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Our hotel was pretty low-cost and simple -- simpler even than our current, downward-adjusted standards. Our room was small and simple. Our bed was very soft with very saggy springs. It cradled us like babies -- in a hammock. It seemed to be old enough that someone could have truly said, "Napoleon slept here."
We had a full bathroom that included a sink, a toilet and a shower -- but it was a little challenging to add people into the room. :-) The shower head was so high on the wall that it could hardly be reached to aim it. And it gave just a dribble of cold water.
As I said, that place was somewhat less than even our lowered standards would call for. BUT, it was STILL "better than a tent."
Today was the tour of Brugge that Fred (from Green Bay, Wisconsin) set up. After a LIGHT breakfast in the hotel, we got on a bus to Brugge. (It took 14 minutes and cost 40 Belgian Francs -- about a buck.)
We met our tour guide, Paul, at a fountain. He gave us a brief history of Brugge, then led us on a tour of the town. It's a great town. It has many old buildings, lots of canals, quite a few Flemish style homes with step-eaves, a very old and very large hospital, a home for virgin women that locks it's gates at sundown, a few cathedrals, and a very high, very large bell tower. There are 366 steps to the observation level -- which also is the level where the carillon bells are played.
We had lunch in a restaurant in Market Square, the commercial center of Brugge. Lisa and I sat with Shelly (from San Carlos) and her fiance, Dan, from Sacramento. They shared that they had just decided that they would get married tomorrow, here in Brugge!
After lunch we took a boat ride through several canals. Then we visited and watched a lady make lace. Finally, we visited the showroom of a chocolate factory.
We found out that: Belgium makes some of the best chocolates in the world -- and Brugge make some of the best in Belgium; Brugge is the center of Belgium lacemaking -- and it is VERY expensive; and, finally, Brugge was the first diamond center in Europe.
Finally, the whole group went to a pub (that had more than 350 types of beer) for a drink. There we talked to friends of Fred's who had come all the way from Green Bay, Wisc. Interesting couple. He makes and repairs guitars. She makes miniature ceramics. They're using this visit with Fred as a good excuse for a trip to Europe.
We found out that fresh mussles are now available and many restaurants feature them. We were directed to the Restaurant Breydel - De Coninc as having the best mussles in town. We went there. They had mussles six ways, eel five ways, and lobster four ways. Lisa, of course, had mussels -- a bucketfull that provided more than she could eat! I had sole.
We had ice cream at the local Eis Factory, then walked to the bus. There we tied in with a bunch of Yellowheads who were also planning to take a bus back to the hotel. Unfortunately, we missed the last bus, but, fortunately, we caught a taxi.
Love to all,
Today, Fred's tour included a guided walk through the Groeninge Museum in Brugge. The tour was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Of course, we all had to get there from Oostkamp.
Last night we decided to forgo another night in our "wonderful" accommodations in Oostkamp and move to Brugge. We convinced L&J that we should all load our gear in the car and drive to Brugge. That would help us get our stuff there, and it would set up L&J for a quick escape to Yppes and the WWI museum and tours that they have planned.
When we got up, it was overcast. At breakfast the sun broke through. When we finally left, it was raining. A good day for a museum tour!
We all drove in and unloaded our bike and gear at the hotel. To be more efficient, L&J took the car to park it while we got registered and moved our stuff into the hotel. We agreed to meet at the museum.
We walked over and got there just in time for the start -- but no L&J. We wondered where they were, thought maybe they were lost, and went out to look for them. We couldn't find them so we went back to the museum. They showed up about 30 minutes later -- they had gotten lost.
The Groeninge Museum, we found, is a collection of art through the ages that has been done by artists who have lived in or near to Brugge all their life. The tour guide showed a lot of pride in the museum, even as he said the art work, per say, was not great.
I did learn of a painting form called "Primitive Art," and that this "Flemish" Primitive Art is world renowned. He explained that the subjects of the paintings were not important, but that the extraordinary thing was the very intricate detail work done in these oil paintings. And I have to say that, upon VERY close inspection, the detail was REALLY ASTOUNDING!!
After the museum, we went to the Tourist Infocenter to pick up a bike route map of the area. (Tomorrow we plan to ride on the dikes and levees along the canals into Holland.) Then, back to our hotel to move our stuff into our room and pick up our dirty clothes. Then off to the Laundromat a couple of blocks from our hotel.
While the washer was working, we wander along one of the main shopping streets. Lisa found a PearleVision and checked to see if they could/would do anything about her defective lenses. No such luck. They said they were not tied in with PearleVision in the USA.
The next spot was a Kaffee shop. I had a cup of coffee and a pastry while Lisa took a stroll.
Then it was time to put our laundry in the dryer. We read while the clothes were drying. Then I walked back to our hotel wile Lisa had her monthly "deep conditioning" done at a salon.
I hand-washed a few things that I had forgotten, hung the damp clothes, and put all of my clean stuff away. Lisa walked in looking even more beautiful than usual. . . . .
We found a restaurant with Egyptian food not far from our hotel. Again, we ordered "almost blind" (unfamiliar Egyptian dishes described in Flemish!) but the food turned out to be VERY TASTY! I had a casserole made of lamb, mushrooms, vegetables, sauce and spices, then covered with cheese and baked. Lisa had falafel. (This was familiar of course, but again, it was written in Flemish on the menu, so we weren't quite sure...)
Dick and Barbara happened to walk in when we were almost done. We both laughed about choosing the same place at the same time in this town with hundreds of restaurants to choose from.
After dinner we walked the narrow, cobblestone streets of town looking for a place to have herb tea. No luck though. Wednesday is traditionally a slow day. Combine that with the unusually cold evening, and we found the streets pretty deserted at 7:30 and the small coffee and tea places closed.
We went back to our room and discovered that our windows looked out upon the very beautiful sight of the night-lighted carillon tower. We had a front row, balcony seat -- and we were just in time for an hour-long concert of carrillon music. We enjoyed listening to, among many others, "I Did It My Way," and finally, "The Entertainer" as a closing piece.
Love to all,
Today we had a VACATION day. We slept late. We laid in bed listening to the carillon bells. We had a leisurely late breakfast while we planned our day's ride through the flat, canal areas of Belgium and The Netherlands.
By 10 we had not heard from L&J about their plans. We checked e-mail -- no message. We sent them an e-mail. Then, about 10:40, Bob (who had gone with them to the WWI sites) called with a message. He said L&J will be here about 5 or so for dinner and whatever we had planned. We said it sounds like we should get them a room. He agreed and said he would pass the message on. If they had a concern, someone would call back within 15 minutes.
No call by 11:30, so we left for our ride. We rode along canals and levees to the North Sea. One of the bike lanes went between and under the canopy of two rows of tall, fat trees, right alongside a canal.
We have found, again, that almost every street, road and highway has a marked bike lane on the pavement, or most likely, a separate, parallel, paved bike lane. Many, many people ride bicycles. Lots of older folks seem to use them for short, neighborhood rides and medium length touring. Lots of younger folks use them for commuting and neighborhood rides. Comparatively few children are seen riding outside of town.
We rode all the way to the beach town of Heist. We continued through town to the beach on the North Sea, then rode on a bike lane along the boardwalk along the beach.
There are hundreds of cabanas (sheds that people rent for the summer to leave their beach stuff in) along the beach. We found one that looked like a beachbum was living in it year-round. Probably pretty inexpensive digs.
We had lunch in a restaurant along the beach, then we rode through the town of Zeebrugge. Thats where there is a large energy-generating windmill farm. Then we followed canal roads back to Brugge. We put 60 delightful and relaxed KM's on today.
We got back about 4:45. L&J weren't there yet. We showered, Lisa packed her clean clothes, I did pocketmail and read.
L&J arrived about 6. They got settled and we all went out for Italian food. L&J told us all about their sightseeing adventures while we enjoyed some wonderful Italian food.
After dinner, Larry brought the car lease info over for us tio discuss, since he and Joan were going off-route and I would have to handle extending the lease. As he was ging through the paperwork, I noticed that the lease expired today, the 7th, not the 9th as we had thought. That set us on a mission of calling to extend the lease before we were late. Larry called Europe By Auto, the leasing agent in New York. They said we had to call Paris. I will do that tomorrow.
Love to all,
|09/08||Brugges, Belgium to Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Today was primarily a driving day. It was overcast and drizzly when we got up. That turned to light rain before we left.
We packed, loaded our gear in the car and went to breakfast. L&J were there making their plans. They were going to get passport photos this morning. We had to call Paris about extending the car lease.
It took almost a half an hour to make the international phone connection from Brugge, Belgium, to Paris, France. When finally we did, extending the contract was no problem.
We returned to the hotel about 10:30. L&J were upstairs packing. We loaded the bikes on the car. By 11, we were on the road.
The drive was hectic. Rain all the way. LOTS AND LOTS OF TRUCKS on the road. One funny thing (that was not-so funny) happened on the way. Larry and I (David) had mapped out the best and fastest way to get from Brugges to the TK&A campground outside of Amsterdam. As we approached Antwerp, we were about to take the superhighway shortcut to bypass town, when we saw a sign saying there was a toll tunnel ahead. We all had managed our money SO WELL that we didn't have money for a toll -- so we had to drive all the way around Antwerp -- in rush hour traffic! What a pain that was!! (In case you're wondering about what "money management" has to do with anything -- when you cross a border -- which come as frequently as state lines -- you can only exchange paper money, not coins. So we try not to have any change. And then, exchanging paper money is usually a rip-off on the exchange rate. Much better to get money from an ATM. That's why we like to have as little money left as possible when we cross a border.)
We arrived at our hotel in Sassenheim (about 40 km from Amsterdam) about 4. It was still pouring rain. Lisa and I checked in. L&J had to run over to the campground for something. They came back about 6:30, picked us up, and we all went to dinner back at the campground. We drank the bottle of wine that Rita had given us to mark the end of our car-sharing episode and to wish L&J a good trip to London.
Love to all,
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