Sunday, September 18, 2016

Day trip to Bruges in Belgium 17 September

On Saturday last the six of us -- four MacDonalds, Susie and I -- walked the ten minutes or so to Lille Flandres train station. At a little after 9am we were pulling away from the platform and heading north to Bruges in Belgium. Even with a connection at Courtrai it was a quick trip, less than two hours. From the main station in Bruges we walked fifteen minutes into the heart of the old city.

Bruges is home to wonderfully old architecture, spectacular sculpture, quaint canals and throngs of tourists. No matter. We were there, like everyone else, to enjoy the history and ambience of a place that has spent much of its recorded history surrounded by water.

And speaking of water, our first order of business a cruise on the city's canals. For us that meant looking for Boten Stael cruises, located in the shadow of the Church of Our Lady.

Our cruise lasted about half an hour and once back on dry land we went off in search of our luncheon spot: Cambrinus, just off the main market square. Glen and Christina had been once before and they thought the food good. They were not wrong. We started off with a flight of four beers -- Cambrinus is known for their selection of more than 400 different Belgian beers, one of which was a cactus beer! And for food it was beef carbonades (Flemish beef stew) all round: beer-braised beef, cooked slow. . . with a large bowl of frites to pass.

After lunch we strolled the town, visited the Church of Our Lady where we got to see -- from a painfully long distance -- Michelangelo's Madonna and Child, although we did get close up to the brass (?) effigies of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy and his daughter Mary. From the church we made our way across the old town and strolled the grounds of a former nunnery and now the last remaining beguinage in Belgium (a community for lay church women). We stopped at Tonka Cafe for coffee and ended our day by popping into a Leonidas chocolate shop to pick up a selection to take home.

As the shadows began to lengthen we headed back to the train station (why do return trips always take less time that the the original outbound one?).

Before long we were back in Lille and the MacD apartment. That evening we had Indian food delivered and before bed enjoyed the fireworks display from their top floor. (Every third weekend of September is Heritage Days when France celebrates itself by opening the doors of otherwise closed government offices and buildings to the public, many museums are free and much, much more.) The fireworks cast a spectacular light on a carnival still underway near the Citadel, a Vauban-designed fort still in use by the French army.

What a day, what a day indeed!

At the Lille Flandres train station, waiting to leave

Glen Liam and Christina

occasionally one finds sculpture along the canal

Charles the Bold, and his daughter. . .

Mary, duchess of Burgundy

on an outside wall of the church of Our Lady

two monks giving each other the "kiss of peace," located in the courtyard of the old site of Saint-John's Hospital

béguinage, housing for lay women living in a religious community

peeking out of a window above a row of restaurants leading up to the entrance to the béguinage

Leda and the swan (Zeus), along with Prometheus chained to a cart pulled by Pegasus by Jef Claerhout

on our way back to the train my eye caught these passion flowers (?) growing up a wall just outside the city center

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