In Bruges *
Bruges (or Brugge as the residents prefer) is a beautiful city - postcards don't do it justice, never mind the couple of hundred snaps I took of it whilst we were there. It's the first time ever NAH has arranged a holiday for us, so that also added to my positive view of the place, plus he chose this hotel, so I'm feeling thoroughly spoilt and pampered.
It's a perfectly preserved medieval city - the prosperous times were in the 12th-14th centuries and the residents were so rich, they could afford to build most of their houses in stone. This has helped in its preservation. After that, the city went into relative decline and whilst its 'ownership' changed hands a few times, there wasn't enough importance attached to Bruges to either build it up further or to totally destroy it during various wars. Now the Belgians are fiercely proud of their heritage and we spent a couple of hours in the company of a delightful octogenarian who told us the story of his city. It's a World Heritage site now and was also European city of culture in 2002, so we benefitted from the major sprucing up which has taken place to achieve these awards.
The collage (click to enlarge if needed) gives a small sample of the sights to see - I was equally enamoured of the small details on the buildings as well as the overall architecture of the place - gold highlights, little friezes on the walls giving clues to what the buildings were originally used for, Madonna statuettes presiding over pretty well every street corner, even the drain covers are up market.
Of course every visit to Bruges needs a boat trip round the canals - it should take half an hour, but our guide spent over an hour with us pointing out tiny little features and details. We also took the circular walk around the outside edge of the Medieval part of the city - hence the views of more workmanlike barges, windmills and one of the city gates (bottom left). We also found time to sample all the things Belgium is famous for - chips, chocolate, waffles and beer!
I'll be returning to Bruges tomorrow - on a more plant related theme this time.
* = I think this film may have influenced NAH's choice of where to whisk me off to.
PS I also fell in love with St Pancras Station - there's a slideshow here if you're interested.