Harping on about Bruges
I started today a little flustered and confused after another night of strange dreams and being awoken by Mum rather than my alarm which didn’t go off. I’d also somehow forgotten that we had to check out of Veronique’s B&B and check into another one (we weren’t able to book three nights in a row in the one place). Consequently my luggage was in a state of total disarray and spread throughout our room and bathroom.
Luckily Mum was all packed and ready so I could carry her bag down the stairs, have breakfast and then rush back up, tip the rest of the room into my backpack and rush back down to find Mum and Veronique chatting away. We said our goodbyes which was quite emotional having made a fast friend in Veronique and fallen in love with her beautiful home. Hugs and kisses exchanged, we headed to our new B&B… three doors down. We left our bags and headed out for another day of adventure.
I’d like to say I’d planned it but it was pure chance that today happened to be the one day a year where Bruges (and Brussels, Antwerp, Ypres and Ghent) is closed to motor traffic and celebrations are held all over the city – apparently there’s nothing more significant to it that that – no religious feast day, no save the earth campaign, just ‘no cars, let’s party’. This is not to say that the city is pedestrianised though – far from it! Between all the horse drawn carts, bikes, tourists and party-going locals, it was actually harder to get around than ever before. Mind you, I’m not going to complain about cars being taken off the roads for a day – well done Belgium!
We followed the sound of a big brass band to find it disturbing the peace right outside the Convent and the ‘Lake of Love’ although the swans seemed to be enjoying it as they flocked near. We stayed for a few songs an then wandered on.
Some of you have expressed your concern that I may be forcing Mum to drink too much beer so you’ll be pleased to know that our next stop was at a pop-up champagne and oyster bar on a square that was also hosting tango lessons. Having being warned over the years that ‘champagne makes girls dance and drop their pants’, I made sure that Mum just sat there and ate her oysters, no dancing!
But of course Mum’s developed a taste for beer now so after heading through the celebrations in the main square, we stopped for lunch at a classically authentic restaurant Veronique had recommended – Mum pushed away the wine menu and ordered a beer instead. She also ordered a traditional Flemish stew (presumably made with real phlegm) while I had the veggie option – luckily it was delicious.
Fortified by our hearty lunch, we headed down to what we were assured was an antiques market lining the road that leads to the windmills on the outskirts of the city. We soon discovered that the Belgian word ‘antique’ translates into ‘any old ****’ in English – none the less, we floated along in a sea of people, passed the weird and wonderful ephemera, stopping here and there when something caught our eye. We bought some sugar plums and half a dozen of the biggest figs I have ever seen!
Eventually we reached the windmills which were unable to refill our sails at the thought of having to turn around and push our way back through the maddening crowds! But push on we did, all the way back to the centre of town to enjoy a free harp concert in the grounds of the old hospital. The days chaos was soothed away by the tranquil and soporific music of Luc Vanlaere on his seasoned classical concert harp and his newer celtic harp. I’m a sucker for a stringed instrument and Mum was so impressed that she bought both his CDs which he happily signed.
Thoroughly relaxed and sedated, we found a quite spot to soak up the last of the days warmth and partake of our plums and figs. Satisfied that we’d had our fill of both fruit and Bruges, we headed back towards our B&B, stopping briefly for one last beer.
We were met at the door of our new B&B by Maria, a little old lady who we’d met earlier in the day when we’d dropped off our bags at her quaint and flowery home. Pleasantries exchanged, we headed upstairs (just one flight this time) to be confronted by a shrine to Maria’s dead husband. We knew he was dead because at the centre of the shrine there was a photo of him… dead!
A little creeped out, we sought refuge in our room only to find it was booby trapped! At first I was pleasantly surprised to see a row of Lempicka prints on the wall, they just happened to be female nudes – no big deal until we looked around the room more closely and saw a theme emerge: on the window sill – a statue of a woman in a full length dress with her boobies out, on the opposite wall – a profile portrait of a conservative looking young women with an inexplicably low cut dress, nipples exposed and then the strangest of all… an actual photo of a woman, perhaps Maria in younger days, in a wet, clinging, transparent t-shirt! This last one was next to another small framed photo of a woman who, for all intents and purposes, is a perfect stranger to the inhabitants of this room for rent.
Obviously this gave us cause to poke around the room a little more only to discover the wardrobe already filled with someone else’s clothes, as were the drawers which also contained another booby statue!!! On top of the drawers was yet another statue of a lady, fully clothed, turned away to face the wall. When I turned her around, she looked at me with undead eyes that told me she is in fact possessed and had turned herself to face the wall in disgust at the lewd behaviour of her sorority (she’s quite a prudish statue). I’ve left her facing into the room but fully expect her to have turned around by morning. I don’t know what killed Maria’s husband but I think we may have found some clues!
Other items of interest in our bedside tables which we also wrongly assumed were for our use: a thermometer with a long probe (did NOT touch!), war medals and the worst souvenir box of Bruges ever (see attached photo and compare with all my amateur photos of what is arguably the prettiest city in the world and ask yourself why this image was chosen to be mass produced!)
Given the weirdness of our surroundings tonight, I’m hoping for more normal dreams. Actually, I’m just hoping to make it through the night…
It rained heavily during the night but we awoke to a beautiful sunny day. We said goodbye to Veronique and spent the day sipping champagne, eating oysters, fine dining in a European restaurant, seeing windmills and drinking beer.
Bruges is such a beautiful, beautiful place but unfortunately many of the tourist are very, very rude and arrogant. I’ve never seen such bad behaviour. If my children had ever acted that way, they’d be in strife!
My body’s getting used to the 90km walks daily – I’m not as exhausted as I have been previously. Tonight I feel more normal.
We didn’t get to Church but we attended a harp concert which was just as reflective and peaceful.
What made me smile today: All the happy bands – jazz, oom-pah-pah, and such a wonderful feeling of effervescence throughout Bruges. Love to all.