Monday, December 14, 2015

Mr. and Mrs. B in Belgium

One of the Bruges canals
Canal at night
As I mentioned in the last post, we spent four nights in beautiful Bruges, Belgium. After solemn excursions to WWI battle sites, Bruges was a welcome change of pace. It is a city designed for tourists, with beautiful architecture, delicious food, and wonderful shopping. I was eager to share it with Bob, who had not travelled with me last year.
Several students lined up to climb the Belfry featured in the movie, In Bruges.
My favourite building in Market Square
When we first arrived in the city at about 2:30, we explored its heart on foot. We had only about an hour before we were booked into the Historium, where we learned about Bruges' past as a centre for trade. With so little time, many of us made a bee-line for a local specialty: Belgian waffles.
Georgia, Grace and Maddie sample waffles
Aaron and I indulged in the same treat.
Not my favourite museum, the best thing about the Historium is the view we got from its terrace over the main square, and the chance to strike some silly poses.
Ellis, Chloe and Charlotte in front of the Historium
The view from the terrace
Brandon, Dan, Malcolm and Will strike poses.
Of course, first time visitor Bob found the city inspirational and took lots and lots of pictures, as I had done the year before. I particularly liked his focus on the ornate details of the buildings.
Gold sculptures on the facade of the Basilica of the Holy Blood

The facade of the City Hall
As the light of the day faded, we first watched a beautiful sunset before the lights were turned on and the city was illuminated again; then, even the swans posed for us. Nearby, half of our group ate at Nieuw Walnutje, one of the many dining choices in this city.
The swans under the floodlights
Our restaurant
Two days later, we had a full day in the city. This time we explored it by boat and by Segway. Understandably, the route on the canals was identical to the one we had followed last year, but I was pleased to take a different path on my Segway–and I was much less nervous this time around.

All aboard for the boat tour.
View from the boat

Segwaying together
We saw the old city wall on our Segway tour.
Our tours over, Bob and I separated for the afternoon. While I took in the shops, he explored the city on foot and saw several areas I had never seen. He passed by several godshuizen, once almshouses for poor widows of the town. These have been lovingly preserved and are still used as social housing.

Bruges windmill
He also found a windmill, one of the four remaining in the city. And, as he often does, he found beauty in a simple street or building.
Bruges street scene

Every corner of Bruges is lovely
On the final day of our trip to Belgium, we stopped for a few hours in Brussels, a city that both Bob and I had visited in June. This time, though, we were given new insights into the place thanks to our local guide.
Recently restored buildings in la Grande Place

City Hall façade in la Grande Place
We met her at “la Grande Place”, the magnificent square in the middle of the old city. Since my last time there, restoration of several buildings had been completed, so that we could finally appreciate their beauty.
Art deco plaque honouring former mayor of the city Karel Buls 
The Pissing Boy
On our walking tour, we passed by many sights we had not noticed in previous stops in Brussels. The famous “Pissing Boy” statue is quite tiny, but the charm of it is obvious. Nearby, the façades of buildings are painted with figures from comic books, most notably Tintin, Belgium’s most famous character.
Tintin and Captain Archibald Haddock
The 14th century wall of Brussels still stands in contrast to colourful banners nearby highlighting its current place as the headquarters of Nato and other international organizations.
Ancient Brussels
Modern Brussels
As we headed to the rise above the older part of  town, we learned about Belgium’s most famous monarch and his wife, through the equestrian statue of King Albert looking down toward the likeness of his wife, Queen Elisabeth.
King Albert

Queen Elisabeth
Further along our route, the art nouveau Old England building, reminiscent of Gaudi's architecture, stands as a sort of thank you to the British for repelling Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo.
Looking up in Belgium
Old England Building
As we arrived at the royal palace, we were greeted by an honour guard. They were not there just for us, apparently. There were rumours about some ambassadors in town as well.
Honour guard

Walking through the Royal Gardens 
During our 90 minute walk, the weather got better and better, so that by the time we walked through the royal gardens, we no longer needed our coats.
La Gallerie de la Reine
On our final stop of the tour, we entered the Gallerie de la Reine, a stunning indoor shopping space. There, Bob and I grabbed lunch before heading to where our bus was waiting for us next to the Cathedral. We had time to look inside this magnificent edifice before we headed to the airport and home to Neuchâtel.
The Cathedral - and our bus.

No comments:

Post a Comment