Tag Archives: Festival

Brussels

Part three of our trip to Belgium.

After three lovely days in Bruges, we jumped back on the train to Brussels.

On the advice of Xavier, the owner of our Brussels B&B (X2), we avoided Brussels Midi station and headed to Brussels Central, much nicer and the same distance from our accommodation.

After the medieval splendour of Bruges, Brussels’s modern, sprawling, capital required a slight gear change in attitude, especially as it was raining.

Once we’d navigated our way to the B&B we dried off, relaxed with a coffee and were briefed on the best places to eat, see, visit, etc. Xavier, the owner, was very thorough, drawing it all onto a map and labelling the key locations so it all made sense. As we were early for the room, we left our bags and set off again into the city.

 

Comparing Bruges to Brussels is a bit like comparing York to London. One is a small, beautifully preserved medieval gem and the second is a large modern city with lots of historic places mixed in with the modern. Brussels is beautiful, but it can also be dirty, drab and shabby – like any big modern city.

 

We followed Xavier’s suggested route and found some of the most beautiful bits. One suggestion was the comic book festival at the Royal Park and the balloon parade, which was starting at 2pm. Even though we aren’t the biggest comic book fans in the world, we thought it would be colourful and interesting so we agreed to give it a go.

 

The festival was interesting, and colourful as promised, but Lady Hughes really wanted to see the balloon parade so at 1.30pm we found a spot and waited as the large inflatable characters were prepared. 2pm came and went and they still weren’t parading. Due to the crowds, and recent events, security was tight with lots of police and heavily armed soldiers patrolling the area.

 

At one point, a small girl lost control of her little balloon and it floated in the breeze, bouncing across the floor towards me, with her chasing it. When it came to me, to help her, I reached out my foot and gently stopped it, so she could catch it.

BANG! The balloon popped.

Four things happened. First, everyone jumped, including the police and the heavily armed soldiers just yards away. Secondly, the little girl stopped and looked up at me with a shocked, hurt, expression, her eyes saying “why?”. My guilt was only tempered by the thought that I might be machine-gunned down as a potential terrorist at a balloon parade at any second – not the way I want to go believe me. Third, every adult within twenty yards took in the scene and looked at me as though I was the most heartless, reckless bastard they’d ever seen, and the fourth reaction was one guy, stood about ten yards away who was just pissing himself laughing.

 

We continued to wait for the parade, until a tall man in a long coat, with a large support boot, sat down next to me and proceeded to grunt loudly. At this point Clare decided we should go, so we never did see the balloons parade – but at least I survived, which is always a good day in my books.

Following Xavier’s map we eventually found the Grand Place, which had been previously described to me as the most beautiful town square in the world. This we had to see, and it did not disappoint.

 

The stunning architecture was enhanced by the fact that most of the square was filled with the Belgium Beer Festival, so, when in Rome, etc.

A few beers later, we continued our exploration and found more beautiful parts to the city which I won’t list here. That evening we returned and had a lovely meal, and a few more beers, in Le Cirio, one of the oldest restaurants in the city.

The next day we had planned to visit the art gallery before catching our first train home, but we arrived at the entrance to find they were all shut on Mondays, so we quickly changed our mission, jumped on the metro and headed off to the Atomium. Just sixteen stops out of town.

The Atomium, was built as part of a World’s Fair in the fifties and is sometimes referred to as Belgium’s Eiffel Tower. It’s certainly impressive, commanding the view as you walk the short distance from the metro station.

 

Once inside we bought tickets to the top and explored the various ‘rooms’, etc. The 360°view from the top was wonderful and the light shows as you travel through the escalators and ‘balls’ as Clare put it, gave you the feel you were in an old science fiction movie. It was as if we’d travelled to the future, just a 1950’s version of the future – if that makes sense?

 

Back on the metro we headed back to the B&B to grab our bags and then hiked to the Midi station, which didn’t do much to improve our first impression, and the Eurostar home.

Looking back on the whole trip, Bruges is beautiful but so is Brussels in the right parts. I’d definitely go back to both and I think everyone should visit the WW1 Battlefields, at least once, as it really gives you a powerful perspective on the cost of conflict, in a way you can’t get from a documentary or a museum. Even now, as I watch the news there are events happening in the world that seem very similar in their own way, as if we have forgotten many of the lessons. It’s important to refresh what we’ve learnt to make sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes and the best way I’ve found is to go there and see for yourself.

Chris.

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Salford Dog Festival

After Saturday’s hike around Cartmel, Lady Hughes suggested something a bit easier for Sunday – the Salford Dog Festival at Clifton Park. Dogs 4 Rescue, who we got Ziggy from, would be there, so she thought it would be nice to show our support and we could take Ziggy and Bobby along too – because everyone knows dogs love organised community events!

If you like dogs, this is for you. If you don’t like dogs, then you’d probably best avoid it as there was every type you could possibly think of – I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea, there was a lot of dogs.

I like dogs so I found it really interesting. Not just the dogs, but the owners too – again, all types, us included of course.

I used the experience to do a bit of ‘doggy’ street photography (is it my dirty mind, or does that sound wrong?), if such a thing exists? Looking for interesting shots of dogs and their owners, something to illustrate the relationships, the special bond that they have.

The easiest option was the obedience display as they were doing a great job entertaining the crowd whilst also making us all feel guilty about how badly trained our dogs are.

The weather was changeable but the crowds were out in force and it looked like the event was going really well. We finished off with a walk round the lake before making our way home – via the Wharf pub in Castlefield to make up for missing out on a pint the day before.

Chris

Summer 2015

I feel very guilty as I’ve not written a blog all summer and it’s mid-September now – don’t worry, I’ll get over it.

Not sure why not, I’ve been very busy but I also think I just wanted a break if I’m completely honest – but hey, I’m back so panic over.

What have I been up to?

Well the first part of summer was taken up with the Manchester International Festival. Every two years, Manchester hosts an arts festival where every performance is a premiere.

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Two years ago I was gutted to miss out on tickets for Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth, so this year we signed up to become a friend of the festival, which, for a small fee, meant we got advance notice of all the shows and priority booking. Despite some glitches with the booking website we managed to see some great shows, including; Damon Albarn’s ‘Wonderland’ musical (interesting), Maxine Peake in ‘The Skryker’ (brilliant), Charlotte Rampling in ‘Kneck of the Woods’ (disappointing), Adam Buxton (very funny), Bork, various exhibitions and two full days of talks called ‘Interdependance’ (fascinating). We also saw Professor Brian Cox talk about his upcoming ‘Age of Starlight’ show, which looks amazing.

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On the filmmaking side, I’ve been involved with Bokeh Yeah and we shot our latest short film in Cheshire last month- we’ve finished the edit and are waiting for my son, Alex, to complete the music – very exciting.

We have several other films in preparation including, at least two poetry films – watch this space.

The big project we’re considering at the moment is the Shining Tor Film School.

Can’t say too much at present, but we’re planning to run some basic film-making courses for absolute beginners, probably starting in the new year – if we can find a suitable venue!

Last week, Lady Hughes and myself came back from a rare holiday. One scorching week in Malta. More to come about that trip later, when I finally manage to organise the photos, etc.

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The main thing is, we’re okay (thanks for asking) and we’ve a lot happening so stay tuned for more adventures.

Chris