Is the Eurostar economical?

As a regular commuter between London and Paris, I would answer this question with a resounding YES. The Eurostar service is indeed extremely economical, and undoubtedly the cheapest, easiest and most comfortable way to travel between these two great capital cities.

When the Channel Tunnel was first built back in the 1990′s, it did not have the best press here in the UK. After all, England and France have never been the greatest of friends dating right back to the Norman Conquest of 1066, the Hundred Years War, and many other incidents that made a mockery of the expression “entente cordiale”. However, the fact remains that now we have got used to it, the Eurostar is the most favoured method of travel between London and Paris, and indeed between London and Brussels, and is most definitely economical.

Just look at the logistics. Admittedly, some of the air fares at the lower end of the scale may seem cheaper than a Eurostar ticket at first glance, but when you look into their offers more closely, you will see that very few of them are operating from London Heathrow, which is the nearest Airport to the city of London. Most of them are flying between Paris/Brussels and either Gatwick, London City, or Luton for example, all of which are a couple of hours away from the centre of London and will cost you about 20.00 or 30.00 to reach the capital itself. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is also a fair distance away from the metropolis, as asois Brussels Airport. Meanwhile, Eurostar charges only 59.00 return for a journey taking you directly from the centre of London to the very heart of Paris or Brussels. You don’t have to worry about taking your bags onto other buses, trains, or expensive Airport mini-buses, or taxis. Just walk off the Eurostar and onto the metro at Paris Gare du Nord for example, and you can be on the Champs Elysees or wherever else you want to be, in a couple of minutes.

It is true that these very cheap fares have to be bought a certain amount of time in advance, and if you have to buy at the very last minute then the cost becomes much more expensive, but for most families and leisure travellers, who have to book leave from work a fair amount of time in advance anyway, this is not a problem.

Eurostar is not just economical from a financial point of view either. As stated before, it takes you to right to the heart of both cities, so if you are short on time, it is the best way to save time as well as money. As a great tennis fan, there have been many times, I have caught the 6.30am train from London, and been in my seat for the French Open Tennis tournament at Roland Garros for start of play at 11.00am. and that includes the one hour time difference which places Paris one hour ahead of London. There is no way a plane could allow one to do that, whilst coaches and buses with the ferry, may be financially cheaper, but take so long that they could never be called economical if time is a factor.

Another good thing about Eurostar is that you can be upgraded to First Class at a very cheap supplement, and this includes a free meal, unlimited free tea and coffee, and really top class service. So if you are lucky enough to get a special offer upgrade for something like 10.00, you get all those extras included for that 10.00 and what could be more economical that that?

So, in conclusion, if you are thinking of making a journey between London and Paris or Brussels, then Eurostar is the most economical way to go.

Air Travel In Italy

The price of flying within Italy is often comparable to the cost of rail travel, although be sure to factor in the expense of getting to and from the airport. When flying out of Italian airports, always check with the airport or tourist agency about upcoming strikes, which are frequent in Italy and often affect air travel. The work stoppages, are called by trade unions over contractual disputes, and can also ground or delay flights to and from Italy operated by several European carriers, including British Airways and Air France.

Booking Your Flights
When you book, look for nonstop flights and remember that “direct” flights stop at least once. Try to avoid connecting flights, which require you to change plane. Two airlines may operate a connecting flight jointly, so ask whether your airline flies every segment of the trip. You may find that the carrier you prefer flies you only part of the way. Check web sites to find more booking tip, to check prices and to make online flight reservations.

When flying internationally, you must usually choose between a domestic carrier, the national flag carrier of the country you are visiting (Alitalia for Italy), and a foreign carrier from a third country. National flag carriers have the greatest number of non stops. Domestic carriers may have better connections to your hometown and serve a greater number of gateway cities. Third-party carriers may have a price advantage.

On international flights, Alitalia serves Rome, Milan, and Venice. The major international hubs in Italy are Milan and Rome, served by Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines. American Airlines flies into just Milan. US Airways serves only Rome.

Alitalia and British Airways have direct flights from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports to Milan and Rome. From Manchester, British Airways has daily flights to Milan and Rome. Smaller, no-frills airlines also provide service between Great Britain and Italy.

EasyJet connects Gatwick with Bologna. British Midland connects Heathrow and Milan. Ryanair, departing from London’s Stansted Airport, has daily flights to Milan, Rome, Pisa, and Venice. Meridiana has two or three direct flights each week between Gatwick and Olbia on Sardinia in summer, and daily flights to Rome and Florence throughout the year. From its hub in Brussels, Virgin Express files to Milan, Catania, and Rome.

Alitalia connects Canada and Italy. Air Canada flies to Munich for connections to Rome, Florence, and Milan via Lufthansa. Qantas flies from various cities in Australia via Bangkok, arriving in Rome. Alitalia and New Zealand Air fly from Auckland to Rome with a stop in London. Another option if you’re coming from Australia or New Zealand is Thai Airlines, landing in Rome via Bangkok.

When buying tickets for flights within Italy, on Alitalia and small carriers such as Meridiana and Air One shop around for the best deals. Tickets are frequently sold at discounted prices, so check the cost of flights, even one-way, as an alternative to train travel.

A Guide to the Restaurants of Brussels, Belgium

Gastronomic delights await foodies on tour in Brussels, Belgium. The local cuisine has a unique flavour and style, but the city also pays homage to cuisines from around the world. Butcher’s Street, for example, is home to a large number of international restaurants that cater to a range of budgets and tastes.

For something local, simple and relatively cheap, head to Les Brassins with its brasserie set up. Patronised mostly by students and locals, the restaurant offers good quality as well as good quantity from a small menu of items.

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s Aux Armes de Bruxelles, which caters to an upmarket clientele with haute cuisine. Everything from the food to the wine is highly praised by those who have visited the restaurant. As a result, reservations should be made in advance as the high price tag doesn’t appear to dissuade customers from filling up all the tables each night.

If mussels in Brussels sounds good, visit Chez Leon. Popular in France, the restaurant serves up mussels, French fries and beer in a variety of ways along with other traditional Belgian cuisine.

Arcadi is one of Brussel’s most popular vegetarian restaurants. The bistro style restaurant offers a lengthy menu with conservative prices. Dig into everything from quiches and pastas to salads and sandwiches. And don’t forget to ask for brussels sprouts to round off your Brussels experience. Arcadi isn’t strictly vegetarian, though; it does offer bacon with some of the dishes and not everyone considers dishes that include eggs to be vegetarian.

Those who would prefer to sample something beyond Belgium’s local flavours (at least for a break from the norm) may enjoy La Kasbah. Serving up the tastes of Morocco, everything from the food to the conversation of the waiters (in Arabic) to the décor is distinctly Moroccan. Try out the popular favourites of tagine, couscous and mezze. Top it all off with a tasty baklava.

A number of restaurants in Brussels are converted from interesting origins. In’t Spinnekopke was once a stagecoach inn and now serves up hale and hearty country cuisine washed down with over a hundred varieties of artisanal beers. Similarly, La Manufacture, which now serves Mediterranean and Asian cuisines, was once a leather goods factory. Not to be outdone, La Quincaillerie, a former hardware store, is now a popular favourite with local businessmen.

In keeping with the varied nature of the city, the restaurants of Brussels, Belgium are just as varied and provide for hours of entertainment…for a foodie anyway.

Presenting: Pablo Chufeni – Servas Traveller And A Champion Of Cross-border Youth Exchanges

I met Pablo at the Canada-US Servas Conference that was held at the beginning of August in Vancouver where I had a chance to spend about an hour and a half with him to find out more about his involvement as a volunteer for Servas, an organization with hosts and travellers in more than 130 countries whose motto is “Travel for peace” to promote greater inter-cultural understanding and tolerance. Pablo is one of those people who always has a smile on his face and he is filled with an incredible amount of energy. Through Servas he has travelled through a variety of European and North and South American countries.

As a volunteer for Servas, Pablo has tried to harness the international network of Servas in new ways, and most recently he has created an initiative that allows young Servas members to go on language exchanges free of charge that are facilitated by other Servas travellers. Both accommodation and language training are provided free of charge by local Servas hosts. So far his network of participating countries includes Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, the United States and Canada which will provide no-cost language study opportunities to young Servas members in Spanish, Portuguese, French and English.

In addition he is also organizing a youth summit for Servas, to be held in January 2006 in the resort town of Bariloche, Argentina. And he does all these activities part-time, after work, as a volunteer. Meet this bundle of positive energy – Pablo Chufeni.

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, what is your profession, where do you live now?

I’m 27 years old and I work as a theater professor in various institutes. I also study politics at the university as well as French and Portuguese. This year I started to work for the Developing Bank of the Americas in a social program here in my city, Rosario, in Argentina, where I currently live nowadays. I work in the capacitation department as a tutor for teenagers who are at risk. For 7 years I worked for the local TV station as a general producer, but that took up all my time, so now I prefer to use my days in a different way. I also work for a foundation that works with cultural promotion here in my city.

2. You have been a Servas member for a few years now. How did you hear about this organization and what was your first travel experience like?

I heard of Servas by acident,sitting at a coffee table. First I went to Europe as a traveller, but after that I organized my own local group of Servas hosts here in Rosario, and I got involved in the running of the organization. I have been to official meetings in Canada, Spain, Argentina, Mexico, UK and Uruguay. The Servas experiences are so deep and so profound that it is quite complicated to talk about them in a few lines. What I have experienced is simply amazing, it has changed my life.

3. What countries have you travelled to through Servas? What kinds of people from what places have you hosted in your home? What makes Servas travel so

special to you?

I have traveled with Servas in Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Canada, Spain, Belgium, France, Ireland, Portugal, and the UK. But I´ll make my list larger as soon as

possible!!! At my place I have hosted people from the USA, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Brazil. My house is open to Servas travellers all year long.

It´s not only the bridge that Servas builds for you, but also who is waiting for you on the other side. All the people in Servas are great and interesting, otherwise they wouldn’t open their doors and use their time to chat with you and show you their world.

4. Please tell us about your 3 favourite or most memorable travel stories.

I met a nice couple in Lisbon, she was Mexican and he was born in Angola. The time I spent with them was great. They originally met trough Servas when she was a traveller staying at his house. And now they are married!!!

I also met a guy in Brussels who ate food without cooking it and had strong opinions on flavours and health and how human beings developed the art of cooking only by following their tongue. I had another interesting travel experience with an Arab person who lived in Paris. This was simply amazing. We went together to see a show in Paris of Ute Lemper, a German singer that I always liked, and one day I saw signs in the streets of Paris, announcing one of her concerts. Unfortunately the signs said SOLD OUT! But when I returned to his house he told me, Pablo, I’ve got tickets to a show tonight in case you want to go. We had a great time at the concert.

5. Please tell us about your 3 favourite or most memorable hosting experiences.

It´s hard to say, all my guests have been great in their own way.

6. You are very actively involved in harnessing Servas as a network for learning experiences for young people. Please tell us about the language learning opportunities that you have created through Servas.

In 2003, Servas South America organized an essay contest about “The role of Servas”. I participated and ended up coming in first place. As a contest winner, I was able to attend the Youth South American meeting in Montevideo (Uruguay), also visiting Santa Teresa (Uruguay) where activities were developed for three days. Here I met Camile Costa from Sao Paulo (Brazil) who had taken Spanish classes in Chile. It was then that the idea of using Servas as a platform for developing language study exchanges for young people through Servas was born.

The program is organized in four modules, with respective classes. All the classes are weekly and 1 ½ hour in duration. The modules are: A) Language – B) Arts – C) Social – D) special Events. The young people particpating in these programs get a fully rounded picture of their host society.

7. You are also organizing the first international youth meeting of Servas in the southern hemisphere, called “Patagonia 06″, to be held in the beautiful resort town of Bariloche in Argentina during the 3rd week of January of 2006. Please tell us about this initiative.

Working hard with the help of SERVAS Argentina, the first international youth conference in the southern hemisphere will be held January 15 to 22, 2006. PATAGONIA ’06 will take place in Bariloche in the heart of Argentinean Patagonia. The landscape is simply amazing. Although our focus is not on the landscape, it provides an additional incentive to attend the conference.

SERVAS YOUTH is not only for people under 30, if you are interested in youth issues and want to help us and develop youth projects in Servas, you don’t need to be a teenager. The meeting will cost only U$D 160, which will cover four meals a day, access to every single activity, accommodation in bungalows or tents (no transportation from BsAs included).

This youth meeting will help us a lot to continue developing the position of youth in SERVAS and at the same time to grow as people. There will be three different topics during the meeting. The specific topics of Youth in Servas are: how to develop the youth position, how to reach more young people, the programs that we are already working on and how to make them grow, how can we help developing the local activities in our national group, and how to get young people involved, new programs that we can start implementing, and everything linked to the Youth issue inside Servas.

Here is the link to the PATAGONIA’06 Conference: www3.telus.net/SC/SERVAS/index.htm

8. Despite having your hands full, you are already thinking of other ways of harnessing the Servas network to provide internship and job shadowing

opportunities for young people from across the world. Please tell us more about that.

This is an idea for the near future. First I want to reach my personal goal with PATAGONIA ’06 and the international youth exchanges. Then I want to use

the Servas network to provide job opportunites to young people abroad to develop their resume and their skills.

9. You also host local “diversity meals”. What are they and what is their purpose?

I heard about “diversity meals” from Mary Jane at the United States Servas office. She told me about an activity they have in San Francisco where a number of meals are organized at various Servas members´ houses, where they become hosts to a diverse group of indivdiuals. I decided to borrow this idea and import it to the youth branch of Servas in Argentina.

Although the participants come from different cultural and educational backgrounds, commonalities surface quickly. Diversity meals are intended to foster tolerance and understanding, not just through international travel, but locally with local participants. It is not necessary to visit Bali or Nicaragua to find a different

way of understanding the world. Our neighbours next door are an equally valid option.

10. When you are not volunteering for a good cause, how do you spend the rest of your time?

Honestly I do not have any free time. I work 10 hours a day, so frequently I work on Servas projects at night, that´s why all my emails get sent out at weird times. I also go to the gym daily. In addition, my mother has a life-long medical condition, so I have to help her and stay close to her all the time just in case.

11. What are your upcoming plans, travel and otherwise?

It is always a challenge for my try to find a way to be involved in the kind of activities that I am participating in, considering the fact that I also have to earn money. If one day I find a way to get my economic needs met while working at Servas and anothers NGOs I would be absolutely happy. I always have the feeling that I´m wasting my time when I am working, thinking of all the things that I could be doing if I had the time to spend working on Servas projects. This is my personal challenge.

Thank you, Pablo, for taking your time to explain all your volunteer activities with us. We wish you the very best for you international youth language exchange program and for the Servas Youth Conference, Patagonia ’06. You are actively helping to spread the message of intercultural tolerance and peace to the next generation.

For the entire story including photos please visit http://www.travelandtransitions.com/interviews/servas_pablo_chufeni.htm

Hotel horror stories

My hotel horror story takes place in Brussels. I am an over planner. I am always so careful about my choices. I do a lot of research. Which just goes to show that even with the best intentions and plans, things can still go astray.

I am going to leave the hotel unnamed to protect, well it isn’t to protect the innocent thats for sure but lets just say this hotel is a grand dame in Brussels. As we walked into the lobby we had no idea that anything might be wrong. it is absolutely gorgeous a belle epoch beauty.

As we were checking in I heard the woman who was checking us in ask the other man who was helping us in French “it is a non smoking room isn’t it”, he just shrugged and went on with what he was doing. Of course he had no idea that I am fluent in French.

With our room key in hand we head toward the elevator. In this part of the lobby there is a beauty old fashioned brass elevator, no that was not for us, we headed farther back into the hotel with our bellman. We went up several floors and the bellman opened our door. We walked in and gave him his tip. He went off with our two friends to their room. We walked over to look at the bathroom and noticed that the toilet was running. We giggled the handle but it wouldn’t stop. We grabbed the bellman from the hall to see if he could help. He couldn’t get it to stop either.

He called down to the desk and told them our problem. They told him to take us to another room, which he did. He had a master key so he could get us in. As soon as we entered this room I was hit by the stench of cigarette smoke and also saw the ash tray in the room. Oh no I said we had a non smoking room. He called down to the desk, this really annoyed me because they knew we were non smoking.

Okay they sent us off to a new room. We walked in and put down our suitcase yikes there was already a suitcase in the room, he had just let us into someone else’s room. You guessed it, the bellman called the front desk again and off we went again. This was now room #4.

This room was okay. Not much to look at, colors were garish and didn’t match but the bathroom had been renovated and it was beautiful, it even had a bidet. Okay we were pretty happy now.

Later that evening when I was walking around the room in my stocking feet I found a damp spot on the floor. I figured they must have steam cleaned the carpeting.

We woke up at 7am to an unusual sound. Tap, Tap, Tap it took me a while to figure out where it was coming from. There was

Hotel reviews: Holiday Inn, Aachen, Germany

Aachen is conveniently situated for easy access to other parts of Germany as well as Belgium and the Netherlands. In fact, the city sits at the crossroads of Euroroute 40 which goes from Calais, through Brussels and on to Dresden; and the E25 from Amsterdam, through Strasbourg to Switzerland.

Located on Krefelder Strase, just a few hundred metres off the A4 (E40) motorway, the hotel couldn’t be easier to find.

Krefelder Strase leads directly into the city centre and the Cathedral, City Hall and the quaint old town with it’s narrow little streets are all a just few minutes away from the hotel.

The hotel is housed in a modern building set back some distance from the road so that, although the road is extremely busy with traffic, there are no real problems with noise.

There are 99 bedrooms arranged over 4 floors and all the rooms feature double-size beds. Non-smoking rooms are available, as are rooms suitable for disabled travellers.

The reception area was all very fresh, modern and inviting and, as we were there in December, the large Christmas tree and seasonal displays made for a very pleasant entrance.

As we had reserved this on the net it was a simple matter of handing over our confirmation number. Not that communication would have been a problem anyway, the girl who dealt with us spoke better English than I did.

According to the hotel’s website, their staff speak: Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Spanish and Turkish…hopefully not all at the same time!

On checking in, we were given a voucher for a complimentary glass of sherry which we didn’t bother taking advantage of. Sherry?! It was a nice touch though.

Anyway, it was all very friendly and efficient and we were soon on our way to our room.

If you’ve ever stayed in a Holiday Inn, then you’ll know what the room was like – they all seem to be pretty much exactly the same wherever you are. The room was fairly large by European standards with two, good-sized double beds which were comfortable; adequate wardrobe space; a desk; a dresser with plenty of drawers and a table and chairs. The room was well equipped with table lamps and a large window kept it bright during the day.

There was cable TV with the usual selection of channels as well as in-house video and radio. Coffee and tea making facilities were on hand but the sachets of coffee were absolutely revolting – it surely wouldn’t break the bank to supply decent coffee. We also had a trouser press but I’m afraid

How To Eat A Healthy Diet By Having The Right Amount Of Fruit And Vegetables!

Dietary experts recommend that every person should eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. The importance of fruits and vegetables to a healthy diet has been known for quite some time, but studies have shown that very few people eat the amount of fruits and vegetables recommended for a healthy diet.

That’s a shame, since eating a sufficient number of fruits and vegetables just may be the single most effective thing you can do to improve your overall health. The five a day approach to healthy eating may be the single most important strategy you can adopt for a healthier lifestyle.

The many health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables have been established for quite some time now. Study after study has shown that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of certain cancers, heart disease and other chronic diseases and conditions. Some studies have suggested that as many as 35% of cancer deaths can be attributed to diet, and that diets high in fats and low in fruits and vegetables contributes to unnecessary cancer deaths.

Fruits and vegetables have a lot of advantages besides just their nutritional importance. For one thing, they taste great and add a great deal of variety to everyday meals. Fruits and vegetables come in such a wide variety of colours, textures and flavours that they can be used in virtually every meal. Those seeking to maximize their consumption of fruits and vegetables should get into the habit of using fruits in salads, as toppings and as garnishes.

In addition to their great taste, fruits and vegetables are packed full of many essential vitamins and minerals, including many micronutrients that are not included in packaged vitamin supplements. For instance, foods like butternut squash, pumpkins, carrots, mangoes, peaches, pawpaws and green leafy vegetables are rich in beta carotene. Beta carotene is vital for healthy skin and eyes.

In addition, most varieties of fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, another important vitamin and a strong antioxidant. Good sources of vitamin C include Brussels sprouts, citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, nectarines and kiwi fruit. Many fruits and vegetables, including spinach, broccoli and avocadoes, are also good sources of vitamin E, another excellent antioxidant.

Men and women alike should always strive to eat a healthy diet, but women have an extra incentive to get all the nutrition they need. Proper nutrition is essential to a healthy pregnancy, and some of the baby’s biggest nutritional needs happen before the pregnancy is discovered. Folic acid is perhaps the best known essential nutrient for pregnant women. Folic acid has been proven effective at preventing a variety of birth defects, including Spina Bifida. Good dietary sources of folic acid include Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach and oranges. In addition, due to its importance to women of child bearing years, many common foods such as cereals and breads, are supplemented with folic acid.

In addition to their importance as source of vitamins and minerals, fruits and vegetables also provide essential dietary fibre. Adequate fibre in the diet is important in preventing heart disease and some kinds of cancer.

Another great feature of fruits and vegetables, especially to those watching their weight, is the high nutrition, low fat, low calorie nature of these foods. Fruits and vegetables contain very low levels of fats, and a diet low in fat can be quite effective for long term weight loss. In addition, fruits and vegetables contain no cholesterol, and they are lower in calories than many other types of foods.

With all these things going for them, it is no wonder so many dietary experts recommend eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Not only are fruits and vegetables delicious and nutritious, but they can be quite inexpensive as well. Buying fruits and vegetables that are locally grown, and that are in season, is usually the most cost effective way to get the freshest fruits and veggies at the lowest possible cost.

This buying strategy also helps to ensure a steady stream of new fruits and vegetables every month, as some go out of season while others are just coming in. Trying a variety of different fruits and vegetables, including some you may not be familiar with, is also a great way to create exciting new dishes and prevent you from becoming bored with the same old diet. Whether your goal is to lose weight or just increase your level of fitness, it is hard to go wrong with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Appreciate The Excellent Galleries In Antwerp

When seeking a spirited place, Antwerp tourism opportunities are ideal. Antwerp tourism options give the traveller a custom to experience fine eating options, to drop over extraordinary sites of importance, and to drink in the rich past of the conurbation of Antwerp in Belgium. Fabulous, uniquely styled architecture, inviting and welcoming stores, magnificent past monuments, numerous art galleries, loads of , and myriad cultural activities await the visitor of Antwerp. In addition, getting around the municipality of Antwerp and to various destinations of leisure is amazingly easy, thanks to the myriad forms of public transportation accessible to tourists and metropolis inhabitants.

Antwerp has a host of museums that reminds foreigners of its illustrious former times. The Plantin Moretus Museum is a UNESCO world heritance site for its contribution of European printing while the 16th century. Antwerp zoo is one of the ancient zoos in the world. It has a mass of more than 4000 animals housed in the structure that came from the 19th century. Antwerp has a multitude churches that display diverse architecture these as the baroque church of Carolus Borromeus, and the Cathedral of our Lady, which is one of the grandest churches in Northern Europe. Other locations of importance include the conurbation hall, the ancient market square, and the Vleeshius meat house.

Take a expedition of one of the earliest zoos in the entire world; the Antwerp Zoo contains sea lions, adorable King Penguins, crocodiles, dolphins, monkeys, a vast diversification of reptiles, and fish. Plus, the Zoo is perfect for and children alike! If the zoo doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps the Royal Museum of Fine Arts will hold leisure for you. Once ruined by a devastating fire, the museum has a rich history, having been made, around 1884. Within the museum’s walls you may delight in the extraordinary work of artists like Rubens, Jacob Jordaens, and Floris Claesz van Deck.

Amusement options in Antwerp are hot tickets in Europe. The place has a repute for wonderful ballet displays and operas. You could hear the Royal Flanders Philharmonic do their magic in the concert halls around the metropolitan area. For flick breaks, the UGC Antwerpen has wonderful seats and excessive screens. Entertainment halls populate the city centre. Consult local people on the supreme spots to display amusement amid casual night outs.

Antwerp stands out from the rest of Belgium when it comes to food. While Brussels is legendary for its chocolate, Antwerp has a delicacy named “smos” which is made out of bread. It is difficult to say where the choice “smos” is, as every human in Antwerp has a various opinion about it, but one favored store is Jean-Pierre. The friendly citizens of Antwerp will gladly direct the excursionists to a zone near the university where the accepted “smos” is served.

The preferable restaurants in Antwerp do not offer Belgian food, unfortunately. The common food offered is just like the other locales with regard to ethnic food.

The economic dominance of Antwerp didn’t inaugurate with diamonds. The sheer economic success of the province dates back to the 16th century, and quite obviously, the success has carried over to modish times. Nowadays, the diamond trade is a sparkling feature that gives the conurbation its deserved lustre, yet it still gives us umpteen cultural value that citizens will appreciate.

Travel destinations: Bruges, Belgium, the Venice of the North

Last year the movie “In Bruges” appeared at American theaters. According to the credits it starred Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes. The actual star of the movie is the city of Bruges itself. Located in the province of West Flanders, north west of Brussels and a brief train ride from the North Sea Coast. On my last trip to Bruges, we arrived by train from Brussels. This was after a flight from Denver. We were fatigued, but determined to use mass transit to reach our destination of Bruges. I had been to Bruges hundreds of times prior to this trip when I had lived in Antwerpen. That was with a different husband. We then had an automobile, his native language was Flemish and he had friends living in the city. Now, close to 20 years later, I was being the tour guide for my “new” husband. Unfortunately, I had forgotten most of the Flemish I had crammed into my English speaking brain so I brought along a pocket size “Dutch” language book. Most Flemish people speak fluent English, so I knew I wouldn’t actually need it. I will try hard during this writing to spell Bruges in the English/French way, although I much prefer to spell cities and towns in the language that is spoken there. That would put Bruges as Brugge.

We arrived at the Brussels airport in the midst of the am rush hour. Customs was a brief experience and before long we began looking for the train station. In just minutes we found the signage and took an escalator down to level one. Within minutes of purchasing our tickets, a train arrived and we took it to Brussels North. It was there we changed trains, finding one going in the direction of Bruges. I had over packed, and being rush hour, the space was limited. Most of the passengers were chattering in French, although Brussels is officially bi-lingual and sits in heart of Flanders. We watched the buildings as we passed by. There were Gothic style churches blocks from new apartment buildings. Soon the urban sprawl was replaced by small farms and straight rows of trees. Shortly after an hour commute we departed the train at the Bruges station.

The elevator down from the platform was kaput, so we navigated the step stairs with our over packed bags. Just outside of the station was the bus depot and ticket kiosk. Taxi’s were lined up awaiting arriving passengers. One could not help but notice the large bicycle parking lot adjacent to the train station. We opted to walk to our hotel. It was just to the west of the station in Sint Michels. Like

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.}