Day 5: Brugge, Belgium

On Monday morning we tidied up the apartment, packed up and headed out.  Our booking for the Eurotunnel wasn’t until late afternoon and we had promised Belgian waffles to Cameron so we spent a few hours in Brugge.  I wish we could have spent an entire day, at least, and maybe we’ll have to pass back through because I really loved it.  It was a great combination of European style village mixed with Gothic and medieval architecture from days of yore.  Whatever hasn’t been well-kept from centuries past, has been restored to fit the part. 

Unfortunately it was a cold and rainy day, but we parked the car and headed for a waffle shop I’d found on a travel blog. It was just off the main plaza, and the kids and I sat down to eat our waffles while Richard went back to put money in the parking meter. 

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Chez Albert waffle topped with caramel and whipped cream. Mmmmm. This waffle was exquisite. Unbelievably delectable.

After we finished we went back to the courtyard of the market hall, which stands around the Belfry of Bruges, to use a toilet and meet up with Richard.  While we were waiting for him I had fun taking pictures of the kids.  
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The bell tower leans about one meter to the east.

While I was taking an exceptionally long time in the WC with the littles Richard gleaned some valuable info from the attendant.  She said that she speaks Dutch, (which the Dutch call Flemish) German, English, Spanish and French.  Richard says that he can corroborate that because he saw her speak four of those languages just while she assisted international toilet users.  She told him that Brugge is the old Dutch word for “bridge”.  She said that in Belgium they generally speak Flemish or French, depending on which region of the country they live in.  In the north near the Netherlands they speak Flemish.  She said Flemish and Dutch are written the same, but pronounced differently.  (Like English and American English.)  Then naturally in the south near France they speak more French. 

From there we went back out to the main plaza, and then just explored the streets of the town. 

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Town Hall

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Town Hall – I half expected some knights to come riding up to the steps of this building. It was the most medieval building I think I’ve ever seen in real life.

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I just liked that colored glass…

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This stair-step roof style added nice character to the city. I don’t remember noticing it as much in any other place we’ve visited.

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The Church of Our Lady

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I didn’t realize it at the time, but we were looking at the back of a really beautiful cathedral. In fact, the tower of the church is the second tallest brickwork tower in the world. All I saw was this beautiful building as we were walking along and snapped a couple pictures. Of course now I am kicking myself that we didn’t think to walk around to the front and see the flying buttresses and brick tower. That’s the downfall of spontaneity. Inadequate research of sites and attractions means you can miss epic landmarks. Surely there is an analogy here about perspective…

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These trees with horizontal branches totally bewildered me. They were all over in the suburbs of Bruges too, which I must say were a great prelude as we drove in to the historic part of the city. I’ve never seen such charming suburbs.

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Sometimes by the end of holidays I think both Richard and I start to feel a little anxiety about cash. We want to travel as much as possible but that means that we can’t live extravagantly on each adventure. Miraculously I practiced self-restraint and didn’t buy any Belgian chocolate. I have no regrets though, because that waffle…

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Some travel websites call Bruges the “Venice of the North.” We heard great things about canal tours and I’m sad that didn’t work out, but we were short on time, sunshine and funds so we skipped it.

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But we did splurge on some frites to warm us up and fill our tummies again before we made the final stretch to the Eurotunnel. (And by splurge I mean we rounded up whatever euro coins we had left over.)

Richard had heard/read somewhere that Easter weekend was the second busiest travel weekend of the year.  We didn’t notice on our way over through the chunnel because we left on a Wednesday, but when we got to the Eurotunnel check-in on our way back over, they had an elaborate, but very efficient system set up to get the cars through to the trains as fast as possible.  We were amazed at the number of people headed back to the UK and were equally amazed at how easily the process was despite the crowds.  

We made it back across the channel to our lovely London home, which was so cold from having the heat off while we were away, that we all wrapped up in blankets and watched a movie in the living room with the doors closed and the space heater at our feet.  

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