Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Belgium: The Coast and Brugge

Last week after our visitors left, I knew we needed to get away for a few days because 1. Hannah was off school for the half-term break, and 2. We tend to mope around the house for days after visitors leave.

It’s pathetic, really.

So, while Shawn zipped into work for a few hours to finish some things up, I packed our bags.  My morning was slightly thrown off, however, when I realized that I’d been bitten by a tick and wasn’t able to reach it to safely remove it by myself and ended up at the doctor’s office. 
But that’s a story for another day…

When Shawn got home from work, we set off.
We drove three hours to a little coastal town in Belgium called Oostend. 
This was the first time we’ve been to the North Sea.

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We rode up and down the boardwalk on this bicycle for four.  Shawn and I pedaled and the kids rode up front.  I felt like we were part National Lampoons and part Willy Wonka.

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This is how Finley rode most of the time.  He loves the wind on his face.

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The next day we went to Brugge, a picturesque little town that’s known as the Venice of the North because there are lots of canals.  Most of the town has been unchanged since the 16th century, so there’s much history to be learned.  I’ve been wanting to visit Brugge since we moved to Luxembourg, and I’m not sure why we waited so long.

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We had booked a bicycle tour through the town, but when we arrived we were told that it had been cancelled for “lack of interest.”  I said, “Well, we’re interested.”  That was a no-go so we did the next best thing: a carriage ride.

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The belfry is the most famous landmark in Brugge, with a narrow, windy staircase that goes all the way to the top.  Shawn read in our tour book that the belfry slants slightly to one side.  Hannah was concerned.
“Is it going to fall over?” she asked.
”Well, it’s been standing for about 700 years, so probably not today,” Shawn told her.

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Once she was assured that the tower wasn’t going to fall, she and I climbed all 366 stairs to the top.
When we looked over the edge, she said, “Oh wow!  You can see the whole of Brugge from here.”

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There’s no way anyone would want to carry a baby all the way up those winding stairs, so Finley and Shawn waited for us at the bottom. 

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Next we went to Church of our Lady to see Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child.  This is his only sculpture that left Italy during his lifetime.

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I’ve mentioned before that I’m not crazy about European chocolate.  I know.  I think, however, that there’s some kind of law or something saying that one simply cannot go to Belgium without eating ALL THE CHOCOLATE.  So, I decided to put aside my chocolate biases and expand my chocolate palate. 
After visiting about six shops and tasting the samplings, we stumbled on this gem:

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It’s a precious little family run business that had the best caramel/chocolate pralines ever.  We bought a box, and embarrassingly, they didn’t last much past the drive home.

So if you’re planning a few days away in Belgium, rent a family bike, climb the belfry and taste all the chocolates. 

You won’t be disappointed.

I promise.

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