After being lost all over Europe, visiting 3 countries (France twice), and fallen in love with Paris and Barcelona, I've collected my dogs and am back in Buffalo, soon to depart for Tennessee. I've only just begun to reflect on the sabbatical in general and the European travel in particular; I'm only today feeling fairly recovered from jet lag.
But I'm in a normal-type internet setting, so I'm going to attempt some pictures. On September 11, I flew from Toronto to Brussels via Jet Airways. I originally booked my flight to Paris, but Jet Airways, the best fare I found, would fly me into Brussels, one of their hubs, and then send me on the Thalys (Belgium's high speed train system) to Paris. Once I realized I would be in Belgium, I decided to "miss the train to Paris" and stay there for a few days. Jet Airways is an Indian line; I never knew that before. The food they served was Indian, but only mildly spicy, and perfectly lovely. I could see that it would be nearly impossible to remain abstinent in my 12-Step food addiction program -- no sugar, no flour, weighed and measured meals can be done, I'm sure -- but not by me, not this trip.
I rode the Metro to a station about eight blocks from my hotel. Later I learned that another exit for the same station brought me within four blocks of the hotel. I asked directions a lot, and most people I encountered spoke English. I didn't get lost, and that was a miracle. My hotel was in a Middle-Eastern neighborhood -- definitely not upscale, but not scarey, either. I had a spacious little room (shared a bath with 2 other rooms), a 3rd floor walkup (which actually means the 4th floor, of course, because in Europe they start counting the floors from the one where the rooms actually start, rather than reception (which is floor zero)). I arrived too early to get into my room, so I stowed my luggage and set out to explore, going first to the cathedral, again not getting lost -- that time, anyway!
I spent a good deal of time gazing at this huge wooden pulpit. The madonna that's listed on the internet as a "black madonna," Our Lady of Deliverance, isn't in fact black. But this one -- the picture quality is good enough that if you can enlarge it, you can see this amazing madonna, standing with the young Jesus and defeating Satan -- and she certainly qualifies as a black madonna in my book!
For me the black Madonna is certainly in part about strength and doing battle with evil.
I've lots more to say about Belgium, especially Bruges (with pictures!). Maybe more tomorrow....