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Brugge

We left Rouen, France early in the morning to drive to Brugge in Belgium, passing by Calais and Dunkerque (Dunkirk) along the way.  Brugge immediately reminded us of its lowland neighbour Holland, by the bike lanes and cyclists, canals, architecture and the Flemish dialect of Dutch. 

We were able to park right outside the comfortable home of our target=newwindowCouchSurfing host Albert's comfortable home.  He was very generous, feeding us a fruit salad before giving us a walking tour.  He also fed us dinner.

We walked through some of the parkland, canals and old watchtowers of the town.  Then we entered the historic center, which is just gorgeous.  Brugge oozes romance (eat your heart out Paris!)

We visited an old monastery compound (a Beguinage), which had a church holding an organ and trumpet concert a few hours later.  Dave sat in the church and listened to the rehearsal for free!  He'd been wanting the whole trip to listen to a church organ.

Meanwhile, Albert and Andrew went to Brugge's Straffe Hendrik brewery.  Straffe Hendrik keeps some yeast in the base of the beer, so it's important not to scull the lot!  This was definitely a beer to sit and savor.  It was even better than German beer, in Andrew's opinion.

Brugge is also famous for chocolates, which we tried, and Belgian fries, which are double fried, double unhealthy and double delicious!

Brugge's buildings are undeniably pretty, but also full of tourists - even on a chilly January afternoon.  Holiday shopping for the locals was also in full force.  So we were lucky to get a seat in a narrow "tea room", Albert's favorite, where we ate the most delicious waffles and pancakes ever.

Brugge used to be a center of fine lace work, still made and on sale, for tourists mostly.  We weren't tempted to buy.

The cathedral on the left houses a holy relic of Christ's blood, apparently.  On certain days and times you can walk up stairs to look and touch it.  Dave volunteered, and said a quick prayer as he touched a glass cylinder holding what he described as "a bloody scrap of tissue".  It somehow felt quite mercenary and not holy at all.

We also saw, among other things, Michelangelo's "Madonna and Child", a Protestant version of a Catholic cathedral, a belfry with 48 bells, which normally houses impromptu concerts (when the temperature is above freezing!), the medieval St John's Hospital, and the impressive City Hall.

Andrew wanted to tour the neighbouring Dutch province of Zeeland, after which "New Zealand" is named.  Unfortunately we didn't have time for anything but a quick drive through the flat sub-sea level farmland and a few villages.  Never mind . . . we were there, and got the photo to prove it!

The drive back to Amsterdam was uneventful, aside from stopping periodically to wash our windshield with fresh snow!  We had filled the windshield cleaner canister with plain water, silly us, and the water had frozen in the canister.  We checked into our Holiday Inn hotel and dropped off the rental car.  We then revisited downtown by tram, by which time it was snowing heavily again, though not as cold as last time.

At a trendy bar/restaurant downtown, Andrew had a meal of salmon and rice and Dave had a large banana pancake.  We then visited the famous Amsterdam Tulip market, which was nice but not as unique as we'd expected. 

An obligatory trip in Amsterdam was ... well, an Amsterdam "trip".  As neither of us smoke, we bought ourselves a "space cake" each.  Andrew only felt vacant and absent-minded, while Dave felt queasy the rest of the night. 

The next day, Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport was even more security-conscious than usual, thanks to the idiot who tried to set fire to his explosive-laden undies the previous week over USA.  We were interviewed, patted down, and had our bags searched.  The airport personnel were efficient and friendly though, and the plane was only one hour late.  The Dutch do like order and efficiency, and we love them for it.

Thus ended our Europe holiday '09/'10! 

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Rhine River area of Germany

Lucerne, Switzerland

the Swiss Alps at Murren, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

the French Alps

Geneva, Switzerland

Lyon, France

Paris, France

Rouen, France

Normandy Beaches of France

Brugge, Belgium

 

 

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