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#574626 - 01/11/08 07:18 AM Friday, January 11th, 2008  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,825
Brian Austin Whitney Offline
Brian Austin Whitney  Offline

Top 10 Poster

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,825
Indianapolis, IN USA
Hi Folks,

I thought it was time to post some photos from our Europe trip . We took over 15K photos (and 30 hours of video) but obviously you all don't want to see even a tiny fraction of those. So I've chosen some nice picturesque photos to share and will try to post some from each significant stop on the trip. Today I am going to start with Bruges, Belgium. We stopped there on Day 1 and part of Day 2 of the trip. It's an old medieval town with lots of really old buildings, and a feeling that you walked back in time. It was pouring rain nearly every minute we were there, but if you have to visit a town in a rainstorm, it may as well be one mostly made of stone.

We left the photos pretty much as is. The very dark skies gave it all a moody feel, but the town in reality was as friendly as could be. I would definitely go back there just for the weekly market where we got the world's greatest cheese.. (I mean seriously.. my mouth waters just thinking about how good the cheese was).

[Linked Image]

We landed in Paris, France and picked up a van we leased from Renault in a program called "Eurodrive" which I can't endorse highly enough. If you're from the US, Canada or Australia, you can lease a vehicle for 21 days or more for a fraction of the cost of renting one. For 49 days with a large van we could (and quite often did) camp in (and which got really good diesel gas mileage) it was less than 3K. The cost of renting a similar vehicle was well over 10K. This signed greeted us as we drove into Belgium. There was a border crossing area, but they didn't stop the cars, only semis and large trucks.

[Linked Image]

The biggest initial difference we found in Europe wasn't the languages but the difference in signs. There are some types of signs across Europe that we never did quite figure out the meaning of, even though we drove past them often. It wasn't as complex in countries like Belgium, but when we got to the Eastern European countries where they don't use a western Alphabet, it got a bit dicey sometimes. Fortunately we had a Garmin navigation system which had both US and Euro maps installed and except for one area of Slovakia and later Slovenia, it was amazingly accurate. Here, we see a sign on the square near our hotel in Bruges. We quickly adapted to Kilometers and once used to it, I kind of wish the US would use them too.

[Linked Image]

Another quick difference we found were the massive numbers of bikes in Belgium especially. These folks were everywhere and they didn't slow down around pedestrians at all. As I was taking the photo of the road sign above, this woman nearly ran us over and Linda happened to get a photo of her as she raced towards us both. We were convinced one of us would get run over by a bike (as we watched for cars but were bad about forgetting the racing bikes coming from all directions). Fortunately, we got used to it and survived unscathed by any bike carnage.

[Linked Image]

We quickly noticed a big difference in the comfort level of Europeans with nudity, especially as expressed in their art. Here we found a really beautiful fountain center piece to the new public square they built in Bruges. The figures were all pretty lifelike around the fountain (there were many of them in all sorts of whimsical scenes) and many were nude. In this case, this was a mermaid who seemed to be leaking quite a bit.. perhaps she had a special mermaid feature that allowed her to express water from more than her blowhole like a whale. Needless to say, we'd never see this in the US.

[Linked Image]

This was our first view of the old square in the middle of Bruges. It was magnificent. This was the first evening we arrived. The next morning we'd spend a lot of time in this square at the weekly market. There were restaurants around the square and it's clear that with or without tourists, it's a heavily used part of town. After a quick look at this square, we returned to our hotel room and collapsed after being awake for about 30 hours on the way over from the US. We woke up and it was late. We were starved and couldn't find anything open. No 7-11's in Europe (or anything similar) that are open 24/7 in the towns (though we looked and looked and followed a lot of bad leads as we walked around town in the dark). It did give us a unique look sans tourists or anyone else save for a few late night partiers leaving the bar scene. We made our way back to this square to the one place we knew was open. A little french fry stand (since Belgians take great pride in their French Fries) where we had the only fast food in town.

[Linked Image]

The next morning we visited the weekly market in the main old square in Bruges. They had a plethora (or perhaps cornucopia is a better word) of fruits, vegetable, meats, cheeses, baked goods and flowers to choose from in one of the nicest markets I've ever seen anywhere. Most of the stands had free samples and the tastes of the fruit were both familiar but a little exotic. (The grapes had a taste I've never found before). It was hard to choose what to get because we wanted everything, but knew we'd have carry whatever we picked up the rest of the morning.

[Linked Image]

So we decided on some grapes, and to get some meat, cheese and bread. We started to scope out what we wanted and as we sampled stuff we also got to talk to the people selling it. Most of them spoke either a lot of English or no English at all. But all of them were friendly.

[Linked Image]

But none were friendlier than our cheese ladies. They couldn't have been more charming and welcoming and they not only let us sample nearly everything in the counter, they told us about their happy cows and their business and their families and by the time we got done, we had their contact info and a large sack full of the best cheeses I have ever had. They even threw in some free Chocolate Mousse for each of us as a surprise. If I lived in Bruges full time, I'd make it an automatic weekly mission to buy cheese from these ladies. Yum!

[Linked Image]

Finding meat wasn't as easy. The most attractice meat stand was this one at the end of the marketplace. As with the others, the people working there were very friendly, but spoke no English. We did get enough conversation going to ask them what their most exotic meat was. (We were looking for Pickled Herrings, another Belgian speciality). They said they didn't have any herrings or anything exotic. I asked what the meat on a stick was in the counter. She explained it was just some pigeon. Yup. Pigeon on a stick. Now I had heard of Guinea Pig on a stick in South America being a pretty common everyday food, but not pigeon on a stick. I view pigeons pretty much as Rats with Wings. But in Bruges.. they're just another everyday food source. I am sorry to say I didn't get one. I kind of wish I had... but then again.. I'm kinda glad I didn't.

[Linked Image]

After getting our bread, cheese, salami, grapes and mousse we headed out to see the rest of Bruges. We walked into one of the main buildings on the square and came upon this really beautiful medieval courtyard. It was pouring down rain, but we got some really nice photos. This one is Linda's favorite.


Bruges is known for their hand made Lace. I am not that into lace, but Linda tells me it was nice. It was very pricey and for whatever reason, the lace shops seemed the most "touristy" thing in the town that otherwise was mostly populated with locals as it was off season.


If there's such thing as a "money shot" in this town, this is it. Bruges is a canal town. Though we actually spent more of our time in the non canal areas, it's undeniably stunning in it's beauty and vibe. You can see the rain on the water and that rain was a big part of the reason we didn't see as much as we'd hoped. There are boat tours (hence the boats in the foreground) and these buildings that make you think you're in the 1600-1700's. Very cool!


Yet another awe inspiring courtyard with ornate buildings and cobblestone centers. Here's a long line of carriages for hire waiting for someone to come out in the rain and hire them. This is probably pretty much how this same courtyard looked 200 years ago. We met a really nice pair of folks from England in this courtyard. It was a brother and sister in law. The brother in law had been married to the woman's sister who had passed away. He was getting up in age (in his 80's) and wanted to see the areas he once fought in in WW2 one more time in his life. So she agreed to travel with him (she was about 20 years younger) and they were both a delight. They were the first friendly random folks we talked to, something we'd do more and more as the trip progressed. We met them in this square and I'll always think of them when I see this photo.


We did some window shopping around the narrow winding streets in Bruges on our way back to the Van. We had checked out of the hotel room in the morning before we left and needed to get on the road to Ghent before it got too late. The fresh baked goods, fresh meat, fresh fruits and vegetables and so on were so intoxicating. We typically go to the mega supermarket (Target, Wal-Mart, Meijers etc.) twice a month to get all our food. It's a very different way of living in Europe (much like Manhattan) where people more often get 1 or 2 days worth of food and stopping at the various stores is a daily ritual. I kind of wish we had that type of life sometimes.. perhaps we'd be less isolated from people in the US. We're all too holed up in our suburban houses or our city apartments.


Something else you're not likely soon to see in the US. Cuban cigars. It's kind of funny how seeing this almost seemed criminal.. like to go inside would be breaking a law (which it would be in the US since all things Cuban are banned). Seeing the shop sort of makes you think it's a bit silly to ban products from anywhere if you live in a free country. Food or in this case expensive fat cancer sticks for thought.


It's simply NOT Belgium without a Belgian Waffle. We stopped at this little waffle shop 2 times in less than 24 hours. The waffles were mouth watering good. They pile all sorts of stuff on them (here we're having tropical fruits) but even by itself it was a sweet treat. And lest you think otherwise, the waffles are not just for tourists. Everywhere we went, including places far from any tourists, the locals were buying waffles.. in supermarkets it was as common as people buying packages of English muffins. Pre-cooked waffles. We interviewed this poor girl and probably drove her crazy.. but she made a mean waffle.


Our last stop in Bruges was to their outer ring. There's a kind of circle around the city where the canals finally stop. On the levees, there's windmills. This one is for show.. but many are being used for real. And there's some giant windmills just in the background of this shot which power stuff in the town today. We didn't get to make it up to Amsterdam, so this had to suffice for our pseudo Dutch experience.

I hope you enjoy this tiny view and recap of what we saw.


Brian Austin Whitney
Just Plain Folks
Skype: Brian Austin Whitney
Facebook: www.facebook.com/justplainfolks

"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney

"It's easier to be the bigger man when you actually are..."

[Linked Image]
#574714 - 01/11/08 02:17 PM Re: Friday, January 11th, 2008 [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 6,624
Everett Adams Offline
Top 40 Poster
Everett Adams  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 6,624
,NL Canada
My wife and I got to visit Germany back in the late 70's, stayed with my wife's sister and her husband, who was stationed there with the Canadian forces. We got to visit some castles and some huge churches, ate at some interesting restaurants where they would not let your plate run dry of food, you keep eating and they kept adding more food to your plate. We got over to France, I found it to be dirty compared to Germany. We didn't get to see much more of Europe. My brother-in law was getting transferred back to Canada and had to ship his main car back to Canada before we got there, he also had an old Volkswagen which he used in the meantime, but he didn't trust it to go all that far from home base.

I know that it was cheaper to buy wine than drinking water at that time. It sure is a different lifestyle than in North America. I doubt that I'll ever get back there again, but I enjoyed my visit, would liked to have seen more but time and money was in short supply.

The more you taste the bitterness of defeat, the sweeter final victory will be

May the flowers of love forever bloom in your garden of life




#574726 - 01/11/08 02:44 PM Re: Friday, January 11th, 2008 [Re: Everett Adams]  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,825
Brian Austin Whitney Offline
Brian Austin Whitney  Offline

Top 10 Poster

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,825
Indianapolis, IN USA
All those photos were from the first 24 hours of the trip. I will try to post more from each day as time allows. (I spent WAY too much time digging those out and resizing them etc..). Thanks for taking a look Everett. Italy was by far the dirtiest country in Europe. Germany was in fact very clean, but so was France. The roads in Germany were the most impressive thing. Not a pot hole to be found. Even the far off back roads were meticulously perfect. I don't know how they keep ALL the roads so perfect at the same time. Even the highways had very little construction.


Brian Austin Whitney
Just Plain Folks
Skype: Brian Austin Whitney
Facebook: www.facebook.com/justplainfolks

"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney

"It's easier to be the bigger man when you actually are..."

[Linked Image]
#574727 - 01/11/08 02:44 PM Re: Friday, January 11th, 2008 [Re: Everett Adams]  
Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 678
Lee Arten Offline
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Lee Arten  Offline
Serious Contributor

Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 678
Not everything Cuban is banned in the U.S.
The local university has had Cuban music groups play on campus a couple of times.
Probably better for ya than cigars anyway.

"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Johnson.
#574762 - 01/11/08 05:18 PM Re: Friday, January 11th, 2008 [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 1,441
Chuck Crowe Offline
Top 200 Poster
Chuck Crowe  Offline
Top 200 Poster

Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 1,441
Livingston, TX
Wow Brian!

I have no experience like this one to relate. So I'll have to live vicariously through you!

Now I want to go...


#574878 - 01/12/08 01:48 AM Re: Friday, January 11th, 2008 [Re: Chuck Crowe]  
Joined: Jan 2007
Posts: 583
TAMERA64 Offline
Serious Contributor
TAMERA64  Offline
Serious Contributor

Joined: Jan 2007
Posts: 583
Brian and Linda,Your pictures are fantastic! You both do really well with the camera! Thanks for sharing! I feel like I was right there.



#574907 - 01/12/08 03:42 AM Re: Friday, January 11th, 2008 [Re: TAMERA64]  
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 4,653
Emily Sanders Offline
Top 100 Poster
Emily Sanders  Offline
Top 100 Poster

Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 4,653
Santa Monica, CA
What beautiful pictures...makes me want to travel right NOW!
One can learn so much form taking these types of trips. Thanks so much for sharing !


#575080 - 01/12/08 06:35 PM Re: Friday, January 11th, 2008 [Re: Emily Sanders]  
Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 6,624
Everett Adams Offline
Top 40 Poster
Everett Adams  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2002
Posts: 6,624
,NL Canada
Their roads are well constructed. They were doing a bit of work on their main highway when I was there. There was a foot or two of concrete, reinforced with steel bars and then the asphalt was put on top of that. They have a lot of heavy traffic on that road so it has to stand up. One thing I noticed, all heavy trucks could only use that road at night, when heavy day traffic started, trucks had to use side roads. They had cobblestones at the entrance of their off ramps so traffic had to slow down to a safe speed, on the main highway they had no speed limit.

#575168 - 01/13/08 02:43 AM Re: Friday, January 11th, 2008 [Re: Everett Adams]  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,825
Brian Austin Whitney Offline
Brian Austin Whitney  Offline

Top 10 Poster

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,825
Indianapolis, IN USA
We got the European travel bug by watching some travel shows.. then the more research we did, the more we wanted to go there. Google earth solidified it because you could see amazing photos in every city and could visualize being there and that made it irresistable. Hopefully we can share our experience and motivate some of you to get out here. It definitely gives you plenty to draw on when being creative.


Brian Austin Whitney
Just Plain Folks
Skype: Brian Austin Whitney
Facebook: www.facebook.com/justplainfolks

"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney

"It's easier to be the bigger man when you actually are..."

[Linked Image]
#581224 - 02/01/08 08:32 AM Re: Friday, January 11th, 2008 [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 2,707
MidniteBob Offline
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MidniteBob  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 2,707
Raleigh, ya'll
For what it's worth...Saw a trailer for a new film this last week. Can't remember the exact title, but it had 'Bruges'. The premise is that two hitmen(?) are ordered to go and wait in Bruges for further contact...Weird stuff happens to them there, and that seems to be the whole basis...Having spent time in Bruges before, I'm looking forward to seeing the city on the big screen, even if they're making it sound like the Toledo, Ohio, of Europe.


Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

#581401 - 02/01/08 06:50 PM Re: Friday, January 11th, 2008 [Re: MidniteBob]  
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,825
Brian Austin Whitney Offline
Brian Austin Whitney  Offline

Top 10 Poster

Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 18,825
Indianapolis, IN USA
It's called "In Bruges" and I saw most of the stuff in the photos above in the trailer. We can't wait to see it. = )


Brian Austin Whitney
Just Plain Folks
Skype: Brian Austin Whitney
Facebook: www.facebook.com/justplainfolks

"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney

"It's easier to be the bigger man when you actually are..."

[Linked Image]
#586274 - 02/13/08 11:17 PM Re: Friday, January 11th, 2008 [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 10,383
John Voorpostel Offline
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John Voorpostel  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 10,383
Spent some time in Bruges myself Brian. Great town. I was there for their annual "Procession Of The Holy Blood" which, if you do not know about it, is when people get all dressed up and march a relic of "The Cross" through town. It was supposed to have been picked up by the Count of Flanders when he went on a crusade.

Did you make it to Ghent as well??

If writing ever becomes work I think I'm going to have to stop

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