Saturday, 12 January 2013

Bells announce my arrival in Belgium (and a side trip to Holland)

After an very long bit of travel (including 15 hours in the lovely but not exactly exciting Halifax airport) I finally arrived in Brussels, and was met at the airport by storyteller Veva Gerard, who said she had something special arranged for me.

We drove to the town of Lier, parked the car, and went for a little walk. We got to a courtyard by the fabulous 14th century St. Gummarus Church, and Veva said that she had arranged for a musician to play for me to welcome me to Belgium. She made a quick call on her cellphone, and high above us, the carillon in the bell tower above us began to ring out.

Her son (12 years old, below) is learning to play the carillon, and after he had played a few tunes, his teacher met us at the base of the tower, and up we went the 300 or so steps up to the top, past the giant human-powered winch the workers would have used to raise the heavy materials used in the construction of the tower, one of the few remaining such mediaeval instruments in Europe.

Along the way, and continuing at the top of the tower, I got a history lesson in the carillon and got to try my hand at ringing the bells myself.

It was a fabulous welcome, and completely unexpected.

Today, it was on to Veva's plan B, and after a breakfast with her family, we drove to Efteling in the Netherlands, one of the largest and oldest theme parks in Europe, based mainly on folktales and legends!

We spent the day wandering through the park, visiting Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, the Goat Grandmother and the 7 Kids, the Little Match Girl. We even visited the grave of Cinderella's mother:

Then, as if that wasn't enough, we ate sausage, visited two haunted houses, and saw a live equestrian show which featured damsels in distress, falconry, and (steampunks eat your heart out) a giant multi-headed, fire-breathing clockwork dragon.

Then, to finish off the visit to the park, an incredible water ballet with lights, music and underwater fire cannons.

Then, cold and with tired feet, a drive back to Lier, dinner of guinea fowl at a fabulous restaurant, much discussion of storytelling, and a walk through the cobblestone streets of Lier.

Now, back with Veva's family in Lint, and a well-deserved rest! Goodnight!

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