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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Belgian Fries

I was told that once you have tasted the fries in Belgium, you will never have them as good anywhere else in the world!

Thickly cut and fried twice in beef tallow, Belgian fries are super crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. They are typically sold in a paper cone, and with a plastic fork. The locals love their fries smothered with thick dollops of mayonnaise. Some vendors (friekot) offer up to 40 different kinds of sauces : Andalouse (mayo, tomato, and peppers), Samurai (harissa mayo),  curry sauce, bicky ketchup, Bearnaise ...

BELGIAN FRIES, FLEMISH FRIES OR JUST FRIES BUT NEVER FRENCH FRIES!

No one calls them French fries in Belgium and apparently, there is a longstanding culinary war over the rightful ownership of the fries. I was told that Belgians remain sensitive about their fries being referred to as French.

They may be known across the world as ‘French fries’, but there’s nothing French about them. The name ‘friet’ comes from patates frites, Belgian-French for ‘fried potatoes’. One possible explanation for the association could be that when American soldiers were introduced to ‘fried potatoes’ in Belgium during WWI, they thought they were in France because French was the language spoken in that region.

The Belgians blame the American soldiers  for having dubbed their national dish with the misnomer!



We had ours topped with pulled pork and chopped onions in a curry sauce. It was truly amazing!
And once you've tasted Belgian frites, there is no going back!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Adele's Bridge

Bridges fascinate me, especially the old ones built from centuries ago.There is something magical about these structures that are designed to connect people and places that would otherwise have to exist separately.

I can still recall the first time I caught a glimpse of London's Tower Bridge ahead on the horizon. Having seen this bridge in so many pictures and movies, and always hoping to see it myself one day, it felt surreal crossing it. Every sense in me heightened. I tried to take it all in as fast and as much as I could.Then the brief encounter was over and everything was but a memory. I wanted to turn around and cross it all over again!

That same feeling was awaken when I spotted an ornate fairy-tale-like bridge across the River Seine. I didn't realize it at first but we were actually crossing the most beautiful bridge in Paris and some say, the world! It only hit me then that the bridge was Pont Alexandre III when I recognized the elegant candelabras that graced the balustrades from Adele's video Someone Like You.
image source - Google maps
The ornate bridge was breathtakingly beautiful and with the gold glistening against the drab, gray Paris sky, it was a sight to behold.

Pont is French for bridge. The bridge is named after Alexandre III, the Russian Tsar responsible for signing the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892.

Gilded statues of Fame restraining Pegasus crown the 4 columns that act as counterweights for the single spanning arch –  a marvel of 19th century engineering. Each of these columns has a name : Renommée des Sciences (Fame of the Sciences), Renommée des Arts (Fame of the Arts), Renommée du Commerce (Fame of Commerce) and Renommée de l'Industrie (Fame of Industry).
image source - www.worldsiteguides.com
Fame of Commerce

Fame restraining Pegasus

Fame of Industry
The 4 columns are each adorned with a statue allegorical of a specific and important period of French history: King Louis XIV, Charlemagne, Contemporary France and Renaissance France.

Statue of King Louis XIV in front of the Fame of  Industry


Adele's Bridge!

Crossing the bridge in a bus, we missed out many elaborate sculptures on the bridge : lions, cherubs, nymphs, maidens, cupids, water spirits, fish, scalloped seashells, sea monsters.... Plus, taking photographs in a moving vehicle proved to be quite a challenge! Just as I was about to click the camera, the bus would have passed the intended subject already!

I was having a tough time using the above image to find related images on the web so I could identify the sculpture when my son Rodney pointed out to me that  the black thingy wasn't part of the sculpture –  it was a sticker on the window of our coach!!!  :smack:

Photo fail!

Sharing instead the following HD images, courtesy of EUtouring.com.
image credit - eutouring.com
This sculpture (the one with the window sticker!) embellishes a candelabra on the bridge. There are 4 candelabras that are surrounded by statues of cupids with aquatic creatures at their feet. Although they share the same theme, the cupids and aquatic creatures/sea monsters are not identical.
image credit - EUtouring.com
image credit - EUtouring.com

The back of the nymph and the keystone sculpture facing the water
The bridge is flanked by two nymph reliefs centered on both sides of the bridge facing the water  –  nymphs from the River Seine (France) on one side and nymphs from the River Neva (Russia) on the opposite side.
Nymphs of the Seine

Sculptures On The Bridge

Statue of Nereide (water spirit)
image credit - EUtouring.com
Enfant Au Crabe (child with crab)

There is a crab where the child is kneeling, hence its name

Fillette a la Coquille (Girl with a shell)
image credit - Myrabella (Wikimedia Commons)
8 years and this video still gives me goosebumps! Now, even more!


What is the most beautiful bridge you have seen?

Musings Of A Tired Mummy

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Yellow Cube Houses

When I first saw these yellow cubes from afar, I thought that were just the quirky facade of a building. Imagine my surprise when I learned that these are real houses that people actually live in!
These 39 houses are basically slanted cubes in wood, glass and concrete, resting on concrete poles, designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom (1934-1999). Blom's concept was that each house would represent a tree and together, they would symbolize a forest. Keeping this in mind and with some imagination, this little neighbourhood did start to resemble an architectural forest.


Residing in a cube house can be quite a challenge, we were told. Despite having 1,080 square feet of floor space, only a quarter of this, approximately 270 square feet, is usable due to the sharp angles of the architecture. Even more challenging, this 270-square-foot area is spread out across four floors. After entering on the ground level, residents must take a narrow staircase to reach the first floor, a tiny, triangle-shaped room which features a living room and kitchen. A flight of stairs up are two bedrooms and a bathroom, and the top floor is a small free space, typically used as a garden.


As residents are constantly disturbed by hordes of tourists and curious passers-by, one owner decided to open a "show cube", which is furnished as a normal house, and is making a living out of offering tours to visitors.


Thanks to Airbnb, you can now stay in one of these houses.

image source - Airbnb
image source - Airbnb
image source - Airbnb
image source - www.uniqhotels.com
It would be cool to stay in a house like this as a vacation rental but certainly not on a long-term basis. It does feel kinda dizzying and claustrophobic, doesn't it?

 Surprisingly, even after a quarter of a century, a significant number of the original occupants still live in the Cube Houses.



Would you like to live in a Cube House?
Musings Of A Tired Mummy

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Grand Place

Standing there at the medieval square of the Grand Place, I was dazzled by the grandeur of the many ornate buildings that surrounded me. A UNESCO World Heritage site, The Grand Place is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe.

True to its name, the place is resplendent. Imagine a single place where you can observe different architecture styles from three different eras (Gothic, Baroque, Louis XIV)  blending seamlessly, forming an architectural ensemble that really is one of a kind!


The Grand Place (Dutch: Grote Markt) was historically a marketplace where goods were traded. As the city grew, market stands gave way to grand buildings built by rich merchants that surround the cobbled square today : The Town Hall, The Maison du Roi (King's House) and the guild houses.

THE KING'S HOUSE
Maison du Roi in French or "Broodhuis" in Dutch (House of Bread)

The King's House is now the historical City Museum. As the Dutch name implies, the building was originally a wooden structure where bakers sold their bread.The original building was replaced in the 15th century by a stone building which housed the administrative services of the Duke of Brabant, which is why it was first called the Duke's House, and when the same duke became King of Spain, it was renamed the King's House.

THE TOWN HALL
In 1695, the French army bombarded Brussels and destroyed most of the  buildings housed in The Grand Place. They were all rebuilt except the Town Hall, the square's only remaining medieval building. At its summit stands a 5 m (16 ft) tall statue of Saint Michael, the patron saint of Brussels, slaying a demon.

Notice that the building is conspicuously asymmetrical. It is said that when the architect discovered this mistake, he committed suicide by jumping off the tower!





THE GUILD HOUSES

I found the nearly 40 ostentatious guild houses most fascinating. The buildings were all adorned with golden statues and other embellishments intent on flaunting the status and wealth of their occupants in the 17th century. The gilded statues and symbols were emblematic of their trade. I didn't know there were patron saints for occupations! And cities too!
From left to right: Le Renard, Le Cornet, La Louve, Le Sac, La Brouette, Le Roy d'Espagne,

Le Renard  –- House of the Corporation of Haberdashers
Le Cornet –- House of the Corporation of Boatmen
La Louve –- House of the Oath of Archers
Le Sac –- House of the Corporation of Carpenters
La Brouette –- House of the Corporation of Greasers.
Le Roy d'Espagne  –- House of the Corporation of Bakers


From left to right: Le Marchand d'or, Le Pigeon, La Chaloupe d'or,  L'Ange, Joseph et Anne, Le Cerf

Le Marchand d'Or –- private house of the tiler Corneille Mombaerts
Le Pigeon  –-  House of the Corporation of Painters
La Chaloupe d'or –- House of the Corporation of Tailors
L'Ange –- private house of the merchant Jan De Vos
Joseph et Anne –- two private houses under a single facade.
Le Cerf –- private house.

Statue of Saint Hommebon of Cremona (patron of tailors) atop La Chaloupe d'or




HOUSE OF THE DUKES OF BRABANT

Sharing the same neo-classical monumental facade, the House of the Dukes of Brabant is home to seven guild halls. The building is so called because of the 19 busts of the Dukes of Brabant that grace the facade's pilasters.

Fun Fact
Despite the name, no duke of Brabant ever lived here!

The intricacy of the facade is astounding. Can you spot the busts? They are located at the centers of the pilasters.

A close-up of one the 19 busts  –- Anthony, Duke of Brabant.

Horse-drawn carriages in front of the King's House

Every two years in August since 1971, the square is carpeted with begonias. A different theme is selected by the organizers biennially.

Over half a million begonias are painstakingly arranged into an intricate tapestry and cover the cobblestones of the Grand Place for one weekend only.


The theme for 2018 was Mexico.

2016 - Japan
image credit - https://worldloveflowers.com/events/flower-carpet-2018/


Musings Of A Tired Mummy