Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Roland Garros

For as long as I can remember I have been watching Roland Garros on TV. The French Open tennis championship is my favorite of the four major tennis tournaments, probably because during breaks the TV networks always do such a good job of showing idyllic views of Paris with an accordion playing in the background. So watching a live tennis match at Roland Garros has been on my bucket list way before living in Paris became a dream.

Last week while my sister was here we got tickets to the qualifications and spent a fun day at the Roland Garros tennis complex watching the top players training at the Suzanne Lenglen court.

Then this week Dianny and I we went back for a day of real tennis matches in Court Philippe Chatrier, known as Center Court. We caught the second half of the Gasquet–Zopp match, where the Frenchman defeated the Estonian, and then watched Nadal defeat the Italian Bolelli in straight sets in a packed stadium. We then saw Serena Williams win the first set against the 111th-ranked French player Virginie Razzano. Unfortunately by then it was 7 PM and we had to get the kids, and were surprised when we all got home that Razzano had won the second set in a tiebreaker and was winning in the third. After a breathtaking 12 deuces and eight match points, the French player knocked out Serena, which, besides us having been there, was the most newsworthy event in Week 1 at Roland Garros.

Monday, May 28, 2012


We spent the last weekend of May, also a long weekend, in Bruges, a medieval city that during its golden age was one of the leading commercial cities in Europe. Bruges is very well preserved and is filled with beautiful architecture, busy squares, narrow streets, and many canals. And of course, chocolate and lace and ice cream and waffle shops everywhere. And the occasional adult store right next to a kids' toy store.

Bruges is full of life, and there's an energy to the place that you usually only feel in larger urban cities. Yet it's small enough that you can walk everywhere, and we devoted most of our time to just walking around and feeling the great atmosphere.

There are two large town squares. The largest is the Markt (market square), where Bruges' most famous landmark, the ancient Belfry tower, is located. It's the one that appears in the quirky movie "In Bruges." Also on the Markt is the Provincial Court, a beautiful building that reminded me a bit of the Hotel de Ville in Paris. In the center of the market is the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, two popular and very patriotic Flemish heroes. The Markt is also where you can catch a ride around Bruges in one of the horse carriages, which we did. Our driver shared many interesting facts that I've mostly forgotten, except that our horse's name was Falco.

Very near the Markt is the Burg, the other square where the beautiful Town Hall and the Old Civil Registry buildings are located. Almost hidden in one of the corners of the square is the Basilica of the Holy Blood, a minor basilica where a vial that allegedly contains a cloth with blood of Jesus Christ is kept.

Apart from the Belfry, there are other prominent landmarks, especially the Church of Our Lady, and Saint Salvator's Cathedral, whose tall towers appear in the background just about everywhere.

Oh, and on our last day we rented bikes and Daniela finally learned to ride by herself!