I Got Lost In Brussels

I thought I was going in the right direction to where I wanted to be. I tried Google Maps but it proved to be wholly unreliable in the twisting streets of Brussels. Frustrated I walked and if push came to shove I would find a taxi stand and climb into one. But not before I tried navigating on my own. I mean, I could find a coffee shop to rest my tired feet, or I could find a mall and do some shopping. There are worse things than that. I was all about the adventure and what I could find on the journey to the hop on hop off red tourist bus terminus.

But first things first…I experimented with travelling with a backpack in preparation for Thailand. I bought a nice 70L backpack and in hindsight, I should have bought a 40L instead. I packed it too heavily although I tried VERY hard to keep things light. It was about 10kgs, and I strained my back which needed anti-inflammatory jabs, rest and physiotherapy to help, all in a matter of the 5 short days between arriving from Belgium and leaving for Thailand with Che. That said, I will use a backpack again, it’s practical and easy to carry in and out of public transport.

I experimented with backpack travelling…
©2018 Regina Martins

I found a gorgeous little Airbnb in Sablon, comfortable and in a cobbled lane closed off to vehicles. It was central to everything I needed. Sablon is trendy, filled with restaurants, coffee shops, ancient churches and loads of shopping opportunities – my kind of place. And I was delighted that it had a coffee machine.

The streets of Sablon are quaint and old-fashioned and they remind me so much of Bairro Alto in Lisbon. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you might remember that Lisbon is one of my all-time favourite places which I love visiting every year…although not this year…yet…

In the process of getting lost, I stumbled upon a remnant of the first city wall, this tower is named the Tour Anneessens, in Sablon, along the Boulevard de l’Empereur. It’s well preserved and the real surprise for me was that it’s standing in the middle of more modern buildings, like an ancient island of stone among a sea of modernity.

The Eglise Notre Dame du Sabon, Gothic in style was just around the corner and it’s a fascinating church. I will post more specifically on this church in another post. It’s beautiful, adorned with intricate carvings and stonework, and I’m intrigued at the images on the outside. I’ve just finished reading Dan Brown’s Origin, so I’m in ‘Dan Brown’ mood, and I’m wondering at the symbolism of the images carved in stone…what they mean and why they were created there.

Eglise Notre Dame du Sablon
©2018 Regina Martins

And finally, for this post, more images I took whilst getting lost…Belgium was tropical, hot weather with scarce a breeze, and it was fun watching families run through the mists of cool water in the middle of a plaza. The iron-shaped building along the Boulevard Adolphe Max was on my way to the Grand-Place where preparations were underway to welcome the Belgian soccer team back home. I arrived back in Brussels from Geetbets the following Sunday, straight into a sea a red clad soccer fans – but more about this in another post. Gosh, I’ve got a lot of material for my blog for a while.

In the process of getting lost, I did find a coffee shop where I rested my tired feet over a coffee and croissant, and a shopping mall. I have a gorgeous pair of shoes in my closet as a reminder of the day I got lost in Brussels looking for the hop on hop off red tourist bus.


P Is For Parys

There’s a small town about 120kms south of Joburg that has a name uncannily similar to a more famous European spot which has a famous steel structure as its centrepiece.

Well, let me tell you that Parys has better than just a famous steel structure as a centrepiece. It is…a centrepiece! This small town is located IN the Vredefort structure…aka an upside dome, more popularly known as a crater.

2023 million years ago a meteor with a diameter of 10kms came hurtling through the cosmos and collided with earth at 30 000kms per hour creating an indentation 300kms wide. It’s the largest meteor impact site scientists have found on our beautiful planet and 2x larger than the one that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

This makes it the older crater yet found on earth. And because of all that, it’s been named a World Heritage Site, South Africa’s 7th.

The Vredefort Dome is only the central part of the impact crater. It is called a dome because the rock layers were bent into the shape of an upside-down bowl 90km across by the impact. (Source)

The red star on the map shows where it is in South Africa.

It stretches all the way to Joburg. As you can see, Parys is in the core of the structure.

The Vaal River, one of South Africa’s strongest flowing rivers, flows across the dome with Parys situated on its banks. Along its banks are also many picturesque resorts – some years ago Che and I stayed at one of them – the Carrieblaire River Retreat.

Look at how peaceful it looks, and it was…


D Is For Durban

When we were kids every holiday was spent in Durban. As landlocked Joburgers the annual beach holiday was something I looked forward to all the time. Once a year we packed our family of 5’s belongings into a VW Bettle and headed down to the coast. As we neared Durban, we played the game of ‘who can see the sea first’, which was accompanied by the briny smells of the ocean.

One of my favourite things to do was walk along the Marine Parade from the South to the North Beach, browsing all the vendor’s stalls. I was a child with no cash and convincing my folks to buy this and that was never successful 🙂

Durban South Beach
©2017 Regina Martins

These days I seldom go into the city, preferring instead the quietude and serenity of the small village of Umdloti Beach.

The smooth sand, ebb and flow of the waves, the winged clouds and the fire of life of the plants holding on to the slippery sands of the dunes
©2017 Regina Martins

The village has changed little over the years but the beach has changed significantly. The beautiful tidal pool most parents felt safe allowing their kids to frolick in is not so safe after all. The promenade has subsided in places because of soil erosion caused by severe storms over the years. When Che and I were last there, in August last year, the tidal beach was closed off for rehabilitation, with a huge bulldozer in the middle of the sand.

Storms have slowly eroded the dune, collapsing the pavement
©2017 Regina Martins

Away from the tidal pool, avid residents walk the beaches at sunset, wielding metal detectors – I wonder what they find…?

Metal detector on a beach
©2017 Regina Martins

Things to remember when holidaying in Durban:

  • It’s on the Indian Ocean coast so the waters are warm.
  • There are amazing dive sites further north, close to Sodwana Bay.
  • There are game reserves with the Big 5 just 2 hours to the north.
  • uShaka Marine World is a haven for kids – the waterpark is a lot of fun.
  • It has, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful aquarium in South Africa.
  • The Durban Botanical Gardens is one of the city’s best-kept secrets.
  • It boasts a large international airport, the King Shaka International Airport with daily domestic flights, and international flights from Istanbul, Doha, Dubai, Mauritius and other African destinations.

It’s a different experience to Cape Town. I don’t venture into Cape Town’s frigid waters but Durban is my happy beach swimming place. And it has great surfing too.


A Is for Antwerpen-Centraal

I transited at Antwerpen-Centraal train station on my way from Amsterdam to Ghent in January. I’d read that it was considered the most beautiful train station in the world, as awarded by Mashable in 2014. Naturally, I was curious and was gobsmacked at its beauty. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave the station to photograph the exterior, but I did walk around a bit and took a few pics.


Wikipedia, Antwerpen-Centraal railway station, accessed April 2, 2018


An Ever-Changing Sketchbook

Just before catching the tram to the station I managed a quick stroll along Werregarenstraatje. It helped it was right across from my hotel. It was devised as a temporary project during the 1995 Ghent Festivities and this alley still serves as an ever-changing sketchbook, a demo of current street art and especially as a blank canvas for Ghent’s many graffiti artists. The tags and pieces change daily and sometimes the entire alley is painted over so that a new blank canvas is created all over again. In this rule-free zone the spray can rules, the artists respecting works that are better than theirs (Ghent City Guide).