Jill &I have been to Rouges before, but this is Ruth’s first time in this charming world heritage city. It took us about 90 minutes to drive here from Arras as I had a hamburger for our last dinner in Arras that was made from horse meat, I was ready to take the reins between my teeth and gallop off up the road.
On our arrival, we found that Ruth had booked us into a hotel right in the centre of the city and as well as being a nice place to stay, it provided us with a very convenient place to park the car. We started with a coffee in the Market Square which Jill & Ruth found to be enchanting. Bruges still has most of its medieval buildings inside the old city intact and as we looked across the square to the belfry, it was almost as though we were back in the 1600’s. It is another of he old cloth cities and has a grand market hall with a towering belfry.
After our coffee, we then all walked down to the canal for a boat tour around the city canals. This was a great way to se many of the old buildings and to get a feel for the city. Jill had a sore knee from walking on cobblestones a day or so ago, so after lunch, Ruth and I walked up to the information centre at the new concert hall and found a booklet with walking tours of the town. We spent most of the afternoon doing a 5 km walking tour around the stand-out sites of Brugges.
This tour took us past a number of the old churches – one of which had a wonderfully ornate pulpit that we thought would suit our church at home at St Stephen’s very well. The other had an original Michelangelo statue of Mary and Jesus. On a pervious trip to Italy, the little church in the town where we stayed at Rada in Chianti, in Tuscany, seemed to be the only church in Italy without a Michelangelo statue. Now I know where it is – somehow it ended up here in Brugge! We stopped at many of the shops to see what they had on sale and we both bought a few little decorations for the Christmas tree. It was really hard to avoid the hundreds of shops that were selling Belgian chocolate. It seemed like that we were putting on weight just by looking in the windows.
At night, the three of us found a nice little restaurant in the lane opposite our hotel and we enjoyed a meal of Flemish Stew and a bottle of South African Wine. It always seems to me that the French wines that we find on our travels are rather weak and insipid. (Perhaps they are just the ones that are affordable). It’s nice to find one of the ‘New World’ wines from Australia, Chile, New Zealand or South Africa which have more flavour and are more like those wines that we buy so inexpensively at home.
We were back in the market square for breakfast early in the next morning and then drove around to the edge of town to see some of the old windmills that were used to pump water from the river into the canals that flow like a maze through the town.
Then it was time to enter our destination for the day into our GPS and start on a drive that would take around 4 hours to go to Luxembourg. Our GPS has been incredibly helpful, Some of the intersections on the major freeways are very complex and to be able to follow a moving map and voice directions takes all the heat out of getting to places. The voice in our TomTom GPS has an Australian accent, named ‘Ken’. Well, Kenny- sure knows his way around and manages to get us right to the door of the place that we want to go every time.
On the way to Echternach, our destination in Luxembourg, Ruth noticed in her guide book that we would be passing near to the town (not the station) of Waterloo. Not being ones to miss a good battlefield, we made a quick deviation and found ourselves in the middle of the battlefield at the point where we exited from the freeway, Now we were in the location of another of the world’s history making battle sites – where Wellington defeated Napoleon. We stopped at the visitors centre and bought a ticket to climb to the top of the mound and then had a look at the very detailed panorama of the battle. very different to WW1, these soldiers were all dressed on colourful uniforms and stood in massed ranks on the battlefields as cavalry charged and artillery was fired.
We found a delightful cafe for lunch in Waterloo, quite by accident. It was a very friendly place with wonderful bread and cakes.
From there, it was about another two hours to Echternach. The speed limits in France are 130 kmh on motorways, 110 kmh on divided highways, 90 kmh on other roads and 50 kmh through the towns. We found that drivers are very disciplined at driving in the right lane and only venture out to the left to pass someone. It is not the done thing to stay too long in the left lane as you will have an angry Audi driver flashing his / her lights wanting to pass at a speed well over the speed limit. It was raining for a good part of our drive, but that didn’t appear to slow anyone down at all.
Luxembourg was different to the area that we had previously;y seen. It was more undulating and more forested. I’m looking forward. It looks like there are a number of castles that we can see and we have set that as our task for our second day here.
The town is a very charming place. We couldn’t help but notice how nicely all of the little boutique shops were presented. Even the pharmacy looked very stylish.
There is a large church here adjoining an old abbey, first built in the 1700’s. It looks very palatial. I always thought that abbeys were the humble abodes of monks, but there is nothing humble about this one. It looks as though a battalion of bishops must have lived here to afford this level of opulence.
Today, its out to see more of the town,some castles and some Roman Ruins