September 3, Tuesday
In the morning, I again was greeted by a cat. I think it was Jim, the shy one who has just a few white hairs under his chin. I petted him, then fed him. After he ate, he returned for more petting, so I have to retract yesterday’s comment that cat love is stomach love. I learned later that Pam and Maureen were honoured by having Jules, the brave one with a large white spot, as their bed buddy last night.
Everyone was up and ready to leave by 10:00. As we were getting into the car, a neighbour named Melanie introduced herself. Hers is the house under renovation across the street. She told us to wait a bit and came back with four bottles of different Belgian beers - a very kind gesture.
Our destination today was not Clervaux, as planned, because we saw online that the castle is not open on Tuesday. We headed instead for the Botanical Garden of Liege, less than half an hour’s drive. The journey was problem-free. The challenge was finding a parking place. Like all big cities, parking can be at a premium. We went to one lot that had no space; we followed a few people who looked like they might be heading for their car but to no avail. We then made our way to a parking garage via a very circuitous route necessitated by the city’s many one-way and “do not enter” streets, which are understandable when you think that much of their street grid was laid down when horses and wagons were the transportation. The journey was made even trickier because our GPS map disappeared on us and the radio came on. Pam wisely chose to focus on driving rather than pressing buttons trying to restore the map. Thankfully, Maureen, our backup navigator, had set the Garmin she brought from home for the same destination, so she guided Pam to the parking garage. Before we left the parking garage, we restored the navigation map and asked the attendant to circle the parking lot’s location on the map just to make sure we would find it again. It takes effort to not get lost.
We walked to the Botanical Garden past many modern buildings and whole streets that look like they could fit in any large modern city. However, we also turned down streets that were narrow lanes lined with buildings from previous centuries and cobblestone sidewalks. When we arrived at the gardens, we saw green park space but no signs guiding us to the botanical gardens. As we wandered towards some large buildings, we suspected we were on the right path because we saw greenhouses, but still there was nothing to indicate an office or main building. We asked at a little restaurant where the gardens were and she pointed towards the greenhouses but said in her limited English that we would need tickets, but she couldn’t explain how we’d get them. A little further down was a building with an open door, and there I found a bookstore with a woman who, when I managed to communicate what we wanted, indicated she was the one to sell the tickets. A second woman, whose English was better, came in and after animated discussion with the bookstore attendant, let us know there was no guide (the attendant shrugged her shoulders when we looked towards her at this news) nor were we offered a map or brochure. In the end, it turned out we were simply to wander through the greenhouses, ready to show our ticket should a worker challenge our presence. We had expected a much visitor-friendly facility and, after having seen botanical gardens in other cities with two-story high sparkling glass edifices abounding in beautiful flowers and tall trees, the one-story, rather grubby Victorian-era greenhouses were underwhelming. In the end, we all found something of interest to enjoy and there were thousands of different plants, but it was more an academic collection, not one laid out to impress the visitors.
It was overcast and cool (in my opinion - others in the group were quite comfortable) when we emerged from the greenhouses. By this time, we were hungry, so we went looking for a restaurant rather than wander the park. This might have been our loss, because apparently, there is a pond and one hundred seventy different species of trees. Fifteen of the trees were planted about 1850 and still survive. We settled on a restaurant named “The ou Cafe” (Tea or Coffee). Perched upon uncomfortable bar stools around a table, we ate one of two items on the menu, rigatoni with scampi. The only other choice was also a pasta dish. The rigatoni was tasty, which may account for the restaurant’s full house despite the very specialized menu of pasta only.
Leaving the restaurant, we returned to the car. By this time, it was going on three and there didn’t seem much time left to find our way to another tourist attraction and find another parking space. On the way home we stopped at Colryut, a Superstore-like market, to pick up a few groceries. A very friendly woman who spoke good English shared some shopping tips with us i.e. dairy products come only in “entier” and “maîgre” (whole and low fat), not percentages like 2%. We also stopped at a small fruit and vegetable market just to see if it was worth visiting next grocery-shopping time.
At home, we lazed about for a little while. Marilynn and I had a video conference with Frances, who was our neighbour during a house exchange to the Netherlands. She and her husband were very hospitable to us during our stay. She may be able to come here for a couple of days’ visit sometime in the next week.
We ate leftover lasagne and barbecued chicken for dinner. By then it was after 8:00 (we’ve become very European in our dining habits). We weren’t late to bed because we are leaving for Clervaux in Luxembourg tomorrow.