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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.}

How to Anticipate the Unexpected

 

by Philip Yaffe

According to the adage, “Travel is broadening”. In other words, when you leave your home and go somewhere else, your mind will expand because of the differences you will see. For me, the most valuable, mind-expanding differences are not the big ones that you might be prepared for by reading and education. They the little things that you would never even consider, so that they take you completely by surprise.

When I was growing up in Los Angeles, I never traveled because my parents were small business owners and had no time to go away for vacation. I was in fact 16 years old the first time I set foot outside of Southern California. After 10 years of planning and disappointments, we finally drove across the country to visit relatives who lived in a small town in Maine.

A few days before our departure, I came down with a severe case of mononucleosis. This illness makes you incredibly weak and constantly tired, so all you want to do is sleep. We just about decided not to go, but since it was a trip we had been planning for decade, we decided to give it a try.

After three days on the road (I had spent most of the time sleeping on the back seat), we arrived in St. Louis, where we also had relatives. St. Louis is on the Mississippi River and this was early July. If you know anything about St. Louis, you know it is an excellent place not to be in summer. It was extremely hot and extremely humid. However, since this was the first time — and probably the last time — I would ever see these relatives, I spent the next four days touring the city, picnicking, swimming, playing tennis, and engaging in a host of other strenuous activities.

Within a half-hour after leaving St. Louis, I completely collapsed and slept almost constantly the next two days before arriving in New York. The four days in St. Louis were a revelation. Before arriving, I could hardly move; after leaving I could hardly move. But while there, I was active beyond all expectations. I simply had never imagined just how much a person can actually achieve through sheer desire and will power.

A couple of weeks later, we were visiting with my Aunt and Uncle in Maine. One day my brother and I were walking around the town just to see what it looked like. We went into a local supermarket. Our attention was drawn to a big display of watermelons. Two things struck us. First, they didn’t look like the watermelons we had in California. Instead of being big and oval, they were long and sausage-like. But the real shocker was the price. You will have to adjust the figures; after all, this was a half-century ago (1958). The sign said 10 cent a pound. My brother let out a cry of dismay. “Ten cents a pound! That’s robbery!”

A man who was standing a short distance away came over and asked him, “Tell me son, where are you from?” “California.” “And what do you pay for watermelons this time of year?” “Oh, about 2 cents a pound, sometimes 1 cent a pound.”

The man looked my brother straight in the eyes and said, “Little boy, you’re lying to me. You’re lying. You’re lying”. It was a case of total incomprehension. The man simply couldn’t believe how cheap watermelons were in California. And we simply couldn’t believe how expensive they were in Maine.

However, the pièce de résistance of my revelations happened a few days later. We were on a lake, swimming, boating and barbequing when a thunder storm broke. Everyone ran into the house to get out of the rain. Everyone but me. I was transfixed, literally rooted to the spot. I stood there with the rain pouring down on me for what seemed like several minutes before I too finally ran into the house.

Why this strange reaction?

You need to understand that in Los Angeles, it is normal that not a single drop of rain falls in the city from about the first of May until the end of September. Because it was the only thing I had ever experienced, I grew up believing the word “summer” literally meant “hot and dry”. It was August, and it was raining! To me, this was against nature. It was like the sun one day suddenly rising in the west and setting in the east, rather than rising in the east and setting in the west as it had always done.

When I got back to Los Angeles, I was a changed person. Being a scientist by nature — I loved mathematics and physics — I was naturally skeptical about things. But I had not fully realized just how much there was to be skeptical about. Having experienced somewhere else, I better understood that things that seem normal and natural in one environment can be bizarre and unnatural in another.

This revelation has served me well ever since. It certainly helped me a few years later when I spent two-and-a-half years in Tanzania, in the East African bush. This was an environment not only different from Los Angeles, but different almost beyond imagination. I virtually lived in a mud hut, suffered through a drought, saw leprosy, and contracted both malaria and dysentery.

But the most surprising thing was, Tanzania had a one-party socialist government. Being a devout believer in multi-party, free enterprise democracy, this was an anathema to me. However once on site, I discovered that Tanzania’s one-party, socialist state not only worked, but for this poor developing country, this “bizarre” form of government was absolutely necessary.

The world is full of unexpected things. The best way to deal with them is to “anticipate the unexpected”. In others words, we must always be prepared to examine something that surprises us before criticizing or rejecting it. Otherwise, we are likely to make some serious mistakes of judgment.

I think the importance of this lesson was best summed up by a country preacher in the American Deep South. In his distinctive southern drawl, he once told his congregation: “It ain’t what you don’t know that causes problems. It’s what you do know that just ain’t so.” Amen.

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

To Brussels

Small Belgium is an embodiment of the Old Europe with its cozy cities, small houses and quite life rhythm. It’s a country with great cultural heritage, architectural monuments, and delicious national cuisine.
Brussels is a capital of Belgium and with its population of about 1 million is a relatively big city. It’s a cultural and political center of the country. Brussels is called “main gates” to the country. Here cross all the main routs inside the country and abroad.
The name of Brussels means “marsh city”. The first settlement was founded here in VI century on the way between Cologne and Bruges. During Hasburg rule it was the capital of the Spanish Holland. In XIX it became the capital of the independent Belgium.
Nowadays Brussels is mainly a city of businessmen and diplomats, a headquarter of European Union and NATO, it an interesting place for tourists too. It’s luxurious, cozy and historical city. The center of the city can be divided into two parts – Upper and Down. Upper town is full of broad boulevards and magnificent buildings. In contrary, downtown presents a labyrinth of narrow medieval streets around one of the most beautiful squares in Europe – Grand Place.
Almost all the attractions are situated within four blocks. Here you can see one of the most unusual and discussed fountains of the world – “Peeping boy”, visit numerous museums devoted to the history, art or something else. Various shops offer the most traditional Belgian souvenirs – chocolate and lace.
Brussels is a bilingual city – both French and Flemish are in use. In fact the French is used mush wider, but nevertheless all road signs and signboards should be duplicated.
On the outskirts of the city raises Atomium – a sophisticated structure covered with the aluminium panels. From its top on approximately 100-meters height opens an unforgettable panorama of Brussels and its suburbs. This building was established for the international fair of 1958 and symbolizes the structure of atom.
City hall building appeared in XV century – it took almost 50 years. A century later Royal palace was created. Now it houses municipal museum. Saint Michael is considered to be a saint patron of Brussels – its statue crown the spire on city hall roof and the most respected temples in Belgian capital is Saint Michael’s Cathedral.

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.

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.]

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.

Joue De Vie – A Castle In The Loire Valley In France

Certainly the main attractions of the Loire are romance, history and architecture. The renaissance chateaux built by Charles VIII, Francois I, Catherine de Medici and other royals during the hundred years that the French court relocated to the Loire Valley from Paris it a distinctive storybook charm.

Like the river Loire, this vast region runs through the heart of French life. The lush Loire valley is supremely regal. Its sophisticated cities, luxuriant landscape and magnificent wine and food and wine add up to a bourgeois paradise. It is now classed as part of the world heritage of mankind by Unesco (from Chalonnes-sur-Loire to Sully-sur-Loire).

Overindulgence is no sin in this rich region.

Surly queens, foppish kings, evil princesses and scheming mistresses and aristocrats sculpted a flat riverbed valley into an enchanting fairytale landscape like no other place in Europe or the world, for that matter.

Unlike the chateaux of the Loire Valley, the Loire Valley wines are a perennial secret. Some of France’s best winemaking occurs here although few Americans are aware of it. Even many French are unaware of some of the wonders now being produced in the Loire Valley. But wine-shop and wine bar and sommeliers, and all the wine press from Paris, London Brussels and Tokyo in the know spend their vacations visiting the Val de Loire.

The Loire Valley is the location of Sir Mick Jagger’s favourite second residence a 16th century chateau called La Fourchette near Amboise. In London he may be affectionately known as the lead singer of Strolling Bones but in France is known as Mick de Fourchette, le pape du rock, le pere Mick, Le Seigneur de Fourchette, Dr. Jagger, sexy papy British and Mister Mick.

He comes here every summer. In under 70 minutes he is whisked from London in a chartered three-person taxi-plane. Here in this quiet backwater of the Loire Valley in Touraine with its caves, woods and vineyards, he can relax with family and friends. He is often seen at the village fete or playing with one of his grandchildren in a local cafe. He drives around in his Opel station wagon or little Nisan micra. He returns year after year for the quality, ambiance, and the unusual. He even plays cricket for Saumur when he is in Touraine.

Todays the vacation industry offers a great number of proposals on luxury vacations, such as romantic luxury villas, luxury home vacations, luxury villa vacations, the world cruise vacations, golfing villa vacation and fairytale chateaux vacation rentals.

The most popular luxury vacations are when you exclusively rent your own castle or villa and you stay there completely alone or with your partner or with extended family and friends all waited upon by staff who make you feel like royalty. Your vacation can be fully catered with delicious gourmet cuisine being served up for every meal.

An exclusive castle rentals can include staff if you require (the number varying depending on the size of castle). Luxury chateaux are fully equipped with all the conveniences of home. Additional amenities such as extensive DVD libraries and CDs with flat-screen televisions, cable television, DVD players if not standard can be requested. Baby equipment and babysitting can usually be provided. These items may also be hired provided advance notice is given.

Limousine transfers to and from airports can be arranged. The chateau can be stocked with any wines, groceries, or special dietary requirements or wine that you require. Hire cars can be delivered to the airport or the chateau.

Many of the visitors are repeat clients. The aim of renting a luxury castle exclusively is to make a holiday as stress-free and relaxing as possible. Luxury castle rentals are known around the world by discriminating traveller’s for custom designed vacations of extra-ordinary value and extraordinary value, and for personalized, dedicated service.

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.

A visitors guide to Brussels, Belgium

WHO STOLE WHAT?

Of course you know what to do, and sometimes you do it. But when you don’t that’s when it counts.

The scene: La Grande Place in Brussels after a little rain a magic of shining cobbles and floodlit 17th century golden guild houses. The scene is quite enough to set you back four hundred years to when Steen was painting his canvases and this land was still part of the Low Countries, the Netherlands. These were times before credit cards, driving licenses, medical insurance cards, and ATMs.

The time: The twenty-first century when four friends were sealing a wonderful day with just another glass of wine on a terrace at 1:00 am.

We are the last on the terrace and the lone waiter is beginning to pile up the chairs and loop security chains through each pile. I suppose he wouldn’t mind if we left.

It will be another long day of touring tomorrow so a few hours in bed would not come amiss. I settle the bill with a credit card, thrust my wallet in my hip pocket and we get up and left.

There were very few people on the streets as we wander back through twisty medieval streets to our hotel. One has to be careful on the slick cobbles, one could easily fall, I think. Then, out of habit I pat my hip pocket and the wallet is gone.

We are back at the terrace in less than ten minutes but after speaking to the waiter and to the owner in the caf, there is no sign of the wallet or its contents. They are both very sorry but they suggest that perhaps we should go to the police.

The first order of business is to cancel credit and ATM cards. Fortunately, my wife has a credit card from the same bank so we have one 800 number and this one worked. Unfortunately, most US 800 numbers do not work in Europe. I am able to speak to a real voice bank clerk in her late afternoon, Mountain-Standard time. She is also able to connect me to other bank numbers and within 30 minutes the cards are all canceled. Phew! Being night in Belgium there is not much chance of them being used unless the thief has an Internet connection.

Then I have to reconstruct what my black-leather wallet had contained: about $330 and a few euros in cash, three credit cards and an ATM card, my driving license, my wife’s photograph, three medical and dental insurance cards, United Airlines mileage and lounge cards, membership cards for an Art museum and the National Parks, two spare checks, a spare car key and some scribbled notes. Did I really manage to cram all that in a small wallet?

Volunteer Travel in Brussels

Whether you are looking to acquire work related experience, improve your French or just to forget that cruise and do some good for others, in Brussels, Belgium the variety of international organizations, foundations, federations, charities, associations and governmental agencies is enormous. Volunteers work in the Brussels’ headquarters of international organizations, seeing how the issues develop and are addressed. Given that this work is done at the epicenter of the European Union, most positions are office-based. The list of areas seems almost endless: human rights; gender issues; older adults; immigration; addiction and rehabilitation; Down Syndrome; gay issues; politics; children’s issues; torture; animal rights; public safety; health and wellness; environment issues; music; the arts; business; law; development; education; refugees; banking; medical care, to name a few.

Why Volunteer in Brussels?

In Belgium nearly 20% of the population does regular volunteer work in one of the ABSL (Association Sans But Lucratif) denoting non-profit organizations. In most cases the office language is English so in addition to the attraction of Brussels’ sites, foreigners in all phases of life can participate in short or long-term volunteer programs with an intangible impact on their own and other people’s lives.

Brussels offers hundreds of possibilities for volunteers to work according to their interests and personal aptitudes in fields such as communications, research, event organizing, press, PR, marketing, web development, crisis management, and many more. Some volunteers select a post that correlates with a past profession or former experience while some just want to get a change of scene with an authentic view of another country and live a European adventure.

Motivations

According to one’s personal circumstances there are many reason people choose to volunteer. Apart from “to receive by giving” the benefits of volunteering are numerous and as healthy as walking or drinking water. In fact, a study from the University of Michigan Research Center found that “doing regular volunteer work…dramatically increased life expectancy and probably overall vitality as well”. There has even been documented a kind of “volunteers’ high” where volunteers experience a warm feeling, more energy and even euphoria combined with a feeling of calmness and enhanced self worth.

Experts’ Opinions

Mila Moreno, Programs’ Director at PlusAbroad.com for adult educational travel thinks, “Baby boomers have the highest volunteer participation rate of any demographic group because they have time, means and find in volunteering an appreciation for their skills along with camaraderie. Secondly, our participants are motivated by self-improvement so we include a crash course in French as part of our package.”

Adults that have left a career often find a new sense of meaning and purpose by pursuing some new enterprise. Ms. Moreno adds, “We want everyone to feel good about the way they are using their time. The program puts an emphasis on culture and education, with about 50% free time to explore the fantastic culture and sites of Brussels.”

Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed., the author of books on personal growth through travel, emphasized that what we get from volunteering depends on what we give. “Every part of life asks us to make an investment in time and often money. Where we invest determines how our life evolves. When we travel, we can experiment with life. We can ask ourselves; What do I really like to do when I have the time to do what I want?”

Different cultures see the volunteering experience in different lights. According to Dezmon Soloman, educational consultant in Asia, “In Singapore experience as a volunteer is counted as points on the competitive exams for civil servants. It is perceived as an indication of ethical and personal concern for public well-being.”

Finally we asked Camila Prado, Director of Eurointerns.com a European-based internship placement service if working in an NGO compensates their participants budget-wise. “As a fee-based educational program not only do such trips help you develop your talents, they also look good on a resume. Clients can customize their trips paying only for the services they require. Whether a recent college graduate, university student, someone taking a gap year or someone in a professional impasse, interning always helps to define interests, improve language ability and make contacts. This is the added-value to interning in a humanitarian organization.”