Monday, May 19, 2008
Letter No. 11
Hello everyone from Bruges in the pouring rain,
Having driven all the way here on Thursday, we were hoping that Friday would be a day of sunshine, but that didn’t happen. We are expecting to have a very active weekend, so we’d like to be a bit less busy today! There was a lot to do.
Ron went to the supermarket—a Carrefour, hurray, hurray-- and returned with lots of goodies. Adelle did a lot of minor work around the RV. Then we decided to go into town. Started out and then thought about the fact that the four tickets would cost nearly $10 and neither of us felt like going into town. Instead, we took a long walk to another supermarket where we could buy special bus cards that would give us a 20% discount. As long as we didn’t just sit all day, we were content. We’d done “enough” walking for one day.
Saturday morning we waited for a call from Peter and Valori to say that they were ready to roll. When the call came at 10 a.m., we arranged to meet them at their hotel in the old city within the hour. We had no memory of how long it took to get from the campground into town. We were a bit early and joined them for coffee in the dining room of their very posh, brand new (open two weeks, but renovated from a palace built in the early 1400’s) hotel. We then all set off, in pouring rain and quite cold weather to see what we could see.
We walked to the Gothic Hall where the councilmen once sat to make laws for the prosperous seaport of Bruges. There was a huge crowd outside and we weren’t sure why, but it all became evident when the wedding party was picked up in front in seven antique Jaguars – two people to each car! Then their guest left and we went into the municipal building. The Gothic Hall didn’t open for another fifteen minutes so we joined the milling crowd in the open part of the building. When the fifteen minutes were up, Peter & Ron joined a somewhat smaller milling crowd – not a line – of people trying to get the harassed man behind the counter to take their money and let them go up to see the hall. It was drop-dead gorgeous in a 15th century sort of way, as you can see from a photo. Lots of gilt, beautiful woodwork, hanging vaults, 19th century paintings on the walls depicting historical events that had shaped the city.
By the time we left this building, we were cold, wet and hungry, so we walked a little out of the tourist area to find a place to eat. The first place we chose turned out to be a bad choice. We only wanted a little lunch and they only served full meals until 3 p.m. We left and found a place that was glad to see us even if we only wanted a light lunch. Waffles/and/pancakes with coffee was just right for us all.
When we left there, we went to the Memling Museum, housed in what was a hospital in medieval times. It really is thrree different museums. The first was a fascinating discussion, illustrated with artifacts and paintings, of medical practice and the social organization of health care in the medieval world and its changes through the 19th century. The second was a small collection of Flemish paintings, the core of which was those by Hans Memling. All of his were quite satisfying, as were many of the rest. The third was the attic of the building where you could examine the huge wood beam construction under the peaked roof, which dated from the early 1400’s!
By the time we left there, it was too late to try for another museum – so we opted to see several churches. The first was, of course, beautiful. It had the only Michaelangelo sculpture not in Italy (or so they said). The other consisted of two chapels, each with a specific relic of worship. The first was ancient, possibly Gallo-Roman. Granite stones, rounded arches, plain, extremely well and lovingly cared for. The second one had what purports to be a vial of Christ’s blood behind a tabernacle. Brought back from 11th century crusade. Amazing, n’est pas? The tabernacle itself was extremely interesting with lots of silver and the most tranquil rendition of a Christ we all had ever seen—a sleeping lamb nestled in front of a couple of silver animals. This Church of the Blood was otherwise not as beautiful as other churches we have seen, but out of the rain and very interesting.
By this time, we were all exhausted. We had walked for miles, looked into lots of stores and been on our feet a long time. We went back to their hotel, ordered tea from room service and relaxed. After that, we realized that the sun was over the yardarm, so it was time for the wine we had purchased. Then on to a restaurant.
We headed for a place recommended by a guide book. It was called “The Stove” and we found it easily. They were fully booked, so we made a reservation for the next night and walked until we found a similarly small establishment named “Beethoven’ of all things. Had a lovely dinner—beautifully presented, delicious, great conversation, long, relaxed-- and walked quite late to what we remembered as the bus stop to catch what we hoped was a night bus back to our campground. We were not disappointed. Close to the appointed hour a bus appeared and took two tired people close enough to the campground to walk home.
Sounds very quiet, doesn’t it. But it wasn’t so quiet. We have not yet mentioned that spending time with these two, Peter and Valori, somehow is accompanied by almost non stop laughter of the stitch-in-your-side variety. God knows it’s not we who cause it. Must be them. It was a great day!
We expect the laughter to continue tomorrow. We’ll be meeting at a museum at 10 a.m. In the meantime,
Adelle & Ron