Day Six in Belgium- Part Two

(I apologize for the delay, but I have been working a lot of my WIP this week and last week.  Huzzah!)

And now… on to the Ommegang Pageant!

First, I was able to enjoy the tastes of the 1500s inside the ruins of Coudenberg Palace.

Cantelope with walnuts and pistachios

Sage sausage, fish in a gelatin-type of mixture, meat pie

sausage and cinnamon with cauliflower

wine infused with violets

good hearty bread

Loved the sweetmeats and marchpane!

Many in authentic dress walked among us during dinner

Check out these shoes!

Here is Phillip II , Charles V’s son and the heir to the empire!

It’s His Majesty, Charles V himself!

Walking from Coudenberg Palace to the Grand Place for the pageant

The beginning was like a Bruegel painting come to life.


The wide dais in the back held all of the nobility and the royal family, many played by descendants of the actual people.

I realize now that most of what I have of the pageant is actually on video, so I don’t have many pictures of it!  I’m going to try and get some of the videos on youtube and see if I can link to them here on my blog, so hopefully there will be more of it for you to see soon.

The pageant was an amazing and awe-inspiring experience! Seeing over a thousand people in costume, the horses and carriages and splendor, the pomp of the nobility– I really felt like I was living in the 1500s.   I will never forget it.  🙂

Day Six in Belgium- Part One

Welcome to Brussels in the year 1549!  This was a big day for me, so I have to divide the post up into two parts.  Here are scenes from the living history encampment on the Petit Sablon during the day.  I would have loved to take home one of the gowns, or maybe just wear one of them for the day.   🙂

The rest of the pictures portray daily life in 1549, and with many of them, I tried to compare them to paintings I saw at the Brussels Museum of Ancient Art in the morning before attending the Ommegang living history encampment.

An ironmonger (blacksmith)

A basket weaver (I thought the medieval glasses were quite unusual).

A wealthy nobleman or merchant kisses my hand.

French jousters parade on the Sablon before the tournament.

A lady of the nobility or wealthy merchant class bids me hello.

More everyday people and images of 1549.



I particularly love this last painting from the museum.  Look what I compare it to from the  living history encampment.  See you soon for Part Two of my post!

Day Five in Belgium

On my fifth day in the Low Countries, I finally toured Brussels and was honored to visit Dr. Frederic Clette at the Royal Observatory of Belgium.

I absolutely  LOVE  the name of the street the observatory is located on.

Dr. Clette was extremely generous with his time, and gave me a tour of the observatory and even one of the telescopes that he uses to look at the sun to record sun spots.

Many astronomers in ancient times ended up going blind from observing the sun.  Thankfully, today we have specialized telescopes for doing observations.  Below I am looking at the sun!

Can you find the sun spots in this picture?

Dr. Clette also had the observatory’s private antique astronomical instrument exhibit open especially for me.

Afterward, he demonstrated how to use an astrolabe with the help of a modern planisphere.

This antique telescope traveled all the way to Arizona from Brussels to observe  the transit of Venus in 1882.

Dr. Clette answered many of my astronomy questions, and I really appreciated his graciousness and support.

My visit went on longer than I had intended, and I unfortunately missed meeting the regional advisor for SCBWI Belgium, Dina von Lowenkraft and another fellow historical fiction writer, Jeannine Johnson Maia.  I’m so sorry, ladies!  I really wish we could have gotten together.  They were so helpful in their emails with advice on where to go.  I did end up going to Coudenberg the next day and trying Dandoy’s based on their advice.  🙂

Later in the day, I found many of these posters near the Grande Place.

Bleachers were being set up for the next day.

I ended up stumbling upon props and even costumes near the Stadhuis!

After being shooed away by a security guard near the costumes, I decided to go in search of more “hidden” sections of medieval Brussels, and boy did I find them!

The city’s old inner wall.

Another great medieval side street.

This was a fabulous tavern across from part of the city’s old inner wall.

I even found the supposed home of Pieter Breughel the Elder.

After such a long day of researching, I’m ready to meet Charles V at the Ommegang tomorrow!


Day Four in Belgium

What did my main character see while traveling the canals of Brugge in the morning?  I was able to take a canal ride to find out.

Now this person obviously wasn’t there, but I love the ancient steps leading down to the water.

Not sure about my main character seeing this view, but I thought it was so cute anyway!

What would have been like to climb the belfry of Bruges in the 16th century?  Here is what I discovered (at least in the late morning.  It would have been so much better at night for my story, but alas, the belfry is closed at night.)

First, here are paintings of what the belfry would have looked like in my time period (approx.)

I like how you can see the whole city in this one in the background.

This painting is a little more than a hundred years later, but I like how it reminds me of how the rural countryside surrounded Brugge outside of its moat and wall.  It’s easy to forget that in modern times.

Upon first entering the belfry from the stairs leading up from the interior courtyard, I came upon the cloth halls.

This kind gentleman was getting ready to run a big race with a bunch of other athletes.  He just started telling me the history of the cloth halls while he was warming up.

Now, it’s time to climb the tower!

Peeking through the keyholes of locked doors that were on various levels before reaching the top.

The stairs changed from stone to wood halfway up.

Reaching the bells on the top of the belfry.

A view of a bell above my head.

It was incredibly windy up there!

But what a view in the daytime.

Trying to write in the wind, about the wind.

Later in the afternoon,  I was invited to the home of artist David De Graef once again to explore the upper bedchambers of his home and B & B, the Nuit-Blanche Guesthouse.  I was given a tour by his ten-year-old daughter, Fleur.

Here is the outside of the house from the main street.

Fleur greeted me from an open window upon my arrival.

I loved these steps leading up to a tiny bedchamber that used to be her room when she was younger.

There were two windows in here, one on each side of the elongated room.  It seemed like the perfect setting for my main character’s room when she comes home from the beguinage where she is schooled.  I could completely imagine her looking outside late at night at the stars from these windows.

Here is the daytime view from one of the windows.

And here are some views into the medieval courtyard garden down below.

Here is the hearth of the tiny room.

This is where one would place a candle to see.

The second window

Downstairs to more bedchambers

I adore the wooden ceilings!

I wonder what this niche was for?

Lovely stained glass all around.

This is the door that opens outside to the Bonifacius Bridge.  Fleur had a hard time with opening it.  I think my main character would have, too.  It was enormous!

Fleur was such a lovely hostess.  Merci beaucoup!

Here is the door from the outside on the bridge.

Here is a view from the Bonifacius Bridge.

Here is a view of the bridge itself.

Here is the outside of one of the windows I looked through.

And now, on to the Stadhuis, or the City Hall!

Upstairs leading to the Gothic Chamber, where the leaders of Brugge would convene.

The massiveness of this table and this room made me feel very small and insignificant.  I bet my main character would feel the same way (even though originally the room was split in two).

I love the look of these old documents, especially this one with the Brugge seal.

I can imagine my main character’s father’s documents looking like this one.

Trunks where charters and important documents of the city were placed.  The locks were the largest I have ever seen!

This is the courthouse right next to the city hall.  This is where a trial would be conducted, and there is a trial in my book!

The courthouse door leading to one’s fate.

Where one would stand when on trial.

After such a long day, my writing partner and fellow critique group member of Viva Scriva, Sabina Rascol, treated me to lamb Flemish stew and leek and vegetable soup inside of a former medieval tannery.

Here I could relax and contemplate all I had seen.

And enjoy the amazing view from our table.

Sabina has been such a help the past few days with her photographs, translations, map-reading skills, and company.  Thank you for the wonderful meal, Sabina!

More to research and ponder tomorrow as I journey to Brussels, and soon to the Ommegang!

Day Three in Belgium

(I have actually just arrived home from my trip, which went very, very fast but was absolutely incredible!  Now I finally have some time to sit and reflect on my days for you a bit more.  Here is a quick overview of Day Three, with more Writer-in-the field photos..)

Now, how long does it take my main character to get from one place to another on foot?

How to open a medieval wooden door.  I didn’t realize that there were so many ways!
How to ring a medieval doorbell. (Pull, not press, and no, they didn’t just always knock.)
Another doorbell pull (on the right.)
Entering the city of Brugge through the city gates.  Brugge used to be a walled city, and these are examples of what my main character would go through to travel outside of town, which she does later in the novel.
Windmills seen outside the city wall (if it were the 16th century that is when there was a wall)
Researching types of local fish that could be found in a 16th century market.
Check out the eels!
Here is a bird and rabbit market.  I could really see this in the 16th century!
More possible house locations for my main character.  (To be on the canal or to not be on the canal, that is the question…)
Above is a bed & breakfast named Bonifacius.  The proprietor was kind enough to allow me a peek inside.  It was absolutely beautiful!   The place used to be two homes, with one on the street and one on the canal, and an adjoining corridor, where I am standing here.
This is on the rooftop of the Bonifacius.  What a view!
Here is a close-up of the rooftop at the Bonifacius, made of the same tiles as many of the homes here, including the beguinage, where my main character may venture to the rooftop to observe the night sky.
Home of David De Graef again.  I love this place!
Other possible homes for my main character.
Interior of another house off the canal.  (Yes, I was peeking through a window.  A writer has to do what a writer has to do.  At least the house was empty!)
I liked the interior of this one since it had stairs from the “parlor” or main living area leading to an adjoining room, which could be the “library” or “study” for my main character’s astronomer father .(Yes, this is from more peeking in windows.)
This is the interior of that study room.
Outside of this home.  You can see that I’ve been obsessed with finding the house of my main character!
Visiting the Gruuthuse Museum, a model for a lord’s house in my novel.
Interior of the lord’s house.  So sumptuous and full of wealth!
Here is a view of the ceiling.
This is the hearth of that could be called the Great Hall, or main receiving parlor.  It was massive!
Gorgeous tapestries hanging on the walls.
Examining the tile floor.
Trying out the window seat.
The kitchen.  That spoon was heavy!
A private chapel where the lord could partake in mass at the Church of Our Lady without leaving the comfort of his own home.  Talk about the feeling of being “above” others…
This is the view inside the Church of Our Lady from the private chapel.
Here I am pretending to be my main character waiting for her canal boat.
Inspiring paintings from the Groeninge Museum.  I love the look of this girl for my main character.
You can learn so much about daily life in paintings.
What did a table of food look like?  What was hung on a wall in a home?  All can be found in paintings if you know where to look.  My zoom came in very handy.
Paintings help to remind me that Brugge was still a merchant port city, even though it was on its decline from the silting up of the river.
Possible characters?  I loved these faces!
A fellow writer from the museum that I met.  He is working on an adult mystery/thriller.  We writers must stick together!
More medieval interiors (this from a 16th century pub.  Perhaps my main character’s father frequented there?)
What a day!  More to come soon on Day Four!

Day Two in Belgium

 Hello everyone!  I have been having some technical difficulties here with my photo uploads, so the posts are going to be a bit delayed.  Here finally are my “Writer-in-the Field” photos from my second day in Brugge on Friday.

 I was able to visit the kind and generous owner of the guesthouse Nuit Blanche, David De Graef.


His home is an amazing example of medieval architecture that was restored back to its period state.


I was so excited at the chance to be able to visit his home and learn about not only the history of his house but stories about Brugge during the 1500s as well.  Mr. De Graef is an artist as well and his home and studio are filled with his magnificent works.

Typical medieval hearth in a tradesman’s home.
Here are some other great medieval home details I found while at the house.
Fellow artists talking together.  Even Mr. De Graef’s daughter, Fleur, is an artist who loves to draw!
I commissioned a picture from her for my two boys back home.  The result was a lovely mushroom home for a little dwarf.  🙂
More to come hopefully tomorrow!

Day One in Belgium

I made it!  Here is my Happy Writer Dance in Brugge!


The first day has been amazing.  My good writing buddy and critique group partner, Sabina Rascol (and fellow member of our critique group Viva Scriva), is with me taking pictures.  She did these amazing “writer-in-the field” shots that I didn’t know she was taking while I took notes around town.  Here are a few at the beguinage, which is a type of lay women’s “convent” of sorts where my main character is going to live for a time and attend school.


In front of the chapel in the beguinage.


What does a linden tree smell like?  They are all around the beguinage.


Taking pictures inside the beguinage.


Looking for my main character’s house where her Father lives and works.  I like the look of this door here!  (It’s actually a potter’s shop right now)


Trying to read the sign above the door.


Walking toward The Church of Our Lady, the tallest steeple in Brugge.  It’s awe-inspiring.  My main character would have thought so, too.


And here are just some general pictures outside this “Writer-in-the field” series.

Possibly my main character’s home (outside the beguinage) where her astronomer father lives and works.


Medieval gardens!


More to come later!

Hear Ye, Lovers of History! Check Out This Video…

This is the funniest thing I have seen in a long, long time.  My husband just showed it to me.  All lovers of history will appreciate it, especially those into the 16th-19th century.  Check it out, and stick with it until the end.  You’ll be thankful you did.  Enjoy!


I Wonder What the Night Sky Looks Like From Up Here?

I’m thrilled to be able to go to the top of some of these places soon (at least the Belfort), but it’s too bad that it can’t be done at night.  It’s what my main character would have done if she could (and maybe will…)

First, here is the Belfort of Brugge.


Next, is the Church of Our Lady in Brugge.  I don’t know if visitors are allowed to climb the tower, but I’m going to find out.


Finally, there is the beguinage of Brugge.  (I am intrigued with the idea of somehow having my main character climb onto the rooftop when she is living here, but I am not sure how.  Of course, I won’t be doing it!)


And now, back to packing…

What to Bring on a Research Trip (Part 2- Less Books!)

Okay, I have heard from quite a few people here, on my Kickstarter blog, and in person, and the overwhelming response to bringing books on the trip is—the less, the better.

It is freeing to be able to say no, I don’t need the books to come with me.  A few photocopies will be fine of important pages I can’t do without (like maps, for example).  I agree with the majority that having too many to lug around isn’t practical, and they will only act as a crutch for really being in the “moment.”

But my camera and extra batteries—they’re definitely coming!  And so is this.

It’s a journal that my two boys gave to me for Christmas this past year.  They picked out the cover and everything, and said it was for me to write my stories in.  It will be perfect for carrying all of my notes and experiences.  Thank you, boys!

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