly made from Belgium marsupials. Australians do not knowingly eat Horse meat albeit possibly mixed in with Polony, Salami and other Italian/Polish and Serbian manufactured, hung and dried look like doggy doos. Meal times were not a favourite of the three Morrison schoolgirls and they were glad when Dad and Mum took them back to Oz for real fish and chips.

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Sue with the ‘Gentle Nun’ she holding a tiny Koala Bear. Village of Herk de Stat Belgium.

Sue wanted to see inside the school. Reignite long slumbering memories in classrooms, dormitories, and wash rooms where they had a once a week bath. No such luxury as a shower. Yarn said it may not be possible but we went up to the grand front doors set under an Art deco glass roofed Portico, and pushed the electronic button. Twice. Finally a small gentle faced elderly nun came and after Yarn explained in Flemish, she knew Yarn and checking us out whilst he spoke. I presenting her with a tiny furry koala, she gave us a smile as only one who has dealt with human suffering can. The nun had spent 34 years amongst the poor of Chile and this was her ‘aged persons home’. We got a guided tour into the glorious richly decorated chapel, the sadly neglected classrooms and dormitories where the girls slept in beds lined up one after the other like sardines

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Street scene Diest Belgium.

School and Herk de Stat tour over, Yarn drove us to the town of Diest where the train station was, thus bypassing the bus stop at ‘Intersection Nowhere’. Diest is another of those lovely antique towns that time has passed by. Narrow cobblestone streets, oldish world buildings, grand cathedral, lots of shops, plenty of bars and friendly people. Just before he dropped us off, there out the car window I spot Hitlers Dad. Same moustache, angry countenance, Dad is stooped, large bodied, bald as though over the years he was weighed down by war medals and by having the worlds worst child. Go to Brugge, Brussels and then Diest. Go shoulder season and spend most time at Diest. Look out for and avoid Hitlers Dad. There, you have seen Belgium. On a Thursday night, catch up with Yarn and his mates but do not drink six 8.5% Duvel beers. Two should put you to sleep.

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Sue and our lives of the moment belongings at Brussels Central train station.

Monday we leave Brussels Belgium by train for Amiens France. With two train changes one allowing us 9 minutes to find another train and its platform, all whilst lugging our life belongings of the moment. Its hard work compounded by no Dutch, Belgium nor French train station having a platform that finishes level with the train. Three steps or 45 to 60 cm drop is the usual. In many cases theres no escalator not lift to get us down or up. In one place we dragged our belongings down a long long platform to the end where the platform sloped down to a rubber matting laid between two sets of railway lines. This is the crossing between platforms for weary elderly travellers with suitcases.

Four minutes walk from Amiens train Station we are through the door of the Grand Hotel L’Universe on the corner of Rue de Goblet and anther Rue with a long name. Superior room up on the third floor, corner position, three windows, we overlook a grand park, Place Goblet’, with fountain and a 150 year old tree. A long wide treed shopping mall disappears into the distance, the hum of busy people, foot scooters, skateboards, bikes and vehicles in the side Rue’s is all pleasant.

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View from our Amiens Hotel Room.

When they use the name ‘Grand’ it usually is not. In this case – not. It is described in a tourism brochure that, ‘The lobby in this large elegant bourgeois building is lit by a splendid glass roof and has forty one spacious soundproofed rooms’. That was surely written by the scribe who does that drivel on the back of wine bottles as the ceiling in the lobby is plaster panels. One has to go up to the first floor to gaze up at the ‘glass ceiling’. Mind you, I’m a succour for a Red Wine on which a ‘Label Scribe’ has the word ‘chocolate’ on the label. And spacious soundproofed rooms – bull****. ‘Sorry Mum’

Up in our U Bewt non spacious room, its OK, 6/10, but on checking the en-suite, theres no toilet. Where does one sit down and chat to Australia’s eight living prime ministers. Ahh, there it is, back around the bed and alongside the entry door. Looks like an afterthought and/or bad planning. And theres the tiny three person lift on whose roof Gaspard the diminutive Hobbit lives. On pressing the go button on lift to take us and our bags from level 0 to level 3, there’s a load thump as Gaspard wakes up, realises what is going on, sends instructions to his brother Quasimodo in Notre Dame who activates the lift mechanism and its then all smooth travel. After the first time, I used the 59 timber winding stairs.

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Amiens town centre. theres a large car park under that nice green and paved square.

Oh, and theres a ‘step surprise’ at entry ‘porch’ to our room. I trip over it every time and on exiting our ‘superior room’, nearly go head first through a flimsy wrought iron balustrade a metre away, and plunge down 3 floors. It would be quicker than the stairs. Or lift for that matter.

Amiens has a population of 136,105, thats in 2006. There’s an Amiens in Queensland, population 293 and its tucked down in the south east corner near the NSWales border where they grow marijuana and use Bananas in Spiritual Revivalist Meetings. Our Amiens was named in 1920 after its namesake in France.

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House in the ‘marshy’ area of Amiens.

The Somme River is just over there with the Battle of the Somme which pitted Germany against the British Empire, and that included 8 of its Colonies, Oz and Nz included. Also France and Russia. And don’t forget Italy. We all know the Italians goose step 3 forward and four backwards. Some three million men took part with over one million killed or wounded. It was the first war where planes and tanks were used. At Pozieres, there’s a place named, ‘The Windmill Site’, where lies a ridge more densely sown with Australian sacrifice and blood than any other place on earth. Then theres Aussie sacrifice and blood at Fromelles, Bullecourt, Le Hamel, and Villers-Bretonneux  as well as other places. They all featured, if it is a feature, appalling carnage, inept field commanders, inadequate supply lines, lack of sustenance level food, disease, horror and dragged on and on.

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Sign on ‘playground area’ of the ‘Victoria School’ at Villers-Bretonneux France. The school paid for by Victorian Schoolchildren and others after WWI.

Every country that took part, suffered horribly in loss of its mainly young men. Heroic battles were fought, lost and won then lost again. It was all a sickening, frightening, repugnant, heinous waste precipitated by ego driven megalomaniacs in near every major country involved as they felt ‘slighted’ by the assassination of a nobody. Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were shot in Sarajevo June 1914, by a deranged Serbian student. People in the Balkans are still deranged today. Sorry Montenegro friends. Enough Des it makes my tummy churn to think about the waste of my countrymen and other countries young men. Megalomaniacs are still around. Putin, Trump, Kim Jong-Un, al- Assad plus many in Oz in Parliaments or aspiring to be.

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Australian WWI War Memorial near to Villers-Bretonneux France. The new John Monash Interpretative come Museum is set behind partly built underground.

In World War One, Amiens was devastated. Its many lovely buildings destroyed but its Cathedral Notre Dame survived. The Amiens people re-built to see it all knocked down again in World War Two. They re-built again this time in concrete but kept the scale . height and architectural styling of previous generations of buildings. Again, the Notre Dame Cathedral of Amiens survived mans stupidity. A monster of a church, a marvel of mans ability to create the worlds largest church, by volume, back in the 13th century. Its interior can gobble up two of Paris’s Notre Dames, but the tourists go to Paris’s Notre Dame because of tourist jingoism. Amiens Notre Dame is far far better and I’m a member of the clergy so I know. Trust me. ‘Notre Dame’ means ‘Our Lady’ therefore we have Cathedrals in Paris and Amiens being simply ‘Our Lady of Paris’ and ‘Our Lady of Amiens’. Good on you sonny boy, all that church going you did as a child stood you in good stead. Now, could you please cut your old Mums toenails. ‘Cripes Mum, I did it last time. Cant Snake Boots do it?’.

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Thats our tour guide, Barb Legrand holding forth. Just beside her are the six headstones of the six Aussie mates who died together. Adelaide Cemetery Villers-Bretonneux France.

We had time for a good look about Amiens and it is a delightful City with many strings to its tourist bow besides scenes and places in the surrounding countryside where battles were fought. Jules Verne lived here as he married an Amiens woman Honorine and made this lovely place his home from 1871 until he died in 1905. He wrote ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ and ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’. There’s its Grand Cathedral, ‘The Hortillonnages’ known as the ‘floating gardens’ a quirky marshy area where the soil is rich and where vegetables were grown and peat removed in by-gone days on a large scale. The lakes, ponds and marshes go on and on, strange floating and land sculptures, curving tiny bridges over narrow rivulets or still creeks, small punts to ferry tourists like in Venice, tiny houses on islands with no car access, bike or park your car away. Then there’s ‘Saint-Leu’ where the many thousands of university students sit, talk over one another in that excited French way, and the bars and cafes go on and on. This is ancient Amiens criss crossed by numerous canals and known in the tourist industry as ‘The Venice of the North’. Oh yeh, pull the other one mate.

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Canal boats in the marshy area of Amiens France.

Barb Legrand, another using the word ‘grand’, of ‘True Blue Diggers Tours’ took us on a half day tour of Villers- Bretonneux. To its Victoria school funded after WWI by Aussies, into its school museum, to the nearby Oz War memorial with behind, the magnificent new John Monash U Bewt Swish Museum come Interpretative Centre to Adelaide cemetery where the body of the ‘unknown soldier’ was exhumed and taken to Canberra where he now lies comfy in his home country forever. Also in this graveyard, are the bodies of six mates who died together and honouring that, their gravestones are places touching each other, Six together in life and death. How caring the thought behind placing the gravestones. Then sadly, well its all sad in a cemetery particularly a war cemetery, but there’s the grave of a 17 year old, many 18 year olds and so on. The Sir John Monash centre opened this year 2018 by one of Oz’s living prime ministers, Malcolm, is a very well designed building set partially underground with a turf come weed roof. Its all wizz bang stuff inside, with superlative use of technology, brass, stainless steel, marble, Jarrah, Blue Gum, Silky Oak, Redwood, Huon Pine blah blah. Cox Architects get 10/10.

Dropped back outside Amiens Irish Tavern, there’s Irish Taverns everywhere, we have a train to catch to Paris for a two nighter. At the price we paid for the Paris hotel room, I hope the website was not ‘photo shopped’ in Nairobi by Mgumbu and the Dazzling write ups on the hotels site were not scribbled by his uncle Botswana, a Wine Label artiste, we should be in the lap of luxury. Sue deserves luxury. I’m not used to luxury. I may get to sleep in the hotels linen cupboard. Way to go – yay.

Ooroo from her, the lovely Sue. And Moi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24. Brussel Sprouts, Canned Mackerel and a Degustation Beer Menu.

Graffiti. Its just about everywhere in Belgium apart from on public buildings, offices, houses and in the ‘old towns’. But on any governmental infrastructure not of the ancient nor hereditary type, as viewed from a train carriage, everything is smothered in graffiti including train carriages, signalling equipment, railway hoardings and fences. Bus stop shelters, glass scratched as well, power poles, light standards, its all a bloody untidy look.  We like tidy, neat, rolling hills, trees, green fields, peasants working the soil, cows, sheep and not views spoilt by hoon’s infected with the ‘Can of Spray Paint’ virus.

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Brussels fun day with blow-up cartoon characters.

We once again sat in a train carriage at the end where theres a bit of space and no people going to and fro. Theres eight seats four each side and over there is the very black Naomi Campbell an aspiring super model. Surrounded by her suitcase, backpack, make-up case, holding one of her two iPhones, 7 inch screen, chatting amicably, loudly on-line to Snoop Dog. Sue and I sit quietly as Naomi goes on and on in a language not Belgium, nor Dutch, nor French perhaps Zulu. Who knows. We eat our Brugge train station rolls, swig of water and enjoy the graffiti interrupted country side

Our Brussels Hotel, ‘Brussels Grand Sablon’, part of the NH Collection whatever that means, is fairly flash with receptionists all smartly dressed, multi lingual and smooth as treacle. Lucky to get this place for four nights when booking.com had a brain fade and lowered their lowest. Nice room with all the cons, LED lighting, big screen TV, 55 channels, many Aussie Speak, wizz bang overhead or rain shower, shampoos, conditioners, body gels, yeh, soap, shower cap, free bottle water, yay, mini bar with reasonable prices, surprisingly.

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Brussels canal with a green Belgian Porta Loo there for some reason. Perhaps left behind when Napoleon’s troops retreated?

We find out on the Brussels streets, that a whisky costs between AUD 10 to 12, thats the low range, and a 330 stubby of Belgian Rocket Fuel beer about the same. Cappuccino Madam, thats AUD 10. Cup of tea Sir, AUD 7. Cripes. Eating ‘out’ as distinct from grazing in our room on Ryvitas overlaid with avocado, slices of canned mackerel, tomatoes and cheese, requires a call to one’s Bank Manager. ‘Out’ its expensive with mains between AUD 32 and 45 and thats in the ‘Old Town’ where the office workers and students eat. Sue likes ‘old towns’, ‘old buildings’ old things generally which gives my ego a boost as I’m an old ‘thing’.

Belgium, officially ‘The Kingdom of Belgium’, is bordered by France, Holland, Germany and Luxemburg and its 11 million population live in an area less than half the size of Tasmania. The word ‘Belgium’ come from the roman or dutch for a ‘marshy place’. Im all for naming places after a pleasing locality like Pine Gap, type of tree, aboriginal group, whatever as long as its Australian.

But we got New South Wales as it looked a bit like Wales, was south and was newer than the old Wales. Queensland and Victoria really stretched the grey matter of our early founding fathers followed by equally idiotic South and West Australia because they were. Then, not long ago, there was a real chance when they carved up South Oz’s top half coming up with ‘Northern Territory’ because it was north and not a state therefore blah blah. Don’t mention Emperor Colin Barnett naming our new waterfront cesspool Elizabeth Quay.

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A Brussels square with people doing, making and selling ‘things’.

But wait there’s more, for in 1818 Phillip Parker King, extraordinary Australian, sailed into a large north west gulf, a stormy windy gulf and fortunately found respite in a small Bay an offshoot from the stormy Gulf. He named the Bay, the ‘Bay of Rest’. Great name, described the locality and respite he found himself in perfectly. Mind you, fortunately he wrote the name in his journal before the mossies came out to feed on him. But then, Mosquito Bay is equally as good. Phillip named the larger bay at the bottom of his gulf which had given him a ‘hard time’, Gales Bay. He then stuffed it all up by naming the large yawning gulf, Exmouth Gulf after Admiral Edward Pellew, First Viscount of Exmouth. England naturally. Who gives a holy sheet about First Viscount Pellew. Jeese, the town of Exmouth and the Gulf should be re-named ‘Ningaloo’. I like the town and surrounds of Exmouth but I would like Ningaloo more.

Two distinct linguistic groups make up Belgium with the Dutch speaking Flemish group making up 59% of the population and the French speaking Walloon group making up 40% with the 1% remainder speaking German.  In Tasmania there are also two distinct linguistic groups. One being relatives on my wives side who comprise 10% of the population about Launceston.

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One of Brussels grand staircases, squares and view to where the Belgian Plains are.

These fine wonderful people have their own Flag, a growling white Bulldog on a blue background and National Anthem which begins with ‘Zipped Do Dar Zippedy Yay’. The other 90% are known as Tasmaniacs. These Neanderthals species chain themselves to Bulldozers, Trees and want to ban Balloons and Artificial Plants. Their flag features a Vegan Burger and their anthem is Englebert Humperdinks ‘Green Green Grass of Home’. They also want to install a money making machine in Centrelink’s Hobart office and plonk Jacqui Lambie in as Prime Minister. And there’s nothing wrong with any of that. Strewth, you got carried away a bit there mate. ‘Sorry Dad, its Mum’s poached and fried brains with sago pud for desert thats befuddling my brain’. Never mind mate, put the ABC news on willya and gets another beer.

Brussels, where we currently are on our World Expedition, has a population of 1.192 million most of them spotted between the hours of 5pm to 1am on a weekday, at a Cafe drinking beer, eating chocolates, syrup covered waffles and saying ‘Ya’. Yesterday at a busy ‘Old Town’ cafe, sitting outside, all chairs aligned to face the street as though to see any remnants of Napoleons Army coming to attack, two 50kg  girls are working their way through large wine shaped glasses of, wait for it, A Degustation Menu of Six Beers’Cripes, these are young adults and they are not lonely as males are sitting with huge 2 pint beers in unusual shaped glasses like a round bottomed wine decanter and needing support in a wooden frame whilst at rest. Thats the beer glass not the drinker. And here we sit with a woosie Corona and a Stella.

Those other beers start at 6% alcohol and work up to above 12% in a 330ml bottle. Male life expectancy here is 78.8 years for males and 83.5 years for females. The many cigarette’s, cigars and other readily available ‘tobacco’s’ smoked outside the cafes, possible contributes to the early male termination. As does having a chocolaty, syrupy waffle or iced donut washed down with a runny boiled egg for brekky.

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Three boys having a frolic reminds me of us three O’Brien boys, wearing clothes of course, running with our dog Spotty to the hundred foot drop at Mullaloo Beach circa 1949. Mind you, our hair never looked like that, more of a ‘basin’ cut. Thats ‘Snake Boots’ at the rear.

What we have seen of Brussels so far, we much like. The 19th century grand buildings, the ‘Old Town’, and theres bits and pieces of the ‘Old Town’ from the 15/16/17th centuries sprinkled about Brussels in surprising places. In these old enclaves of lovely 4/5 storey narrow fronted quirky buildings, the Rue’s are narrow, windy, cobblestoned, go uphill, downhill and are smothered in quirky clothing, art and antique shops, cafes, waffle, bread, chocolate, beer and assorted other shops. The majority of Brussels, which is about the other 80%, is seemingly well planned with many ‘right angled’ broad avenues, tree lined, large cobblestoned squares surrounded by official looking grand grey stone buildings, colonnades, heavy porticos, large recessed windows with glazing bars, heavily embellishment about. Theres sweeping views down squares, beyond fountains, statues, broad stone and marble staircases into a spacious tree lined avenue or rue below and across the Belgian Plains where Napoleons foot soldiers rampaged once upon a time.

It all speaks of wealth hand in hand with good planners in days gone by and today as the European Union and NATO’s headquarters are here bringing with them 39,000 jobs, many new office blocks, skyscrapers, more fountains, squares, statues, all sensitively designed and juxta-positioned to enhance the already grand streetscapes, everybody is relatively happy. Or seems to be. Good rip snorting stuff mate. ‘Thanks Dad. Would you like another beer and a bowl of warmed giblets’.

There’s many formal and informal parks some on a monumental and grand orderly scale with huge trees, wide walkways, fountains, orderly garden beds with vistas of majestic buildings in the distance. A short five minute walk uphill from our hotel, is a small park, ‘Place du Petit Sablon’. Its rectangular in shape, surrounded by a wrought iron fence pierced by 48 stone columns atop each a weathered burnished green bronze three quarter full sized statues of Belgium ‘heroes’. There’s Freedom Fighters, Politicians, Poets, Writers, Tinsmiths, Clockmakers, Tilers and Choclatier’s. In the centre of park, a Grand Fountain spouting heavy plops of water into ponds, they flowing down into a large shallow semi circular pond with peaceful gurgling.

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Place du Petit Sablon. A great small park with delicate plantings. Keep off da grass – Ya.

Atop the fountain on a low heavy plinth, are statues of Counts Edgmont and Horne who were executed in this place in 1568 because they led the resistance against Spanish tyranny. They should follow this practice in Canberra. All in favour say ‘aye’. Theres swathes of grass here with wide crushed grey limestone paths weaving about. I’m standing on the grass taking photos of the bride when I hear a loud tweet tweet tweeting whistle blowing like its knock off time. Way up by the fountain, Susan points out a dumpy girl outfitted like Robin Hood in Sherwood Green who waves with her arms sideways as though I am cleared for takeoff. She wants me off the effin grass. No stand on grass, Get off, Ya!! Theres no signs to that effect but with two Robin Hood girls both with tweet tweets, whose job is to keep people off the effin grass, they have their whistles going as there’s a few hundred people strolling about and standing on the grass.

Opposite this ‘park’, across the busy rue Regent, is the Church of Notre-Dame de Bon Secoure overlooking and dominating Sablon Square which is a smallish square falling away down the hill to the ‘Old Quarter’. Our hotel faces this small busy square which on one evening was thronging with people eating and drinking from small stalls, vans and purveyor’s tents of waffles, hot chocolate, cold beer and good times.  Then on Saturday, the historic red and green vertical striped canvas stalls of ‘Antique Dealers’ were put up upon ‘our’ Sablon Square for the day with a real eclectic mix of ‘stuff’ from jewellery, aged carpenters tools, old watches, chairs, artworks, cutlery, plates blah blah. Sharp, eagle eyed, cash register eyed mainly older persons manned the stalls.

Belgium has a constitutional hereditary monarchy since the official establishment of Belgium as a stand alone country in 1830. The Royal Sit Down Throne, currently occupied by King Philippe. Next in line is Philippe’s, and wife Mathilde’s, daughter Elisabeth who is a sweet 17.

Belgium is another of those European countries that has been fought, and wrestled over for centuries and centuries and has earned the unwanted title of, ‘The Battlefield of Europe’. Today, Belgium contains a mix of people with two distinct languages. Fortunately, everybody, speaks both French, Dutch and now English. Their flag, three vertical stripes, starts with Black against the flagpole, Yellow and Red. The exact colours of Australia’s aboriginal flag which has two horizontal stripes and a large yellow dot. Or is that a ‘full stop’.

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Brussels Cathedral. Cars going to church to apologise for helping pollute the planet.

Many interesting and quirky people have were born in Belgium. Take Adolphe Sax born on 1814 and dying in 1894. As a child, Adolphe had many near death experiences including, A, falling three floors and landing on his head. B, aged 3, he drank a bowl of vitrolized water (sulphuric acid). C, swallowed a pin. D, burnt himself in a gunpowder explosion. E, fell onto a hot cast iron frying pan and F, fell into a river and nearly drowned. He survived all that and went on to invent the Saxaphone. In 2015 Google Doodle commemorated his 201st birthday.

Then theres ‘Tin Tin’ a boy journalist come adventurer with his faithful dog ‘Snowy’ invented or ‘thought up’ in 1929 by Georges Remi born 1907 in Belgium. Tin Tin and Snowy cartoons come comic strip, have a support team of Professor Calculus, Captain Haddock and Bianca Castafiore.

And what about Brussel sprouts. Grown by the Romans and taken in the ‘early centuries’ AD to Belgium, the Belgians embraced them as their own and gave them a name. Just like the Kiwi’s took Chinese Gooseberries and re-invented them as ‘Kiwi Fruit’.

Then the Belgians claim ‘Hot Chips’ as their own having ‘invented’ the way of cutting up the spud and double frying it. Known here as ‘Frites’ which come in a cone of paper. Try the Belgian Beer Cafe in Murray Street Perth for the same thing. Apparently, some Belgians were eating these in a World War One camp when a handful of Yanks, and that bunch get many things confused, thought they, the Belgians, were French. The yanks were taken by the aroma of the fried potato slices and the warm salted taste, so they they took it back to the U S of A as ‘French Fries’ giving the recipe to their commanding officer, Colonel Saunders. They really are, ‘Belgium Frites’. So there.

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The Antonium – nine stainless steel balls six of which are tourist areas. Theres a restaurant in the top ball.

On our second day in Brussels, my magical bride Susan suggested that rather than do another pub crawl, we go journey about Brussels on the Red Hop On Hop Off Double Decker Bus. Choice of two ‘lines’ – the blue line is the ‘Atomium’ and the red line the ‘Europe’. 24 hour tickets, 23 euro each thank you. Cripes mate, thats near 40AUD. Each, grr grr. We off up on top, pole position, whilst down below in the drivers seat is Manuel who arrived with his 3 year old daughter, plonked her on a wheel arch, inside, box of popcorn, warm choc milk in baby bottle, box of toys and we are off. Blue Line in the morn, and Red Line in the arvo both excellent tours out and about, to the suburbs, high end, low end shopping centres, past Palaces, Parks, European Union Offices, canal boats, grand avenues and to the Atonium. This was designed and erected in 1958 as part of the Brussels World Fair and like the Eiffel Tower, was supposed to have been pulled down afterwards. Neither was. The Atonium consists of nine eighteen metre diameter stainless steel balls six of which are used for tourist purposes. Connected by a web of three metre diameter tubes, containing stairs and escalators, the central tube having a speedy lift up to the top where there’s a restaurant. If your bank manager gives approval, one can have a meal. The Red Line bus tour was equally as good and showed how little of Brussels Sue and I had actually seen. A surprise, its all a bloody surprise. There’s a forty metre wide canal dividing the City into two.

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This is Belgiums answer to the Arch de Triumph in Paris. And also Mexico’s arch and Pyongang’s arch.

And theres the second biggest arch in the world at Brussels Parc du Cinquactenaire. Well it was for a time until Mexico built a higher arch and then, the North Koreans pipped them all with their arch at Pyongyang in 1982. But when the Mexicans had a sook and cut off North Koreas access to Corona, new measurements were taken and the Mexican arch WAS higher. The North Korean arch designer was executed complete with his family, cousins and goats.

We are on the trains again today. Three trains in fact. Backpacks, water bottles, bread roll full of goodies for lunch and a view out the window of more graffiti.

Ooroo from Sue  and Des 

 

23. Weird Art n Holy Things, Eva’s Trifle and the Glum Family.

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Moby Brugge coming to gobble up Douglas Mawson as his photographer, Frank Hurley aka Susan, stands safely away.

Brugge Belgium is a mis-mash, a comedy, a drama, an ongoing medieval play with the main characters brick, tile, timber, water, cobblestones, squares, shops, hotels and a weird seemingly confusing assembladge of people, municipal buildings, church buildings, artworks, horses, boats and us. But there’s order here and thats found in the nine Brugge Old City churches where one can escape into another quieter world away from the maddening, gawking, selfie, iPhoning, clip clopping crowd. We inspected, in solemnity and silence, six of the churches as I especially love the intricate architecture and the questioning as to just how they built this magnificent soaring structure back eight centuries ago.

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A Brugge Square looking as though its an Italian Piazza.

The oldest church, St Giles built in 1258, is found away from the main town square where people seem to spend their time walking around in circles, sitting eating, drinking, soaking in and trying to understand the marvellous scene about them. Its the best of Rome’s squares here in one square. In 1258 at North West Cape, the aboriginal elder Yunupingu was teaching the young men of his tribe about the stars, the land, the Dreamtime and the Songlines. They had no need for building churches, for the written word, for that all led to people writing down their own version of events, as distinct from what they actually were. All the aboriginal stories were written in the stars, the land and nobody could lie about them until White Man came. Getting a bit high falutin their sonny boy. ‘Sorry Mum. Another slice of Aunty Eva’s Trifle’. Oh yes please dearie, and make sure its got a good heap of strawberries on top.

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Brugge. Plastic sculpture and/or work of art afloat on a wooden platform. All free to access and theres no vandalism. If this was afloat in Mandurah West Oz, how long would it last without being destroyed by hoons?

Saint Mary’s Church with the brick tower 122 metres high, has a statue in marble, chiselled, carved, crafted by Michelangelo. The only piece of his many works that left Italy in his lifetime. And incredibly, he carved it out of one piece of marble.  In Australia, people get excited when the Greens announce that they are going to Ban Balloons. Jaysus!!!! This church, Saint Mary’s also has mausoleums or raised tombs. One lot of Mary of Burgundy and her dad Charles the Bold alongside each other. Poor Mary died in a riding accident aged 26. All about are marvellous but morbid darkish oil paintings, carvings, statues, about 12 confessional boxes, double sided one’s like we had at our Bedford Park St Peters Church where we had one set. My brother Daven snuck into the confessional with me one time, and just as I start my opening gambit of Bless me father for I have sinned, he, bloody Daven, starts tickling me. We both rolled out the door of the confessional giggling to find Father Portly standing glaring, hands on hips. Each of us got a round of the rosary and of the Stations of the Bloody Cross.

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A Brugges Church – one of the nine that are confined within the ‘Old City’. All very elaborate in design with opulence overflowing. The poor must have been in awe and a few wondering just why we cannot have a share of this wealth.

In the Gothic Style Town Hall, off to one side, you can see the crypt of Saint Basil a greek patriarch from 329-379 and above Basil, the Chapel of the Holy Blood. Legend has it, that Thiery of the Alsace brought back the Holy Blood from the 2nd Crusade and its sat residing in Brugge ever since. Once a year, the Holy Blood gets an outing into the fresh air to get a bit of vitamin D. They have a grand procession and theres the Holy Blood group, ‘H’ for holy. Holy sheet you say.

Then we found Saint Walburgha Church which has eight sets of double confessional boxes all ornately carved, more fantastic statues, paintings, ornate, embellished frames, a marble altar with large stained glass panels above reminding you in cartoon form, to be good. If not, there’s a bottomless pit out there where you could spend eternity in that drum of hot number two’s. Head first. The communion rail is in white marble all elaborately carved and through it all, the churches speak of untold wealth, opulence, grandiosity, that the priests, cardinals, bishops are all powerful as is the number one, God. Break it all down and basically, its all meant to intimidate the peasant and stop them running off with the silver chalice, the priests girlfriend, his cellar of French Burgundy and putting a hole in his Holy Water Tank. Yay.

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Another Brugge ‘Old City’ Cathedral. My brother ‘Snake Boots’ will love this. Yay!!.

We even trudged around the winding weaving Straats, my good foot soldier Susan alongside, to find ‘Jerusalem Church’, a privately built church come chapel come residence/mansion, come Scottish Lounge, gift shop and Museum. Started off by Anselem Adorne’s family in the 15th century, who was just so smitten with Jerusalem that he made a trip there way back when it was not safe to go anywhere. His family starting building in 1429 inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  Today, the Count and Countess Maximilien de Limburg Stirum, we see several photos of the beaming Count and Countess both with horse teeth smiles, they the seventeenth generation of the family, to be in charge. The eighteenth generation of horse teeth foals are waiting in the wings. Anselem, was murdered in 1483 in Linlithgow now in England but back then, Linlithgow was the headquarters of the Scottish Kings. His body is interred in Linlithgow but his heart was carried back to the family church and its still there. If it only had some of that Holy Blood?. I love this historic absolutely boring stuff. But wait theres more. Anselem, born in 1424, married a Margriet van der Banck and she presented him with sixteen children. Sixteen. No wonder she died before him in 1480 aged fifty three. Its a very interesting small church with orchestra stalls up top where theres a soaring tower over, reaching up towards intergalactic space and/or God. Little nooks and crannies everywhere, secret doors, passageways and down below entered through a one metre high opening is a small crypt wherein somebody long dead continues to have a lie down.

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Outer canal of Brugge ‘Old City’ Huge freighter chugging smoothly along with bridge raised in the background and one just ahead.

Continuing wandering and stumbled the back lanes, the forgotten Straats, Leichardt  like, we come upon Saint Anne’s Church, consecrated in 1621,  known as the ‘Salon Church of Bruges’ because of its black and white rather sumptuous marble floor. On the whole back inside wall of church is a painting measuring 10.4 x 10.5 metres by Hendrik Herregouts. The artwork is in rather dark shades, sad, morbid and apparently shows, and no doubt it does, Christ as the Supreme Judge with the ‘Just’ rising towards the ‘Judge’ whilst team ‘Dammed’, me, are being crushed by monsters representing the Seven Deadly Sins. If you, yes you, do not know what the seven Deadly Sins are by now, then, you have no hope of escaping the monsters and that drum of Hot Number Two’s.

Our third and last Anselmus Hotel ‘free’ breakfast in Brugge, double yay as we will be pleased to leave this hotel, was the usual boiled egg scenario and it could have been pleasant as the breakfast room, three airy spaces the third set in the garden, all well lit with large windows, and overhead where we sat with the Glum Family, there’s a hipped glass roof. Magda and Rolly and or Ronny, the hotel proprietors come owners, tried hard to make the breakfast area pleasant whereas the rest of the Hotel rated 5/10. The Glum Family sitting just there, four of them, two fat, flabby, straight haired Adams Family stand-ins, seemingly brain dead women squat like a Ghost Busters target. One husband of the slim variety, still well built with a long straggly ponytail tied with rope, the other husband a man mountain of near two metres height and three axe handles width. His mother forgot to order a neck for him as his large bald pumpkin head is wedded to his broad shoulders and all four of them are as sour as a case of lemons. The women stare, in between using their backhoe sized hands to shovel food into their head cave then go get more. Then sit staring and not a word nor a grunt exchanged. Brr, its a chilling scene as we are off to the city centre for a cuppa whilst its all quiet in the Straats, Laneways and Squares of Brugge.

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By cripes, back many centuries ago, the main employment area in Brugge, would have been in building and repairing churches and cathedrals. Hows this beauty built in bricks.

Come 1030 we are in a black Mercedies Taxi driven by Lewis Hamilton with Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass Multi Trumpets playing Boom Boom Music on his Appliance as he, Lewis, wizzes his taxi, Herb and us, about the backways, byways and little used car width cobblestoned lanes bypassing the main town square, the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids and his girlfriends house to finally deliver us to Brugge Train Station our hearts in our mouths. ‘Ten Euro please’. We are on the way to Brussels. Ta Ta Brugge, we fell in love with you. I saw my first Tommy Hilfiger shop in Brugge. Get your bank managers approval to visit Brugge and especially Tommy’s shop.

 

 

Ooroo from Sue 😘 and Des 😇

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Market Day in Brugge occupying all of the main town square. This piccy was early on about 9am before the Chocolate and Beer shops opened drawing in the squads of buzzing annoying bush fly crowds.

 

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More Brugge.