Annie Bananie en Europe

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Tag Archives: belgium

From high places: Brussels and Toronto

As I was going through my posts in the “From high places” series, I was surprised to find that I neglected several recent visits to Brussels, one of my favourite cities (if not my favourite) in Europe.

That’s OK. Brussels deserves its own post anyway.

Come to think of it, I went back to Brussels in 2015, 2016 (short stopover), and 2017 (just last week) and each time discovered a new viewpoint. My favourite, notwithstanding the slight reflection of the glass window, would have to be the one from the restaurant at the top of the Musical Instruments Museum. From here, you can see the imposing and magnificent town hall in the Grand Place, as well as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in the far distance, which I believe is the fifth largest church structure in the world (official source). Lovely buildings – I like both of them very much.

In 2016, I finally got up to the viewing platform at the top of the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History. Not as impressive as the previous view, but still quite nice.

And here’s the view on the other side of the viewing platform, facing east toward Merode station.

And last week, while visiting with my dad and sister, I discovered the garden and café on the fifth floor of the Royal Library. The view was similar to the one on top of the MiM, but I certainly wasn’t standing as high, and the view wasn’t as extensive. Regardless, the basilica still looks so grandiose, even if it was so far away.

After Brussels, I also found a photo of downtown Toronto that I took this year while visiting the University of Toronto with my sister, from the 11th (I think) floor of the OISE building. I was in a hurry because I wasn’t supposed to be in this room, and someone was entering as I was taking this photo…so I snapped and ran. Lots of reflection in the glass – oh well.

So the post wasn’t ALL about Brussels after all. Sorry, my beloved, but perhaps I love Toronto just as much.

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The places I called home, part IV

Grad school opened the doors of Europe for me as my PhD program was a “co-tutelle” between Bordeaux, France, and Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, which meant that every few months, I had to move between the two cities and work in two different labs. If it weren’t for my choice to come do grad school in Europe, I would probably only ever be in France as a tourist and never as a resident, integrating into and loving the culture of a country that I’ve always wanted to visit. As for Belgium, who knew how many surprises it could hide? (Read Part I, Part II, and Part III of the series.)

Bordeaux – Le Port de la Lune

I was fortunate enough to live in Bordeaux for almost 2.5 years during my PhD studies, and what a blessing that was! The very first time I set foot in Bordeaux, a city known as the “Port of the Moon”, I only needed to use the word “elegant” to describe it. Till the moment I left three years later, it was still as elegant as ever and I would use no other word to describe this French beauty. The smell of the sweetest red wine in every corner of the city, the sound of the gliding trams on the tracks, the sight of the glamour that is the Grand Théâtre and Place de la Bourse, the taste of succulent magret de canard and irresistible canéle (duck breast and rum-based pastry, both specialties of Southwestern France), and the touch of the gentle breeze as you stroll along the Garonne on a late summer morning…Bordeaux is an experience that conquers your every sense, making you fall in love with it with every breath.

Many feelings are intertwined when I think about Bordeaux because of my life experiences. The mid-20s was for me a time when the search for identity formed an invisible mission, and Bordeaux became part of that search. My studies, my interactions with the people whom I met in Bordeaux, whether locals or overseas students, and my plans for the future all contributed toward the search and consequently are a part of who I am today. To me, Bordeaux is not just a beautiful city, but also a name that resonates with me just by its utterance. My heart still yearns to go back one of these days, this time as a visitor and perhaps never as a resident again. But thank you for what you’ve given me, Bordeaux, that gift of the memories that only you could ever bestow.

Louvain-la-Neuve – Learning to appreciate

And finally, we come to Louvain-la-Neuve (LLN), a university-city-that-isn’t-really-a-city that once made me feel trapped and miserable. I was there during different periods of my PhD studies, for up to three months each time I went. Compared to Bordeaux, LLN was small and boring and definitely NOT elegant. I had learned to cope with not being happy in LLN, until autumn came. And magic happened. Autumn in LLN truly transformed the place. Maybe my eyes just decided to open one day as I noticed the golden orange colours of the autumn foliages, and LLN was never the same again. Gradually I began to appreciate the little details of LLN and discover its hidden faces – the little shops with such delicate gifts (Zig Zag is my favourite), the murals that are some of the best I’ve ever seen (in addition to the ones I would discover later in Glasgow), the enjoyable walks around the lake and through the Bois de Lauzelle, the various small neighbourhoods, the cats that are everywhere, the crazy 24-H Velo events, the delicious sandwiches at Mie d’Oli, and the Brussels waffle. YES, LLN has the best Brussels waffles I’ve ever eaten – take that, Brussels!

Belgium itself is a wonder and before I went to LLN, I couldn’t even point it out on a map. I didn’t know that the country has three official languages (French, Flemish, and German) and that LLN split from the University of Leuven as a result of language differences. Most importantly, little did I know that its capital, Brussels, would become one of my favourite European cities, if not my all-time favourite. Just like that, my studies brought Belgium and LLN into my life and this place, which I still hesitate to call a “city”, has stolen a part of my heart. To quote myself from a post that I wrote almost four years ago: “…travelling has taught me that it is only with an open heart and mind that you can learn to appreciate your surroundings…if I’m going to be living in a city for a relatively long period of time, rather than complaining about how it sucks, why not look for things that make a city unique and beautiful, and enjoy it to the fullest?”

This post concludes the “Places I Called Home” series and more than three years after its conception, I’ve finally managed to write it! And what a journey down memory lane that was! Be sure to check out Part I (Guangzhou and Toronto), Part II (Waterloo and Glasgow), and Part III (Hsinchu and South Bend) for the entire story. Until next time, my friends!

From high places, part 4

In travelling through different cities, I still search for every possibility to photograph the cities from high (or higher-than-average) places. Part 4 of the “From high places” series will take us all the way to the end of my European adventures, where the last stop was Reykjavik, Iceland. As usual, the list will be in alphabetical order, so please enjoy as I share some of my favourite memories with you 🙂

Bern (read about it)

It was raining in Bern, and the entire capital city of Switzerland was covered in a thick layer of grayness, as seen from the Rose Garden, this high place in Bern. The city was calm and quiet, without the usual audacity of a national capital. Even so, observed from a distance, the old town was nothing less than charming.

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From high places, part 3

Another year has passed by since the last “From high places” post (part 1 here), and since then, I haven’t stopped collecting photos of city views from high places. Here I present to you part 3 of the “From high places” series. As always, the list of cities is in alphabetical and not chronological order of visit. Enjoy!

Bordeaux (read about it)

Bordeaux has already been featured in part 1 of the series, where the view was from the top of Pey Berland. Here is the Port of the Moon (a beautiful name for the city of Bordeaux due to the crescent moon shape of its port) from the top of the St.Michel cathedral. Only after almost three years of being in Bordeaux did I think of ascending the tower, and I was greeted with such a gorgeous view of the Port of the Moon! The aged, orange roofs lining the streets of old town Bordeaux, with the Pont de Pierre crossing a magnificent Garonne. To say that I really miss Bordeaux is an understatement 😦

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2013 in pictures

So, 2013 was the first full year that I’m sure I’ve taken at least one photo a day. Even though I started the Picture Worthy project in January 2012, there were two weeks at the beginning of January 2012 where I hadn’t been photographing. I did a post on 2012 in pictures, highlighting one photo from each month taken from the Picture Worthy blog. Here is the 2013 edition.

January 30, 2013 – Vineyard #2: “There’s a magnificent view of a vineyard from the window of a friend’s place, but during the winter, there’s nothing but sticks. Yet, even though it was already dark when I took this photo, the clouds tonight made a dramatic backdrop. There was no tripod or anything that could act as one for Mr.Canon near the window, so I maxed the ISO and this is how it turned out. A bit blurry perhaps, but the effect is interesting. The blur and the noise made the whole picture look somewhat like a painting than a photo, and I like that. Quite unexpected, indeed.”

Comments: I’m still quite amazed at the way this photo turned out. It actually makes me want to learn to paint in an attempt to recreate this as a painting. To all the true artists out there: how feasible is this rather bizarre idea?

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