Friday, September 7, 2007

Day Five: We lingered in Brugge a while longer


  • Do we stay for a few more hours in Brugge before traveling to Disneyland Paris?

  • Or do we leave first thing so we can spend an evening in Disneyland?


We decided to try and compromise because we didn’t feel like we got the full experience of Brugge in just that one day. I believe it was after today we decided whichever place we were visiting we would always feel like staying longer, but would have to find a way to pull ourselves out of the city regardless of our desires. Naively, we agreed to stay a couple hours to see the Begijnhof which we had missed the night before and head out to Disneyland in time to visit the park that evening. We woke up early and spilled out into the cobblestone streets with the morning rays. We had opted to load the Tour Bus and park it closer to the center for a speedy getaway, but had not accounted for the trap which awaited us just beyond the parking garage steps. It was not so luring on our way into the city, but on the way back it would entwine us in its snare for more time than we would have allotted.


The city was quiet and we passed through the gates of the old hospital where the courtyards sat empty, missing the residents who used to sip their morning tea in their cozy atmosphere. Only a few of the ambitious tourists trickled in through the city gates with us leading us to anticipate a leisurely walk about. Because there were so few people around we thought we might be able to enter some of the tours quicker and investigated the church with the Michelangelo statue (closed for Sunday morning services) and the 17th century dispensary (the nurse among us was not really all that interested in it after all) and so we headed down a few shortcuts through some skinny and winding alleyways to the Begijnhof.

The Benedictine nuns in their black and white habits were making their way across the silent grounds of lawn sprouting with stately trees IMG_2546into the ancient brick church for prayers, so we joined them. Inside the little church we silently viewed the art along the walls and watched the prayer candles flicker. The girls took an interest in the tombs encased in the floor (so much like their mother, they also seem to have a fascination with the dead) and it became an obsession to find the tombs in every church we entered during the rest of the trip. We were pleasantly surprised to witness one of the nuns enter the center of the church and ring the church bell for noon. It was done with an air of ritual and I remember the feeling of intrusion as she performed the duty. I believe it was these feelings which then lead us outside of the church to discuss the plan of action. I had thought there were gardens behind the gate of the Begijnhof but other than an skinny door at the end of the walkway and a line of houses towards the exit I could not determine where it must be and, sensing their desire to get on the road, I followed them out the exit. It wasn’t until afterwards that I saw the photographs of the quaint little garden which was just down one of the paths.IMG_2552 We will be going back to Brugge!

Wandering down the streets in the direction of the parking garage we ran across a little eating hole. They served Pannekoeken and drinks and that was all we needed. The noon sun was starting to beat down on us and though the tables we sat at had umbrellas there were a few bare patches of sunlight. I sat in one of them and I could not take the heat long enough to wait for our orders. I decided to get a head start on the group and follow my instincts. Across a bridge there was a path which wound its way up a hill and between some trees and I had an inkling that it was a shortcut towards the Tour Bus. At any rate, it was in the shade and abandoned of tourists, so I excused myself and indulged on a lonely adventure (the best kind by the way). What awaited me when I exited the path was the parking garage building, but something rested between the path and the building. Do you remember that trap I had mentioned earlier? Well, it was reaching out its long tentacles to me now. A beautiful and lively flee market! I’ve always been a sucker for garage sales or estate sales and while sitting on the couch sulking during the first few months after moving here I ran across the BBC station where it became obvious the British have an even greater obsession with the antiquated. They have several daily programs on: Bargain Hunters, Under the Hammer, etc which I feel I have gleaned a bit of knowledge from, so I put my newfound skills to the test and began to rummage the various stands. I knew there were treasures to be found at this European market and find a few I did. First I found a stand with so many hats it was hard to choose which were the most beautiful. There was one I would have gladly bought for my oldest girl and several that I knew my mother-in-law would find interesting as well. Along down the way I found an interesting little glass piece that I had to have for our hermit crabs water hole. Glass has always fascinated me and this was a rare find, one I had never seen before; it was a hand-blown clear glass bird feeder. It hung like a tear drop with a lip coming out at the base where the water collected. It sits in our hermit crabs tanks as you read and, if I do say so myself, I think they love it just as much as I do ;)

I did pull myself away from the market long enough to join the family for lunch, but then pulled them back into the trap with me. Naturally, Grammy needed a sunhat like the rest of us, didn’t she? She did find one that looked lovely and we tried to pass each table as quickly as possible while winding our way toward the Tour Bus. Nothing else was purchased, but I think this made us want to explore the other avenues in search of those missing treasures. We left looking back at those missed tables with a look of longing. I think the guys were just happy to be turning their back on them finally.

The road to Disneyland was long. The weather was hot and the Tour Bus had no AC. With the windows rolled down it was impossible to hear each other speak so we kept to ourselves, the girls coloring, sleeping, or reading, and I finally got a chance to use my new cell phone as an MP3 player! Sweet music. Oh, did I mention that the Tour Bus only came with a tape deck? Who keeps tapes anymore?!?!

When we finally entered the wonderful world of Disney and found our hotel we were starving. The buffet they had at the hotel was filling but reeked of imitation American food. Still, we were all hungry enough we ate it. I think we all agreed the complimentary wine was all we really needed anyway. Having arrived later than planned (what’s new?) we decided it would not be worth the money to buy tickets for just a few hours in Disneyland so we opted for the SWIMMING POOL!

First I have to say that the French have no idea how to direct a person through their corridors. The girls and I got a head start on the rest of the family and headed towards the direction of the pool only to find dead ends, courtyards, and no signs. Finally I drug them barefoot and skimpily clad through a stony garden, past the dinner guests in the main courtyard, and under a hedge just to sneak into the backdoor of the pool. You know, even after exiting the pool from the proper door I still don’t think I would have been able to find it again on my own. It was a relaxing evening in the pool except for the time Squirrel Monkey decided she could go in the deep pool without consulting or bringing along an adult or the times Screech Monkey thought she could walk on water and stepped into the deep pool after a couple unseen escapes from the kiddy pool. Upon the final attempt to walk on water we packed it up and headed towards the “princess beds” where our children would sleep an everlasting sleep and the Belgian chocolate, wine, and beer waiting for the exhausted parents and grandparents.

Though it was mostly a travel day we still carved out our moments of fun and still retained enough energy to get us through the next day: Disneyland!

An additional treat, just for you: Murder in the Beguinage

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