Sunday, March 31, 2013

I was in Bruges...

but I wasn't In Bruges. Ha ha - that doesn't even make sense, but I've got chocolate on the brain this Easter - much like this visit. This was my favourite holiday destination in Belgium .... which doesn't bode well for the upcoming two posts about Ghent and Brussels, does it?

I stayed in a hotel that was in the old town in Bruges - walking distance from all of the important pointy buildings that I wanted to visit.

On checking in the very helpful concierge gave me a map. We discussed places I planned to visit and he pointed out one that I'd overlooked .... and it was my first port of call .... the chocolate museum (alas, I didn't detour into the lamp museum). 

I learnt about farming and processing of cacao (and giggled everytime I read it) in the Mayan and Aztec civilizations, to the Spanish conquistadors 'discovery' of chocolate, to its consumption by European royalty. I particularly liked Madame de Sevigne's 1672 take on improving her social circle.

Slicing open beans in the chocolate making process.

Pies AND chocolate!

Beautifully decorated porcelain sets for drinking chocolate consumption - I love the pomp and ceremony!

Molds for chocolate making - note the chocolate telephone!

After immersing myself in the world of chocolate I decided to explore further afield. Bruges was such a walkable city, including the 366 steps of the Belfry (Belfort), pictured above.

Apparently on a clear day you could see the coast.

My wanderings took me past many interesting a pretty buildings,

and I even found a relief of the city buildings and streets paired with braille labels for them all.

My craft-withdrawal-symptoms were kept at bay when I stumbled across the Museum voor Volkskunde (Folklore Musuem). This was housed in the low whitewashed buildings of 17th century Guild houses. 

Each room was laid out to illustrate traditional crafts and professions, including a pharmacy (with a spooky mannequin), a classroom (with mandatory portraits of royalty covering the walls and desks'/students' proximity to the furnace related to social standing and ability to pay tuition fees), a kitchen (with obligatory under skirt warmer to keep warm in the long cold winters in a kitchen with a brick floor), and a grocers (with the standard 'buy your gunpowder here' sign).

Entry was through the De Zwarte Kat (Black cat cafe) and the cafe's namesake prowled proudly throughout  the museum each day.


One of my favourite displays was the cobbler - I was fascinated with the shoe making process. They make it look so easy. I think I'll stick to clutches and totes tho'.

Then it was a quick stroll out to the edge of the old town to check out the last remaining parts of the city walls,

before being chased by windmills along the city's edge.

As well as being a feast for the eyes, Bruge was a feast for the tummy and tastebuds! Noms as far as the eye could see...

And more funny signs  -  this time one that reminded me of the vase/2 faces optical illusion.

And at the end of a big day of sightseeing I relaxed in the hotel bar, sampling the local wares

and reflecting on the wisdom gleaned during the day....

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Go short or go home.

The next leg of my trip took me to Nijmegen in the south of Holland. The main reason for this detour between Sweden and Belgium was a university visit to speak with some Implementation Scientists

As well as networking my tush off I enjoyed aimless wandering in the streets of the oldest city in the Netherlands. I became slightly obsessed with a poster for an upcoming short film festival featuring a handsome stag,

and enjoyed having time to smell the, um, tulips and daffodils,

and notice the little suburban quirks that you so often miss when pre-occupied with life...

I stumbled across the Velorama (the only bicycle museum in Holland!)

replete with 250 bicycles, many from the late 1800s.

I 'wooden' have minded taking this one for a spin (guffaw).

Then it was more wandering, invading people's privacy by taking photos of their houses and cats,

and being overly amused by a companion dog who made very sure his owner knew a fire engine was going over a nearby bridge.

I spent a little time reflecting on life as I followed the Liberation route

through Valkhof park (the oldest park in Nijmegen)

and around the ruins of St Martin's chapel (Barbarossa ruins) before making my way into the town centre, market square and the 12th century built St Stephen's Church.

Then I spent the rest of the afternoon laughing at shop signs.

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