The rest of the drive was uneventful except for the main road between Antwerp and Brugge being closed by an overturned tractor trailer. Fortunately, Jill rerouted us without fanfare, thereby saving us an afternoon of wrong turns and sharp words. It was evening when we arrived, and a traveling street fair was underway in one of the squares, so we carefully dodged ogling pedestrians and children enveloped by huge cotton candy puffs. Our hotel, the Best Western Acacia, is right in the center of town, fortuitously positioned beside a restaurant named Chagall, a breakfast place with amazing chocolate croissants, and across themstreet from the coolest liquor store ever. Named Vom Fass, it carries not only a small but lovely selection of wines, but also a variety of spirits, including liquors, rums, tequilas, etc., all stocked in casks, available for tasting, and sold in whatever size bottle you would like it doled out in… And they are beautiful bottles, too! Oh, and olive oils of every type and every infusion, sold the same way. I wish there was one near us in San Diego; there are just a few of them in the US, and apparently the closest one is in Thousand Oaks, CA.
Of course we are continuing the hard work of quality checking beers. Belgian beers are legendary, so we may be putting in some overtime. But someone has to do it!
Oh yes, Brugge. This is a beautiful ancient small city, easily walkable, full of canals and handsome, well-tended buildings. Cobblestone streets abound: I wouldn’t consider hoofing it in anything but sturdy flats, but there are always those women who must have far better feet than me, who stride cheerfully about in heels. After watching the lights come on and wash over the beautiful facades on the Markt Square, we have a delightful dinner at Bistro de Pompe.
Axel discovers the hotel sauna the next morning, so I spend an hour catching up on my yoga. I have become one of those people who carry a travel mat, and I have become adept at fitting my yoga routine into the unusual spaces that hotel rooms sometimes offer: sun salutations in the hallway between the door and the bed; warrior three in the square space by the window. I am finishing with a meditation when the church bells start to peal – it is Sunday morning. A moment later I hear a sound that makes my ears prick up: hooves trotting on cobblestones. How much better could a meditation get?
We spend the day exploring the city. We find the Chocolate Museum, which somehow relates to Amsterdam’s Erotic Museum and their Museum of Marijuana. We discover two windmills along the eastern canal. We walk along some of the most beautiful small canals I’ve seen so far (there is a reason they call this city the Venice of Northern Europe): one that stretches away from a Van Eyck Square (how many cities have squares named after artists besides Amsterdam and Brugge?) and another where the houses that border it have windows just a foot or two above the waterline. The reflections are amazing. I take some photos, but then we just have to stop and sit on the stone bench of what we are told is the oldest bridge in Brugge, absorbing the fine sunshine and the peaceful air, and we wonder how many people have sat in that very same spot, meeting and chatting with neighbors over the centuries.
We arrive back at Markt at golden hour, and the square is packed with tourists. We just stand for a long time, watching people. There are couples snuggling at the base of the statue, toddlers staring in awe at a world to be conquered, Asian tourists with cameras ever ready, a mother and daughter with a shaggy dog who keeps looking behind them, and I know he is watching for the third member of his party. When she arrived, his tail wags, and all is peaceful in his world.