We slept in. On the way to Ghent I had gotten so tired we had to pull over in a little town and Anna took the kids for a walk so I could nap for 20 minutes. (Anna--the walk was wonderful. We saw horses, chickens, and just wandered little streets.) We got in and got the tent set up around 1030pm and to sleep around 11pm. Anna and I woke up around 6 but went back to sleep. Wefinally rolled out of our bags around 1040 in the morning, showered (and left behind my razor), packed and headed for Brugges, Belgium (point B) by noon.
We both really liked Brugges. The city had been the prosperous center of power in Belgium during up to the late 18th century when the Belgian king and his Hapsburg wife dying in rapid succession thus giving power over to the Austrian empire. To add injury to insult, the port silted up over the next hundred years economically isolating the city which led to it’s preservation while other cities modernized during this century.
Both the churches we went to were beautiful. The Church of the Sacred Blood (a vial of red crusader loot is purported to be the blood of Christ) had been gutted by Napoleons “secular” troops, but had been beautifully painted in vivid colors.
The Sacred Blood was actually the lucky one, another church across the square was torn down and it’s bricks sold. It also had an earlier chapel attached with a very ancient feel due to its simplicity and dimness. The Sacred Blood was a big draw for many of the people visiting the church. A female priest who spoke English, Flemish, French, and who knows what else invited anyone who wanted to come up and pray over the relic to do so. I enjoyed watching people reverently climb the throne to have their chance to pray. We just watched and enjoyed the art. One series showed events leading to Christ’s crucificiation and burial. Henry correctly pointed out that they were missing the most important part though—Christ’s resurrection.
Henry found out how door knocker rings can be both fun and dangerous if you're not careful where you leave your fingers.
Lizzy leads the way!
We walked along the city canal (the highway for goods brought in from the sea) to the Church of our Lady which was beautiful in the traditional gothic way and had a beautiful Madonna and Child statue by Michelangelo, the only statue of his to leave Italy.
There was also a coloring table in the back corner for the kids which Henry and Lizzy sat at for about 20 minutes giving them and us a nice break.
After the church we walked to the Bejinhof, about an acre sized walled convent community in the city) which consisted of two rings of houses and chapels around a central part with daffodils and trees. All very calm and beautiful, except for Henry jumping around to catch the cottonwood fluff that was floating through the air.
An ancient nun walked by and seemed happy to smile with Henry and especially Lizzy.
Before leaving for Paris we stopped for Flemish beef stew with fries, Belgian waffles with chocolate and strawberries, and the best chocolate ice cream I have ever had.
The waffles were good, but the thing that makes them better than a normal raised Belgian waffle recipe was the real chocolate chocolate sauce. Yum.
After lunch we hopped in the car and headed toward Paris. At a gas station along the way I got to use the French I’ve been learning in the car for the last 3 weeks which was fun. It even cost less than $100 to fill up the car today…the $60 toll for the freeway from Lille to Paris was a kick in the pants though. We hit some traffic but still got to our campsite on the banks of the Seine in the Bois de Bologne well before dark. The campground is kind of loud, dingy and Anna was not happy about getting seriously leered at by backpackers on her way to the Ladies restroom. But it is close to the center of town and we’re looking forward to tomorrow if the kids ever fall asleep…the price for sleeping in.