Suitcase and World: August 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Pis Family.

Photo by ©  Pbrundel. Licensed under  Creative Commons 3.0)

ou have to give it up to the Belgians. They are quirky to say the least but in a very lighthearted though reverent way.

I live stone's throw from Washington, DC where we have historic landmarks galore.  When it comes to design, they are all formal, staid and very conservative looking.  Some would say they are elegant.  I guess whatever adjectives you can use to describe structures befitting a nation's capital would be appropriate.

Belgium has its fair share of those sorts of structures too so it's a bit surprising that its most famous landmark is the statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain's basin.  Say hello to Manneken Pis.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Paris. The City of Dark.

Paris Catacombs. @Dave Shea, / CC BY 2.0

aris is infamously referred to as the City of Light or City of Lights, depending on your reference source. But it should also be known as the City of Dark for under its lively streets lies another world.  As much as I want Z to fully explore what sits above ground, I also want to go below ground as it's a part of Paris I've not been to hence this blog post.

Dating as far back as the 13th century, the ground underneath what is now the present day city was mined for Lutetian limestone and gypsum (used in plaster of Paris), two of the materials used in the construction of the many structures in the city.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Comical World. Bande Dessinée.


ande dessinée literally means *drawn strips* in French. In English, we know the phrase as *comic strips*. Although both Belgium and France have a long tradition in comics and comic books, Belgium is the undisputed world capital when it comes to comics.  This is the birthplace of Tintin and those lovable blue Smurfs , among many other well known comic strip characters.  The Belgians take the art form (yes, I consider it an art form) so seriously that they actually have a museum dedicated to it - Center Belge de la Bande  Dessinée  (The Belgian Comic Strip Center), located in Brussels, is the world's first comic strip museum.

As a child, I did read Tintin comics and even watched many an episode of the Smurfs but that was decades ago so I truly know very little about Belgian comics.  Z may have heard of the Smurfs but I'm certain that's about it.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Sweet of Belgium. Chocolate.

Box of assorted chocolates from Château Blanc, Antwerp, Belgium.
(Photo from, official online store of Château Blanc)

enerally speaking, I do not have a sweet tooth.  I much prefer to eat something salty over something sweet.  There are some exceptions.  The first is chocolate.  I love chocolate but I hate eating bad aka cheap chocolate.  I've tried a lot of different brands, from countries near and far. 

With the exception of artisan crafted chocolates like Scharfen Berger (which was sold to Hershey's in 2005) and Mast Brothers, I pretty much avoid eating any American chocolate - even candy bars.  It's all much too sugary sweet and that sugar overpowers the taste of the chocolate.  That goes for Guittard, Ghiradelli and even brands like Ms. See's and Whitman's as well.

Monday, August 24, 2015

O Kingston!

A couple of weeks ago, I walked into the office of a former colleague, Maxy.  I really just wanted to say hello and do a bit of catching up as it had been quite some since we had last connected with each other.

As the conversation progressed, I come to find out that she would soon be taking her youngest daughter to university and that by sheer coincidence, it was my alma mater - Queen's University!  Her plan was to drive her daughter up to Queen's and she invited me to come along.  How could I say no?  It'll be a fun road trip and I've not been back to Queen's in decades.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

So where am I going? Here are your clues.

Today's posting is specifically written for my colleagues at work. As I'm sure you've figured out by now, I have not revealed where I am going on my trip though a handful of you do know. Usually when asked the question "Where are you going?", I would just blurt out the answer but this time around, I thought I would have some fun (and hopefully, you will too) by turning this into a guessing game.

This will be a test of your knowledge of world geography, biology and ancient history or perhaps, more accurately,

...... your ability to surf the web using Google
...... or your skills at bribing the very smart kids you have at home in to giving you the answers :-)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Land of the Golden Pagodas. Myanmar.

Buddhist monks in queue for the meal at the monastery Kha Khat Wain Kyaung in Bago.
(Photo by Hans A. Rosbach.  Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.)
I've wanted to travel to Myanmar, nicknamed *Land of the Golden Pagodas*, for more than 30 years.  It was around 1985  that I met the first person I ever knew from Burma - she was my colleague at the IMF and we stayed in good touch until she retired.  We used to have shared a lot of good times and good laughs.  As well, her husband who is also from the same homeland was the architect on my kitchen extension and renovation project.  Over the years, M introduced to her Burmese friends.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

An Unexpected Trip With the Graduate.

The Graduate.
A  couple of days ago, I spoke with my sister.  She was calling me to tell me that her youngest son, whom I often just call *Z*, will be traveling to NYC to visit his older brother who's attending grad school there.  After that, he will come to see me and his grandparents who live nearby me.  I only have two nephews and the welcome mat is always set out for them.  As I was chatting with her, the thought of doing a trip with Z immediately came to mind.  Last summer I had asked if he would be interested in doing a trip to Belgium and France and he was.  Unfortunately, other commitments arose and he couldn't go.  So, I decided to bring up the idea again.  My sister had no objections but she wanted me to run the idea by Z.

So, I did.   And, this time there is nothing standing in his way so as of the very wee morning hours of today (I was too excited to sleep so we chatted), we are going to France and Belgium!!  Such an unexpected but wonderful, surprise trip!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Caucasus. Armenia, Georgia & Azerbaijan.

Tatev Monastery, Armenia.  (Photo by Alexander Naumov)
Atrip to the Caucasus was something that my Central Asian travel partner, Pat, and I had talked quite a bit about when we were traveling through those countries this past spring.  Like me, she has a love for going to places that are off the beaten tourist path and most certainly, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan fit that bill to a tee.

Both Pat and I will be busy for the next couple of months but starting mid October, we'll be hunkering down and planning out the details of this trip which is slated to happen early next year, 2016.