In search of castles - or was that umbrellas? - in picture perfect Ghent

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day.

Just thunder on off and go rain on someone else’s parade, if you must put a damper on yet another sunny day!  And, like seriously, go line your ducks all in a row and go splish splash in someone else’s bath!  And, while you’re at it, puddle jump on over into the lake, will ya, and drown your sorrows away as you cry me a river of your oh so annoying crocodile tears. 

Did I happen to mention that it rained cats and dogs during my four-day excursion to medieval Ghent?  And, you’ll never guess which mantra I chanted over and over and over again until ad nausea set on in?

Yikes!! It's still raining!!

Perhaps I should therefore title all upcoming blog posts “The rain chronicles:  How one pink sneaker clad ol’ Auntie puddle-jumped her way across Europe”.  Followed by the ever so informative “How not to go broke as you dart from bistro to shop to bistro again on quest to outrun inclement weather”.  Or, how about the immensely popular “Drenched.  A soaker of a tale – trading in sunscreen and bikinis for boots and brollies”.

You get the picture.  Or rain slicker and umbrella.

Dank and drizzle ruled the day with the sun reluctant to come out to play.  A blanket of grey loomed ominously on the horizon - quite the juxtaposition to the kaleidoscope of brightly hued parasols that dotted the landscape for what appeared to be miles on end.  Even locals opted to stay indoors and cuddle, lest risk being caught in the midst of a downpour like none other.

Not surprisingly, the only ones out and about were Travel Bud and I and a handful of wet and shivering tourists, all clutching sopping maps and rain splattered guidebooks.  No longer on the hunt for a patio with a view, our priorities had now shifted to seeking refuge from the storm and scoring waterproof slickers and all essential weather gear.

So much for snapping that National Geographic worthy pic of age-old castles set against a backdrop of cotton candy fluff and turquoise skies.  As for that leisurely boat ride along the canal?  Clearly not meant to be.  Squinting in our oh so chic sunnies and catching rays off the dancing waves would just have to wait until the next time around.

No sun.  But at least it's no longer raining!

Guess we’ll just have to make do with an itinerary of quite the different sort and set up camp in a quaint and charming bistro and languish the afternoon away, imbibe in a Stella or two and watch the world trip, slip and skedaddle on by.

After all, things could be worse.  They could be fresh out of Stella!

Come hang out with cuckoo ol’ Auntie Nora and sidekick Oz, as we ditch our sopping wet Keds for rubber boots and brollies and trek around Ghent in fashionable style.  And, what better way to appreciate age-old architecture and beer than from the comfort of your cozy cafĂ©?  Looks like a return trip in sunnier weather is definitely next on the agenda!

Next blog – In three weeks!!  Wednesday, April 13th!!

Catch up with the adventures of cuckoo ol’ Auntie Nora and sidekick Oz in Belgium!  Stay tuned!

In search of a helping hand in Antwerpen

Legend has it that a Roman general slayed an evil giant, chopped of its head and hands and threw them into the river Scheldt.  Whether fact or fiction, truth or exaggeration, the tale lives on in Belgium’s second largest city, a place, where – you guessed it – images of said hand dominate the landscape.  The imprint of a hand is prominently displayed on the city’s coat of arms and is a symbol of liberation from the tyrannical rule of Druoon Antigoon.  According to myth, the monster exacted a toll from ships that traversed the river, forcing them to hand over their wealth as well as half of their cargo.  Punishment was severe for those sailors who refused to comply, as their hands were chopped off and thrown into the water.  It therefore comes as no surprise that the origin of the city of Antwerp’s name is derived from the Dutch word “handwerpen, translated into “to throw a hand”.

But Travel Bud and I knew none of this.  Nada.  Zilch.  Zero.  Clueless about myths, legends and monsters that hide under the bed, our sole mission on that ordinary day was to explore and meander and then wander some more.  And, of course, imbibe in some Stella of the Artois inspired kind as well as munch on frites as we people watched the afternoon away.  Forever on the lookout for a patio with a view, our needs were quite simple - one hour of sightseeing rewarded with two hours of liquid replenishment and feasting.  On a break from squabbling, our mood was quite cheery, despite overcast skies and a forecast calling for rain.  Let the patio search begin….

As much as I would love to write that the day went off without a hitch or even a hint of a glitch, I have no choice but to pen the truth of what exactly transpired on that fateful day.  After pounding the pavement for the better part of the morn, with our tootsies close to blistered and our tummies ravenous, the hunt was on for a bistro with a view.  Should be a piece of cake, non?  Whilst the options were endless, some type of agreement as where to dine must first be hammered out.  Quite the unadventurous diner, reluctant to branch out and sample unfamiliar dishes, I was more than satisfied to gorge on pizza Margherita, morning, noon and night.  My companion, on the other hand, had a more refined palate, accustomed to feasting on exorbitantly over-priced five star gastronomic cuisine.

Now, where exactly was I going with this?  Obviously somewhere and just about anywhere, as it had now started to rain cats and dogs, forcing us to seek shelter wherever from the storm.  And, the point is, you ask?  Hold your horses…. I’m getting there…

Ducking into the nearest edifice, the drama soon unleashed….

With nature causing a bit of havoc outdoors, a nature call of yet another sort beckoned, so down the restaurant stairs I raced, sequestering myself in the washroom stall.  Unfortunately, in my haste, I neglected to check the locking mechanism on the door and found myself trapped with quite a finicky and uncooperative deadlock.  Not much of an issue for normal folk, but cause for an undignified meltdown worthy of an Academy Award performance for those of us with closet claustrophobic issues.  You know whom I’m referring to here.  Yep, I was trapped and not going anywhere anytime soon - perhaps ever – or in all likelihood, or worse case scenario, possibly never.

Let me spare you, dear readers, the rest of the sordid details, so in order to make a long story short, nothing like a truckload of tears, wails, screams and pleas to usher aid my way, with several helping hands joining together to force open said jammed door.  

How appropriate – or was that ironic – that this happened in Antwerpen, of all places?  To throw a hand just took on an entirely new meaning.  At least for me.  Just saying….

It’s always an adventure hanging out with cuckoo ol’ Auntie Nora and sidekick Oz, as one of us (who, me??) is either having a breakdown, meltdown, showdown or frenzied shopaholic bargain hunting cyclonic moment but nothing tops the oh so undignified sweepstakes category when all hell broke loose on a random October afternoon in Antwerp when one middle aged older woman (who, me??) got stuck in a bathroom stall.   
But, on the bright side…. at least the squabbling has been kept to a minimum…. at least for this week’s blog post!

Next post – in three weeks – Wednesday, March 23rd!!  Stay tuned!!