Thursday, 30 October 2014

Thursday outing to Tongeren

Today I went to Tongeren in the Limburg region of Belgium, bordering the Limburg region in the Netherlands.  This is the part which the Romans once conquered.
In the Gallo-Roman museum is a temporary exhibition on Vikings! It was absolutely fantastic.  They also have a permanent exhibition of European mankind development from the beginning of times to the Roman times. Very interesting indeed.

More will come on this outing. Just want to say that I actually managed to buy a book as well! Whats new? It is The Celts by Peter Berresford Ellis.  I am looking forward to read about these peoples who conquered Europe at a certain time. And...which culture we still today enjoy!

A separate post about my visit to Tongeren will come.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Book swap evening - or not!

Got dressed and ventured out in the rainy, dark evening to drive to this event. When I finally found the restaurang and a parking, the waiter told me that it was last week! WHAT! Last Wednesday of the month! Ok, when I started to think rationally, I remembered that it is the school holidays this week, so that is probably why.

Had to head home with my bag with 24 books. So much for coming home with fewer books that I went out with!

I hope I didn't fool anyone of my Brussels friend to go there. If so, I AM REALLY SORRY!
Next time.

Book swap evening

Every last Wednesday of the month there is a book swap evening in Brussels. You can bring your own books and hopefully find some new. I have sorted out quite a heap of books, mostly English, but some Swedish. I promised my husband that there would be less coming in as was going out. You have to give a little bit of breathing space to your book cases as well. Here is my pile:

I see that there are some elephants on the pillows behind. It does not mean I would need an elephant to carry the pile...a handy man would be all right! I fear though I have to carry them myself.

Let's see tomorrow if I found some replacements.

For those of you in Brussels: if you are interested, it is taking place at

Le Chapelier Fou
190 Chausse de la Hulpe

between 17.30 - 20.30

Maybe see you there?

Monday, 27 October 2014

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

This is the fourth book in the Outlander series. I don't think I have to give more details on this series, since it seems to be one of the most popular for the time being. Even more so after the first 8 episodes of the TV-series from Starz.

I am also a big fan of both the books and the TV-series. I am not really into time travelling, or at least I did not think so. Maybe I have to change my own mind now, especially after having read two other books/series about time travelling and loving it; A Rip in The Veil by Anna Belfrage and The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. In the Outlander series the time travelling takes the story to another level.

I still think the first book is the best. Maybe because there is where it all started, the idea and the story was totally new and it was exciting. Not to say that the other books are not...they are! Some spoilers here for you who have not read the book so stop here. From book three Claire and Jamie leave Europe for the West Indies and in the end of the book they reach America. There the fourth book takes place. We follow Claire and Jamie settling down in the new country, and the stream of people they encounter, new and old. I will not go too much into the story, not to spoil too much.

Diana Gabaldon is a fantastic story teller. There are all these side stories woven into the main story. Sometimes while reading you thing they might not be necessary.  Having said that, you might think that the characters are side characters, that the stories are side stories, but you never know whether they will somehow pop up again in another book. Sometimes the side stories here felt like they slowed down the story. You just wanted to continue to know what would happen, and then you were stuck in what seemed to be a story that had nothing to do with our characters. However, you can't be on full speed all the time.

I have a few other books to read, but I can hardly wait until I can open the first page of The Fiery Cross. Well, to be honest I have already opened it! But sometimes one has to have a little bit of disciplin.

Have you read the books? Seen the TV-series? What do you think?

Friday, 24 October 2014

America, the Promised Land

Ready to go?
Recently, I have visited two exhibitions that has the same theme; emigration or immigration,
depending on from which view you see it. The exhibitions tells about two ship lines that carried people who wanted to leave their own countries in search for a better life in America; The White Star Line and The Red Star Line

The White Star Line

This exhibition is about Titanic, the most famous ship of the line and the most tragic. The exhibition is now running on the last month here in Brussels and I visited it on Thursday. It was very interesting. Although you think you know most of the things about this disaster, it is another thing to see items from the boat, personal items from people lost and interiors of how it looked like on the ship. There was also a scientific part with information on how the accident happened and the story of how the wreck was found.

The Red Star Line

This is a permanent exhibition in Antwerpen and tells the story of this line which was founded in 1873 by Peter Wright&Sons. They specialised in oil export from the US to Europe and wanted to carry passengers from Europe to the US.

The exhibition is set in the actual terminal of the shipping line and you walk through rooms which once hosted medical examination units, luggage rooms, ticket and passport control. Since there were very sever restrictions from the US side, all passengers had to go through a medical examination to see that they were healthy. Furthermore, the luggages needed to be disinfected so it was quite a procedure to be able to travel to the US.

In 1921 the US decided to cut down on immigration, leading to a big drop in numbers of people going 'over there'. Nevertheless, in 1923 the Red Star Line could celebrate their 50th anniversary. The shipping line has transported hundreds of thousands of immigrants during the years, not only from Belgium but from other European countries. They had first to make the trip to Antwerp which was a special adventure in itself.

In the 1930s the Red Star Line had some problems and it was sold to a German ship owner. In 1939 the German government sold it to the Holland-America Line, which was based in Rotterdam. They continued to operate a Red Star Line route between Antwerp and New York until the Fifties.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Rubens' House - Antwerp

If you are visiting Antwerp and are interested in culture, you just have to visit the beautiful house of Peter Paul Rubens. Rubens was born in 1577, in Antwerp. However, to study classical Roman and Italian Renaissance art, he spent eight years in Italy. He liked it so much there so he hardly wanted to come back to Antwerp. But alas he had to. In 1610 he and his wife Isabella Brant bought a house and a piece of land in Antwerp. He enlarged the house and gave it a flair of an Italian palazzo. If you can't go to Rome, take Rome with you!

He had himself assembled an internationally admired collection of paintings and sculptures at the house. Here he also produced most of his work.

Even on a slightly, clouded autumn day the garden was beautiful, and you can imagine it in the summer. The audio guide takes you around the house and all the paintings and other art work. The paintings are explained, here are also the wonderful, gilded wall papers, absolutely amazing (again!). I passed a lovely dining room with a portrait in each end of Rubens and his second wife. Absolutely wonderful room. Going up-stairs you come over to the other side of the house. At the ground floor at the very end there is a gallery of fantastic paintings.
The dining room, the most beautiful
room in the house
A bedroom

à l'Italia
One thing, I didn’t know, and which I found fascinating was that Rubens used to buy works from other painters and then ‘improve’ them in colour, structure, or even change a farm lady to a noble lady. The painting was fabulous. Normally, he let his pupils do these kind of exercises but, obviously, he did some himself. I was just wondering if one could do these things then? I am sure it is not possible today. However, this is maybe the only reason why the original painter is seen today?
The gallery

The fire places were amazing, here as well as in the printing house. Those wonderful ones where you can walk inside! Just love them. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift

This is also a review for the Historical Fiction Challenge at the Historical Tapestry.

This book started out good. Elspet Leviston is living with her father in London, helping him out with
his lace business. We are talking London, 1609. One day her father comes home with a young man that he introduces as her half brother, Zachary Deane. The father always wanted a son who could take over the business, and is now eager to introduce it to Zach. However, he is not very interested. His main goal is to get some money and go to Spain to learn the craft of a swordsman. Elspet, who is the one really knowing the business from all angels, see that she is ousted.

Mr Leviston sends Zach to a European tour to learn the business, meet their colleagues in other countries from where the lace is bought. Zach has his own agenda and deviates rather quickly and goes to Spain and starts his apprentice as a swordsman. Unexpectedly, the father dies. Unexpectedly, for all involved, the father leaves all his property and business to Zach. Since Elspet is supposed to marry he did not think she needed anything extra.

Letters are exchanged and finally they find Zach in Spain. His reply is to sell everything and send him the money. Elspeth and the manager of the business set of to Spain to try to persuade him to keep it, for the sake of the people employed and for Elspet, whose supposed marriage was cancelled.

Once in Seville in Spain everything changes. There is a fight of wills between Zach and Elspet and she refuses to leave before he has agreed to cancel the selling of the business. Zach's main interest is the training he has with a maestro. These are turbulent times for the moors of Spain who are being expelled. These people are born and have lived in Spain all their life and most of them have never been to their original country. Zach and Elspet get involved in the turmoil when trying to save friends. Both their attitudes to each other, to the world around them and to their future change

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Art of Printing

I was visiting Antwerp the other day. Wanted to look around a little bit and find out more about this interesting, medieval city. Looking around for interesting museums to start with, I found the Plantin-Moretus Museum. Turns out to be much more than I could ever have bargained for. The museum/house tell the history of one of the greatest printer-publishers of all time. It was founded by one of the first ‘industrial’ printers, a brilliant, self-taught man who only Gutenberg himself could beat. His name is Christopher Plantin (ca 1520-1589), from Saint-Avertain, near Tours, in central France. He was the most important printer-publisher of the time, and one of the great pioneers of Western civilisation. Countless are the publications he printed in the fields of humanism and the sciences.

Christopher Plantin, was the arch-typographer to Philip II Spain, and in the mid 16th century he transfered his well-known printing office, called The Golden Compass to where it is situated today, in the centre of Antwerp. His motto was Labore et Constantia (Work and Constancy). His descendants and successors, the Moretuses, carried on his heritage for three hundred years. They also continued to live in the house that was transformed to one of the finest residencies in Antwerp.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Her Last Letter by Nancy C. Johnson

I really just stumbled on this book and it was so exciting and thrilling, I could not really put it down. I am registered for receiving information on e-books by Bookbub. The offer either free or very cheap e-books in various categories. This was the first one I bought for 0.88 €! And it was so good.

It starts with Gwyn finding a hidden letter from her dead sister. Since it is already on the first page I will quote it here:

I'm so scared. He knows! And God if my sister knew I've been screwing her boyfriend she'd kill me anyway. Why in hell did I get into this whole situation? I've got to tell someone or I could end up dead ... like the last one. The look in his eyes when he told me about her was totally unreal. I don't think he was making it up, but he could have been, just to scare me. Maybe the best thing is to leave. Hope he calms down and forgets about it. Not likely, if he found the box. I've looked for it everywhere, and someone was in the house messing with things. God, what now? I'll think of something. I have to.
Later...I hear someone downstairs.

Can't start more exciting than this. The story is told from Gwyn's point of view. Both her and her sister are now married. There are several suspects that could fit in to the description in the letter; the two husbands, a former boyfriend to Gwyn, the boyfriend to Kelly (the dead sister) who was suspected but disappeared and have not been found since then (two years ago).

The atmosphere of the book is somewhat 'Hitchcockian', or like the film Rebecca. Everybody is acting strange, everybody seems suspicious and it is not until the very end that the culprit is revealed. I could not even guess who it was. An excellent book, even if the end sum-up did not come up to the rest of the book, I would be happy to read anything else by Johnson. As far as I can see, she has written another book called Twice Cursed. Might have to try that one too!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Cook & Book

When you look at Pinterest you often find fantastic pictures from the most beautiful book shops in the
world. Most of the time they are too far away from us all. However, we have one in Brussels, which I have also seen on such a site. I am planning an article for our Swedish paper here in Brussels, so Karin and I set out last week.

As you might guess from the title that the shop is also a restaurant, or many. Each room in the shop is dedicated to different kind of books (cooking books, travel books, comic strips, music etc) and differently decorated. Just sit down where your mood takes you.

We went for the travel books, and in the middle of the room is a caravan, where you can also sit an eat inside. The food is nice and as said the surroundings inspiring.
Comic strip area

Inside the caravan
After lunch we went over to the other shop. Yes, it seems there are two, which Karin told me. I was always sorry that they did not have any books in English! Well, here they are, together with cook books. There are also wonderful rooms and for sure this is where I am heading next time.

Cook book section

English book section! Doesn't it
look inviting?
It is very difficult for me to go inside a book shop and not buy anything. This time was no exception. I came out with two books:  The Master of Bruges by Terence Morgan and Amsterdam - A History of the World’s Most Liberal City by Russell Shorto. They look and sound very promising and I will return with a review, once I have read them.

Enjoy the photos. Which is your favourite/beautiful book shop in your vicinity?