One of the privileges of living where we do is the ease of travel. A couple Fridays ago Brock and I had a lunch date with daddy at work and I mentioned that the Tongeren antique market was happening that Sunday morning… and that we should go. Not even 20 hours later we were on our way to Belgium for a fun family weekend!
This was our third trip to Tongeren for the Sunday antique market so we knew just what to do. We stayed at the same hotel the night before the market to make it easier to get up and shop early and enjoyed an amazing dinner at the hotel restaurant. The only difference for this trip is that we left early enough on Saturday to do something fun in Belgium before checking into the hotel.
On the list for the day was the Grottes de Remouchamps… Remouchamps cave. The entrance to the cave was right on the main street, surrounded by little sidewalk cafes, and at first I didn’t even notice it tucked behind a blooming tree, but Fil spotted it and we were on our way. In our opinion it was a little expensive, but Fil had never been anywhere like it, and I was maybe 10 the last time I had gone through a cavern so we were excited to try it out.
The sandstone and limestone cave was discovered in 1828 and first opened to visitors in 1912 by torch light, and today’s tours are illuminated with colored lights highlighting the features. Our guide did the tour in French and German so we picked up a few words here and there but could make absolutely no sense of it. That being said I don’t have fun facts, but I could gather a few stats online.
The cave was formed over a million years ago by the presence of an underground river, the Rubicon, and, according to the internet, in the Paleolithic era hunters first inhabited the first large room in the cave. During WWII the same room served as a refugee for people living in the town.
The 1 km walk was very easy, wet but not slick. The only trouble was that Brock didn’t care to be carried and he wanted to run through on his own which we of course could only let him do for brief periods where it was safe.
At the end of the walk we packed into very typical wooden boats and our guide pushed off the walls guiding us along the river back to the entrance. This part was not well lit. It was dark. And narrow. We spent most of the ride wondering how much farther down we could duck! Brock started pitching a fit but that was quickly cured by a chocolate granola bar which everyone was glad about. As you can imagine an echoing Brock is not exactly a soothing sound.
We really enjoyed our little stop at the cave. We both admit that we have not spent nearly enough time exploring our neighbor, Belgium, so it was nice to do something adventurous.
The next day in Tongeren we made out like champs! Fil got a wooden fishing reel made from wood harvested from Nottingham Forrest in the UK in the early 1900’s. But I made out like a bandit! I got 5 more cookie boards, doubling the size of my collection, a set of small copper pots, a set of copper cooking utensils with a rack to hang on, and the piece de resistance… a Singer 29k2 industrial leather sewing machine!
The 29k2 was an industrial leather machine made for sewing boots, shoes, and from what I can tell also quite popular for saddlery. I have seen them around at the Metz market and told Fil I wanted one for the novelty… well he wanted me to have one so I could make him leather fishing accessories. This beauty we simply could not leave in Belgium… the asking price was literally half of what I was willing to pay! Her gears move smoothly but I am doing a full restoration so she makes it another 100 years. I think I forgot to tell you… I looked up her serial number in the Singer database and discovered she was made between January and June of 1900 which makes her 116 years young and still kicking.
Now, a couple of weeks later, I have the base completely restored with fresh paint and am still working on the machine. My plan is to keep the original decals and patina by extensive cleaning and then a clear coat to protect her. I know she doesn’t look that bad in the picture but a lot of the black you see is 100 years of grease and the more I clean it off the more patina I see. She really is beautiful.
For such a last minute trip I seriously do not know how it could have gone any better for us.
Next on the travel list? Well today we are missing out on a Medieval festival at our favorite animal park because someone is misbehaving. Fil and I were really looking forward to it but oh well. We take Brock to that park a couple times a year because it is so close and the animals are not caged so you can pet, walk with and feed them. I bet it would have been fun to throw a Medieval fest into the animal mix.
That aside, Mr. Brock turns two in exactly one week! Can you believe it? He is going to be Two at the Zoo. We are going into France to the Zoo d’Amnéville with some friends on his birthday and I know he will just love it.