The Brussels adventure

This past January my husband and I had the 25th anniversary of our first kiss and to celebrate a quarter of a century together (that sounds sooooo long!) he and I went away, just the two of us, to Brussels for 3 days (2 nights).  We decided to do it the unstressed way: go by train! The journey is only 2.5 hours from where we live and we only had to change trains once. The kids were looked after by friends, so there were no worries there, and we were off last Thursday morning. This is what it looked like just after we boarded the train to Brussels. Coffee for Mr Esther, tea for me, cakes and reading material… Yes, good start to our mini-break!

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We arrived in Brussels and walked to the street our hotel was in (right bang in the historical center!), had a late lunch, checked in to our hotel and then started walking… and walking… and walking… We walked by ‘Manneken Pis’ (yeah, world famous small fountain statue of a little boy peeing)…

… walked some more…

… and popped into a church where I lit a candle for my dad and which also turned out to be Heraldry-heaven for Mr Esther (the man loves medieval history and is a heraldry specialist, a fangirl of sorts, if you will)…

… we walked on and on till we got to the royal palace, which is the Belgian king’s work place…

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… walked from there back into the old town, with a lovely view as we came down…

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… we stopped for drinks then walked on to finally visit a high point: the market square with old city hall and beautiful old buildings surrounding it (click on images to enlarge)…

It’s a gorgeous square, it’s probably the best cared for part of Brussels. Our hotel was situated about a minute minute away from this location. This was our breakfast room view, by the way…

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Our feet were already getting very tried at the end of that first day. We went to the hotel room, freshened up and then went off to dinner and a movie after (Silence – slow moving Martin Scorsese movie about Portugese Jesuit monks in 17th century Japan – 3 people walked out during it, but Mr Esther and I found it totally engrossing).

Friday, the second day, we walked even more… We visited the cathedral (again, click to enlarge)…

… and, as we are Europeans at heart, we walked on to where the European Union administration is situated. The European Commission building is freakishly huge (these pictures don’t even begin to show that)…

… outside that building there is also a piece of the Berlin Wall with a text on the history of that eyesore and how since that was torn down European unity has grown…

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… we walked by the European Parliament buildings…

Outside the parliament building there was a tree decorated in a crocheted work of art. I have no idea what that is about but we found it amusing…

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We walked through more streets closer to the old center where our hotel also was…

… and in less touristy parts of Brussels, we also came across an occasional house painted with interesting illustrations (again, click to enlarge)…

Speaking of cartoon characters, we also came across this sign in a park, asking Pokemon character searchers to keep off the grass as the grass had just been re-planted. Apparently massive amounts of Pokemom game players had trampled the grass before…

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Of course, by the end of the day our feet were just about dead and we sat for quite a while sipping wine (me) and special beer (Mr Esther) in the old market square…

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We moved from there to a restaurant and later back to the square again for more beer. The square was beautifully lit after dark…

Saturday, our last day in Brussels, we spent at the museum, seeing an exhibition on famous Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte. Alas, his most famous works weren’t there, but he sure made some really wonderful less famous paintings too!

In the same museum we also strolled through the beautiful medieval paintings section…

Alas, we were too tired to go on to the 19th / early 20th century paintings that I had also wanted to see; we skipped that in favour of a café (and more beer and wine) before taking our train and heading back home again.

For me, hardly a trip is complete without fangirling of some sort! And I got to do some on this trip as well! There was no Richard, Colin or latest crush Lucas fangirling but there was the 1920s Magritte painting, that made me think of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries because of the black bob hairstyle (sorry for the fuzzy picture)…

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… and we came across Simon Baker of The Mentalist fame in a Longines watches ad in a jewelry store window ( I stared and smiled at that for a while before moving on, the man and his smile are beautiful)…

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Brussels also likes its comic / scifi / fantasy stores… In a store window, for instance, we saw all sorts of wands from Harry Potter characters for sale…

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… and then in another store, which was filled with so much stuff you could hardly move, I decided to search once again for a Pop Thorin figure. I always regretted not getting Pop Thorin at the time The Hobbit movies came out and now they are sold out everywhere and they’re very expensive online. Well, I didn’t find Thorin but then my husband called me over and I saw these two…

20170305_155620… Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy! Granted, not Colin Firth as Darcy but hey, he can pass for it, right? And a kick ass Elizabeth Bennet, who I did enjoy in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. So yeah, I didn’t want to regret not getting Elizabeth Bennet! I bought her first, then the next day decided I’d get Mr. Darcy as well. I want no more Pop-regrets…

And the last bit of fangirling had everything to do with Charlotte Bronte! Jane Eyre is still one of my absolute fave books ever, this coming summer we will be travelling to Haworth Parsonage in Yorkshire where she lived, and yesterday I walked in her footsteps in Brussels! Charlotte Bronte stayed in Brussels for about a year in her mid twenties, learning French at a ‘pensionnat’, a school for girls, and also teaching English there. She also fell in love with the husband of the pensionnat owner, Monsieur Heger, even though nothing ever came of that. She based two books on her Brussels experiences (‘The Professor’ and ‘Vilette’) and Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester is said to have been modelled after Monsieur Heger. The part of Brussels (between the royal palace and the older city) where she lived isn’t there anymore. Now big buildings stand on the street where the pensionnat used to be, the street itself is also gone. On one building (you really have to figure out where to find it, luckily Mr Esther is good at that stuff) there is a plaque commemorating Charlotte and her sister Emily living there…

… and there are steps there that were also there in Charlotte’s time and that she most certainly must have walked on…

When we were at the museum an hour or so later, we saw this painting…

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It’s  the painting of a school children’s parade in Brussels, all these girls are schoolgirls! It was painted quite a few years after Charlotte and Emily left Brussels but I like to imagine that these girls could have been their pupils… or maybe the teacher walking next to these girls was!

We took the train out of Brussels again yesterday at the end of the afternoon and got off at Antwerp to have dinner there before heading home. While in Antwerp station (beautiful building inside!) we sat drinking coffee and chai tea latte while waiting for our next train. This was our view…

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… and yes, it immediately reminded me of one of my favourite flash mob videos ever, which was also the first one I ever saw, I think. A flash mob The Sound of Music ad was filmed in Antwerp station some years ago and still is awesome to watch…

Yep, we had a really wonderful time! It was over all too soon…

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!

OK, the horror/zombie/gruesome movie genre is not for me! I have enjoyed an occasional gruesome movie, like Inglorious Basterds and I have even liked the Hannibal TV series to a certain degree, but only the Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde storyline (the rest really was too gruesome for me). What I do love is all things Austen and all things Pride & Prejudice. My fave P&P adaptation is, of course, the 1995 BBC one with Colin Firth. So combine one of my favourite things with the (for me) worst movie genre and what do you get? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! I was so torn on whether I wanted to see this or not but in the end I very recently did… and to my great surprise I actually enjoyed it!

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OK, the zombies still aren’t my thing and there is the constant threat of zombies throughout the movie but somehow this whole zombie scenario is so absurd, it’s just… funny! The movie is tongue-in-cheek, with zombie references strewn everywhere in the story – it’s just funny to see that juxtaposed with this whole Jane Austen world! Not laugh out loud funny  but very amusing nonetheless. So, despite blood and gore (and really, it wasn’t too bad – I thought Hannibal was worse or in any case creepier and scarier!), I truly enjoyed the film. It’s not my fave movie ever, but it’s fun! It had also a lot to do with the performances of the actors – they were good!

I don’t think I’ll ever be a Lily James fan (I wasn’t too fond of her in War & Peace and I really didn’t like her in Cinderella) but in this, for the first time, I liked her; she made a good Elizabeth Bennet. Lizzie really is a bit of a kick-ass character anyway and now, with her battling zombies, she was even more so! I also thought Sam Riley was a very good Mr Darcy and the two of them worked well together. I did need to get used to Sam Riley’s raspy voice, though. He sounded like he could use a lozenge… I don’t know if he always sounds like that, I’ve never seen him in anything else before, but I got used to it. One highlight Darcy and Elizabeth scene was the first proposal scene – that was really fun to watch! Not only verbal fireworks there, it got very physical too.

Bella Heathcote is a pretty and more tough Jane Bennet, and Douglas Booth as Mr. Bingley is sweet with a little more backbone, but neither can hold a candle to Lizzie and Darcy, of course.

For me, the greatest revelations in this movie were Matt Smith as Parson Collins and Lena Headey as Catherine De Bourgh.

Matt Smith was just absolutely delightful as useless Collins, in his silly quest for a wife and his love for Darcy. He literally stole every scene he was in and just cracked me up! The laugh out loud moments I did have all involved him. Lena Headey I didn’t know at all (apparently she is in Game of Thrones but I don’t watch that) but she was one cool Catherine de Bourgh, the best and most feared zombie slayer out there.

Yeah, the story of P&P was somewhat condensed and the plot twisted to fit in with zombies. Not all characters were as clearly drawn as in other Austen adaptations but the essential Lizzie and Darcy stuff was all there. Except for their dance at Netherfield… I really missed that one. It is one of my favourite scenes in the 1995 adaptation, the sparks fly between Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle…

And it would have been a perfect sexual tension build up in Zombies  as well! I do think such a scene was filmed. Lizzie is in mid-annoyance with Mr Collins when Darcy steps in and asks her to dance. She impulsively agrees and then introduces Darcy and Collins…

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… but after that they get distracted by zombies and the dance never actually happens! It must have been filmed, though, because I found this still:

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I do hope to see that scene sometime, I am very curious!

From the trailer you’d think that 90% of the movie is battling zombies but it isn’t, there’s a lot of ‘regular’ P&P in there as well. And even the battles – yeah, there’s blood and splashing but not everything is shown in such detail, sometimes it’s more the sound than the actual visual effect that’s disturbing. It really is P&P with a twinkle in the eye. Don’t adher to the original too strictly and don’t mind the slashing too much and you may just enjoy this! I know I did. 🙂

Tarantino meets Austen?

I’ve been missing in action due to… well, never mind… but to make up for that here is some new action to share: the first Pride and Prejudice and Zombies trailer! Quentin Tarantino meets Jane Austen? The music and the images at the end of the trailer suggest that to me…

I am always hungry for all things Pride and Prejudice and while I am not into zombies at all, I still think I may give this one a go when it comes out (apparently sometime early next year)… I mean, there’s a man diving into the lake and all that! I can’t skip that, right? I’ll just have to avert my eyes occasionally, that’s all. I’ve survived Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde, I (totally contrary to every expectation!) really loved Tarantino’s”Inglorious Basterds” (saw it in the cinema twice at the time and have seen it on DVD a few times since… only Tarantino movie I love so far…), so I can do this too! I know I can!