Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Well, I guess it is time to come clean about my trip to Bruxelles.
Yes, it was to do with rocks, but no it was not archaeology. I was attending the AGM for the Geology Society I am a member of.
What a fabulous group of people and what a great weekend.
We visited a disused quarry, and had opportunity to gather specimens ourselves of some fabulous Devonian fossilised tree trunks. Also vegetation fossils in the most fine grained shale I have ever seen. This photo shows ripples caused by wave and current motion on an ancient sea floor. Something that you can see today at any beach. Incredible to think that this has happened since time began and the evidence is visible in places like this. Very interesting morning.
Another trip was to a cave system, or "Grottes" as they call them in french. (I was too busy taking notes and did not get the opportunity to take any photos, but will post some when they are forwarded to me from the others on the trip.)
The caves were interesting as they were on two levels and had been carved by the action of an underground river. In fact, after walking though the upper level of the caves, we had to return to the entrance via a boat on the lower level. The caves are still full of water on the lower level and water was constantly trickling down from the surface so the level never drops.
Fascinating to see so many enormous stalagmites and stalagtites as well as flow deposits from the calcium carbonate in the water building up over the centuries. Makes you look at the limescale in the kettle in a whole new light........
Of course what trip would be complete without sampling some of the local delicacies? Not this one that is for sure! I have tried chocolate in every permutation imaginable, and every flavour on earth. Think I will need a complete post dedicated to that topic alone.
One thing which Belgium is known for is waffles, or "gaufres" as they are called in french. Traditionally you eat them with powdered sugar only, but in the cafes and street stalls you can have almost any topping you can think of.
I had mine with powdered sugar and a glass of hot chocolate, called "chocolat chaud". The hot chocolate was not a sweet version. It was chocolate from Madagascar that had been powdered, but left in its natural state flavour wise. Deliciously bitter and with a great depth of flavour. The perfect companion to my sweet gaufre.
You will notice a small foil wrapped biscuit on the left of my drink tray....... It was a very unusual thin crisp biscuit with slivers of nuts in it. I asked my waiter what they were called, as they were so nice I thought I might look for them in a supermarket and bring some home. He told me that they don't really have a name, and you can't buy them in a supermarket. I must have looked a bit disappointed as he returned a few minutes later and asked me to open my backpack. When I did he placed a huge handful of them inside, zipped it up, said "Un petit cadeau", winked and walked away. Such a lovely thing to do, I was so surprised and very pleased. You can be sure he received a tip!
Sunday morning we visited the Natural History Museum. It was such a great place that I think it also deserves a post of its own. So stay tuned and I will show you this magnificent museum in a few days.
I will leave you with one last photo. Even though my focus for the trip was geology, I did walk all over Bruxelles and do all the usual cultural things. It is an interesting city with a real melange of building styles. The guild houses in the Grande Place were fabulous though and really caught my attention.
The carved stone work and the gold gilding was gorgeous.