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April 11, 2002
BelgiŽ: Brugge (Russell)

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A beautiful day at the Markt in Brugge

When Gail was a child, one of her most cherished possessions was a set of porcelain Christmas angels, given to her by her parents once a year for 16 years.  Gail was devastated when her angels were lost during her move to California, and she has missed them ever since.  So during our current tour of Europe, Gail has been rebuilding her angel collection by purchasing an angel in each country.  As part of this quest, we stopped at the Dutch city of Delft -- famous for its hand-painted porcelain --  before we left Nederland on April 10th.

With no city map, we followed signs to the TI and found Delft's large market square.  While Cameron and Joss played outside with their ropes, Gail looked for her Nederland angel in the porcelain shops that surrounded the square.  After much searching (after all, it is spring), we finally succeeded in finding another angel for the collection (we also succeeded in getting a parking ticket, but that's another story).

Our next stop was BelgiŽ (Belgium), the second most-densely populated country in Europe (after Nederland).  With our whirlwind schedule, we had a choice between the capital, Brussel (Brussels), and the less-traveled city of Brugge (Bruges).  (It should be mentioned that BelgiŽ is a country of two languages: Dutch Flemish in the north, and French in the south.)  We had heard that there really isn't a whole lot to see in Brussel, so we scheduled three nights in Brugge.  We actually had a very difficult time finding accommodations; Brugge has been named as a culturele hoofdstad van europa (Cultural Capital of Europe) for 2002 (along with Salamanca, Spain), so there are more visitors than normal.  It wasn't until we called the fifth choice on our list that we found a vacancy on our desired dates.

After braving the unusually heavy pedestrian traffic upon our arrival in Brugge, we succeeded in finding not only the De Vriese Logies, but a rare free parking space just around the corner.  Although the B&B is owned by Yvonne De Vriese, we were admitted by a very friendly older man who spoke perfect English.  He helped us in, drew a number of walking tour suggestions on a map for us, and showed us to our room (he also brought breakfast to our room every morning).  The toilet was down the hall and the shower was one floor down, but the room itself was wonderful.  We had a single room for all four of us -- Joss had a bed that folded up -- but it was nice and big, with a table for the PC and another table for card games.  The building is on a corner, so we had windows on two walls, and the room was bright and cheerful.  Even better, we had a fantastic view overlooking not one, but two canals (we even had a view of our car, so we could ensure that it was safe).  We couldn't have asked for a better place.

We arrived in the early afternoon, and took the rest of the day to catch up on business and chores.  Joss had to write in his journal three times because he kept writing about things other than his homework assignment (at one point, he devoted an entire half-page to an obscure incident in which he knocked Cameron's sandwich onto the ground and had to share his own).  After walking over to the Profi grocery store, Gail assembled our portable kitchen and cooked up some customized ramen noodles for dinner.

Brugge itself is beautiful, with some of Europe's finest Gothic architecture.  On April 11th -- our one full day in the city -- we took a long walking tour through both the Burg (civic center) and the Markt (market square), where we climbed the 360+ steps (the tour book says 366, but Cameron counted 362) to the top of the Belfort (Belfry) for a magnificent view of the city.  The entire city is fairly small -- you can walk across it in about half an hour -- but we ended up meandering all over the place for hours, walking alongside the canals and enjoying the sunshine.  We even went back to the room for an afternoon rest so that we could wander back out again afterwards.

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Getting ready to climb the Belfort

BelgiŽ is renowned for many things, and we tried to experience all of them.  At the Tintin Shop (Tintin is a Belgian children's book character), Joss found a hat that he just had to have.  Gail bought her mother a piece of handmade Belgian lace.  She also found a beautiful angel -- after the shopkeeper volunteered to ggo digging through his Christmas stock in the basement -- for the unbelievably low price of Ä3.30.  We picked up some Belgian chocolates at the Chocolatier Dumon (a family-owned business) that were every bit as tasty as we hoped they would be.  Even better were the Belgian waffles we had for high tea (our dinner, actually) at Restaurant Hennon -- as Cameron remarked, they were "like eating crispy air."  And on the east side of town, we played on the grassy knolls beneath the windmills (Brugge has set up a greenbelt surrounding the entire city, where you can walk or bicycle between the grass and the canals).  We got back to the room early enough to play a couple of card games before bedtime.

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Enjoying Belgian waffles for tea/dinner

All in all, our short stay in Brugge was relaxing and enjoyable.  Although we saw just about everything that we wanted to, we would love to come back again just to sit somewhere and watch some more of the world go by.

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One last city of canals...


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