We are entering the final stretch of our life abroad. The past 4 years we have been able to take advantage of the countries and cultures that we have lived in and hope that we have used our time well. Through all this crazy travel (and at points crazy stress!) we hope that our kids have learned so much in all that we have done and the people that we have met. I was reminded today that in a world filled with cynicism and “unliking” I hope that we never forget or lack space in our lives for empathy, being able to understand someone and that we don’t have to be defined by the moments we messed up. Redemption is always available. Through empathy we don’t have to be afraid to meet people from all walks of life. Whew, its coming to an end and I hope we can remember all the lessons we have learned.
Most recently we were able to visit Bruges (or Brugge if you want the Flemish spelling). It is a magical city, medieval and frozen in time with Gothic architecture and beautiful cobblestone streets. It is definitely a tourist town, but for good reason. We absolutely loved walking around this city and I think the kids loved it as well. A special treat for us was that we had dear friends come to visit us from the USA and it was such a treat to be able to have them explore with us.
Bruges is a city in Belgium known for its lace, waffles and old streets. Bruges was founded by the Vikings, but its height of prominence was from the 12th to 15th Century. Like many sea port towns, Bruges flourished because of the river Zwin, but as it began to silt up the main port was moved to Antwerp and Bruges was basically abandoned. By the middle of the 1800s Bruges was the poorest city in Belgium. Since Bruges had been in such a decline, none of the grand buildings were touched (cause you need money for that) and it has been left in tact, a hap chance preservation of a historical city. Today it is a tourist hub, walk-able and enchanting. Definitely worth seeing!
While in Bruges we went to the chocolate museum, Choco-Story. Every floor offers bits of chocolate to eat while you wonder and not only can you learn about the way chocolate is made, but you also learn some quirky history about humans love for chocolate. Did you know there were whole dishware sets made to accommodate hot chocolate drinking? Who knew?!? The most surprising thing was after the tour, all my kids asked for vegetables, they may have eaten a bit too much chocolate! We enjoyed it and since we were there in February it offered a good warm place inside. Also, who can resist Belgian chocolate, some of the tastiest on earth. There are many more museums in Bruges, but we mostly walked around, got our waffles and ate from grocery stores so we could sit outside.
Bruges is also famous for its lace. I love fabrics and seeing all the lace work here was no exception. When making lace by hand it is an extremely tedious process that is still practiced today by artisans in Bruges. It is a meticulous process. Think of having hundreds of threads wound up on small baseball bats and then weaving the threads to make a beautiful design and of course, try not to get the threads tangled. They are true masters and the lace map of the city was amazing to see. People still make lace in the city so you better believe I brought some handmade lace home.
We also took a horse carriage ride through the town, the kids loved it and thought it was so fun. Clearly there was brother/sisterly love. Best part about it is that the price is per carriage, not per person, so I think we won with that one!
We also were so excited to see Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges (his only sculpture to leave Italy during his lifetime), but alas, it was being worked on and not on display for another week. WAH! There was a model in place, so we did our best to pretend. At least we didn’t have to pay full price to go into the church.
We spent 2 days in Bruges and thought is was a good amount of time to see everything. With two families (and 11 people) it is really difficult to find places to stay. Our go to is AirBnB and we were able to find an awesome place that had enough room for us all. We stayed a bit outside of the city and enjoyed being by the seaside. It was beautiful there and we were thankful the kids were able to relax and play around in the sand (and not bring it inside the house but definitely brought it into the cars). So glad we were able to visit and also so thankful for friends willing to do crazy things with us!
Until our next adventure!