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Author Topic: Greetings from Belgium  (Read 976 times)
mfbarnes
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« on: August 14, 2018, 11:02:18 AM »

Hello from across the pond.  It is great to see that VMSC is active and doing so well.  I found my years on Board to be very rewarding with lots of good memories.
We have been in Bruges, Belgium for almost 2 years now.  I love it here....quality of life is excellent, the people are great, and travel within Europe is a breeze.  So what is like to drive in Belgium?  It stinks.  The Belgians are wonderful warm people, but behind the wheel they are very impatient and aggressive.  They know it, but no one is going to change.  The border to Netherlands is only 20 minutes away, and the experience is totally different...better roads and and courteous drivers.
We just returned from a week in France where the autostrada top speed is 130kph, or 80mph, but most people drive just under the limit.  Also, in France, in general the drivers are quite polite.  The autostrada top speed in Belgium is 120kph, about 74mph, and that is plenty enough here. During this visit to France, we went to Le Mans, toured the museum, and walked about the racetrack.  Very cool.
Spa-Franchorchamps is only 3 hours away, but getting there is problematic.  Probably not this year, but I intend to go the F1 race one year soon.  I have yet to find an autocross club nearby.....but our Audi A4 wagon is hardly the right car to flog about an autocross course.  On the other hand, classic cars, or "Old-Timers" as they are called here, are very popular.  They are many clubs with events throughout the year.
Our townhouse does not have a garage, so we rent one.  It is a 7 minute walk to the garage.  Consequently, we seldom use the car.  We can walk or bike in town, and take the train if we are traveling within Belgium.  This is no problem, because within a 5 minute walk are 3 butchers, 3 pharmacies, our family doctor, 3 bakeries, a green grocer, and then within a 12 minute walk are 3 supermarkets.  We can be in the center of town, the Grote Markt,  in 22 minutes.  We really only use the car to travel...it is not needed on a daily basis.
And yes, I have been taking lessons in Dutch, i.e., Nederlands.  (Belgium has 3 official languages, Nederlands, French, and German.)  I was actually required to take Levels 1 and 2 for my residency, but I continued and start Level 5 in September....4 mornings week...I really do enjoy it.
I do watch the VMSC autocross results.  It is gratifying to see so many old friends still racing, as well as many new names competing on a regular basis. 
Best regards,
Michael
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Bluedog28
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« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2018, 12:00:40 PM »

Michael - Glad to hear you are doing well. Things are about the same here. I have switched from the Miata to a Porsche. Let us know if you make a trip back.

Charlie
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« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2018, 07:23:56 PM »

Good to hear from you Michael. I wondered where you ran, (swam?), off to.
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mfbarnes
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« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2018, 11:25:39 AM »

Charlie, I did see your blue Porsche three summers ago when I last attended an event.  Bill, are still flogging the Camaro?  I don't think anyone saw my 73 BMW 2002tii project.  I had to sell it just before we left the States.  A Coast Guard pilot bought it, drove it for a year, and then sold it on Bring-a-Trailer for $10K more.  geeesh. 

My Flemish friends ask me what I miss from the States.....not much actually, but I do miss autocrossing.

Groetjes,

Michael
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« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2018, 05:19:30 AM »

Actually, the Camaro is flogging me. I need to resurrect the Vega. Good to hear from you!
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« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2018, 07:30:54 PM »

Hi, Michael. It is great to hear from you. It is cool that you are so close to Spa. It is one of my favorite F1 races. I will watch it tomorrow afternoon since we have an autocross in the morning.

I would think that one of the cool things about being in Europe is that so many countries are a short drive, train ride, or flight. Micky and I went to Italy, France, and Monaco last Spring. We were fortunate to be able to catch the Monaco F1 race. That was definitely a bucket list item.

Hope things continue to go well. Best wishes.

David
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David Ogburn
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mfbarnes
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« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2018, 02:36:14 AM »

Hey David!  What you are driving this year for autocross?  Have you had a favorite of the many cars you have raced?
You are right about the great travel opportunities.  In October we will be here two years; in that time we have been to Berlin, Madrid, London, Lille, Rouen, Brussels many times of course, Holland many times, Cologne, Tours, Caen.  This week we drove to Cap Gris Nez in France for lunch, and Friday went shopping in Holland, a half hour away.  Late in October we are headed back to Paris. 

In July we did something I said I would never do...went on a cruise.  It was the destination that mattered, Spitsbergen, only 11 degrees south of the North Pole, 24 hour daylight, polar bears, and all.....very cool stuff.  It was a very small ship and we had educational programs when at sea.  On the way back we made 4 stops in Norway.

However, we are in the most beautiful city in Northern Europe, Bruges, "Venice of the North"  I never get tired of walking in town and taking in the sights and there is always something cultural going on.  Check it out:  https://www.visitbruges.be/en

Cheers,
Michael
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« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2018, 02:37:25 PM »

Michael,

Such great travel. That is awesome. We were on the opposite French coast, along the Rivera. Eze and Villefranche sur Mer were our favorites. As a car guy, you need go see the Nurburgring. Go see a race, like the 24 hours of Nurburgring and/or drive the track on a tourist day. It is an unforgettable experience.

I have often heard how beautiful Bruges is. Hope to make it back to Europe in a few years.

I have been autocrossing a Scion FR-S for the last 4 years. I sold it last week to my niece, Kate, who has been my co-driver  for several years. I bought a 2011 911 last month. It is primarily for track days and to use to do the One Lap competition in 2020 with my older son, Dave. That is a bucket list item for both of us. I am doing more track days than autocrosses these days. I expect that will continue.

Again, great to hear from you.

David
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David Ogburn
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mfbarnes
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« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2018, 10:59:07 AM »

Just let us know when you plan to visit.  We have had so many friends and relatives come over that we have a tour guide routine all worked out.

I am sure you are enjoying the 911...nice ride.  I was unhappy with that 86 Targa I had for two reasons:  parts were far too expensive, and there was too much body flex.  I assume a coupe would not flex as much.

I keep looking at getting a toy car, but it is hard to justify when we barely use the car we have.  As for now, my daily ride is a $1500 2018 Dutch made Gazelle with 30 gears, hydraulic brakes, Shimano gear sets and shifters, frame lock, generator on the front axle, and suspension on the front fork and seat.  Yep, hydraulic brakes on a bike.

Cheers,

Michael
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