It was supposed to be a rainy day in Brugge today so we were pleasantly surprised to wake up to sunshine. We enjoyed our breakfast at the B&B on the outside terrace right on the canal and could hear a child who was a beginning piano student, practicing. Some of the songs were even familiar to us, such as “Old McDonald.”
We started our day just walking around the Market Square admiring the shops and buildings as the clip clop of horse hooves echoed on the square. I love the sound of the horses, but I do struggle with the idea of horses being used this way, particularly if it’s hot. Many cities including New York, I think, have banned horse and buggy rides. Thankfully it was cool all day.
This morning we had a very special experience. We went to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. In the upper chapel is a venerated relic. It’s a vile with cloth containing the blood of Christ brought to the church in the 12th century. We started in the lower chapel where candles were lit and climbed the stairs to the upper chapel where we learned that today we would be able to personally view the relic. It was in a glass box. Usually at places like this people are paraded past the relic, but this experience was different. Each person, couple, or family was invited to step up to the altar, place their hands on the case, and say a personal prayer. For believers this was an emotional experience. Some people bowed down, some knelt before it, others gave the sign of the cross, while others stood in contemplative prayer. I found it very moving and tears flowed thinking about members of our family no longer with us. We learned that this church is part of the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain where we visited several years ago.
After visiting the church we decided to stop for something to drink at a cafe with a beautiful view of the square and great people watching. I had iced coffee which is coffee with ice cream. Large tour groups paraded past us as if following a mother duck who was holding an unopened umbrella like a torch. One of the members of the group was imitating her to some quiet snickering and just like that, the heavens opened up and it poured. We ran for a new table under their awning and decided to stay for a lunch of mussels which are famous here.
Using our Brugge card, we visited the City Hall which was built in the 1400s when Brugge was a wealthy city. The paintings tell the story of different figures through time. They had a very detailed map from the 1500s which shows the city once had a ring of 26 windmills. Now there are four.
Renaissance Hall dates back to the 1700s. The highlight is an elaborately carved fireplace out of wood and marble. The carving of the most powerful man in Europe at the time, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
Before heading back to our B&B, we stopped at a brewery, Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan. We did not need to go on the tour to experience their outdoor cafe which was very nice. A sweet moment occurred when a family with two dogs put down water and blankets for their dogs so they could relax too.
Dinner tonight was at a local restaurant just around the corner that served fresh salads and crispy pizzas. It will be hard to leave Brugge. Tomorrow we fly to northern Italy.