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!


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…


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


… 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…


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…


… 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…


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…


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…


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)…


… 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)…


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…


… 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…


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…


… 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…

Blog FAQ… sorta…

As those of you blogging on WordPress may know, you can see what search terms were used by people who have found your site. Most terms are not recorded due to privacy issues, but some searches do make it ‘on record’. The latest one I saw on my stats list today is “audrey hepburn showing middle finger” in Russian (I had to google-translate it)! Oh, that made me laugh!

Many of the search terms used are general ones about Richard Armitage or Colin Firth or Simon Baker and The Mentalist but some search terms are just downright intriguing, interesting or funny! I find myself reacting to some of these searches as if they were frequently asked questions posed to me. It’s a nice little game to play.

So, here goes, the “FAQ’s” that lead to my blog! Well, not really… sorta… (most of these questions are only mentioned once on my list). 🙂

audrey hepburn showing middle finger – Hahaha! Now that I’d like to see… When googling it I find this manipulated photo/gif, apparently it’s a thing!



images eddie redmayne socks – What is special about Eddie Redmayne’s socks? I can’t seem to figure it out but I’d love to know. So, if anyone can elaborate, please feel free to do so. Maybe his socks are very colourful, just like Richard Armitage’s seem to be?


richard armitage beautiful man – Well, yeah, can’t argue against that! If you read this blog, you will know that that is a fact of life for me.

RA Woof


james cromwell in a fairy film – Apparently when you type that into google, my site is the first one to come up! I guess the search must have been for the movie Babe. Yeah, I blogged about that once. Lovely film!

JC fairy film search


i absolutely love colin firth – Me too! He features regularly on my blog!


is alistair appleton married? – I confess that I don’t know. He occasionally presents Escape to the Country on the BBC, he’s a Buddhist, he’s a psychotherapist and gives workshops, it says on wikipedia that he’s ‘openly gay’, he has his own site and blog! Every time I look at him I am filled with warm feelings. It’s something in his eyes and a kindness in his face.


richard spandex – Ah, yes! Looks like that could become a thing maybe? Sadly it looks like we will never get to see Richard Armitage in spandex now that he won’t be in the Mid Life Crisis movie anymore (not that spandex was guaranteed in that movie by any means). The closest thing to an image of Richard in spandex (that I know of) is the picture of him in that dragon suit for Hannibal.

RA Dragon

Of course, this question may have nothing to do with Armitage at all but could be about any Richard out there… This is what my ‘richard spandex’ search came up with in the first few images displayed (be warned when clicking on them, there’s at least one quite graphic image amongst these 😉 ):


richard armitage bare chest AND richard armitage crucible naked – He wasn’t actually naked in The Crucible but yes, he definitely was bare chested in it for a little bit! Wish I had been sitting on the front row in the theatre for that, but luckily it can all be viewed beautifully again and again on Digital Theatre.

armitage proctor @washbasin


wet mr darcy – Yes, please.

In fact, the post I once did on wet shirts and bare chests is still quite well read… 😉

andy serkis shirtless – I see a search theme emerging here… I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Andy Serkis shirtless! I have seen him in spandex, or whatever that tight stuff is that he has to wear for his CGI work.

serkis gollum cgi.jpg


michael palin the hobbit – Alas, no, Michael Palin wasn’t in The Hobbit. More’s the pity…

daughter is in jail – Well, she’s only 12. I suppose juvenile detention could be an option but no, I have not seen real criminal tendencies in my daughter yet.

how do you say, “happy belated birthday”, in czech? – Even though I have been to the Czech Republic (and the next visit is coming right up, this time to the East right near Poland), I have not learned to speak Czech yet. Google Translate says that “belated happy birthday” translates as”opožděné přání k narozeninám“. Not at all sure how you pronounce that and of course I can not vouch for the correctness of the translation.

is the book of esther a comedy – No, can’t say that it is. Not this one and not the Bible one either. Although maybe some parts could be funny-ish.

was the book of esther about love – This Book of Esther blog is about things that I love and care about, so in that sense, yes. The Book of Esther in the Bible (incidentally, I was named after that Esther) is about love too. The Persian king loves Esther, Esther loves her people and saves them from persecution. I can’t quite remember whether Esther actually falls in love with King Ahasverus herself, but yeah, lots of things are done in the name of love in that Bible book.

Megillat Esther


boys sexy 3 piece suits – Oh, yes please! I’ve blogged about that too.

esther rose thomas lovely deaf signer – For a moment I thought it said ‘singer’ but it says ‘signer’. I’ve never heard of her, but she sounds and looks lovely!

jisbon fun photo – Which one? I hope you found it! (For those not in the know: Jisbon is the ‘shipper’ name for Patrick Jane and Theresa Lisbon from The Mentalist). I get quite a lot of searches about The Mentalist, Simon Baker and about his wife Rebecca Rigg. They truly are a gorgeous couple worth searching for.


call the midwife mark strong – Nope, Mark Strong was never in Call the Midwife. I do get quite a lot of Mark Strong searches, but alas, I haven’t blogged about him that much. I do like him, though!

marta dusseldorp nose – Ah, the lead actress in A Place to Call Home! Yes, her nose does have quite a distinctive shape (click on images to enlarge). I love distinctive noses. In fact, her co-star Brett Climo has a distinctive one as well! Just like some other people I know.


chris armitage brother of richard armitage – This is the most used search term in my list, which surprises me because I don’t think I have ever blogged about Richard’s family! I know nothing about them except for their names (except for Richard’s sister-in-law’s name) and that they come from Leicester.

have a beautiful day my love – Thank you!! You too!

France free association & family

The latest Mach’ was (Do Something) challenge is dedicated to “France”.  What to do with France? Yes, the European Soccer Championships are there now but, while we do watch it, I’m not so much a soccer fan… so, no more references to that! My mind now goes into free association mode… What else do I think of, when I think of France? Well… there’s Paris and the Eiffel Tower… There’s baguette and wine… oh wait, I know someone else who had that association once as well, back in November 2014…

RA Paris nov 2014

Another association I have when I think of France is Simon Baker. He seems very popular there. Is it because his character Patrick Jane in The Mentalist drives an old citroen?

He also makes commericals for Givenchy…

Oh boy, that smile of his! So joyous, infectious and heart-stoppingly beautiful!

And last week on the Graham Norton show, I saw this French singer (Christine and the Queens) perform and was fascinated! The original is completely in French, but she has translated most of this song into English.

I also think of Edith Piaf, who I used to listen to quite a lot.

And I think of some favourite French movies like The Artist, Intouchables, or Il y a longtemps que je t’aime.

I could probably expand on all of these topics above, but most of all when I think of France, I think of my husband and kids. We had a motorhome and now have a caravan and on our summer holidays we travel with it to countries that aren’t too far from the Netherlands. In the past 15 years we’ve travelled with it to Belgium, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Italy,  England, Czech Republic and yes, several times and most often to France! More specifically the northern areas of France, which are only a day’s drive away.

My son was two months old when we took him on his first summer holiday (in September). One of my most vivid memories of that holiday was that I was in the garden of painter Claude Monet’s house in Giverny (Normandy), sitting underneath a tree with my baby boy in my arms and he was staring up in wide eyed wonder at the leaves moving above him. We also bought a baby carrier so my husband and I could take turns carrying him against our chests.

2001 ARVIDI~8

Two years later in 2003, we were back in France, this time in the middle of the country, and I was expecting my second child. It was super hot that summer, I remember being so grateful for any air conditioned place or cathedral to enter where it was nice and cool. Being pregnant and dealing with a heat wave is very uncomfortable! But we enjoyed ourselves and my 2 year old son loved running around everywhere and climbing all the stairs he could find.

Another two years later (in 2005) we were back in France, this time in the Alsace Lorraine region…

2005 22 Ribeauville en Riqewihr (38)

And in 2008 we finally ‘did’ Paris with the kids. To the north of Paris, at an abbey, one of my favourite ever pictures of my kids with me was taken, where we were all 3 giggling uncontrollably.

It took another 5 years to get back to France again. This time, in 2013, we did the Champagne region.

And the next year, 2014, we were back again, this time for Verdun, the Somme and surrounding areas. It was a very WWI themed holiday, we saw remnants of trenches and of course graves…

When I look at all these France pictures, I just see the kids growing up right in front of me, right here on my laptop! They are growing so fast and when I think of France, I think of us a family a lot. Not too bad an association, right?

3 piece suits and vests

Today we were delighted with pictures of Richard Armitage looking very handsome in a 3 piece suit at the Berlinale…

2016-02 RA Berlinale 2

And yes – there I go: weak in the knees! There just is something about Richard Armitage in a 3 piece suit… maybe because he first grabbed my attention in a 3 piece ensemble?


And there are more lovely shots of Richard in 3 piece ensembles…

Hobbit publlicity RA

RA 3 piece

RA Sarah Dunn (2)

But it’s not just Richard. The 3 piece suit certainly contributed to the reasons why I loved Simon Baker as Patrick Jane in The Mentalist so much!

Patrick Jane (1)

Patrick Jane (7)

And I love my husband in a 3 piece as well!


And then sometimes the jacket comes off and you only have the vest, which is especially sexy with rolled up sleeves!

'the hobbit' film press conference at te papa museum, wellington, new zealand - 28 nov 2012, ,



N&S coatless

Simon Baker as Patrick Jane was good in the only vest look as well!

Patrick Jane (5)

Patrick Jane (4)

And I even dug up an old one of my husband (yeah, it was hot)!

Wedding (6)

Clothes maketh the man? Well, it helps in any case! Here, have another 3 piece suit Richard in Berlin… 🙂

2016-02 RA Berlinale

And I’ll just keep swooning over this post again and again…

Couples, kittens, babies, thighs… sighs

I have an Instagram account but always forget to check it out. Finally went through some images today, and my goodness, what a joy it was!

Couples: Livia Firth posting a sweet picture of her and her husband Colin on their way to an event…

Colin & Livia

… and Keely Shaye Brosnan posting a picture of her lovely view of Pierce


Kittens: a most adorable picture Ian McKellan posted where he’s holding a kitten.

IanMcKellan kitten

Babies: a picture “The Mentalist’s” Robin Tunney posted of Simon Baker with the caption “Even babies love him.”

SB 'even babies love him'

Thighs: and this appeared on my Instagram, Twitter AND WordPress feeds with lots of sighs re: thighs…

RA Copperfield interview
Original source:

Richard Armitage being interviewed on his David Copperfield audiobook that he just recorded for Audible. And just as I want to hit “Publish” this comes in:

Yes, it’s a lovely Saturday!