03 July 2015

Hittegolf

Hittegolf.  That's Dutch for "heatwave" and we're right in the middle of a long one - longest one we can recall in our 6 years - with temperatures rising nearly every day to 100F (38C).

Now, 100F is nothing new to us Southerners, but there's a difference in a Belgian 100F . . . because in Belgium, we don't have AC.  That's a huge difference.

Normally that isn't a problem.  It's been this hot before, but only a day at a time here and there.  We suffer through one night of miserable sleep and it's over.    

Not this year.

My lush green garden is shocked and struggling.

We're holed up and camping out in one room downstairs, going upstairs only to shower.  Heat rises and we've got a lot of rises in this house.  Our third floor bedroom is very much like an attic right now.  And the fourth floor . . . !

July 1st was the hottest day on record since 1901 and it's going to be even hotter tomorrow - the 4th of July. As Ross said . . . our BBQ will have a real Louisiana feel about it.

Fortunately we've got a little portable AC and have no choice now but to crank it up.

It should get back to normal summer temperatures here by mid next week with highs in the 80's.  



Maybe this is my reminder to quit complaining about all that Belgian grey.

01 July 2015

The Tractor Factor

This photo was in our local paper recently.  Fortunately, and incredibly, the driver saw it coming, quickly slipped over to the passenger side and got out of the car.  Amazing.


This incident came as no surprise to me.  The thing that surprises me is that it doesn't happen more often. Farm tractors on public roads is common here . . . and everywhere else.   And it's perfectly legal.

You may have heard me tell this story . . . a few years ago I encountered a farm truck, like the one above, on Tech Drive.  I was so shocked that I immediately dialed 911 only to be further shocked by their response . . . it's perfectly legal.

And you may have heard me tell this one . . . when I called 911 on my way to work one day in El Dorado because there was a boy in the back of a pickup truck on a 4-lane highway . . . only to find out that's perfectly legal too.  Shocking.  It's not okay to ride in the cab without a seatbelt, but no problem flailing around in the bed of the truck.

I couldn't believe it so I looked it up myself and, at that time, Arkansas had no law prohibiting riding in the back of a pickup truck.  Maybe that has changed.  Hopefully.  

However, in Louisiana . . . be at least 12 years old and you can be hauled anywhere but on the interstate. Flail around all you want on any 4-lane highway as long as your 12. Just not on I-20.

I try to picture myself sitting around the table when these rules were pondered.  Hmmmm . . . how far do we really want to go with this safety thing?

So back to the farm tractor . . .

In Texas, there's a whole set of rules and it is sooooo worth reading.  I've also put a link below for your reading pleasure.

Here are just a few of the "gems" within this legal Texas document for operating a farm tractor.

"use a turn indicator or hand signal when changing lanes"
"equip the tractor with turn signals if driving after dark"
"all Texas traffic laws apply to tractor operators using public roads even though a driver’s license is not required"

Unbelievable, right?  Don't worry about a license to drive and stick your arm out the window to turn, but not when you're farming on the highway at night.

Jim and I have sold both our cars and will have to buy at least one car when we move back to the States. I'm thinking farm tractor.  Jim's always wanted a garden.  As long as we stay off the interstate, we won't need a license, we'll save on insurance, and we both have arms for turning.








29 June 2015

Waterloo

Abba song?  

Yes, but so much more.

Every year, the Battle of Waterloo is re-enacted, at the site of the battle, just outside Brussels - in . . . Waterloo.  

Just in case you forgot, it's where Napoleon was finally defeated.

To commemorate 200 years since that famous battle, the re-enactment was stepped up a notch this year.

Tickets for the event went on sale in 2014 and after the first 110,000 tickets sold out, another 8,000 extra tickets were made available (also sold out).  I read where these tickets were sold to people from 60 different countries.

In another effort to commemorate this event, Belgium decided to issue a 2 Euro coin.

Well, all hell broke loose in France.  The French had a meltdown and insisted that all 180,000 coins Belgium had already minted also be melted down.   The French government sent a letter to Belgium saying that the coins would "cause an unfavorable reaction in France".  You know, Napoleon was French.

He was forced into exile after his defeat in Waterloo so that was basically the end of the road for him and apparently the French still don't want that commemorated.

Well, leave it to Belgium to figure out a way to do it anyway.  Evidently there is a rule that EU countries can unilaterally issue a coin as long as it's in an irregular denomination.

Voila!  The Battle of Waterloo 2 1/2 Euro Coin.

The Royal Belgian Mint in Brussels displays the €2.50 coin
The Royal Belgian Mint in Brussels displays the €2.50 coin, bearing the Lion’s Mound monument at Waterloo and a diagram of the battle lines on 18 June 1815. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

The Belgian finance minister said "The goal is not to revive old quarrels.  In a modern Europe, there are more important things to sort out."  

I'm sure the French government appreciated him pointing this out.


"Audacity succeeds as often as it fails; in life it has an even chance."
Napoleon Bonaparte

27 June 2015

Long Time Coming


Long time coming?  Maybe not to some and maybe not in the big scheme of things, but way too long for many and plenty long enough for me.

I'm referring to the U. S. Supreme Court decision that finally places America among the nations on the right side of history.

It's not often that the U. S. joins a list that includes Norway, Sweden, and Denmark - ranked as some of the happiest places in the world to live . . .

or France, Spain, and Portugal - with some of the best health systems in the world . . .

or Iceland, New Zealand and Canada - some of the safest countries in the world . . .

or Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands - some of the best places in the world to raise children . . .

but it joins them now.  All of them.  We've come a long way.

Nearly 4 years ago to the day, I published this blog post.  I think it's worth posting again today.

Click

The Straight and Narrow . . . minded?

25 June 2015

Barcelona Sand Finale


This ends the chronicle of our road trip, primarily for Barcelona sand, but it turned out to be so much more.


Although there were highways and traffic . . .



like this in Paris . . .



and more than enough toll booths throughout France and Spain . . .



like this.

On our entire trip of about 2000 miles, we stopped at 24 toll stations like this one and paid over 200 euros in tolls. 




There were not too many times when three lanes were slowed to a crawl . . .



and just a little rain in Spain.



We were lucky not to be stopped in traffic very often - like that other side of the interstate there . . .



and there.



Of course, we can't forget this little souvenir from Barcelona.


HOWEVER . . .


there was WAY more of all this . . .


Scenery almost too beautiful to be real.



Historic little towns that time and war have not erased.



Mountains and lakes as pristine as they were centuries ago.



Villas and rivers that have stood and withstood the test of time.



Views and landscapes that no photo can do justice.



Castles and settings that only a romantic can fathom.



And sunsets every single day for all of us to enjoy.


And, my sweet husband, capturing us . . . so happy and so lucky to have been in all these magnificent places.







Merci beaucoup
Muchas gracias
Hartelijk bedankt

Thanks for reading my blog :)