This is why Venice stays in my recommendations for your “bucket list”


This gallery contains 2 photos.

Venice. The city on the lagoon. “La Serenissima”, the serene one. One of the world’s most iconic tourist sights. Or a city swamped in tourists creating an ecological nightmare? Let me put my personal cards on the table. I have … Continue reading

An ancient city with a modern heart. A brief visit to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second city.


This gallery contains 4 photos.

Last week work took me to Plovdiv, second city of Bulgaria. I was there for a factory tour and visit to the offices of Max Europe, one of Europe’s biggest bike manufacturers. When the visit was over we had time … Continue reading

Just enough time for a few tourist sights of North Cyprus


This gallery contains 3 photos.

I wrote recently about last year’s visit to North Cyprus when I was looking at the potential for more cycling with some of the local cycling promoters and supporters. That write-up was dominated by the relationship between mountains and coast, … Continue reading

2015 – favourite photos of the year


This gallery contains 17 photos.

Several of the bloggers I follow are summarising their year with a few of their favourite or most viewed posts. I thought I would do something a little simpler by picking out some of my favourite photos of the year, … Continue reading

Gardens of Aywiers – Capturing the colours (and tastes) of autumn


This gallery contains 16 photos.

Among the most popular events where we live are the twice yearly open days at the former Abbey of Aywiers at Couture St Germain, just a couple of kilometres down the valley from Lasne. Today the former abbey buildings are … Continue reading

Impressions of Bruges – beautiful canal city of Flanders

Photo Kevin MaynePhoto Kevin Mayne

I wrote recently about Belgium’s undiscovered gems of history and tourism. Bruges in West Flanders is not one of those, it is possibly one of the two or three best known places in Belgium to visit along with the WW1 battlefields and Brussels Grand Place, especially for the English speaking world.

I have previously been there out of the main holiday season when the cobbled streets, squares and canals were not over-run by fellow tourists so it was with a little trepidation that we booked to go to Bruges on an overnight visit in early August. We hoped past pleasures were not going to be swamped by the sheer volume of people, especially as we were introducing two friends to Bruges for the first time.

No need to worry. Despite the fact that it was much busier the town retained its charm, beauty and sense of history throughout the weekend. In fact just a few minutes from the hot spots around the main market square there were oases of peace and tranquility tucked away to delight the senses, and the camera.

Photo Kevin Mayne

That is helped by the fact that the city has very low traffic volumes and speeds. It isn’t quite car free, but here the pedestrian is king, closely followed by the horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and tour boats.

Photo Kevin Mayne

Photo Kevin Mayne Photo Kevin Mayne

In visual terms there are some wonderful set piece locations that should feature in any montage, especially the views over the canals.

Photo Kevin Mayne

The open water area in front of the gate of the Beguinage is especially stunning at night.

(To see the photos below at their best click on any image in the gallery and it will appear full sized on your screen.)

But the best of Bruges also encourages me to look beyond the set piece, especially to look up above the heads of the tourists. There the Flemish stepped gables mingle with the grey rooves of the great churches and the coloured facades glowed in the sunshine of a bright day.

Of course while I was there I couldn’t help be drawn in by the fact that Bruges is one of Belgium’s top cycling towns, so in the next post I’ll post a little photo essay on the cyclists of Bruges, but for today I’ll just let these picture of the city speak for themselves Definitely one of my top recommendations for any tour of Europe, not just of Belgium.

Photo Kevin Mayne

Abbaye de Villers – peace and tranquility in another hidden treasure of Wallonia


This gallery contains 5 photos.

Just 40km south of central Brussels are the atmospheric ruins of the Abbaye de Villers, the largest set of church ruins in Belgium. It is the remnant of the great Cistercian Abbey whose lands once stretched right across Belgium, today … Continue reading

Five smiles to finish Waterloo 200 – things we might not have seen in 1815

Waterloo 2015 Wifi zone Waterloo 2015 characters 11a

When a modern day re-enactment meets the challenge of recreating a 200 year old battle we all have to suspend belief a bit and get in to the mood.

As I said in my previous posts there were some organisational cock-ups that were frustrating and for some people might have ruined their enjoyment.

The travel planning certainly didn’t go according to expectations!

waterloo 2015 travel

But here to close my coverage of our visit are five moments that just appeal to my sense of amusement and make me smile when I look back at my photos.

Walerloo 2015 by bike

Bicycles to be involved of course. Two years after Waterloo Count von Drais invented a two wheeled machine for propelling himself around Mannheim. Perhaps he had other inspiration?

And of course if there is a party going on, anywhere in the world, do you imagine it could go ahead without a few Aussies and Kiwis gatecrashing? Hmm, wonder what to wear as a disguise?

Waterloo 2015 Anzus batallion badge

In terms of the re-enactment itself we were placed close to the recreation of the battle for the farm-chateau of Hougoumont. In reality this sturdy example of Brabaconne architecture stood firm all day, resisting waves of French attacks and the same walls are still there today.

Unfortunately the model reconstruction was not so resilient.

Waterloo 2015 Hougoumont farm reconstruction

Within 5 minutes of the first simulated attack the structures started to collapse like the very worst Do-It-Yourself project. In front of the grandstands we were highly amused by the French and British re-enacters handing each other bits of wood and scratching their heads wondering how they might create an air of invincibility. By day 2 the impregnable brick walls had transformed themselves into the barricades of a street revolution, and everyone clearly had instructions “Don’t lean on the walls”. It wouldn’t have been out of place in a TV comedy.

The actor playing the Duke of Wellington did a fine job looking authoritative and inspecting his troops. What was totally hilarious was the behaviour of the press gallery nearby who couldn’t help themselves and started behaving like the paparazzi on the Hollywood red carpet. “Give us a wave your dukeship”. “Over here, Duke, just a quick look”, “one for the press sir?”

Fortunately for them noblesse did oblige. Celebrity was probably easier in 1815.

Waterloo 2015 Duke of Wellington photocall

Finally of course we have to end with the intrusion of the smartphone.

To be fair the re-enacters were brilliant, when they went in to character all the modern stuff seemed to disappear, we saw no phones and the air was not filled with ringtones and bleeps.

Unfortunately nobody told this on-field steward, who seemed to spend half of both battles engaged in deep conversation. Quite how he carried on a chat with the Battle of Waterloo raging around him I have no idea but he somehow must have felt the smoke made him invisible to the 50,000 spectators behind him.

Waterloo 2015 steward on phone

And one little group of re-enacters did lose their discipline, right at the end. When the Hougoumont farm re-eactment tailed off the “defenders” had probably the best view of the whole audience for the march of the French Imperial Guard. This was by far the most impressive sight of the whole two days as every French re-enacter on site was marched right down the centre of the battlefield. The relaxing actors clearly couldn’t resist a quick snapshot on their phones because it was a great sight. Probably no-one would have noticed, except for the fact that in the near dark those phone screens are a real giveaway.  Waterloo 2015 camera phones

This was not lost on some of the marching French troops who suddenly broke away from the main march and launched what was clearly an unexpected assault. There were phones flying all over the place and complete panic stations as they tried to get back into character!

They are all forgiven for providing us with such entertainment.

200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo – photo gallery


This gallery contains 9 photos.

To make the most of this post I have added a gallery of my pictures which I hope sum up some of the atmosphere of the battle of Waterloo re-enactments of the last two days. All credit to the organisers … Continue reading