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Brussels is Officially Bilingual

Brussels is a little bit of everything, an agglomeration of 19 communes forming one of the three Regions of the federal Belgian state. The capital of the Kingdom of Belgium, the headquarters of the French and Flemish Communities. Brussels is also the home of the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.

Since 1 January 2002 the EURO is the official currency of Belgium, together with 10 other European countries. Around the main town square there are a lot of money exchange booths, banks and automatic money machines. Most shops, restaurants and hotels accept all major Credit Cards.

In recent decades, the arrival of European officials as well as of immigrants and refugees from all over the world have made it a bustling town with a very colourful, varied population, but also one with increasing traffic and parking problems. But fortunately, there are spaces and parks where one can find some quiet and rest away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The world famous peeing boy can be seen every day and night at the corner of Eikstraat Stoofstraat near the Grand Place. Between April and September the town square and its buildings are illuminated at night to the rhythm of classical music.

Created in 1958 as part of the World Fair, the Atomium is one of Brussels most recognisable sights, and at 102 metres tall it affords a wonderful view to those who reach the top. Mini Europe is also worth a visit, with its small scale representations of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and more. Representing Belgian irreverence, Mannekin Pis, the world famous statue, can be found at the corner of Eikstraat Stoofstraat, near the Grand Place.

The country objectively has the best beer in the world. Therefore, your stay in Brussels cannot be complete without a visit to one of the many typical and beautiful cafes and pubs that you will find here. Try the local beers of Brussels Gueuze or fruit beer, cherry beer, raspberry beer, peach beer or a wonderful Trappist beer, made in one of the Abbeys of Belgium. Be Careful when drinking a Trappist beer. These beers tend to be very strong.

Everywhere in the city you will find chocolate shops.

Brussels is officially bilingual, French and Dutch, although French, mother tongue of the majority of the population, is the lingua franca and the most widely used language in Brussels.

10 Tips to Avoid the Holiday Bulge and Inner Thoughts About Them

Do you find it almost impossible to stay conscious and contentious about weight and nutrition during the holidays? Of course you do. More than half of all Americans are overweight. All American’s are in this together.

You can take heart from a new government study which shows most Americans gain about a pound over the holiday. You’re not alone. The study shows that during the holiday period, for the people in the study, two main things influenced the holiday weight gain: level of hunger and level of activity. Those who reported being less active or more hungry had the greatest weight gain.

If you can stay focused on dealing with just those two things, you’ll probably win.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of weight gain,” according to Dr. Samuel Klein. He is Director of the Center for Human Nutrition as Washington University in St. Louis, MO. “Preventing the increase in weight is a lot easier and better than actually gaining weight and then trying to get it off again.”

The answer is simple. Eat less and exercise more.

The good news is that most of the people overestimate how much they had gained. Fewer than 10% gain 5 pounds or over.

The bad news is that although the one pound gained seems like a small amount, that weight WAS NOT LOST during the rest of the year and those single pounds accumulate over the years and add up to obesity.

Here are some helpful hints and tips put together by skinny people to help you avoid the tiny little weight watching issues you face during this joyous season [along with the thoughts going through weight watcher Wanda's head as she listened to the skinny people happily chirping out their advice. NOTE: Wanda isn't her real name.]

1).”You SHOULD stay active, darling. The best thing for you to do is to stick to your regular schedule and routine.” [Routine? Wanda's family doesn't have no stinking routine in November and December. Wanda doesn't have no stinking time for her regular yoga classes, workouts at the gym, long dog walks, you ninny, because in addition to shopping, home decorating and cooking, Wanda has to take every one of the kids to EXTRA practices and activity for pageants, concerts and freaking fund raisers! Wanda's too ACTIVE to stay active, darling.]

2). “Don’t let yourself get hungry. Don’t arrive at the party starving. Be sure you eat your normal, healthy meals, especially breakfast. A protein rich breakfast “resets” the body and starts it off not hungry. Don’t starve yourself, thinking you can “save up” calories. Fill up before the big holiday feasts with healthy vegetable snacks.” [Normal? There ain't no stinking "normal" in November and December, and Wanda's not sure she ever has normal, healthy meals. She's got a life to run. Wanda doesn't't't know where YOU'RE having Thanksgiving, but Wanda's family's appetizer table has God's own Cheese Puffs and Ruffles with sour cream/onion dip, Brie on sourdough and 80 plates of cookies and bowls of peanut M&Ms on every available surface! There is nary a vegetable snack in sight.]

3) “How can you keep the pounds off at calorie rich parties? Stay away from the food! Literally … stay on the other side of the room from the buffet table or appetizers tray. [Wanda liked this one. She'll just go plant herself in the bathroom and lock the door. Maybe she can find a place under the pile of coats in the back bedroom. A nap sounds nice.]

4). “Wear clothes which are slightly tight and your favorites. You’ll think twice about the third helping if you can’t let your belt out a notch. Always remember there’s about 8 pounds between dress sizes.” [What skinny sadist came up with this bright idea? Wanda bets she's a size 2, and hides an eating disorder!]

5). “Portion size is the real secret. Keep salad portions large and all other portions extra small. When it comes to sweets, think quality, not availability. Just because the candy corn is there doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Don’t be afraid to cut off “just a bite” of a high calorie treat. Put the rest back on the serving tray. If you’re the hostess, pre-cut high calorie items into tiny portions to help your friends. Just a bite may be plenty to satisfy you. [Just a bite! Just a bite? Wanda's stressed to the max and darn it, Wanda DESERVES a candy treat ... and a WHOLE one. Heck, Wanda's double stressed, so she deserves ...]

6). “You don’t need to be stressed. Take Time for You. Get a massage or a nice facial. Sit down and slip your shoes off.” [Don't you know Wanda's facing a month and a half on shopping overdrive and the only place to sit down is at the mall's fast-food court? McDonald's doesn't have a massage spa. If Wanda slips her shoes off, she'll NEVER get them back on again, you fool.]

7). “Keep up your food diary … every day of the holiday … it will help you pinpoint your special weaknesses. Just one 150 calorie chocolate chip cookie each day will add up to an extra pound in only 3 weeks.” [Wanda can't even find her food diary in chaos house. And, she really needed the information on the cookies. Thank you very much. Wanda just ate three, and she doesn't need any food diary to pinpoint this little weakness.]

8). “Only eat things you really want and care about. So what if your neighbor brought okra au gratin everyone’s raving about? Use that space on your plate for a homemade roll, hot from the oven. Put real butter on it. Life is choices. Treat yourself to what you want and LEAVE THE REST IN THE SERVING DISH.”[Good advice. How thankful do you think Wanda'd be after a feast of Brussels sprouts and tofu salad while she's passing the yams, potatoes and gravy to Aunt Lucille? Wanda bets Lucille's glad she got granddad's wiry build instead of those wonderful wide childbearing hips from grandma's "peasant" stock!]

9). Drink water instead of alcohol which has empty calories and lowers will power. Avoid sugary sodas which throw your metabolism into pendulum swings. [You didn't mention eggnog. Eggnog is OK, then, right?]

10). “Don’t eat while you cook. Those little “tastes” can turn into 1000 calories before you’ve blinked.” [Wanda just spent 304 hours in the kitchen, cooking. She HAS to taste everything before she serves it, or they'll hate it and won't love her any more. And besides, cookie dough doesn't have any calories, does it?]

Well, that’s all 10 pieces of holiday advice. Here’s just one parting thought from Wanda.

[Santa's fat and everybody loves him! The baby Jesus is fat, too. The turkey is so fat it can hardly stand up! Nobody buys a skinny Christmas tree, do they? Get a grip. Get a life. Have a HAPPY holiday.}

Avoiding the holiday binge

It’s the holiday season and you are starting to have pangs of guilt. You have been doing great all year and now is the time of indulgence Just thinking about the Christmas dinner has added on five pound to your hips. Your Uncle Harry has a heart condition and your Aunt Maye has to watch her weight. With all the health warnings about the horrors of festive food, you just want to veg out on the couch and forget about having the family over. You needn’t have to worry as there are ways that you can simulate a traditional meal that can be healthy and nutritious without your guest even knowing, so indulge because the tricks are here.

At only 80 calories a serving, smoked salmon is an excellent source of heart protective omega-3 fatty acids, which is said to lower your risk of a stroke. So serve this as an appetizer with dry flat bread.

Your main entree, the turkey, has a wonderful source of protein as well. It contains half the fat as red meats and provides the antioxidants selenium, which may protect against cancer. Purchase a fresh bird as they are minimally processed. Leave the stuffing out of the turkey and cook separately.

You can create a delightful stuffing using whole wheat bread, assorted spices, celery, onions, garlic, chestnuts and mushrooms and place in a baking dish. Instead of butter substitute with olive oil as we know what butter does to the arteries.

The side dishes to compliment your turkey should be roasted potatoes with the skins well washed and left on. Potatoes contain not only carbohydrates and vitamin C but B6 and potassium as well. A single potato provides more than 10% of your daily fiber needs.

Add a vegetable in the green family, go for the Brussels sprouts. Clocking in at only 10 calories each, their advantages are low in fat, high in fiber and a good source of vitamin D and folic acid. Sprouts also have compounds that stimulate the body’s production of cancer-fighting agents.

It is thought that the antioxidants in red wine may help protect against heart disease by lowering levels of “bad” cholesterol and reducing blood clotting. Red wine also contains high levels of resveratrol, a substance found in grape skins that may have cancer protecting agents.

Don’t forget to leave room for desert. Christmas pudding is full of dry fruit, which would count towards your daily five portions and is low in fat. Besides that, it is high in fiber, potassium and iron. It can run up the calories though, so stick to small portions and serve with a low-fat yogurt or custard.

Now sit down and enjoy your meal with family and friends without the guilt and Happy Holidays.

Why Does Time Go Faster as We Get Older?

 

by Philip Yaffe

It is a widely accepted adage that, “The older you get, the faster time seems to go.” But why should aging have this effect? After all, there is the parallel adage that, “Time flies when you are having fun.” But as we age, time flies whether we are having fun or not.

So what’s going on?

I have recently been trying to understand the phenomenon, because for the past several years many of my days have been extremely long, yet the years still seem to be accelerating.

To tackle the problem, I did an Internet search to see what others were saying on the subject. Nearly all the returns had to do with parenting. “Oh, they grow up so fast. The days are long, but the years are short.” This is perhaps a partial explanation; however, since the phenomenon occurs just as well to people who have no children, it cannot be the whole answer.

Some other comments had to do with getting religion. “I found God at the age of 30 and every day since I have been waiting to go to His kingdom. I am now in my 80s. Oh, the days have been so long, but the years have been so short.” Again perhaps a partial explanation; however, since the phenomenon occurs just as well to non-believers as believers, it cannot be the whole answer either.

Many comments were philosophical. They said simply to accept the phenomenon and live each day to the full. Good advice, but again no advance in understanding.

I then turned to science. I typed in the search words “psychology of time”. This turned up hundreds of articles, most of which were very technical, dealing with brain structure and functions, neurotransmitters and the like. To narrow the search, I typed in both “psychology of time” and “days are long”. And got nothing at all!

Finally, I decided to sit quietly and ponder the matter myself. This turned about to be a wise decision, because I think I found the solution. It’s really quite simple. It all has to do with “anticipation” and “retrospection”.

Whatever the nature of our individual lives, we all anticipate things important to us. Then after they happen, we look back at them. For example, most school children look forward to the long summer vacation, which always seems to be an eternity away. Finally, it arrives. Then, almost before they blink an eye, it’s over and they are back in school again.

Progressing from primary school to secondary school is another excruciating anticipation for a youngster, especially if the move is perceived as being an important step away from childhood into adulthood.

And so it goes. When anticipated, each new significant event seems to be excruciatingly far away. However, after the event, we regularly look back and exclaim. “Did it really happen that long ago?”

Our first love, our first heartbreak, driving a car, landing a job, marriage, etc. When we look forward, all these milestones seem impossibly far in the future. However once achieved, how quickly they recede into the past.

The older we get, the more milestones we have to look back on. So the farther and faster they appear to recede. So if sometimes the clock may seem to have stopped, the calendar always continues racing ahead.

For me, the high point of my life was joining the Peace Corps and serving as a volunteer teacher of math, physics, and journalism in Tanzania. I applied for a Peace Corps posting early in my senior year at UCLA. Processing the application took only about three months — perhaps the longest three months of my life. It seemed more like three years. I was accepted and sent abroad for two years – the shortest two years of my life, because I was having so much fun.

When I returned to Los Angeles, I could hardly believe the adventure was already over. The first week back seemed extremely long, because my heart was still beating 10,000 miles away. However, the weeks rapidly became shorter and shorter, then the first year, then the second year, and so on. I couldn’t believe it when the first decade had passed, then the second, and so on.

I went to Africa with the Peace Corps in 1965 and returned in 1967. More than 40 years ago!

I of course have had many other milestones in my life, which are all rapidly hurtling away from me. Even the most recent ones already seem to be covered in dust. I am now 65. I don’t feel old, but somehow I just can’t get my mind around the fact that many of these things already look like ancient history.

If accumulating milestones is truly the secret of the accelerating years, what do we do about it? Basically nothing; we just have to accept it. However, this is not necessarily a negative. True, the good things are coursing away faster and faster into the past. But so are the not-so-good things.

The story is told of the biblical King Solomon. He once called his wise men together and presented them with a challenge. “Find me a cure for depression.” They meditated for a long time, then gave him the following advice. “Your Majesty, make yourself a ring and have engraved thereon the words: This too shall pass.” He had the ring made and wore it constantly. Every time he felt sad or depressed, he looked at the inscription, which tended to lift his spirits.

“This too shall pass.” Indeed, it shall. Whether positive or negative, nothing in life lasts forever, even if it sometimes feels as if it will. We are certain of this because we know even life itself doesn’t last forever.

We are all born to die. What happens after that is the subject of considerable controversy. But whatever it is, we are certain it is going to happen, and that it will almost certainly be different from whatever we know today.

Since I am now in my seventh decade (I am 65), for me this inevitability will probably occur sometime within the next 20-30 years, and almost certainly within the next 40 years. This seems like a very long time. However, the years are accelerating, so when it does occur my most probably reaction will be: “What! Already!”

Philip Yaffe is a former reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal and a marketing communication consultant. He currently teaches a course in good writing and good speaking in Brussels, Belgium. His recently published book In the “I” of the Storm: the Simple Secrets of Writing & Speaking (Almost) like a Professional is available from Story Publishers in Ghent, Belgium (storypublishers.be) and Amazon (amazon.com).

For further information, contact:

Philip Yaffe

Brussels, Belgium

Tel: +32 (0)2 660 0405

Email: phil.yaffe@yahoo.com,phil.yaffe@gmail.com

Things to Do When you Travel to Belgium

When you are planning a vacation to Belgium it is best to cover all bases before you get there. This includes planning out which sites and events you would like to experience while you are there. Belgium is the perfect destination for travel because it offers a little something for everyone including the most amazing sights, shopping, and of course the delicious Belgian chocolates that we all know and love.

It is hard to find a woman who doesn’t love to shop, and in Belgium there are plenty of places to get your retail fix. Brussels, Belgium offers everything from the classy designer stores on avenue Louise to the different funky fashion boutiques that are on rue Antoine Dansaert.

Visiting Belgium always includes tasting the different authentic cuisines that are offered. Brussels is home to one of the best restaurants in all of Europe. You can also enjoy a host of other bistros, authentic restaurants, and cafes which have catering for all tastes.

If you are into the night life or just a great beer, you have to visit some of the breweries in Belgium. This country is known for their Belgian beer and has been famous for its breweries since the middle ages when monasteries first began making beer. In total there are more than one hundred and twenty five breweries in this country.

Of course you can’t leave Belgium without tasting their world famous Belgian chocolate. When you hear Belgium that is likely the first thing that comes to your mind and it is hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy chocolate. Just about every single café and shop offers some type of Belgian chocolates.

After touring the country and tasting the different types of cuisine you will need a place to rest your head. The perfect place to stay while in Belgium is a quaint bed and breakfast which offers a room to sleep and breakfast in the morning when you awaken. They will not only save you time in the morning when you are looking for something to eat, they are also very well priced so you can save your money for the many attractions.

Rising to the Linguistic Challenge

 

 

by Philip Yaffe

 

 

This is a story about a young man growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s. He was a bit strange for a Californian of that epoch. He of course loved surfing, but he loved mathematics and physics even more. His dream from a very young age was to go to university and get a science degree. And that’s what he did.

 

 

In 1960 he enrolled at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). At that time (I imagine it is still the case), in addition to their choosing a major, university students were required to take so-called “cross curriculum” classes in other disciplines. In particular, at UCLA everyone was required to study a language.

 

 

This young man chose German because it was a language of science. This was a mistake. Not only is German a very difficult language compared to English, it is almost impossible to learn any language if you are exposed to it only in the classroom. This of course is the case in the United States, and in particular at that time English was so dominate that outside the classroom you would never hear German, or virtually any other language. Spanish in California was of course an exception; however, in the 1960s it was no where near as important as it is today.

 

 

Although the professor insisted that “Sie werden Deutsch lernen!” (You will learn German), our young man was not so certain. “Particle physics and differential topology are not easy subjects, but German is impossible. I spend more time and effort on this class and get less out of it than any other class I have.”

 

 

The professor of course was wrong. The young man didn’t learn German, and probably neither did anyone else. All he knew was that he was extremely relieved when the course was finished.

 

 

When he graduated, the young man joined the Peace Corps, the U.S. government organization established by President Kennedy to send volunteers to Third World countries to help them with their nation building. The young man was assigned to Tanzania in East Africa. As part of their preparation, all volunteers heading to Tanzania were required to study Swahili, the national language, three hours a day, six days a week for nine weeks.

 

 

“At last a language I will actually be able to use!” the young man exulted. So he really threw himself into it. He intensely studied every aspect of Swahili, grammar, vocabulary, syntax, diction, idiomatic expressions, etc. He was unquestionably the best student in the class.

 

 

When the volunteers got to Dar es Salaam, then the Tanzanian capital, four of them were put on a train and sent to posts in the middle of the country. At each stop, vendors swarmed around the train to sell bananas, tangerines, oranges and other local produce. With some difficulty, the young man was able to speak to the vendors, but he couldn’t understand their replies.

 

 

One of the other members of the group had unquestionably been the poorest Swahili student. At the end of the nine weeks, she could barely say “hujambo” (hello), yet somehow she understood what the vendors were saying. So the young man would speak, the vendors would reply, she would translate, and he would speak again.

 

 

“But this makes no sense. How can you understand them when I can’t?” he asked. “I don’t know,” she replied. “I guess I just listen to what they are saying.” Suddenly, he realized that his approach to languages had been academic, not practical. He was listening for conjugations, singulars and plurals, inverted verbs and other grammatical constructs, but not to what people were actually saying.

 

 

Once he recognized this, his progress was blindingly rapid. Within a very few weeks, he found that he was no longer translating through English. He was actually thinking and speaking directly in Swahili.

 

 

“It was like being released from prison. I saw my cell door swinging open and my mind being set free to fly out. I could literally feel my brain expanding!” the young man explains.

 

 

He now lives in Belgium and has gone on to master French, has a working knowledge of Dutch and German, and is currently turning his attention to Spanish.

 

 

“You know,” he says, “I used to be jealous of people who learned other languages as a child, not as an adult. But now I’m not so certain. I was 24 before I learned a second language. It wasn’t easy; in fact it was excruciatingly difficult. However, I had an experience that people who grow up speaking other languages cannot even begin to imagine. Looking back on it, I don’t think I would really want to change that.”

 

 

I was that young man. I am no longer so young; all of this happened more than 40 years ago. Having had four decades to reflect on it, I am now convinced that this life-altering experience firmly demonstrated two things.

 

 

First, under the proper circumstances, anyone can learn to speak other languages. Having grown up in a country as big as a continent with a single dominant language, I had fallen victim to the idea that learning other languages required high intelligence and/or special gifts. I am extremely happy to have discovered otherwise.

 

 

Secondly, I believe that the way languages are taught in the U.S. is all wrong. The objective of teaching students to speak the language is manifestly false. They won’t, because in most cases opportunities to use the language are lacking. Pursuing this objective therefore only demoralizes students and turns them against language learning per se.

 

 

American educators need to recognize that the best they can do is to acquaint students with a language and lay a foundation for them to rapidly start speaking it if they ever find themselves in a place where the language is actually spoken.

 

 

Language courses should teach basic grammar passively, i.e. so that students can easily recognize verb conjugations, singulars and plurals, formal and familiar pronouns, etc., then concentrate on helping students to comfortably read in the language, e.g. newspapers, magazines, novels, etc. If students know how to read a language, once they finish the course they might continue reading it, thus keeping their knowledge grammar and vocabulary fresh and ready to use should the opportunity ever arise.

 

 

Under current conditions, the moment they leave compulsory language courses, most students immediately forget whatever it is they might have learned, so everything is lost.

 

 

My own experience demonstrates the value of this approach. When I had mastered Swahili — and realized that I could master any other language I wanted to — I decided to try my hand at French. With some effort, I taught myself to read French while still living in Tanzania. When I returned to Los Angeles, I continued reading newspapers, magazines, and novels in French, so five years later when I moved to Belgium, I began speaking it almost immediately.

 

 

I am currently doing the same thing with Spanish. I have essentially no opportunity to speak Spanish in Belgium, but I now read it almost fluently. I occasionally spend a week on vacation to Spain. Each time I do, it takes only one or two days for my mind to switch to Spanish mode, so that I can begin speaking. Not fluently, but enough to get around. I am certain that if I were to spend a month or so in Spain, I would rapidly approach fluency.

 

 

Philip Yaffe is a former reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal and a marketing communication consultant. He currently teaches a course in good writing and good speaking in Brussels, Belgium. His recently published book In the “I” of the Storm: the Simple Secrets of Writing & Speaking (Almost) like a Professional is available from Story Publishers in Ghent, Belgium (storypublishers.be) and Amazon (amazon.com).

For further information, contact:

Philip Yaffe
Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0)2 660 0405
phil.yaffe@yahoo.com, phil.yaffe@gmail.com

 

 

An Overview of Belgium for Travelers

Located on the European mainland, Belgium often is short-shifted in discussions of Europe. Following is an overview of Belgium for travelers.

An Overview of Belgium for Travelers

Belgium is located on the coast of the North Sea between Holland, German and France. The name comes from the Belgae, a celtic tribe.

Belgium’s geographic location places it at the crossroads of much of Europe, particular in relation to the United Kingdom and mainland Europe. As a result, the country has been heavily influenced by the powers that be in Europe during certain periods of times. You can find aspects of Romans, Celtics, Germanic, French and Spanish influences.

Ruled by various European empires, the cities of Bruges, Brussels and Antwerp were major commercial trading posts. They also produced some of the more spectacular artists in Europe, including Eyck and Rubens.

In modern times, the country is really three separate states with significant autonomy. The country is divided up into Flemish, Walloon and a smaller Germanic area. The Flemish are Dutch speaking while the Walloon are oriented to French. The divisions between these areas are significant and they have significant autonomy from the federal government. One might argue they are countries unto themselves.

The official name of Belgium is the Kingdom of Belgium. The country is located in Western Europe and covers approximately 12,566 square miles. Brussels is the capital of the country and has a population of approximately 922,000 people. The second largest city is Antwerp with 452,000 residents.

The people of Belgium are known as Belgians. Total population for the country is 10.4 million with a paltry annual growth rate of less than one half of one percent. The country is divided into three linguistic regions, Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. French is the dominant language in Wallonia, Dutch in Flanders and German in the Brussels area. Most people of Belgium claim Roman Catholic as their faith, but Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Anglican communities exist. The literacy rate is 95 percent.

Belgium is an odd hodgepodge of influences. That being said, everyone seems to get along in these modern times and Brussels is a major financial center in the Europe.

Holidaying in France: Paris and Nice

France is the world’s most popular tourist destination and with good reason. From the cultural splendour of Paris to the snowcapped ski resorts in the French Alps to the golden beaches of the south, France has treasures in every corner. And there are wonderful hotels, too. Check on the internet for the range, location and cost of hotels in France

Paris: city of light, fashion and romance

Think of Paris and see what images cascade through your mind – chic cafes, broad boulevards, Seine riverboats, the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame Cathedral….Paris is the quintessential capital of romance and style, the home of chic.

transport:getting there and getting around

Charles de Gaulle airport is the main gateway to the country. France also boasts an impressive rail network. It will whisk you anywhere in the country and also to London, Amsterdam and Brussels. There are also ferries to the UK and Ireland.

Paris is a great walkers’ city and there’s always the metro if you get footsore or too hot. However, Paris is not cyclist-friendly. The river boats are most of a sightseeing vehicle than a means of transport.

Accommodation: from cheap stays to luxury resorts

Check on the internet for the range, location and cost of Paris hotels

climate

The climate is temperate and Paris’s location in a basin gives it France’s lowest average rainfall. .

events

A love of celebration is part of the national character so there’s no shortage of events in Paris.

*Designers showcase their spring collection during Paris Fashion Week in early March.

*The grand event of the year is Bastille Day on 14 July. As the country’s national day, it’s a time for serious celebration with fireworks, parades and riotous street parties.

*November is the time of the Paris International Photo Fair.

Nice: jewel of the Côte d’Azur

An Italianate ambiance and cobblestoned old town gives Nice an irresistible charm. Add to this a vibrant social life, great shopping and a delightful five-mile seafront and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect vacation spot.

The beaches are mainly rocks and pebbles but the water is warm (20-25°C in summer)and clear and it’s just a short hop to nearby Cannes and St Tropez

transport:getting there and getting around

Nice International Airport is around six kilometres out of town. Nice is also served by fast, extensive rail and bus networks. And there are ferries to Corsica. You can best explore the city on foot and if you’re feeling indulgent you can hire a yacht.

accommodation:from cheap stays to luxury resorts

There are a wide range of accommodation in Nice. Check on the internet for the range, location and cost of Hotels in Nice

climate

Mild is the perfect word to describe the climate in Nice. Daily temperatures average around 15 C, surging up to 40 C in July-August. Winters are mild too with temperatures rarely getting lower than 5 C.

events

*Carnival in the second half of February features lavish parades of giant figures in papier-mache hats. Carnival ends on the evening of Mardi Gras with a spectacular fireworks display.

*There are also a number of religious events of interest. In June, the city celebrates the patron saints of St Peter and St John with processions and masses in the churches.

*The big event in summer is the Nice Jazz Festival held in July. The festival attracts top international artists.

The Grand Haven Musical Fountain and the Jeanneke Pis

Music in Motion : Grand Haven Musical Fountain

The Grand Haven Musical Fountain is located in Grand Haven, Michigan. The fountain displays a gorgeous fusion of water, music, and lights that come together in a fantastic sight. It is in between Dewey Hill and the north coastline of Grand River where Lake Michigan enters the Grand Haven State Park. When it was constructed in the 1960s, the fountain was the earth’s biggest “musical” fountain and is still to this day one of the largest musical and light fountains in the world. The Grand Haven Musical Fountain is approximately 250 feet in length and more then 100 feet wide. Its rectangular basin carries 40,000 gallons of water and has a depth of 12 inches. The large fountain has 1,300 jets in a variety of diameters which spout water in vibrant, moving patterns.

The Grand Haven Musical Fountain was made in 1962 by volunteers who felt that the wonderful city of Grand Haven was lacking a focal point and needed a city monument. The point of construction was to invigorate the Grand Haven downtown area as well as its waterfront. The price was just under a quarter of a million dollars.

Through the various summer months, the fountain shows have varying themes and styles that constantly excite and inspire the crowd. The music ranges from classical jazz to rock and roll bringing in a unique mixture of guests. The Grant Haven Musical Fountain also has a special Fourth of July show that is joined by fireworks. This show has always proven to be a crowd favorite.

The Grand Haven Musical Fountain is only active in the summertime. It is not open during the colder months because of frigid temperatures. During the months in between May and September, there are fountain shows every weeknight and weekend. The show typically starts around sunset and lasts for 20 minutes. Although the fountain shows are only 20 to 25 minutes in duration, there are over 3,000 changes in water motion and light. The operation of the fountain is exclusively operated by computer software which takes an hour of programming time for each minute of the show.

Touring Michigan in the summer months offers a wide variety of activities for families, couples, and solo individuals not limited to the unforgettable sights, sounds, and lights of the Grand Haven Musical Fountain.

The Jeanneke Pis : Modern Art in Brussels

The Jeanneke Pis Fountain is situated in Brussels, Belgium. The fountain portrays a female child wearing pigtails, squatting while humorously relieving herself. She is leaning back on her feet and looks to be quite taken with the moment. The Jeanneke Pis Fountain, like Manneken Pis, appropriately exhibits a universal human experience, one that never fails to entertain and humor its visitors. It was created in 1985 by Denis Adrien Debouvire and is far more contemporary than her brother fountain, Manneken Pis. Jeanneke is an accompanying garden statue to the Manneken Pis Fountain, which is the national landmark of Belgium. The primary Manneken Pis Fountain was constructed in 1142, but there have been several adaptations since.

The Jeanneke Pis Fountain is very small; it stands just over a meter and a half tall and is situated at the back of a dead end road in the Rue des Bouchers district of Brussels. Butcher’s street, or de Bouchers, is famous for the wide variety of European beers and wines available that can be tasted. In total, there are approximately 2,000 different varieties of beer, wine, and vintage alcohols served in the areas nearby the fountain.

It is not known why Debouvire built the Jeanneke Pis Fountain. When he was questioned, he only replied: “out of loyalty,” and refused to comment further. Debouvire’s refusal to elaborate created an immediate legend out of the Jeanneke Pis and became a must see for locals and tourists alike. Many hypothesize that the Jeanneke Pis Fountain was fashioned to lure more sightseers to the Butcher Street vicinity, which it certainly did. Still others claim, with a smile, that Jeanneke is a result of and pays homage to the female liberation movement. Currently, Butcher Street and the Jeanneke Pis Fountain are two of Brussel’s most commonly visited locales, second only to the Manneken Pis.

Even after two decades however, the Jeanneke Pis Fountain has not been accepted by the city of Brussels. The Belgium government deliberately leaves it out of the official tour guide. Despite what motivated the design of Jeanneke, the outdoor fountain is definitely unique and has yet to be replicated elsewhere in the world. One can however, find her image on postcards and assorted keepsake items sold all through the city. The Jeanneke Pis Fountain is a demonstration to Brussels’ relaxed European attitude—one of which greets guests from all over the planet with open arms and a gracious smile.

Visiting Brussels – Special Events To Look Out For During The Year

One of the best times to visit Brussels is during September when the number of tourists drops dramatically when compared to the peak summer months, but when the weather is still warm and pleasant.

However, if the special events below interest you, you may wish to co-incide your visit accordingly.

Summertime Events

May sees the Brussels Jazz Convention which is performed at various destinations throughout the city. You can also catch the Queen Elisabeth Competition and the Kunsten Festival des Arts which is a mix of opera, theatre and dance (in Flemish and Wallonian). Lovers of sport may be interested in the Brussels Half Marathon when thousands of runners swarm through the streets of Brussels.

June entertains the City of Brussels Summer Festival where a wide range of classical musicians gather to perform in some of the cities most extravagant locations. Another opportunity to catch a music festival is provided in the last week of june when the Fete de la Musique comes to town.

July offers a wide variety of events, kicking off with the opening of the Palais Royal, when the Royal residency is opened up to visitors for a couple of weeks. There are also an entertaining mix of cultural musical events including Festival de Midis Minimes and Coleur Café Festival. Carnival lovers will want to check out Foire de Midi which offers funfair type rides. The colourful Ommegang can be found in the Grand Place where countless people take on the role of clowns, jesters, soldiers and such. This is quite a sight and approximately 2,000 people are thought to participate every July. On the 21st is Belgian National Day – celebrated by a lavish fireworks display.

August sees the Tapis des Fleurs (a colourful flower exhibition) and the Plantation du Meiboom (a giant free for all puppet show) come to town.

Autumn, Winter, Spring…

September & October affords you the opportunity to check out the Lucky Town Festival & Les Nuits Botaniques (musical concerts) as well as the Audi Jazz Festival.

December is characterised by Marche de Noel. In this Christmas fair you’ll find various festive stalls.

January & February are renowned for the Fete des Rois and Brussels Film festival. Towards the end is the highly popular International Comic Strip And Cartoon Festival (you may remember the most famous Belgian comic strip hero – Tintin and his white dog snowy who went about solving various mysteries).

March/April – The Ars Musica festival is a celebration of contemporary music (March) while the Serres Royales is an elaborate and attractive flower show. You can also take in the International Fantasy Film Festival & Eurantica which is a grand antiques fair (typically towards the end of March).

April entertains the Sablon Baroque Spring where 17th century music is performed by some of the country’s finest young musicians. Keeping to the tune, Flanders Festival is an international music festival that specialises in classical music.

Brussels is a splendid city with some marvelous attractions and special events. Whenever you decide to go, there will be something to see and do to interest even the most sophisticated traveller.