Thursday, September 17, 2015

Whirlwind Tour of Bruges Continues.

He's so photogenic and thankfully, still willing to pose for photos.

T

  he short canal boat was so relaxing! When I got off the boat, I was re-energized enough to walk on!  Believe me, I need all the energy I can get - it's not easy keeping up with a 22 year old!  Historic Bruges is undeniably charming but it's especially charming when the sun is shining.




I am happily the follower on this trip.  I had no idea where we were going next and when I saw a sign that seemed to imply *hospital*, I just thought to myself.....hmmm.  Indeed, the building is a old hospital called Sint-Janshospitaal.   Z had mentioned that he would like to visit a hospital while he's here as he's interested in medicine and I was more than happy to accompany him.  I was certain he would someway find a way into the hospital but we walked by the entrance.  Hmmm...

Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk aka Church of Our Lady s located right next door to the old hospital and the door was open so we entered to take a look.




It's a small church.  I kept looking for some sign that would point us in the direction of Michelangelo's Madonna and Child but no luck.  The only sign I saw were some posters....in Flemish.  I can't read Flemish.  I guess I could have fired up Google translate and  figured out the words but it should not take this much effort to find the famous sculpture.  So, I will not see Madonna and Child on this trip.


Exiting the church, we walked towards a small archway.  The sign above read Sint-Janshospitaal.


Sint-Janshospitaal (Saint John's Hospital) is an 11th-century hospital in that was a place where sick pilgrims and travellers were cared for.  Today,  part of the hospital complex holds the popular Hans Memling museum, named for the German-born Early Netherlandish painter, where a number of works, such as triptychs are displayed, as well as hospital records, medical instruments and other works of art.  Additionally, there is a chapel, and old dormitory, the adjoining custodian’s room and the pharmacy that are open to the public.


"Kiss of Peace" depicting two monks greeting each other graces the courtyard.

Bell tower of Church of Our Lady stands nearby.


We didn't go inside any of the buildings in the Sint-Janshospitaal.   No interest really.

Back on the streets of historic old Bruges.  Z was stopped in his tracks by the sight of two men pulling sugar to make hard candies.  It was obvious he had never seen this done before so we stepped inside the small candy shop so he could have a better look at what they were doing.  Pulling sugar takes a lot of skill and it was obvious these two men were experienced at doing it.  Z was completely captivated by what the were doing.  I, on the other hand, had seen this done many times before so I was more interested in the final product than in the process.  The candies were so pretty - some were sold in jars and others simply in glassine bags.  If they weren't so expensive, I would have bought a bag.  For the price, I would rather have some Belgian chocolate :-)


Nearby the candy store.  If hard candy is not enough to satisfy the sweet tooth, then perhaps some ginormous ginormous meringues will do.  If not, maybe rolls of marzipan filled with all sorts of fillings.  Sugar overload in Bruges!


Leaving the commercial stuff of historic Bruges behind, Z took us to another must see tourist attraction.

Béguinage Ten Wijngaerde.  The word béguinage is a French term that refers to a semi-monastic community of women called Beguines, religious women who sought to serve God without retiring from the world, as well as to the architectural complex that housed such a community.

The Béguinage Ten Wijngaerde is the only preserved béguinage in Bruges. There are no more Beguines living there, but since 1927 it functions as a convent for Benedictine nuns.

Swans, one of the symbols of the city,  float on the canal in front of the entrance to the béguinage.

The small footbridge bridge leads to the entrance to the béguinage.

Entrance to the béguinage.


The béguinage in Bruges was founded around 1244 and the complex includes a Gothic béguinage church and about thirty white painted houses dating from the late 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, all built around a central garden filled with towering poplar trees.

The signs at the entry instruct visitors to be quiet and as a result, the complex is a very calm and tranquil place - a nice bit of respite from the tourist crowded streets of Bruges. 



First, we stepped inside the small church.





Then, it was back outside where we noticed some oddly looking structures, nestled in the crooks of several of the trees.  Very odd.  Very, very odd.  We stood for a few minutes trying to figure them out.  They were far to big to be bird houses.  There was nothing to indicate they were used for collecting something.....don't know what.  We pretty much shrugged our shoulders and walked away.


I suspected they were part of the Bruges Triennale and so after I got back to our room, I Googled for information and sure enough, they are indeed an art installation for the Triennale.


Apparently, as part of the Triennale, the nuns agreed to allow Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata to design and install a dozen tree huts into the garden's poplar trees. This was his answer to the question of how can Bruges accommodate the five million visitors it welcomes each and every year.  Sorry, I still don't get it.

From the Béguinage,  Z took us on a path, alongside the canal, that opened up to a small lake.



Minnewaterpark (Lake of Love) is a small rectangular shaped lake.  It was a lovely place for an afternoon stroll.  There are plenty of benches to sit on and enjoy the lovely view but Z was determined to just walk on.  My short legs have to work extra hard to keep up with him :-(



Lo and behold, the path running through Minnewaterpark led us to the train station....the same one that we had arrived into this morning.  It looks so different with the sun shining versus the pouring rain that greeted us upon arrival.


I knew exactly where we were.  Instead of walking towards the route that we had taken to get to our hotel, Z walked in the opposite direction.  It was obvious he knew where we were going but I was clueless.  I was just walking along for the ride.


In a few short minutes, we had arrived back at our hotel!  This was the original route that Google Maps had directed me to take but I incorrectly read the map and took us along an alternate route.

Back entrance to the hotel's dining rooms and reception hall.  Cute!

We rested in our room for a couple of hours before heading out for dinner.  I was dreading spending another hour trying to find a restaurant with a reasonably priced menu.  But at least I could enjoy some of the historic sights at my favorite time of day for taking photos - twilight or as photographers refer to it as.....the blue hour.

We passed Sint Salvator on the way to Grote Markt.  By now, the landmarks were familiar sights.  Here are a few photos I took on our walk....in search of a place for dinner.











Soon, it got much too dark for me to take photos with a hand held camera.  If I might say so myself, I did pretty well with my night photos - they're not too blurry.

We walked and we walked and we walked, occasionally pausing to read a menu.  Sticker shock for Z.  So, we walked and we walked and we walked some more, occasionally pausing to read a menu.  Poor kid is in total disbelief at the prices, so much so he was even willing to eat a fast food chicken place.  But one look at the slobby looking guy, seated at a table next to the window, eating his meal and I decided it was not a place for us.  So, we walked and we walked and we walked.  We even happened on a place that served Southeast Asian fare.  Too bad it was closed.  We walked and we walked and we walked our way back to where we turn off to get to our hotel.  At the corner was a Chinese restaurant.  There were a few patrons inside.  By now, I was certain it was past 9p and we have to eat.  So, I made the executive decision that we go in and eat here.


We ordered a couple of meat dishes - one pork and one beef.  In true Chinese restaurant tradition, they came with veggies so we had our greens covered.  How was the meal.  Meh.  Basically, stir fried meat in brown sauce.

Pork ribs on the right, beef with mushrooms on the left?  Truly can't tell which is beef and which is pork :-(

For a kid who was born and raised in San Francisco, this was passable Chinese food at best.  For me, it was slightly better than what I can cook at home so it's okay.  For both of us, it was just enough food to fill us up and the bill, even including the bottle of water that I had to pay for, was reasonable.


It was almost 10:30p when we left the restaurant.  Thankfully, our hotel is located less than a five minute walk away.  By the time we made it back to our room, I was pooped.  It had been a long day.  All I wanted to do was take a shower, write up this posting and go to sleep.  Tomorrow, we're heading to Damme!

Goodnight from Bruges!