Category Archives: // Day Trips

Mechelen, man

Via our friend Doris we’ve found out about this awesome map of Brussels made by Use-It. It’s a free little guidebook of sorts made up by young locals to point out some of their favorite spots in the city, keeping you in the cool, not too touristy parts. We’ve been whipping out our Brussels one every once in a while to get some ideas on new places to try out or areas to stroll through, so we were excited to find out that they’re a Europe-wide sort of thing. In Belgium they’ve got all the big cities – Antwerp, Bruges, Gent and Leuven – but also a name we hadn’t seen come up all too often: Mechelen. So one slow Sunday we figured we’d give it a go and visit this place that finds itself about halfway between Brussels and Antwerp.

Now that we’ve built up this map you’re probably assuming that we’re checking off all the hot Mechelen spots. Well, no. Who knows what happened (ok, it was because Doris hand delivered the Brussels one and the tourist office doesn’t find itself in our living room) but we ended up in the town mapless. Comme d’habitude. Our first stop was St. Rombold’s Cathedral, mainly because we could spot the tower from where we parked and figured it’d be in the center of town.. And if that tower looks a little unfinished to you, it’s because it is. They stopped when the town ran out of money way back in the 16th century and it’s stayed a flat-top ever since. Inside we found a corner full of gossiping statues, presumably talking about whoever went broke.

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Cleanest. Belgian. Town. Stuff was almost shiny, and the city had flowers almost anywhere they could fit them. It did have a little emptiness to it though – the place felt like it was made for way, way more people. But it was a Sunday, sunny, and holiday season so it’s not too far fetched to think that the residents had vacated their pristine little town for the beaches. The extra space gave Annie some time to practice her cartwheels. Or maybe all the locals are at the spots we should have known about if we had our Use-It map..

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium

Visitors Itinerary | Jordan

Welcome Jordan. You might remember her sweet dance moves from here. She hails from Dallas, where the we all met post grad at work and bonded over crazy long hours and dreaming of retiring in Europe immediately (at least that’s how I remember it). She knew the work Annie and Justin who were total opposites and then the dating Annie and Justin who somehow, strangely worked despite polar responses to life and then the night I picked her up for Girl’s Night and she flipped out when we sat down at the table and saw my shiny ring finger, but I couldn’t exactly tell her in the car, so I was waiting for the right timing and that was a fun night. Anyway, it’s now my mission in life to make this a reality, because really, Europe looks good on these people down here…. 

Fete de la Musique | Brussels, Belgium

Because it wouldn’t be a true Jordan visit if we didn’t hear a little live music, we headed to Parc Royal to check out the Fête de la MusiqueAaaand it was just what we needed to go from this (left) to that (right). Asap:

Excited friends a la airport | Brussels, BelgiumContent friends a la Place Jourdan | Brussels, Belgium

Necessary.

Also necessary, we consumed a whole lotta Belgian beer, chocolate, and much-needed girl chat. It was better than Disney World.

There was a trip to Bruges, where we climbed the tiniest stairwell in all of the land. Smaller and taller and smaller and smaller. Finally. The top, where those bells ring all of a sudden no matter how close your ears are. They don’t care.

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And then, we went all touristy in Brussels and plopped down in the middle of Grand Place with the messiest kind of waffles. The kind that you find in your hair at dinner later that evening.

There was a lot of walking and chatting and chatting and walking and maybe some slight getting lost (although I might have been the only one who knew it?) and a mildly inappropriate tourist attraction and a very, very inappropriate tourist attraction.

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So, here’s the deal. I’m totally in love with all of the fantastic ladies (and gents) we’ve come to know and call friends in this sassy area of the world, but, ya know, sometimes you just need some home cooking. I’m sorry, Jordan. I just compared you to cooking. But, it’s just soooo GOOD FOR THE SOUL. Laughing about shenanigans we got into back in Dallas (if she’d let me, I’d start uploading embarrassing photos because they make me happy, but I’m sorry. and also, you’re welcome.) and understanding the same cultural references and just sitting and enjoying good ol’ friend time. BUT, I’m getting carried away, I didn’t have to choose!  We threw together a fancy schmancy Girls’ Night! And, in general Girl’s Nights make me a happy one, but this one. This one was a special sort. Plus, my hubby crashed the party at the end, so it was the best kind of night. 

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And THEN, we finally made it to Chalet Robinson and found the best grilled chicken caesar salad in this country, probably. I mean, we had to travel via ferry to the island and were surrounded by freshly pressed business people and dogs, so the stakes were pretty high. But, worth it to meet this stud..

Chalet Robinson | Brussels, BelgiumChalet Robinson | Brussels, Belgium

And in case there’s any suspicion that I went mean girl up there, the guy gave us candy after our lunch. And if you must know anything about me, it’s that candy is the way to my heart (ahem, American candy). Which must mean that Jordan knows me pretty darn well, because that little chica flew to Spain and then to Belgium with at least two pounds of it in tow. These are the kind of people you want in your life.

Chatelain Market | Brussels, Belgium

Aren’t you happy we prettied this blog up with Jordan photos? Now, THAT was necessary.

Til the next overseas adventure, friend!

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium, VISITORS ITINERARY

And the town cheered with excitement

Ghent, Belgium via MontgomeryFest

Because we were one for three. Three times the mister and I have tried to hit up a river cruise in the country of Belgium. That first time was kinda our fault..the forecast said it was pretty out, or maybe we didn’t check the weather? Who can even remember at this point, it was like 39 days ago or something. We got in the car and drove straight up to Ghent and parked our car  and walked outside and let it pour down on us for like eight seconds before we decided – nope.. Okay, maybe it was a light rain, but it was cold and being on the water sounded little fun. Bummer. So, we walked back inside and bought some watercolor paint in the parking garage slash shopping mall and got back in our car and drove straight back down to Brussels where I can’t remember if it was raining or not, but that’s beside the point.  That second time was with the ladies in Bruges and the weather was a tiny bit chilly, but not a rain cloud in sight and J and I’s eyes lit up when we walked over a canal by chance and saw a guided tour float by under our bridge.  Maybe?! Nope. Nanan nixed that idea up and real quick since her layer of thermals wasn’t warm enough. On land we stayed. Such is the life of a host.

But! Last Saturday, the stars aligned and there was sunshine and it was just the two of us and we saw our chance.

And the town of Ghent was so excited for us that they all came out to welcome us and, well okay, not totally just for that, but there were many a Belgian and non-Belgian alike amongst those cobblestone streets. I love when you get close to the center of a city and, whether it’s official or not, the cars turn away and all there are are people walking, bicycling, meandering, enjoying the leisurely life along the streets…in the masses (sooo many people here!). Actually, I take that back. Leisurely and bicycles don’t go together in these parts. It’s a serious, fast-paced agenda that bicycling in Northern Europe. We boarded our wooden yacht and sat back watching boats bump into each other and then waving ‘pardon’ or whatever the Dutch word is (sorry Dutch friends)…are they seriously smiling?! So many people. We laughed at the signs on every seat saying tipping was customary in 4 different languages guaranteeing you couldn’t miss it because it’s funny that tipping is not customary in Europe but tipping IS customary on tourist rides. The adventure began and we listened to the tour in English, French, Dutch and maybe there was another one, but my ears only tuned in when they heard english or a french term that they didn’t use during the English translation (what the heck.). Kinda rad how the brain does that, but can’t remember the grammar rules for capitalizing languages (help?) to save my life. Capitalization for all!

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Ghent, Belgium via MontgomeryFestGhent, Belgium via MontgomeryFest
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You see, the thing about floating under a willow tree is that it’s lovely. 

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium

Story Time

So, this one time. Last Friday. We were patioing pretty hard at the trendy Place Lux (it’s at the foot of the Parliament, so it makes for great over-dressed-HH-watching). At the time, it seemed like a really superb idea to crash a family get together at our friends who live nearby – blame it on the Leffe’s. (yeah, yeah.) And when we were at the doorstep telling our peeps goodnight and sorry for the 14th time, J tunes in to the concert playing next door. My non-pop music listening better half yells out ‘it’s We Are Barcelona!’ and before I could hear the next beat (and remember that I had heard of them before), ‘and they’re playing We Are Barcelona!!’…grabs my hand and we run off just in time to catch the end of the set. I’m pretty sure we said goodbye. Random nights are the best.

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And then, on Saturday, we set out to visit Durbuy, the smallest town on earth. Just south of Brussels, there’s this forest that’s known for its bluebells in May, so we pit-stopped there. The fun part was the Dutch signs – when you see red and white signs with 24 character words, it’s easy to assume that they’re trying to warn you about something. With barely any cell reception under the trees, we tried to translate and decided that it probably says we can’t go in. Maybe 10 minutes worth of translating and debating later, we (J, the driver) pulled the car to the side to park it. At exactly the time of ‘park’, some car whips by us and drives into the forest. It’s not that funny right now, but we cracked up at that for another .10 minutes. Dutch is hard, yo. We drove around a bit. The trees were pretty. Lots of runners. And one bluebell. Apparently, May means May, because it was June 1st and we missed the season. (If you’re really curious because I spent a whole paragraph hyping it up, have no fear – A Bee and Toe actually made it on time.)

Also, that anti-climatic pit-stop made the trip to Durbuy extra long, so we stopped again along the way in Namur. And, can I tell you, we were pleasantly surprised at how bustling that cute, little-big city was! We’ve had a knack for finding the squares with violin/accordion stars lately and I’m lovin’ it. We’ll be back Namur, save us a dinner cruise.

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Okay. You know how it’s strawberry season? Well, there’s the precious little town just south of Namur called Wépion and it’s the Belgian capital of the strawberry. Uhhm, so it’s obviously the next stop in this thrilling novel. The road between the two cities boarders the Meuse River and right when we crossed into the town, little strawberry stands and park benches started popping up! Those suckers made the car smell delicious, so we had to hurry home for dinner and dessert – the.sweetest.strawberries.of.our.lives.

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We never actually made it to the smallest town on earth.

Sunday was made for lounging. There isn’t much of a story here, but the day unfolded like this: ‘let’s go to the park.’ picnic blanket – check. ‘I miss Symphony in the Park.’ ‘I miss that park.’ (we lived by my favorite park in Dallas) ‘I miss wine in the park.’ Wine glasses – check. Night shop on the way (Brussels is closed on Sundays…this is their exception) – check. ‘This is a good day.’ And then our friends from Friday night passed by and we didn’t redeem ourselves any. But, really. this is the life.

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We hope you had a fantastic weekend, too – Care to share? Was there a fair? Did you do your hair? Dr. Seuss wants to know..

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium, LIFE

Fresh Flowers and Festivals

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May has been a mighty wonderful, mighty busy month around these parts. Before and after and all around my mama’s visit (catch part un ici et part deux ici..and deal with the language mix as it is life in Brussels – Land of the Every Language. Dank u.) we’ve been taking advantage of the many festivals.

There were the tulips at Keukenhof in Holland. So, of course we took a trip to The Netherlands to see the Garden of Europe, which might be the largest flower garden in the world, but don’t quote me on that…just wiki.

Keukenhof Festival in Holland via MontgomeryFestKeukenhof Festival in Holland via MontgomeryFest
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Then there was the Fête de l’Europe where the EU institutions opened their doors and Justin got to act like Vedran in the interpreters booth, except he’s ooooobviously not doing it right in this photo, because EVERYone knows you only listen to the speaker through one headphone so that you can still hear yourself interpreting. Oooobviously. But, seriously, you should try interpreting something asap…even if it’s just in your mother tongue. That shizz is cray-hard.

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And along with that there was Fête de l’Iris..

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So, in front of Brussels’ royal palace there’s this big driveway, where they put a huge stage ready for Jessie Ware or someone of equal Euro fanaticism (I say this from my limited pop culture knowledge here, but people looooved her at Pitchfork), although we’ll never know because not one band performed the whole time we were there. In front of the driveway is a park. In the middle of this park is a gazebo. And on this one particular day, there was a DJ who set up shop playing some kinda dance music. People filled in around the gazebo and filled up the entire park where ever there was sunshine. If it was green and shiny, people were sitting/laying/juggling on it. I’m pretty sure these were the Brusselites who were hibernating all winter. I have no doubt it was the park’s favorite day. It probably felt like a king. Like, all up in front of the palace. 

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Last weekend was the Jazz Marathon all over Brussels. We staked out the events on the Sablon because we’ve been curious about their weekly vintage markets. where do they get this stuff? Brussels weather is not partial to outside pop-up shops – do they really set up every weekend? who buys that 2k euro salt and pepper shaker? are we walking amongst fancy vintage traders who know exactly what everything is worth? I wanna see that in action.

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Aren’t those cow balloons misleading?! No. It’s not for Chick-fil-A..even though they even used a similar font, which should be named Cruelty to American Expats Who Can’t Taste Our Heavenly Goodness For Another 15 Months or maybe a Sans Serif of some sort..

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium, The Netherlands

Visitor’s Itinerary | Mama Jo & Nanan – Part 2

So now, where were we? Oh, yes. Mother’s Day.

day 6 :: Church and a Mother’s Day brunch. Mama Jo’s favorite cooing bundle of joy and her fam joined us for the most wonderful company. But what that attention-hogging baby (not jealous, see?) didn’t have was a trip to Paris up her sleeve! So, south we went to that pretty, pretty city. We got there with plenty of time to find a cafe for dinner and head to the Champ de Mars to see the Eiffel Tower.

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day 7 :: Good morning metro system! Breakfast cafe in Montmartre just before we rode the Funicular up to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. I didn’t get clapped at for taking pictures this time – is that a pro or a con? Holy tour! No, I mean, it felt like a holy tour with all of the cathedrals/basilicas on our adventure. So, next up: Notre Dame, where they had a choir practicing that we were able to enjoy. A quick run by the Palais Garnier opera house after stopping for a little bit of shiny at Galeries Lafayette and dinner at the nearby Café Gallery. But I think my favorite part of the day was when everyone went to sleep and my mom and I snuck down to the hotel lobby and girl chatted til the wee hours. That lady and her heart of gold – I can’t get enough of it.

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day 8 :: Versailles, France. I’m not sure how they felt about the crepes we kept ordering, but I have to tell you, this whole pancake/crepe naming business even confuses me. I would like for everyone to have a different name for their ‘pancake’ so that I could keep it straight. Please and thank you. J decided that the Palais de Versailles was a suitable home for us one day. But unlike Louis XIV, we wouldn’t put it in the ‘burbs.

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day 9 :: Back at home. Can a girl get a little relaxation around here? And I say that in the most satirically snoddy way possible because J was the one chauffeuring and cooking and Paris metro system figure outing and he had to go to work this day. Us spoiled gals took yet another day off and lounged around until it was time to celebrate the bébé’s one month birthday party with champagne and cake.

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In total we only watched our wedding video four times…that number would have been higher if my mom could have found time to fit in more. And, yes, she has a copy at home.

Where to next, Mama?!

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Filed under // Day Trips, France, VISITORS ITINERARY

Visitor’s Itinerary | Mama Jo & Nanan – Part 1

I feel like I’m heading back to school after Christmas break. And by back to school, I mean back to life, back to reality, which thankfully does not include those pesky classes/exams anymore. And by Christmas break, I mean leaving my routine to spend so much quality time with my mom that my happy heart could burst. That lady has the softest hands and I got to hold them (and J’s) for a full nine days. She and my great-aunt came over to Europe for the first time. It was fun showing them around and seeing how excited my mom got over our new area of the world, but I might have to say that if the phrase ‘it’s just so different’ is retired, I wouldn’t be mad at it.

We had back-to-back visitors for two weeks and I’m slowly getting back into the normal swing of things. J and I have been indulging in some much-needed us time and I’ve been trying to make the Jolly Ranchers they brought last as long as possible – mmmm American candy. So, let’s see if we can recap the flow of their trip, shall we?

day 1 :: After we scooped them from the airport and gave them a little bit to unwind, the girls took to the streets. I had an Etsy order that I needed to ship off, so we checked out the glamorous post office and strolled around Place Flagey. J got off of work and introduced them to Brussels traffic to see the Atomium.

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day 2 :: Royal Greenhouses of Laeken. Mama Jo and I were both disappointed that King Albert and Queen Paola weren’t lounging on their patio with toddies waving to their visitors. There was a (relatively) quick stop at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Koekelberg and a classic Belgian meal at La Bonne Humeur.

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day 3 :: Country numero deux. Clerveaux in Luxembourg to see a castle and how small the EU signs are – welcome to a new country, did you notice? We quickly realized that Nanan is the proudest American there ever was, so we passed through Bastogne, Belgium to see the Mardasson Memorial for the Battle of the Bulge. I’m fairly certain seeing ‘Louisiana’  was the highlight of her trip. Also worth noting, 50 cent restrooms. Their minds were blown.

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day 4 :: We drove to the opposite side of the country to visit Bruges by the northwestern coast. After we ‘ooo’ed and ‘ahh’ed over the Medieval city, J drove us home and cooked lasagna rolls with spinach & artichoke dip. Y’all. #Drool. The Croatians joined us and I immediately got bumped down to 1b on my mama’s favorite scale once she met their newborn. I’m going on the record to say that I’m not jealous…although, little one is just lucky I’m such a huge fan too..

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day 5 :: Day 5 and we’ve drug them all around the country, maybe we should check out our own city! So, to the center of Brussels we went – the royal palace, Grand Place and Musee Horta. It was our first time checking out Victor Horta’s home-turned-museum too. This guy had some flair. He designed a lot of the crazy cool buildings in Brussels. And he designed almost everything in his home and did not slack on the decadence. Then, Belgian frites from Jourdan (the verdict is still on out on our fave fritkot).

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If J has any question where my silly giddiness comes from, he doesn’t have to look far. Like mother, like daughter. Mama Jo brought her Mother of the Bride dress that she adorned last year for our big day over the pond and I took my dress out of preservation. Mais la! We had the best time dressin’ up and dancin’. 

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And that’s just the half of it.

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium, Luxembourg, VISITORS ITINERARY

Let’s go fly a kite

Up to the highest height! Sorry, I’ve been singing that song all day, so I’m passing the torch. That’s how it works, right? It better.

Sunny? Check. Free Sunday afternoon? Check. To the beach! Everyone got a turn at the fancy kite, but please notice everyone’s form. Gracefully in control of both handles by their side. Oh..wait..not – yep. I’m the one with the arms flailing and the kite nose diving into the ground. Time after time, too. 

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Finally got to that Brussels style waffle. And let me tell you, yum.

Next week, we’ll be posting our wedding photos for our one year anniversary (!!). Cannot wait for you all to share in our wonderful day!
Ciao!

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium

Day Tripping to Tournai

Tournai, Belgium via MontgomeryFest

Do you ever get to 2pm on Saturday and you’re just like, ‘we gotta get outta here’? It happens to us a lot..we’ve just gotta explore, stat. Especially with this crazy Belgian climate. We wake up in the morning, look at the map and do a very scientific-like calculation of driving time x amount of sun x temperature. Similar to The Day Tripping Bowl of Destiny, but less fancy. That’s how we ended up in Tournai last Saturday. Well, we showed up and were still lacking a bit on the sun, and it was still a little on the chilly side so our walking was limited to the area to just around the cathedral. That was fine because we still got to cross something off of our UNESCO list, but the rest of this little town we’re going to need to save for a sunnier, warmer day..but, really. these photos are some of my faves, so I wanted you to have a peek..


Tournai, Belgium via MontgomeryFestTournai, Belgium via MontgomeryFestTournai, Belgium via MontgomeryFest

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium

Touristy Things

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So, we’re all in agreeance that, like the birds, we’ll be flying South for the next winter? fer sher. But! in the midst of all of this 5 degree shiz, the good Lord has blessed us with some glorious sunshine! And, whoa baby is it appreciated! Guys. I got a neck draft. That’s when it’s decidedly too dang cold. A neck draft? I can’t move and I can’t sleep unless I’m utterly exhausted, which kinda works out that I don’t have a schedule right now, but my poor hubby who can’t do anything about it but just hear me squirm all night. Thankfully, pharmacies over here are more like going to the doc back in the states, so first thing this a.m., I made some calls to get some kinda bengay-type-stuff/miracle-in-a-tube from the quarter English pharm so that I could move my neck to write this post. Super productive Monday. Wait. Where were we? Oh, yeah, there’s sun. Look^!!

Since that was completely unnecessary, I’m gonna throw in some trivia about the Atomium in Brussels because. Yeah.

  • The iconic building was built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.
  •  It forms the shape an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.
  • CNN named it Europe’s most bizarre building.
  • Belgium The guy who came up with the Atomium (better?) tried to copyright photos of the structure. They asked people to send in their photos and Photoshopped the Atomium out of them. Through the years, people have tried to argue that this is absurd (because, obviously). As it stands today, there is an exemption for private individuals to put photos in their scrapbooks..but only until 1 January 2076.
  • Reality TV fans: It was the tenth pit stop in The Amazing Race 19.
  • Music: Pink Floyd’s ‘Paint Box’ 1968 music video is set in Brussels, where you can see the Atomium in the background.
  • Videogamers: It is a placeable scenery object in the game RollerCoaster Tycoon 2.

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Filed under // Day Trips, Belgium