Belgium / Bilzen / Brugge

Brugge day, on to Bilzen

Our only hotel room the whole trip - for just one night.  But it's a pretty cool one, with loft for the girls!

Our only hotel room the whole trip – for just one night. But it’s a pretty cool one, with loft for the girls!

Waking up Thursday, I had not planned on a long shower.  But we were in the Grand Hotel Casselbergh, and had a shower with the best hot water and water pressure we had yet had in Europe, so a long, hot shower was all I wanted.  We all took advantage.  If I somehow convinced Scott to live in Europe for a year (this is a regular theme in our marriage, he has blanket permission to agree to such a transfer without consulting me), I think the shower issue would be one of the harder things to get used to.  They just aren’t like in the states.  Mind you, I could absolutely adjust, I’m just saying, it would be different.

Then we were off to our included breakfast, which was yummily European.  There was the standard American fare: eggs, sausage, bacon, fruit.  But there were also fresh rolls, croissants, prosciutto, salami, cheese, butter, jam, and Nutella.  It reminded me of the breakfasts before at Eddy & Gaby’s and while we were in Italy.  Not helping the waistline, but the heart is light and happy.

Even better, after breakfast, as we came walking into the Lobby, there were Eddy & Gaby waiting for us.  Oh, I missed these people…  We met Eddy & Gaby when we were in Belgium 5 years ago, with our church.  They were part of a church that was planted by a missionary from our church, decades ago.  We went to Belgium to do some work on the church building, along with some community outreach work.  We wound up staying in Eddy & Gaby’s house with them, and we quickly became family.  We just love them, and they seem pretty fond of us, too. They arrived in Brugge to spend the day with us, before heading back to their home on the eastern edge of Belgium.

We headed out, and first stop was toward a church, Church of Our Lady.  However, on the way, we accidentally went into the wrong church – which was a happy mistake.  Very beautiful inside, quite impressive.  Especially when you are used to going to church in an elementary school gymnasium.  Impressive, beautiful.  The kind that makes you stand in the middle of the room staring upward with no one talking to each other at first.

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Michaelangelo’s Madonna and Child, believed to be the only of his works to leave Italy in his lifetime.

When we moved on to our intended stop, we found the Church of Our Lady – and the Michaelangelo Madonna we were seeking.  It was small, but it was beautiful.  Not quite like the David, where you expect him to step down off the pedestal at any moment, but it was still beautiful.  The folds of the fabric on Mary’s robe were what I kept looking at.  I’m always fascinated by how stone can be made to look delicate.

Bruges PaintingThere were also a number of other pieces of art.  The most interesting to me was a painting that actually showed a number of scenes of Jesus life.  While the painting was interesting on its own, it was most interesting for how how very Catholic the scenes from Jesus life were.  Like him being sprinkled in baptism as an infant, complete with a very medieval-Catholic looking baptismal.  This isn’t really a criticism of the Catholic church, I get that at the time, all kinds of historical scenes were depicted in medieval fashion and architecture.  It’s just how it was done.  But the historical disconnect draws attention to the difference in the rites as show in the artists time period, and how they occurred for Jesus himself..

IMG_0590As we left, police with sidearms were coming into the building, clearly scanning the building and the people inside.  We looked around outside, and best guess was VIP visit from the look of the cars with tinted windows.  Someone much more important than us just arrived, but we made it through before it could derail us.

Our next stop was a boat tour through the Canals of Brugge.  Scott and I did this when we were here before, and with the help of some Dramamine (for Lydia-girl) we did it again with the kids.  The name “Brugge” probably comes from an old Dutch word for bridge.  With the canal system and about 54 bridges, Brugge is called the “Venice of the North” for good reason.  Between the horse drawn carriage ride and our boat tour, we were able to see most of the city center, which is all a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  I think it’s impossible to take a bad picture here.  You just cannot help but get something picture perfect no matter where you point the camera.  I think there were little puffs of smoke and gasps for air coming from my SD card that evening.

IMG_0677After a light lunch, I did some shopping – the lace here is divine, and has a rich heritage with older women still making it by hand in the doorways of the shops.  It’s stunning to watch, as their hands move faster than the eye can follow.  There’s also all kinds of stores, familiar and not, lining different streets.  And, sadly, McDonald’s, which seems to be America’s gift to Europe.  It’s kind of disturbing.

IMG_0647As the afternoon waned, Eddy brought his car to our hotel and we packed up our things.  A three hour drive later, we were on the opposite side of Belgium.  That’s right, in less time than it takes for us to go through the state of Virginia, we crossed the whole country, and arriving at our Belgian home.

The day held one more special gift for me.  I was able to sit in Gaby’s kitchen, and document her making Witloof for us.  We had it last time, and still talked about it.  This time, I took notes and pictures, so when we get home, I can do it for us, too!  Just being in their kitchen, chatting with Gaby while Scott and Eddy sat out back and talked, girls running around in the back yard, brought satisfaction and respite to the soul.

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Gaby is a wonderful cook! And many of the meals are right out of the garden. Mmmm…

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