Blankenberge and Bruges

Today is a public holiday and, because none of the boys had any activities planned for Sunday, we decided to go out for the day. So the normal Sunday morning lie-in was cancelled and we made the two hour drive to Blankenberge.

This is a nice little seaside town and one that we may well return to when the weather is a bit less wintry. Going to the beach in November isn’t clever, which is why we went to visit the Serpentarium. Handily, we have ZOO memberships which (for an annual price) gives us free entry to Antwerp Zoo, Planckendael and the Serpentarium.

The Serpentarium isn’t large — it took us less than an hour to see everything — but there is a lot to see. They also bring a snake out every hour, which provides an opportunity to interact with the animal, although I was a bit disappointed to discover that we weren’t able to actually handle the snake.

And then we were done and, after a spot of lunch, we headed into Bruges.

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Bruges is a lovely old town and, by parking just outside the city we were able to park for free. So after a twenty minute walk, we came face to face with the fact that, for a family of five, every activity will set us bach about €50. This will only get worse when the twins are a little older and start paying higher prices. So while there were plenty of places we would have liked to see — most notably the Historium — we gave most of these a miss and, instead, too a horse-drawn carriage ride around the city.

We need to look into what sorts of deals or tourist memberships we can find, but we will certainly be going back.

Beer-Museum

After the festival, the feast

Halloween has been and gone and we have started thinking about maybe clearing up some of the decorations. First on the list was the pumpkins — three of them, all of them carved and left to sit on the wall at the front of the house so their flashing red eyes could scare the neighbours.

Eve did ask me to bring these inside so she could see if any of the pumpkin flesh was still edible enough to make yet more pumpkin soup. Given the size of the snail population that has moved in, however, this is not going to happen.

The chickens will eat well tonight.

Antipopulism

I mentioned, last week, that Flanders now has a government. This is a three-party coalition made up of the centre-right separatists of the N-VA, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal OpenVLD. Notable is the fact that, even though the far-right Vlaams Belang did well in the election, they have been excluded from the government.

Inevitably, some people are not happy and the first of (the organisers hope) a series of demonstrations will take place this coming Sunday.

The part of the article that leapt out at me, though, was this:

The Facebook page of the event announced that banners and flags are welcome, but “slogans with forbidden signs and racism” will not be tolerated.

Anyone who feels the need to tell their supporters to keep their racism under wraps has lost the argument before they began.

Excuses

Whenever Belgium has an election, much time is spent on forming coalitions and these happen at all levels. The last set of elections were on May 26th and, while the federal government negotiations are still ongoing, the separatist, centre-right and liberal parties in the Flemish parliament have managed to agree a coalition which means that Flanders now has a government.

It’s not been the best of starts for the leader of this coalition, Jan Jambon, who was caught playing a game on his smartphone while a parliamentary session was in progress. He does, however, have an explanation:

… he was playing ‘Toy Blast’ and not ‘Angry Birds’ as had been widely reported.

So that’s alright then.

English people speaking Dutch

This is what I asked for.

This is what the nice young man behind the bar handed to me.

I’m not sure how I managed to mispronounce Chimay Blauw quite that badly but, given that I did, I should probably stick to coffee for the rest of today.

For the record, I don’t normally drink bottled water. In fact, I never drink bottled water because the very idea of putting water into bottles and then charging people for the inconvenience strikes me as being fundamentally stupid. But it’s popular in Belgium.

And sparkling bottled water tastes disgusting.

21 Kilos of pumpkin

We have more pumpkins. This is the most incredible plant. Once it’s in the ground, I do absolutely nothing apart from a (very) occasional spot of weeding and yet it keeps on growing and today we harvested two more.

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The big on is 21 kilos, the largest we’ve managed so far, and there are more out there still growing strongly.

I’m ready for Halloween now.

Guilty

We don’t let the boys use their tablets on school nights which can lead to me feeling a bit bad if one of them wanders into the office and catches me looking at Board Game Arena. So today’s Wumo strikes a little close to home.

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That said, I do stay away from the phone while the kids are around and I try to ensure that any online activity on my part is limited to stuff that actually needs to be done.

Chili

We lost a cat at the weekend.

On Saturday morning Eve let both cats out, as usual. We were out for most of the day and when we returned on Saturday evening, only Pepper came back.

A neighbour found Chili’s body yesterday. There were no wounds or obvious causes of death — he appears to have just dropped dead which, according to the vet, is a lot more common than people (or me, at least) realise.

The boys want to bury the cat — which we shall be doing tonight. To mark the spot, they are keen on planting a chili plant, which is suitably appropriate but something that will need to wait until spring.

More pumpkins

A couple of weeks ago we harvested the first of our pumpkins and, yesterday I checked on how the rest of them were doing.

We have another monster in there.

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It looks like we shall be very well stocked by Halloween.