Monday, January 28, 2013

Language and Currency in Ireland


Records show the use of the Celtic language in Ireland, Scotland and Britain as early as 300 BC. As the Romans pushed north, Celt's began to lose their language and culture in Western Europe as Latin crept into their language. However, Ireland and Scotland were able to stay independent of the Roman influence, allowing their language to continue its development. Due to the influence of Latin in central and southern England, the Celtic language spoken in Ireland emerged as quite different that was spoken in Britain. The Celtic spoken in Ireland came to be know as Q-Celtic because of the heavy use of the Q or C sound in the language. This eventually developed into Gaelic, the ancient language of Ireland.

Today, due to the long domination of the United Kingdom,  The Irish speak predominately English; however, Gaelic is being celebrated as Irish citizens search for their roots.


Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have different currencies.
The Republic of Ireland chose to join the European Union and adopted the Euro as its currency. Northern Ireland, part of Britain retained the English Pound Sterling. In addition, the banks in Northern Ireland , like Hong Kong, were given the authority to issue their own notes; so, you may come across different variations in the notes.

 When crossing between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland you can exchange your money in shops, gas stations, bureaux de change and banks. It is also wise to check the exchange rate when changing money and this can be online or in the daily newspapers.

ATM's are available  in every town in Ireland and a convenient way of accessing local currency during your stay.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Introduction to Ireland

It is important to avoid confusion about what is and what is not Ireland. The island of Ireland has both the Republic of Ireland and territory of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland. See the map below. Ireland was under British rule for hundreds of years, regaining its independence from Britain in 1921.
For this article, I will be referring to the Republic of Ireland. Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland and its largest city.

The Irish are a proud people, know to have strong opinions which they share loudly in their local pubs over strong dark beer and Irish whiskey. The people speak English with a heavy brogue and some Gaelic, the ancient language of Ireland. You may hear some refer to Ireland as Erin, a romanticized version of Erie (pronounced AIR uh). That is the Gaelic name for the county.  Ireland also has long been known as the Emerald Isle, because of the rolling green countryside and pastures for sheep.

The 6.4 million people in Ireland are spread across 26 counties. Some Counties are famous in their own right such as Waterford, known for its delicate cut glass and Done-gal, famous for its tweed cloth.

The Irish also have a reputation as warm, friendly people, skill as writers and storytellers. Population is 6.4 million.

The Irish have a long history that includes many hardships and struggles. In the 1840's, a potato blight and the starvation and disease that followed caused the deaths of about a million people and at least as many people left their homeland. After this famine, a shortage of jobs and other problems caused emigration to continue. As a result, little more than half as many people live in Ireland today as lived there in 1845. This is a great little book to guide you around Ireland.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Food in Belgium

What are the typical dishes in Belgium?

The great thing about traveling outside of our country is that we can try new things, like food. Trying new food is an amazing experience. Personally, I love food; but, I am not a fantastic cook. I know how to cook a few dishes that come out really great; unfortunately, I do not have patience to follow directions; so, here we go to amazing food in Belgium.

Food is important in Belgium

For Belgians, food is essential. They spend a lot of money on food and take pride and pleasure in shopping, preparing, consuming and discussing food. For many, Belgian food is thought to be one of the finest cuisines in the world. Large portions and good quality make the meals very hearty. There are many kinds of informal foods such as chips, beers, salads, and stews that might be considered to be typical of Belgium.

Medieval cookery still influences the cuisine that today adds the flavors of mustard's, vinegars, and dried fruits that lend a sweet-sour and sweet-salty flavor to dishes. Almonds and spices are used in abundance, and fresh herbs lace appetizers, salads, meats, and even desserts. Belgians love potatoes and are fond of game and meat as well. Hearty soups play a big role, and the so called waterzooies are the most typical.

Another specialty are mussels! The country is famous for its mussels and frites (French-fried potatoes). My favorite was the "Mussels from Brussels", a provincial stew full of mussels in the shell. Belgium is also popular for having some of the best homemade chocolates. You will likely find a little specialty chocolate store on every corner.

Beer is an especially important element of a Belgian meal with over 800 distinct brands, this drink brings a special dimension to a Belgium meal. Many beers are crafted by small artisan brewers whose family recipes go back generations. Beer also laces the national dish, "Carbonates Flamandes," a Flemish beef stew. In Belgium, more beer is consumed than wine.

Finally, we can't forget about Belgium Waffles - yum.

Few Belgium cookbooks exist, but the newly published volume," Everybody Eats Well in Belgium" by Ruth Van Werebeek (Workman) covers recipes from three generations of her family.
So, in Travel Secrets tradition, let's look at a few of my favorite foods.

Brussels Style Waffles (Gaufres de Bruxelles)


These waffles are rectangular and are often with a light dusting of powdered sugar or topped with whipped cream and strawberries.  They have a light texture and taste that comes from the yeast-leavened batter they are made from. You can pick out the ones you want by sight!

Liege Style Waffles (Gaufres de Liege)


Liege style waffles are the most commonly seen waffle in Belgium.  They are quickly identifiable by their uneven edges and the sweet bits of caramelized pearl sugar. These are typically served by street vendors and eaten by hand; however, you will find a number of shops and bakeries selling them as well. Being a Choclaholic, my first one was with whipped cream, and chocolate laced together.

Other favorites are:

Paling in't groen - This favorite is eel served with mixed herbs in a green sauce.

Salade Liegeoise - A salad consisting of bacon pieces, onions, green beans and vinegar.

Tartines - This Belgian dish contains slices of bread covered with a spread such as soft cheese or pâté. It is eaten with a knife and fork and served on a board.

Tomate - Crevette - This is a commonly enjoyed snack made of small shrimp and mayonnaise stuffed into a tomato.

Waterzooi - Thick soup made of fish or chicken, and vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and leeks. It also contains cream and eggs.

Pensen or Boudins - A sausage with meat mixed with breadcrumbs. It is commonly enjoyed with apple sauce and potatoes and is sometimes barbecued or eaten raw.

Vlaamse stoofkarbonaden - This dish is actually Flemish. It is a beef stew with beer.

Stoemp - This is a commonly found Belgian food that is made of mashed potatoes, vegetables, spices, herbs, bacon and cream. In this photo Stoemp accompanies sausage.

Mosselen- friet - This commonly found dish is made of mussels and French fries.

Where to stay in Brussels, Belgium

Conrad Brussels Hotel ( 5 stars)

The Conrad Brussels Hotel a premier location for both business and pleasure. Located on Avenue Louise, the Conrad Brussels is in the middle of one of Brussels' most fashionable shopping areas. Offering  world-class luxury and state-of-the-art facilities and services, Conrad Brussels provides guests direct access to an exclusive health club, a 17-metre pool, gym, sauna, Jacuzzi and spa.

Address: Avenue Louise 71, Brussels Belgium
Phone: (+32) 2 542 42 42
Price starts at $229 dollars per night

The Dominican Hotel (4 Stars)

The Dominican Hotel is located in the heart of Brussels, a short walk from the Grand Place.

With its 19th century facade, The Dominican Hotel, creates an elegant atmosphere with high quality amenities and up-to-date services. Serving both business and pleasure customers. The Dominican Hotel provides a fine restaurant, a bar, meeting facilities, wired and wireless Internet access, and wellness center with sauna, fitness room and steam.

Address: Rue Léopold 9, Brussel, 1000 Brussels
Phone: (+­32)­ 2 203 08 08
Price starts at $137 dollars per night

Novotel Brussels Centre Tour Noire (3 Stars)


With over 16 meeting rooms that have been fully renovated in 2011, the Novotel is ideal for business meetings.  Also located in the heart of Brussels the Novotel is close to the Grand Palace, the Bozar Center for Fine Arts, built by Victor Horta, and the small statue with ever-changing uniforms, the Manneken Pis.
The Novotel also provides excellent access to transportation with easy access to Midi train station where travelers can connect to all of Europe. The Bar-Brasserie Food Square, is a great place to unwind and enjoy excellent food with one of dozens of Belgian beers. The Aqua Health Center caters for your fitness and relaxation needs free of charge.

Address: Rue De Le Vierge Noir 32 Brussels,  1000 Belgium
Phone: (+32) 2 620 04 28
Price starts at $103 per night

Alternate accommodations


Maison-Noble is a renovated townhouse that provides modern facilities in a traditional Belgium setting. With free Wifi and large flat screens you will always be connected to the world around you. If you want solitude, enjoy the free steam room.  Located in the Dansaert quarter of Brussels the traveler will have easy access to trendy restaurants, bars and artist's studios. With in a 10-minute walk, you will find the Grand Place and many of the favorite spots in Brussels. 

Address: Marcqstraat 10 | Brussels, Brussels 1000, Belgium
Phone: (+32) 2 219 23 39
Price stars at $125 per night

Brugmann Garden


For the traveler who is looking for a quite bed & breakfast, the Brugmann Garden provides access to local museums and a high-tech connected environment. With LCD televisions, cable access, complimentary wireless Internet access you are always just a click away. Bathrooms come with rainfall shower heads and designer toiletries to give you that pampered feel. Located near the Horta Museum, Notre Dame du Sablon, Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Museum of Musical Instruments - Old England Building and European Union Parliament Building you will not run out of things to do. Breakfast is included on the price.

Address: Avenue Brugmann 21, Saint-Gilles, Brussels 1060, Belgium
Phone: (+ 32) 2 880 78 46
Price starts at $ 62 dollars per night






Thursday, January 10, 2013

Places to visit in Brussels, Begium

Located in the center of Europe, fought over by the English, French and Germans, and now the home of the European Union, NATO, the hundreds of international organizations spun off these two groups; Brussels is densely packed with "must visit" places for tourists. Getting her is a snap with high-speed rail, international airlines, and super highways to the North, South, East, and West. Yet, Brussels has retained its small town charm amid these cosmopolitan attractions. So, here is my recommendation for a few of the highlights.

Grand Place

The Grand Place, has been called Europe’s most beautiful medieval square. Built in the 13th century, The Grand Place served a the hub of commerce in Brussels; however, the French bombarded Brussels in 1695, leveling the Grand Place. Four years later the Guilds of Brussels rebuilt the Grand Place and now their Guild Buildings line the square. This beautiful square is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Every other year (2014) the Grand Place is decked out in an amazing flower carpet, made up of 1 million begonias - an amazing sight.

Horta Museum

Horta Museum in Brussels is the house that Victor Horta built it for himself in late 1890. It is an excellent example of architectural style that made Horta one of Belgium's most respected architects and a thought leader in Art Nouveau  style throughout Europe. It is a must see, since I love Art Nouveau. I was very impressed.


Built in for the Worlds Fair in 1958, the Atomium is a cross between sculpture and architecture. Modeled after a crystallized molecule of iron magnified 150 thousand million times, it's primary purpose was to promote commerce; so, it should be no surprise that it contains exposition halls and a restaurant. Inside the Sculpture, escalators take visitors to expositions in the various spheres and the upper sphere houses a restaurant, Chez Adrienne (note the windows in the sphere).

Atomium is located near Mini-Europe Park which also has  1/25th replicas of famous attractions across Europe. It is near King Baudouin Stadium.

Saint Michael and Gudula Cathedral

Beautiful Gothic cathedral  located at Treurenberg hill. Is an amazing place to visit.

It's architecture is on par with Notre Dame in Paris. Is also is the home of a stunning stained glass window series, three scenes of the legend of the Miraculous Sacrament. Since the early 11th century there was a church here. In 1047, Duke of Brabant, Lambert II, ordered that the relics of Saint Gudula to be moved from St Gorik in downtown Brussels to the new church on the hill Treurenberg. Since then St Michael and St Gudula acquired a greater importance than any other church, Brussels.

City Hall Gothic Tower

When you enter the Grand Place your eyes can't miss the stunning architecture of the City Hall. Also gutted in the French bombardment of Brussels, it was rebuild over a period of 50 years and now has regained its original splendor.

A little secret. Be sure to visit inside this beautiful building. Here you will  find a treasure trove of tapestries, sculptures and art that represent the local history and culture of Brussels.  

The Chocolate Museum

You definitely have to go to the Chocolate Museum, it is amazing!!!
Even if you do not love chocolate, you will appreciated  the work.
You learn so much and see some incredible things like the pictures I placed for you to see here.   They are "ALL" made of chocolate. Incredible!

Then you can go and visit some of the Brussels’s most celebrated chocolate shops.  Here is a few:


Located in the heart of the city, this family-owned chocolatier has been in business since 1910. It’s the official chocolate supplier to the Belgian Court.

Pierre Marcoline

His flagship store is located near the Grand Place. Marcolini opened his first store in 1995, the same year he was named the World Champion of Pastry. So he is considered a new but amazing addition to the Belgian chocolate scene.

Monday, January 7, 2013

So difficult to do it!

It is when you no longer feel the need for money that money will come. The feeling of needing money comes from the thought that you don't have enough, and so you continue to create not having enough money.
You are always creating, and when it comes to money, you are either creating the lack of it or the abundance of it.
Rhonda Byrne
The Secret...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Please read Little Secrets, wrote about " Beauty and Magic of the Dragonfly"