Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Are you planning on making any new year resolution ? Every year I resolve to improve my personality (but I think I am becoming more and more anti-social) and coming up with some new goals - to make changes in weight (getting in shape), romance, career, and etc.
2006 has been a nice year. I started working since back to Malaysia for good. I have picked up alot since the past one year. I did quite abit of traveling as well. And the most memorable one - I participated in the recent ZDS Chocolate Course in Solingen, Germany where I have met a group of nice and friendly people. I miss them.

Wishing everyone a merry christmas and a happy new year.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Brussels - The Comic City

Brussels is, first of all, a city located in the centre of Belgium and is its capital. The city is famous for being home to many Belgian comics characters, including The Smurfs, Largo Winch, Tintin and Lucky Luke to name but a few therefore the city is also nicknamed the Comic City.
The St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral is the main church in Brussels. The music sound of the cathedral organ was inspiring. I attended part of the Sunday service. Good experience.
There are many beautiful glass-stained windows which allowed more light to fall in to the church.
The cathedral with two strong towers giving it an imposing appearance. It is often used for Catholic ceremonies of national interest, such as royal marriages and state funerals.
The cathedral is located on the Treurenberg Hill and one could enjoy the view of the lower town.
Manneken Pis, is a Brussels landmark. It is a small bronze fountain sculpture depicting a little boy urinating into the fountain's basin. Funny to have a boy peeing as a city landmark but indeed there are several legends behind this statue - the pee that saved the city.
Since the mid-1990s, the Manneken has had a female equivalent, Jeanneke Pis - looking apparently contented but not quite graceful.
Part of the Galerie de la Reine - many outlets here selling several brands of Belgium chocolate. And the price .. LOL .. expensive.
Well, Belgium is well-known for chocolates. Brands of Belgian chocolate, like Neuhaus and Côte d'Or, are world renowned and widely sold.
A chocolate fountain - a device for serving chocolate fondue. I wish I could have one of that in our lab.
Godiva is a chocolate manufacturer, founded in 1926 in Belgium. Such chocolates were made from fine and high quality ingredients. I bought some and it was just so so. I must try those from Neuhaus.
Despite the cloudy/gloomy/rainy weather (overall bad weather) over the weekends, but I did enjoy the trip. Many adventures from the demo at the city, to light up at the La Grand-Place and walk around the city. Belgium though a small country it is, but worth a place to see.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Atomium, Brussels

Built for the 1958 International Exhibition of Brussels, the 102-metre tall Atomium monument represents an iron crystal molecule magnified 165 billion times.
After more than a year of renovation work, it is now reopened and will give visitors brand new experience - special journey through the spheres.
The structure stands on three enormous bipods and it has nine large spheres joined by tubes.
Planned originally to last only six months, the Atomium was not intended to survive the Exhibition of 1958.
But its popularity and success, however, it has now become a major landmark of the Brussels skyline.
The original faded aluminium sheets on the balls were replaced with stainless steel. To help pay for renovations, the old aluminium has been sold to the public as souvenirs.
The Atomium, which had been closed to the public since October 2004 was re-opened on 18th February 2006. It has become as if like the Eiffel Tower of Brussels.

Electrabel Night, La Grand-Place

A project of the City of Brussels and Electrabel (a Belgian based energy corporation), the Electrabel Night - a magnificent sound and light show in the city hall of the La Grand-Place.
At night, visitors are free to visit the Christmas Market full of wonderful hand made arts and crafts and Christmas decorations. And not forgetting a couple of glasses of mulled wine to keep you warm (I have not tried that yet though).
During the show, part of the pre-christmas celebration, the walls of the buildings are served somewhat the canvas. It was amazing - during the night, the place just glowed and it was magical.
Combinations of different colours.
It gave a cheerful atmosphere despite slight rain (It was bad weather over the weekends in Brussels). Visitors were admiring the show of music and lights.
Earlier mentioned, the tower was not in the middle - the right wing is somewhat shorter.
I was amazed and I couldn't help to wonder if I have stumbled into the twillight zone.
La Grand-Place, I was there in the afternoon, the first day I visited Brussels. I was there the night for the Electrabel light show. And I was there again the next day for ... hmmm ... Belgian chocolates.

La Grand-Place, Brussels

The La Grand-Place is the central market square of Brussels. The square is the most important tourist destination and most memorable landmark in Brussels next to the Atomium.
When entering the market place from one of the seven side-streets, one's eyes are drawn automatically to the gothic tower of the town hall pointing skywards.
The town hall has a 96-meter-high tower in Brabantine Gothic style. Legend has it that the architect committed suicide by throwing himself of the tower when he noticed that the tower was not in the middle (a better picture in the next posting).
Like most other legends surrounding the monuments of Brussels, this one also is not true.
The tower not being in the middle is simply the result of the fact that the right wing of the town hall could not be made as large as the left wing because the town authorities wanted to preserve the street next to the right wing.
The facade is decorated with numerous statues representing nobles, saints, and allegorical figures.
The decoration of the buildings are so remarkable. It is beautiful and exquisite.
Opposite the Town Hall and almost as grand is the Maison du Roi (Household of the King).
The building now hosts the Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles (the City Museum).
Its collection includes tapestries and altarpieces, as well as the costumes worn by the Manneken-Pis. The museum is devoted to all aspects of the city's history.
During the early Middle Ages small wooden houses were scattered around the market, but as from the 14th century the rich and powerful patrician families built stone mansions.
Gradually the market turned into the main commercial and administrative centre of the city.
In 1402 the construction of the town hall started and the square had by then already become the political centre where meetings were held, where executions took place and where dukes, kings and emperors where officially received.
The town hall has a Wedding Hall - a popular place to tie the knot and has been used for civil marriages of all residents living in Brussels.
The couples arriving in style - a luxury stretch limousine.
Everard 't Serclaes was made famous by his recovery of the city from the Flemish. Local superstition said that by rubbing (touching) the right hand of the statue can bring luck. But when I was there, seems like everybody touched the statue from his head till leg.
"One of the most beautiful town squares in Europe, if not in the world", is a phrase often heard when visitors in Brussels try to describe the beauty of the central market square.

Indeed, I spent alot of time wandering around and admiring the beautiful buildings.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Volkswagen Demo in Brussels

Thousands of people demonstrated in the Belgian capital in the show of unity to protest big job cuts at Volkswagen.
The European biggest carmaker said last week it planned to stop making its best-selling Golf in the Brussels plant to cut costs - a move that will cut nearly 4,000 jobs.
Rumours that the carmaker plans to build a new small Audi model at its plant in Brussels may help to safe jobs.
Or the facility may be re-tooled for some other work and lay off may end up with some sort of compensation settlements. However, Volkswagen declined to comment on such plans.
The announcement has prompted workers in Brussels to strike since November 17, 2006, and the action is set to continue this week.
Well layoffs are often necessary for a business to become profitable again. Today the layoff of an employee won’t damage the worker’s resume, but is now just an unpleasant fact. Clearly, a worker isn’t at fault when you lay him off. While it is no longer a disgrace, a lay off is still hard on everyone.

And ... the Volkswagen's Brussels plant is the city's biggest employer. Tough isn't it ?