Wednesday, November 28, 2007

un foulard

they say a photo is worth a thousand words...these photos say it was a good 'vintage' shopping day!

Beer & Monks

the line to get beer

Now most people know that Belgium is known for its beer. Wednesday I went on my second adventure to an abbey to get beer. This sounds simple enough right…however this is Belgium and it is beer from an abbey called trappist beer.

What is “Trappist Beer”…

A Trappist beer is a beer brewed by or under control of Trappist monks. The name “trappist beer” is protected by law and can only be applied to beer brewed by trapppist monks in there monastery. Among all the Beligian beers only six are allowed to use the name of trappist beer: Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren. These breweries are authorized to label their beers with the Authentic Trappist Product logo that indicates a compliance to various rules edicted by the International Trappist Association.

man with a full trunk of empty bottles

How do you get you hands on The Westvleteren Trappist beer??

It is exclusively sold in the abbey by a reservation. Yes a reservation…

1. You call the beer phone number to know how much and which beer can be reserved at that time at a certain time
2. Then you call back at the indicated time from the first call. They will indicate what beer you get and the quantity. (usually 2 cases but this week we got 3 cases)
3. You make an appointment with the operator (time and date) and you give the license plate number of the car that will collect the order. The calling is only from 9:00 – 12:00 Monday – Thursday. * you have to call about 60 times a day and for weeks to get one appointment*

(The following is per the website) The beer is always sold per kind and in limited quantities. Please consider the fact that our telephone lines can have very long queues and that you can there fore get a busy tone. We would like to thank you in advance for your understanding and your patience.

As you can see this is a very crazy process for beer.

Anne with a full trunk of beer for more info check out the web site.

The History of the abbey:

Westvleteren (abbey Our Lady of St. Sixtus) - History of the abbey - the origins The Monastery of Our Lady of Saint Sixtus is located in West Flanders, approximately 4 kilometers from the village of Westvleteren and an equal distance from Poperinghe. It is 12 kilometers of the town of Ypres, which became famous after the First World War. The abbey of Saint Sixtus is also just 18 kms from the French monastery of the Mont des Cats, located in French Flanders.
At the beginning of the 19th century, a deep and dark forest still covered the site of the Abbey of Saint Sixtus. A vault located in this forest gave the monastery its name. Since 1814, a hermit lived in this loneliness: Jean Baptiste Victoor, trader of hops, born in Reninghelst on October 22, 1756, who was not without fortune and whose ambition was to found a convent in honor of the Virgin Mary. It is why he had bought a dozen hectares all around its hermitage. But how to form a community?
Victoor understood that, alone, he could never undertake his projects. Therefore, he presented his ideas to Dom Germain, Abbot of Our Lady of Le Gard (close to Amiens, France). Following the approval of the prelate, a small colony of monks depending on the abbey of Our Lady of Gard left the Mont des Cats and took the road for the forest of Saint Sixtus. They were led by the reverend father Fran├žois Van Langendonck. November 4, 1831 marks the date of the foundation, because it is this day that the first solemn mass was celebrated in the poor building placed at the disposal of the newcomers by their benefactor. Jean Baptiste Victoor did not live long after the arrival of the monks; he died on May 8, 1832. In 1863, a modest monument was set up in the Church to evoke his memory forever.
Styling sheep just down the road from the abbey. I guess "hot pink" is the IN color for sheep this winter.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ahhh Thanksgiving weekend

This was our first thanksgiving in Brussels. Last year my parents came and we spent the weekend in Paris, France. This year I was entertaining for 6 people: Karen from Chicago visiting, Kate, Anne and her daughter Erin. Joe for once was the only husband not traveling that week.

It was only your typical thanksgiving in the fact that we had cranberries home made by me and homemade pumpkin pie by my friend Anne, the rest was all Italian…Salad with pomegranates, pine nuts and mozzarella cheese and for desert a lemon meringue pie.

Friday was the traditional day after thanksgiving shopping day. Karen and I went to Antwerp, Belgium for diamond window shopping.

Saturday was a “traditional” thanksgiving dinner at Kate and Jim’s house.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


After a long morning delay we finally arrive in Roma. This put a little kink in our plan for Thursday and we adjusted accordingly. After checking into our hotel we were off to get some lunch (yummy pizza) and to see Roma...First stop was the Spanish steps or Piazza di Spagna. (see if you can find Foxy and I in the photo. Then we made our way to Trevi Fountain or Fontana di Trevi. I threw my 3 coins in to the fountain to guarantee my trip back to Roma but Joe only threw 1 coin in and Foxy didn’t get any to put in. We did have our photo take there however as on any trip you always size up the other tourist to see who can take you photo with out running off with your camera. We pick a nice Japanese guy with an expensive camera thinking he would do a good job…we did a quick look at the photo after he took it and it looked fine. After closer examination we noticed his finger was in the bottom corner of the photo…I guess he can only operate the fancy cameras. Our next stop was to the Pantheon. Then we headed back to the hotel with some gelato in hand. We had an amazing first day.
Friday morning…after a sleepless night of dogs barking and Joe still being jet lagged from China (I forgot to mention he got back on Wednesday night and we left at 6:30 am on Thursday morning – really left about 8:30 after the delay) We were off to see the Vatican Museum or Musei Vaticani due to us being in Roma during winter hours everything closes really early and the museum hours are 10:00 am – 12:45 but last entry is 12:00 and the Sistine Chapel or Cappella Sistina closes at 12:00. Knowing this we started out early cause of the things I have read about the line for the museum. Well we got there about 9:00 the line was huge and it started to pour…I talked Joe into paying more for a group tour and an umbrella, the advantages we didn’t have to wait in line and had someone take us through and explain everything in English. The down side is it is more expensive. However the guide we picked didn’t have any more tickets so we went to another group and then got shuffled back to him once we were inside. It all was very confusing but as they were saying that is Italy. The museum was amazing with a lot of marble statues and then finally we got to the Cappella Sistina. Which is amazing to see and he really didn’t paint the ceiling on his back like I though but he did get a growth on the back of his neck from looking up for 4 years. There are no photos allowed in there due to Nikon has the rights to photos – they paid to have the room restored. You are also not allowed to talk in the room but that didn’t stop a lot of people. Our guide explained everything to use before we got in there and what to look for. After leaving we were brought to a big wood door and behind it was the greeting room for the pope. I got look through the key hole but was told not to knock the door or the Swiss Guards will come and be mad. Last week a tour guide was being silly and knocked on the door and this loud voice yelled “Enter” while the guard came and opened the door and to the surprise of everyone the Pope was in there waiting for the Queen of Jordan. Can you imagine the look of horror on the young guides face to see the Pope? Our guide said this is a true story because he is good friends with the guy and he is very lucky that he didn’t get fired. Then we were off to see the Basilica di San Pietro. Again this is another amazing site for us to see.

Then we were off to a very late lunch…we stumbled onto this small restaurant by the wall of the Vatican off the tourist path and when I peeked into the window I saw it was full of priest. We both figured this was good place to stop and have lunch, which was a very good lunch. We were listening to the 3 priest that were right behind us and 2 of them were from the US and we think the other one was the Cardinal from South Africa. Let’s just say the Priest from the US didn’t like the female running for the white house.

That night we just walked around till it was time to head to the Bicycle Film Festival. As it started to rain and thunder on our way to the fest – we bought another umbrella. The movie was about the legends of the Tour de France in the 1940’s. It actually was really interesting due to the couple of men they were being intervied were from Belgium (the Flemish region) then we met this coordinator of the fest which was from NYC and a very angry man.

Saturday morning…We were all ready to head out to the Coliseum or Colosseo took the metro there with no problem the line was small and as I was taking off my jacket for the x-ray machine the man said to me “NO DOGS” what??? The tour guide yesterday said dogs were allowed…the other security man was waving me through and then the other one was saying no again…so we just left. As we were leaving a young tour guide came up to us and said “oh they didn’t let her in, usually they let dogs in”. After a long debate as to what to do and a couple of grumbles from Joe about Foxy ruining things (but if he would have put her in her bag we might have been fine) Foxy and I enjoyed the scenery, sunshine and people watching from outside the coliseum while Joe went inside. (Not to mention Joe paid extra again and didn’t have to wait inline for the Coliseum because it was long by the time we figured out what we wanted to do)
Then we walked to the Roman Forum or Foro Romano and Palatine Hill or Monte Palatino. (We illegally took foxy into Palatine Hill) We saw everything there was to see in both places, with one squirmy dog wondering why she could not walk around all these old ruins.

This was the first night we actually had dinner, we picked out a place from Rick Steve’s book by the Spanish Steps and took the metro there (I was exhausted from walking so much the last couple days) We found the restaurant got our table and then began to look and listen to people around us. They were all Americans; not that is a bad thing…it felt like a tourist attraction more than dinner.

Sunday morning…after a late start and a bus that never came we missed the Roma Flea market. On the other hand we then made our way to see the Pope with plenty of time to spare. Once again it rained or as the little old ladies from long island said holy water was coming down. We really got to see and listen to the Pope. It was the Sunday blessing that he does, again according to the ladies anything you have on and with you gets blessed by the pope when you are there. (No foxy wasn’t with us) It was actually something to see all these people from different countries singing and playing music while waiting for the pope to appear from his apartment window.

Then we headed down to the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin to see the “mouth of truth” as were standing in line outside after you see the mouth you go through the church…again no bag for Foxy but it wasn’t a problem she just got to go in. (You have to love Europe they usually allow dogs everywhere) then we headed back up to see the roman forum at night. As we were heading there we pasted the Musei Capitolini or Capitol Hill Museum which caught Joe’ eye…after asking if Foxy can go into the Museum and a quick call to somebody we were in. Get this not only did they allow a dog in the Museum but it was open till 8:00 at night on a Sunday. (We were just instructed not to let her down in we had to carry her at all times) So foxy go to see some really old statues and art.

Things we learned you can always buy an umbrella when it starts to rain and you can pay a little more to skip the lines. I really can’t imagine Roma in the summer time when it is really really crowded, we thought is was crowded now in November.

We had an amazing trip and can't wait to go back. We can truly say that Roma was not built in a day.