Trip Start Nov 27, 2012
55Trip End May 18, 2013
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A good friend and fellow traveller (thanks Kerrie Lane) told Del about the town of Bruges, in Belgium, quite some time ago. What she said about it resonated with Del because it seemed to have so much of what we love – old town, cathedral, and town squares, bars and restaurants aplenty and quaint shops. It didn't take much to persuade us to go there!
As soon as we arrived, we both loved it. The drive from France into Belgium was easy and the Crowne Plaza in Bruges (bless them!) upgraded us to one of their attic suites
The town itself is beautiful – it reminded Del of one of her very favourite places from a previous trip – Amsterdam (which actually wasn’t all that far away.) The Dutch influence was very evident – there were even canals running through the town.
It seemed as if every second shop was selling Belgium chocolates – some of which were gluten free. We found a particularly fantastic one in which you could actually see the chocolatier making the chocolates in the back room. The other main items on the tourist agenda were Belgium lace and (Steve’s favourite) beer! He was very happy about the beer in Germany (as anyone would have known from our previous blogs) but he was just as happy in Bruges – especially as he also discovered a Flanders tradition - the Flemish Stew. This is like a beef stew in which the thickened sauce is made with dark beer. He was therefore able to combine two of his favourite past times – eating and drinking. (If only he could have eaten the stew while on a golf course, he would have truly been in heaven.)
The weather was freezing whilst we were there – hovering around the zero degree mark. It was evident that snow wasn’t far away and on the day we left (our third day there) we awoke to a covering of white everywhere and the beautiful silence which comes from the falling of gentle snowflakes
Our next stop in Belgium was Ypres – about forty minutes drive from Bruges. Here we visited the 'In Flanders Fields’ Museum, the Tyne Cot Cemetery and the Menin Gate.
One of the most moving experiences was watching six musicians, each with a bugle, play the ‘Last Post’ at the Menin Gate. The Belgium people put on this small ceremony at 8.00pm every evening. The road through the centre of the memorial is closed off, and a hymn is sung. The bugle players are dressed in uniform, and army representatives lay a wreath.
We attended this on a bitterly cold winter Sunday evening, with light snow falling around us. It was absolutely amazing and really brought home to us the realities of war – especially the effect which World Wars have had on this part of the world and the gratitude shown to our service men and women who had the misfortune to be involved in the front line.
Our next stop will be back over the border to Calais, in France, where we will finally return the car which we have been using now for the past five weeks. It will also then be our farewell to Europe as we head to the British Isles to continue our travels in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
It’s a little bit sad because, after three months, the trip is now half over. At the same time however, we are looking forward to the next part of our journey. We can only hope that it is as much fun as what we have already done.
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