Ghent by Night

Ghent by night is a magical place. We arrived from Brussels Airport by train at around 8pm, then took a tram which left us very near our B&B. Actually, the tram left us right in front of the Gravensteen, which is a medieval castle right at the heart of the tiny cobbled city. The Gravensteen, originally built in 1180, had served as the seat for the Counts of Flanders until the 14th century, and was brought to life again in 1885 by the City of Ghent, which renovated it.

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Needless to be said, the sight of those historic ramparts glimmering like a fairytale at 9.30pm, was a real sight for sore eyes, especially after a journey consisting of a tiring 3.5hr flight, 1hr train, and the 10min tram.

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We were travelling with only our hand-luggage, since we were staying for a romantic long weekend in Belgium, however we were so tired, that these actually seemed to weigh much more than they did.

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Hubby was hungry and I really needed to sit down (and admire Ghent-by-night). As we walked slowly down the main cobbled streets around the Gravensteen, young people and tourists thronged the many small bars and cafes dotting the landscape. Most of these, I was overjoyed to note, sported windows full of a myriad of different types of beers and ciders! What can I say – I simply had to stop for a drink! My other half took the opportunity to buy a cone of the famous Belgian chips, which, placed in (yes) a cone of rolled-up newspaper, seriously rivalled those of Britain… and the sauce! Omg!

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Thirst and hunger appeased, we walked on towards our cozy bed and breakfast. Actually, at that point I did not actually know what to expect from our accomodation. The trip had been a Valentine’s pressie by the hubby, who had arranged everything himself. As we rang the doorbell and waited in the nippy chill (it WAS around 11pm by this time), a sweet eccentric lady opened the glass door for us, while a black and white cat bumped jocosely around her feet. The Lady, we were to learn later, was a live-at-home artist whose Asian-inspired paintings belied the fact that she was a spiritualist and a Buddhist (she was Belgian, but had travelled extensively to Asia). Honestly, I wish I had had the time to strike up a real friendship with her, but we were there to explore Belgium and enjoy the weekend togather after all, not spend the time with our landlady hehe.

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The b&b was simply charming. There were only two rooms to let, and I admit, my love had once again shown he really knew me by choosing the one I would have picked out myself. It was called ‘The Peacock Room’, and it was decorated in a vintage chick style. The color was, of course, peacock blue, and the walls had been painted with a couple of interesting murals by the landlady herself. The double canopy bed was adorned with Chinese lanterns and wind-chimes. There was also an ensuite bathroom and a tiny kitchenette with a well-stocked fridge, and complete with a small collection of quirky teapots!! Cute!

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We were really exhausted at this point, so after a quick shower and some minor unpacking, we went to bed, obviously looking forward to the first day of our stay (as well as the home-made breakfast which the landlady promised to leave outside our door the following morning)!

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… more to come in another post

P.S The photos, of course, are originals and were all taken by me on site.

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I have fallen in love with SOMEONE ELSE… in France!!

When one talks or thinks about France, one usually associates it with chic couture, smartly dressed divas sipping martinis under sun-protecting umbrellas, handsome men driving fast convertible cars, or high heels tapping moonlight-kissed pavements while inebriating red, white and rose wines are consumed by the bottle.

You think that this is what my one week long holiday in France (which I’m in the middle of right now) is all about?

LOL WRONG!!

All I packed were three changes of clothing, some underwear, and the usual hand-luggage-load of books, and the clothes consist mainly of two pairs of trousers, three long warm cardigans and one pair of very flat, very strong boots. Why? Because this is a CULTURE ie. CASTLE-oriented holiday – meaning days of walking, climbing, hurrying and walking even more, in order to see as many castles, cathedrals, museums, monuments, abbeys and ruins as possible. And if a couple of coffee shops or bars get thrown in randomly, fine, but the main aim is to actually enjoy the COUNTRY of France, meaning its rich history, culture and natural environment, NOT waste time in shopping, wine tasting, and wannabe snobbish pursuits (which i can do well enough in my own country anyways, thanks very much). Sure if i wanted to go sway my ass in St Tropez or the Cote d’Azure i could have, we are not that far away (only around an hour and a half by car), and my ass is not so bad either ;p But really, I’m not interested.

What interests me are the Cathar castles in the Languedoc area, which are around two and a half hours away, but worth the drive (not to mention the climb, since most of them are situated on rocky mountains, only accessible on foot – thank all the Gods for my good boots).

This morning, we visited the County of Orange, most notable for its HUGE Roman amphitheatre, one of the only three in the world which still has an intact stage wall. The place is magnificent, and photos truly don’t do it justice.

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Between visiting Orange and the next castle on our itinerary (this was the picturusque Chateau Grignan), we walked around a bit, and amidst the kisses and laughter, spotted one of the cutest little teashops i have ever seen in my life.

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We stopped for a strong coffee (in my bf’s case) and a ‘French’ hot choc + slice of lemon merengue + strawberry + blueberry cake = HEAVEN for moi.

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Seriously – O…M…G

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I’m in love 🙂

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Knights in Shining Armour. Do they really exist??

‘In movies, knights in shining armour are the order of the day. Be they the metaphorical knights in love stories, who save damsels in distress from semi-perilous or uncomfortable situations, or actual medieval knights jousting during festive tourneys or challenges.

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Real war however, is very different. Actual knights during medieval times were war machines. They were men trained to kill, men trained to obey orders, men following a cause. Training to murder someone in the name of honour is a paradox. At least, that’s how we perceive it in this day and age – when the death penalty is a subject which promotes controversy, as are issues such as suicide and euthanasia. At the time, it was the most common thing in the world however – something which, I think, people of our age can never fully comprehend. That is how much the concept of killing has changed.

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From the youngest age, Maltese children are all taught their historical background as Maltese citizens at school. We are told about the glorious Knights Hospitallers of Saint John, who came to Malta after battling in the crusades, and established the different auberges in Birgu and then in Valletta. Most importantly, we are taught about the Grand Siege, when the Knights and the Maltese battled against the Turks, who wanted to invade our islands. These are our roots and it is what we are made of. The blood and the sweat of those who fought in the name of freedom, will never be forgotten. And yet, do we really know what that means?

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Yesterday, I started researching and reading a bit about the Order of Saint John in Malta, and I remembered certain things which at the time, did not seem important to a child’s mind, but which now have different connotations. I read and remembered that they are the oldest Order of Knights still in existence, that they were rivals with the Order of the Templars, and that while they were in Malta, since a large percentage of their income had been reduced for a number of reasons, they turned into smugglers and corsairs, that is pirates who raided Turkish towns upon the coast of North Africa, and then sold the plunder they took.

Knights turned pirates, warrior monks battling Turks …’

This article is original and copyrighted. Want to read the rest of it? Please visit –

http://www.eve.com.mt/2015/02/08/knights-in-shining-armour-do-they-really-exist/

Thanks!! Would be interesting to read what you think about it too. You can comment here or on eve.com

Curious? Wanna come too? Revealing ALL about next week ;-p

Have you ever been to France? Do you know of any great historical or picturesque places, and will you please comment and advise me if there is somewhere important in the area that I’m missing?

Finally, Monday is the BIG DAY. We’ll be going off to Southern France for a whole week! I’ve been looking forward to this for so long, and now that it’s finally here, I can’t begin to assimilate it. So, in order for me to gloss over the particulars (again) and for you to have an idea about where I’m going, I am going to list all the places we have researched, found on the map, inserted in the SatNav and in our day-by-day itinerary (because yes, that is how we roll). However do not think that everything is or will go as planned – we always seem to find ourselves in strange places, exploring stuff we had never heard about, and not just the things we planned.

                                                                      Monday

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   Marseilles
Cathedrale de la Major
Le Fort Saint Jean
Abbaye Saint Victor
Notre Dame de la Garde
Musee des Beaux-Arts

Tuesday

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Chateau de Lastours
Medieval City of Carcassone
Chateau de Montsegur

Wednesday

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Caderousse
Orange
Ancient Roman Theatre
The Triumphal Arch of Orange
Chateau des Adhemar
Chateau de Suze-de-la-Rousse
Chateau de Grignan

Thursday

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Fort de Salses
Chateau de Querbius
Chateau de Peyrepertuse
Beziers
Cathedrale Saint Nazaire

Friday

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Arles Amphitheatre
Abbaye Saine Pierre de Montmajour
Barbedal Aqueduct
Tarascon Chateau
Chateau des Baux de Provence
Chateau de Gordes

Saturday

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Catellum Aquae
Arena of Nimes
Valeinte’s Half-Day Cruise and Lunch on the Rhone River
Papal Palace
Rocher des Doms

Sunday

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Anywhere which takes our fancy
Abbaye de Fontfroide
St Fulcran Cathedral
Saint Michel de Grandmont Priory

Have I missed anything? I DO plan to visit Northern France, Paris, etc in future too :0)

PANIC – Lovers’ Day!!

So, last week i WOKE UP TO THE REALIZATION THAT IT’S VALENTINE’S SOON!

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And I must be honest – I panicked.

After having spent so much time and money over my Xmas presents, and then finally being able to say that they were all distributed and received and that that it was over… I remember THIS.

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Does it ever end? Why do we human beings need to give gifts to show someone we care?

Happily for me, in the 21st century there exists that most awesome and fabulously helpful of things – INTERNET, where one can browse and shop at leisure without having to waste a day in order to catch the bus (I don’t have a car) and visit a million and one ‘likely’ shops before actually deciding on something. I spent an hour or two on google, and voila! Problem solved!

Phew!

That being said, at least I had already solved the ‘where to go’ issue since we booked a trip to France for Valentine’s, months ago.

By the way, I wrote an article about this Valentine’s Day issue too 😀

Here it is – http://www.eve.com.mt/2015/01/20/where-to-go-for-valentines-day/

Hope you like it!

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Lazy Sundays – Castles in France and Cuddles

I love lazy Sundays – in a world where every day is a constant battle with time, they are a real jewel. After working full time for five days, Saturday is always a hectic day too since all the chores and friend/family stuff tend to take place then. However Sundays are days to laze around with one’s partner, enjoy hours in bed, then getting up for lunch, and, in my case, play PS4 or read or watch a favorite T.V series.

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THIS particular Sunday we have some homework to do. However it is an exciting type of homework.

1. Measure furniture in order to be sure it will fit in the new house, when this is selected.
2. Plan for our Valentine’s week holiday to Southern France. We’ve already selected the spots we wanna see, but now we’ve gotta decide how we are gonna visit them in sequence, depending on their location and opening times, as well as insert the details into the SatNav.
3. Peruse a number of links of house-selling sites and talk about whether we should go view them or not.

There – that’s the kind of ‘homework’ I like 🙂

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Btw, this is one of the castles we are DEFINITELY gonna visit. It is one of the castles which belonged to the Catholic sect of the Cathars. Never heard of them? Perhaps it’s because, since their creed ‘differed’ from the main accepted Catholic one, they were hunted down, eradicated and burned by the Roman Catholic Church first in a trumped up crusade, and then for heresy. Hint: all the wealth, castles, lands and money belonging to the Cathars was ‘confiscated’ by the Church when these massacred them… tolerance and love aye? lol

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In an aside, the Cathars had women priests and thought that males and females were of equal importance and should have equal opportunities and power in life… obviously, for the ‘accepted’ Church, this too was heretical… righttt…

The Languedoc, which is a region in the South West of France, is full of Cathar Castles, which are the most beautiful castles in France, since the region itself was one of the most rich and fruitful (obviously, since the Church took so much bother and killed so many innocent people to get to it).

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