If It's Tuesday, We Must Be in Belgium!

Trip Start Apr 27, 2014
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Trip End May 17, 2014


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Where I stayed
Crowne Plaza - Le Palace

Flag of Belgium  ,
Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Remember that old romantic comedy starring Suzanne Plushette, circa 1969?  Cute flick, but this was Tuesday and although we started in the Netherlands, we ended up in Belgium.  What a terrific, but tiring day!  Up pretty early.  Packed and out the door by 8:30.  Little issue with the bill...Crowne Plaza charged us for breakfast, and we didn't eat breakfast.  Got it taken care of and inquired about the shuttle to the airport.  Interesting, it's free coming to the hotel from the airport, but back to the airport is 7.5 Euros per person.  Could have walked the 4 blocks to the train station (Hoofddort), but schleping bags, we chose the shuttle.  

After arriving at the airport/train station, told a man at a train information desk that we wanted to take the fast train to Antwerp.  He said, I think you need a reservation.  Check at the international train desk.  We did.  Yep, need a reservation and too late to get on at this late date.  OK, options?
She said a regular train (takes 30 min longer) leaves from track 5 in 4 minutes.  We ran...suitcases in tow!  We made it.  Got there about 10:30.  Antwerp train station has to be the most beautiful train station I have ever seen.  I will download pics when I get home, but trust me, it is beautiful...almost cathedral like in its appearance.  After finally getting enough change, we stored our suitcases (4 Euros) in the baggage storage area and determining that Antwerp had several trains per hour going to our next destination (Valvoode) and on to Brussels, we headed out to a couple of spots in Antwerp.

If yesterday was about Rembrandt, then today was about Rubens.  We first walked to Rubens House.  Rubens was a Flemish Baroque painter who lived from the late 1570s until 1640.  He was an outstanding painter with his best known works of religious origin: the Elevation of the Cross and the Descent from the Cross.  He lived a pretty good and long life.  The house was about 12 blocks from the train station, pretty easy without suitcases.  12 Euros entrance fee, plus 4 Euros for the audio tour...well worth it.  Beautiful house, grounds and especially the garden.  

Then it was off for another 10 blocks (spitting rain on us most of the time) to the Antwerp Cathedral where the two previously mentioned art pieces plus Mary's Assumption (Ascension) into Heaven by Rubens are housed.  Beautiful cathedral.  Wonderful art inside.  Cost 12 Euros.  Yea, they charge to get into the church.  

Then we headed to the restaurant area and had a pizza in an Italian restaurant.  Very good, or we were hungry...or maybe a little of both!

Then we walked back to the beautiful Antwerp train station and after retrieving our luggage, got on a train to Valvoorde, along with several thousand (it seemed like) school kids.  A bit noisy on that ride.  We got off at the small town (almost a suburb of Brussels) for one reason.  I read a book recently on a man by the name of William Tyndale.  By a show of hands, who has heard of him?  I didn't think that many hands would go up.  But don't feel alone, it appears most of the town of Valvoorde (pop. 40K) hasn't either.  Two men at the train station, one city bus driver and one cab driver and not one of them had heard of Valvoorde Castle or William Tyndale.  

Let me tell you how important William Tyndale is.  He was the first man to translate the Bible from Latin and Greek to English.  Truly 76 per cent of the Old Testament and 84 percent of the New Testament of the King James version of the Bible are the retained words of William Tyndale.  He was born in England in 1494, but was so bothered by King Henry the VIII that he ended up in a self-imposed exile in Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium printing and smuggling copies of the Bible to England.  Smuggling, you say?  Yea, it was illegal (an offense punishable by death) to translate the Bible from it's original Latin or Greek.  For the most part, only priests could read Greek or Latin and allowed to read and interpret the Bible.  Pretty handy for them, huh?  Tyndale was a contemporary of Martin Luther (you remember 95 Theses nailed to church at Wittenberg, Germany and the start of the Reformation).  Long story short, Tyndale was betrayed and captured in Antwerp, Belgium and imprisoned in Vilvoorde Castle in 1535.  He was tried and convicted of heresy in 1536 and strangled to death while tied to the stake, and then his body was burned.  His final words were prophetic:  "Lord!  Open the eyes of the King of England."  
Within two years, King Henry VIII had divorced his first wife, split with the Catholic Church, started the Church of England and had 5000 copies of Tyndale's Bible printed.  Pretty amazing story.  

So, no one in town knew where I was talking about.  Finally with the help of man at a bar (Sandy stayed behind in the bar drinking a Coke!) and a kindly cab driver who knew a local guide, I found the monument to William Tyndale.  Heck, it was in Tyndale Park for goodness sake.  The cab driver charged me for the trip to the park, but turned off the meter for the ride home.  I tipped him well.  And we were on our way to Brussels...sort of.

The man at the train station gave me strict instructions.  Platform 4 at 3:05 pm.  I got so excited telling Sandy about the monument, we got on the first train to come along on platform 4.  Oops!
Took us to the outskirts of Brussels, but not to the train station.  Again, with the help of a stranger on a train, she got us on the Metro to come into Brussels.  However, it wasn't that easy.  Metro took coins, no charge cards, and we couldn't get the machine to work.  Finally watching others, we got it and got on the Metro.  15 minutes later we were in Brussels Central Station.  

Ah, but where is the hotel.  I got a bad cab driver who told me the hotel was only 10 minutes walking.  Wrong!!!  It was about 30 minutes...schlepping our bags all the way.  

Finally to the Crown Plaza and checked in...smooth!  Upgrade to Club floor!  Thanks!  We had maybe 15 minutes before we left (cab this time) for Grand Place Centre.  Beautiful government buildings of Brussels.  We met former Redline Express Dancer Wendy Williams Vastine, her husband Chris and her two great children, Allison and Thomas!  We had dinner at a fantastic restaurant where Sandy and I had the duck!  Very good.  And excellent Belgian French Fries. They say French Fries were really Belgian Fries...just across the border.  We also heard they are double fried and sometimes fried in horse fat...and always enjoyed with mayonnaise or some other topping other than ketchup!  After dinner, we headed to a bar....great old bar with some of the best ambiance I have ever felt.  Great old establishment.  And Chris introduced me to a beer that I wasn't sure I would like...I was wrong.  Wendy says it is supposed to be the best beer in the world because it has the best balance of the best ingredients.  After a while, I was convinced.  It's called Trappist Westvleteren.  Apparently it's brewed by monks who only brew enough to keep the monastery going.  She reminded me that they sold some cases in the US this past year to put a new roof on the monastery.  And the beer sold for more than $100 a case.  Now that's good beer!  

They then walked us to the famous statue called Mannequin Pis (little boy peeing) and the lesser known Jeanneke Pis (little girl peeing) which are actually fountains in Brussels.  We saw the boy 40 years ago...first time seeing the girl.  Along the way we had real Belgian waffles....wonderful and the kids wanted Haagendas Ice Cream...we grown-ups passed.  We took pics in the Grand Place Central and thanks to Chris and Wendy, got a ride home instead of walking.  Thanks for making our trip extra special!!!

It was a wonderful day!  But boy are we beat!  It seemed easier 40 years ago!!!

Tomorrow it's Ghent and Bruges!

Take care my family and friends!







  
 
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