My Belgian birthday! Part two

We arrived at Holiday Home Bonjour Clara at about 7:00pm, having originally overshot the driveway and ended up at the dairy farm next door.  Marianne, the proprietor of the vacation home, was waiting for us.  While I walked and watered Zane and Arran, Marianne showed Bill around the humongous house.  She told him it was built in 1670.  Looking around the impressive brick house, I totally believe it’s that old.

Marianne was very surprised there were only two of us and dogs.  She said she usually rents her house out to large groups.  Holiday Home Bonjour Clara has sleeping space for at least ten people.  There are three rooms that could be considered master bedrooms, along with two “cubby” type rooms.  One has a full sized bed and the other tiny nook has bunk beds.  There are also two sofas downstairs, a crib, and plenty of floor space for cots and/or sleeping bags.

Holiday Home Bonjour Clara has two bathrooms, one on each floor.  One has a shower and the other has a large bathtub.  There’s also a water closet.  Should the need arise, you can even do laundry in the house.  Marianne has thoughtfully included a washing machine, which we did end up having to use.

The kitchen is enormous!


The kitchen in this house is huge and inviting.  There’s a large table with seating for several people.  In the dining room, there’s another large table, as well as several tables outside.  The kitchen has a stove, oven, microwave, dishwasher, and fridge, as well as plenty of other appliances you might want or need.

Huge table for a group.  In the next room are a couch and a loveseat, as well as a flatscreen TV with plenty of channels in English.  I love that Belgian TV has programming in English with French or Flemish subtitles.

Living room.  Wood stove for the winter.  There’s also another fireplace in the dining room.

The upstairs bathroom has a shower.  Arran is checking it out.  Marianne supplies plenty of towels, so there’s no need to worry about bringing linens.

The downstairs bathroom.  A water closet is next to it.  This is also where the washing machine is.


The cool looking sink in the WC.  Marianne has decorated this house with a lot of art.  I don’t know if she’s an artist herself, but I would not be surprised if she was.


The foyer.  Steep stairs lead to the upper level.  The downstairs bedroom also has a small set of steps to climb.  Those with mobility issues may have problems in this house because getting into all of the rooms involve climbing steps.


A couple of the bedrooms.  We stayed in the one pictured with Zane on the bed.  Every morning, we awoke to birds chirping, owls hooting, and the smell of beer.  I’m pretty sure the local breweries were supplying their spent barley to farmers for feeding their cows.  There is a dairy farm next door.

This house is equipped with WiFi.  The signal went in and out, which was a little annoying.  However, I was surprised it worked as well as it did, since the building is very old.  It’s been my experience that Internet in older buildings can be a bit dodgy.

After we toured the house, Marianne showed us the coolest (literally) feature her holiday home offers.  She has a “swimming pond!”

Bill checks out the “pond”.  It was refreshingly cold!

This pond is also home to two fish.  They aren’t koi, but they are similar to koi.  Marianne couldn’t remember what they were called in English.  She says they are smarter than koi because they somehow avoid being snatched by birds of prey!  The fish aren’t bothered by human guests.  I did take a short dip just to say I did.  Unfortunately, I was visited by my unpopular “Aunt Flow” over the weekend.  She always shows up at the worst possible times.

A bench near a very pleasant sitting area.

Large yard for the dogs.  This was not completely fenced in, so we couldn’t let them off lead.  Marianne has a dog, but he stayed near the house.  He seemed very friendly.

Next to the house is a canal, where a family of birds was living.  They looked a little like ducks.

I thought they were ducks at first, but upon closer examination, they looked more like small pheasants.

A morning shot of the pond.


Lily pads.


The pond has a rope that facilitates getting in and out.  Otherwise, you have to be pretty careful getting in and out.  I noticed Marianne’s college aged son seemed to take a leap into the water.  In any case, this isn’t your typical American pool with lots of safeguards.  Use at your own risk and be careful!  We thought it was a pretty nice feature, though.

After our dip in the pond, we sat by the canal and drank beer.

This was the view.


Besides birds, Holiday Home Bonjour Clara has a wild bunny who visits in the mornings and evenings.

And two chickens who were almost tame!  They let me get within a foot of them.  And every morning and evening, they peeked into the house.

On our first night, we arrived too late to get to a grocery store.  Marianne very kindly brought us eight eggs from her chickens, some ham, butter, and bread.  The eggs were especially delicious!

Breakfast for dinner!


Since we didn’t have any cream for my coffee, Bill went to the farm next door and purchased a liter of milk.  This very fresh milk cost 50 cents.  The farm also has potatoes, but Marianne said they’d been experiencing a drought and the potatoes are very difficult to unearth right now.

All in all, this house was a delight for four nights.  If you’re looking for a home that can accommodate a group and is pet friendly, I would recommend Holiday Home Bonjour Clara.  Besides being in a delightful rural area, it’s close to Ghent, Bruges, and the beach.


My Belgian birthday! Part one

Yesterday was my birthday.  I turned 45.  I am definitely not living the life I thought I would live at this age, but I can’t complain.  Bill and I learned our lesson the last time we were in Germany.  You have to take all the opportunities you can to see Europe.  Last year, we stayed in town for my birthday and visited one of our favorite local restaurants, Osteria da Gino (Nagold).  This year, Bill decided to take a few days of leave so we could go somewhere.

Although I have enjoyed most of the countries I’ve visited so far, Belgium remains one of my favorite places.  I love the frites, chocolate, and beer.  Also, any country that has a statue of a little boy peeing wins points with me.  Belgium evidently has a number of such monuments, but the most famous one is, of course, Mannekin Pis, which is in Brussels.  Bill and I visited Brussels in 2008.  I would actually love to go back there for the beer scene alone, but we were going to be bringing our dogs, Zane and Arran.  When the boys are with us, it’s better to be out in the country.

Off I went to Booking.com to find a rental house.  To be honest, although we ended up in Belgium, I also considered places in Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands.  I finally settled on Holiday Home Bonjour Clara, located in Alveringem, Belgium.  I picked this house because it offered everything we needed and was in an attractive location near Bruges, Ghent, and the beach.  It had free WiFi, free parking, and was pet friendly.  Somehow, I failed to notice that it also sleeps at least 10 people!  The house is HUGE.  Moreover, besides being very large, it boasts a “swimming pond”, which I also thought was pretty cool.  More on that later.

Anyway, for four nights, we paid 760 euros in cash.  We were actually supposed to do a bank transfer, but the hostess never sent the information to me.  I guess that makes sense, since we booked it just a few days before our arrival.  We usually spend less on our vacation rentals, but again, for some reason I didn’t realize just how huge the house was.  For as many people as it can accommodate, it was definitely priced fairly.  I will review the house in the next post.

On Friday morning, we loaded up the RAV4.  I was feeling a little out of sorts because I ordered coffee from the States again and it hadn’t yet arrived.  Just my luck, the post did try to deliver it on Friday… or so that’s what the mail tracker says.  We have to pay a duty for the coffee, so I was wanting to hang around long enough to take care of that.  Bill, being ever practical and wary of long drives, noted just how far Alveringem is from the Stuttgart area and nixed my idea of waiting for the mail.  It’s a good thing he did that, since it took all day to get to where we were going.  I had initially told our host, Marianne, that we would arrive by five o’clock.  We didn’t actually get to her house until seven.  In all, I think it took about 8 or 9 hours to get there!

On the way to Belgium, we stopped at Ramstein Air Base to gas up the car, buy a top up for my phone, and get some lunch.  Although I had heard about the Burger King fire at Ramstein, I had forgotten about it and was shocked to see the charred skeleton of the building.  The fire happened in mid April.  It must have been quite the inferno!  We spent a lot longer at Ramstein than we should have, although I will admit to being impressed by the facilities there.  It’s like a little America!  I hadn’t been there since our last Space A trip in 2014.  We had burgers from Johnny Rocket’s for lunch.  I think I can safely say I don’t need to have another one of those for awhile.

Our drive to Alveringem was mostly uneventful, though very long.  Just getting out of Germany seemingly takes forever.  We ran into the usual staus and had to stop a few times for potty breaks.  Like Germany, Belgium’s high speed freeways are apparently free (for now, anyway).  But the roads aren’t in the best condition in some areas.  I also noticed both on this trip and our last Belgian holiday that free rest areas aren’t as plentiful.  Lots of “rest areas” in Belgium are really just places where you can pull off on the side of the road.  If you have to pee, it seems you just do it outside.  We saw lots of men doing just that.  And if you go to a rest area, you’ll most likely have to pay for the privilege of peeing.  I actually don’t mind that, since it allows me to get rid of change and usually ensures that the toilets will be clean and stocked with toilet paper.

As we got closer to our destination, I noticed the aroma in the air.  It smelled of manure, then ripe cheese.  I said, “Ugh!  That really stinks!”

I looked over at Bill, who had a big smile on his face.

“You like that smell, don’t you?” I asked.

“Yes!” Bill sighed.  He loves stinky cheese.  Maybe that’s why we’ve managed almost fifteen years together!  I am kidding, of course.  I don’t actually smell like stinky cheese… Do I?

The long trip was worth it…