Sunday, July 31, 2011

Brussels by Night

2 weeks ago I had to fly to Hungary for a few days and on my way back to Freetown I had an 11 hour layover in Belgium. Since I have never seen Brussels I was looking forward to a special sightseeing walk at night. The plane was late so it was midnight when I left the airport. I caught the last but to downtown and on the way I fished out my must-see-list from a Belgian friend.

People speak French in that part of town and I am still nowhere close to hold a decent conversation in that language so do not expect long explanations of these places I have been. Sufficient to say I had a fabulous time walking around, seeing all those nice buildings - many of them reminded me of Budapest... So, enjoy the pictures :)

 The Main Square was truly amazing. Even at 3 am it was full of tourists and young people, who sat on the ground singing, drinking and chatting.

Around 3.30 am I walked into a friendly bar to taste the world famous Belgian beer; I told the guy that a) I am a tourist b) first time in Brussels c) I was told I have to try the beer and d) I HATE BEER, so give me something good. He just smiled and without a blink he grabbed a glass that was hanging above my head upside down and filled it with a light colored beer. I tasted it and guess what? It was sooooo delicious! :) After I finished the glass I asked him what it was. He gave me MANGO BEER :))) How on earth he knew that mango is my absolute favorite fruit is beyond me. Nonetheless I really enjoyed my first (and maybe not last) beer in Brussels. Of course I had some good Belgian chocolate, too. Oh well, life IS good! :)
 For this bar they used old fashioned black board and white chalk to list the available beers for the day. Let me tell you the list was loooooong. :)

 I love these narrow streets! :))))
 Everywhere I went they were selling souvenirs of a small boy peeing. I got intrigued and asked where I would find this obviously famous statue. A guy pointed me towards the right direction and I started walking. Since there were no tourists in those streets I almost walked by the symbol of Brussels... Apparently THIS is the statue, a wee bit smaller than what I expected. :)

 Brussels has some very nice parks. I especially enjoyed this one because of the lights. I am pretty sure this park is more captivating at nights. I felt very safe walking around alone and had time to put my camera down on a timer.
 I walked by the Royal Palace buildings when I saw this F-16 (at least I think that's what it is...). I asked the soldiers who were guarding it - as if anybody could just steal it :) Apparently the day I was flying out is their national holiday and such calls for a parade and celebrations. Too bad I didn't have time to stay and enjoy it.
 I was at the Central Station around 5.30 am feeling quite tired of my all night long walk-around and was considering going back to the airport. That's when I saw the sign that explained how to get to the Atomium. Grrrrrr, temptation. It was in the opposite direction and I had to change the underground 2x to get there... but I always wanted to see the symbol of the EU... what if I get lost and cannot get back in time for my flight... but it's only 5 Euros to go there and I might not come back again to Brussels... but what if... The thoughts in my head were changing rapidly. Finally I gave in and followed the signs. :) 35 minutes later I hesitantly got off the metro and walked up the stairs. I was told "it's huge and right there, you cannot miss it". Right. That is, if you get off the right stop. I looked around and I didn't see it! I was just about to get upset when I realized it might be behind the metro station booth. I took a few steps and found myself in a huge empty parking lot. And then I turned around and SAW IT! :)

I stood there for about 10 minutes taking in the size and the design, but the cold morning air urged me to get back into the metro and start making my way back to the airport. One last time I passed by the Central Station, this time took a picture and realized that this was definitely NOT my last time in Brussels. :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Visiting a US Coast Guard Ship

Living on a ship gives us the privilege sometimes to visit other ships that dock in the same harbor. Obviously it's not always a huge turn on, but last week I got invited to tour one of the US Coast Guard ships and it didn't take me long to decide. :)

Here are some shots, because they graciously allowed me (YAY!!!!!!) to take pictures. Enjoy!

The "Big Gun" was the main attraction for me at least.
The guys were more fascinated by the inside of the ship.
Crew mess and recreational area.
On the Bridge I sat in the Captain's chair. I looked around and
on my right was a sign hidden well among all the devices that told me
why it was indeed MY CHAIR! (see below)

Yes, it says "Press Release"! :) That is MY JOB after all :)))

Steep steps and very confined spaces...

This is one of their sleeping quarters. 18 men with bunk beds of 3!!!

Happy 4th July!

Even though I don't celebrate this event and even though not everybody is American on board, we all benefited from this holiday: we had a nice BBQ on the dock side to commemorate the day when the Brits finally managed to get rid of America :) - as our British Operations Director very graciously put it, causing a havoc among the aforementioned Yanks.... Oh well, the joy of living in a multicultural community!