Tuesday, August 25, 2015


We had spent part of our holiday retracing steps we had made years before. Bruges was the first port on the mainland Rick and I set sail for on our first European trip together. It was a time when you didn't need reservations. We'd travel with our Eurail passes and luggage without wheels, disembarking trains and stopping at the tourist information centers for local information. We'd ask for a hotel at the desk and choose from whatever was available. Travel was free and easy without any real need for schedules and advance reservations.
We slept in a hotel somewhere in the city center of Bruges. We had such a romantic memory of the city they called "The Venice of the North" we wanted to share it with our daughter and our friends. As we drove into Bruges, this time in our rented luxury Renault, we could sense that like the rest of the world it had moved on from our memory; its genuine sleepiness lost in the years that had gone by.
The quaint brick buildings still created a portrait where any fairytale princess would have felt at home.
The canals still remained waterways for flocks of swans, but the tatting women no longer sat in their doorways dressed in traditional costumes making lace
and the crowds of tourists had quadrupled in size. It was August, the high season for tourist traffic and the weather was overcast and drizzly for most of our stay, but the longer we walked the rain spattered streets the beauty of the city overtook us once again.
We ended up being just as in love with city as the first time we walked those cobbled streets. This time we had the opportunity of also seeing it through the fresh eyes of a new set of romantics.
Bruges remains one of the most photogenic of any of the cities we've seen.
The storefronts and displays showed off a wealth of objects of desire: Gorgeous vintage silver,
intricate lace work,
candy made as you watched,
gorgeous garden ware,
hats made for ladies to shield them from the sun,
liquor stores selling the most original craft brands,
and of course Belgian chocolate.
The architecture of its churches both from the exterior and interior was a spiritual journey into splendor and simplicity.
From the regal elegance of the Basilica of the Holy Blood where the blood of Christ is said to be stored
to the Begijnhof, a convent of Carmelite nuns with signs of silence
and an art installation of tree houses contrasting the playfulness of children who are not allowed to roam the grounds with the rigidity of the nuns way of life.
The chapel on the grounds of the convent was an inspiring departure from the monastic severity of the nun's quarters that formed the fortress of the convent.
The restaurants that surrounded the main square were completely picturesque but tourist traps to be avoided,
but once off the central plaza there were dozens of choices waiting with open seating and far better prices.
Rotterdam was the only other city that found all of us in the same place at the same time. We've melded our families together in a way that is rare and unique.
The boundaries between family and friends have disappeared as each of us has developed a bond so strong nothing is off limits.
Protocol is cast to the wind and we fly on the joy of each other's company.
It was too difficult to select what photos I wanted to add to this post so I'm leaving with the word, "Ciao", neither an hello nor a goodbye and the pictures I needed to include for the city we'll always want to return to, a place beyond belief.

No comments:

Post a Comment