Saturday, December 31, 2005

Amsterdam - Day 7 - Brugge, Belgium

"Surely one of the most romantic towns in Europe, Brugge is a fairy-tale mixture of gabled houses, meandering canals, narrow cobblestone streets, a busy market square, and a populace intent on providing a gracious and warm welcome to its visitors. It’s a place that would melt a heart of even the hardest stone, and a visit – no matter how brief – is guaranteed to generate a glow you’ll carry away as an impenetrable shield against the slings and arrows of our own outrageous 'civilization'".

After reading the above description, we set off for Brugge, Belgium – 160 miles southwest of Amstelveen. The trip took us through Utrecht, Antwerp, and Gent. As we drove through farm land, we passed several windmills of varying styles. Of the original 10,000, about 1,000 windmills remain. Some cattle reminded us of small, young buffalo and Julie was curious about the long tailed sheep. The gray sky turned darker and snow began falling.

The historic part of the town was a fairy-tale mixture, just as the travel guide described it. As we walked the streets, the wind blew the crystallized snow, stung our eyes and made photography almost impossible. A French restaurant provided refuge and warm food.

Let’s play word association. I say “Belgium” and you think? . . . . horses . . . waffles . . . chocolate! We didn’t see Belgian horses but we did eat a small Belgian waffle and visit a chocolate museum. The waffles are about 3 to 4 inches in diameter, are heated and are served in a paper wrapper – fast food style – and are excellent.

The chocolate museum is a four-storied building filled with warmth, demonstrations, free chocolate and interesting history.

  • The Aztecs used cocoa beans as money – one turkey egg cost 3 beans, a rabbit cost 10 beans and a large tomato cost 1 bean.
  • In 1672, Madame de Sevigne wrote her daughter: “Take chocolate in order that even the most tiresome company seems acceptable to you”.
  • A saucer with a central ring to hold a cup was developed to hold a cup of chocolate – not coffee!
  • The Aztecs used chocolate to treat hemorrhoids.

The return to Amstelveen was a slow, slow trip due to the accumulated snow. I was impressed by the cautious driving of the Belgians, Dutch and other Europeans.

I’m ashamed but I’ll admit it. I think it was justified. It appeared we would get back about midnight so we decided to eat at . . . McDonalds. I’m sorry to report that McDonalds in Belgium is no better than McDonalds in the US. That's why we packed rolaids!

About 1:30 AM I was lying in bed, working a sudoku puzzle when the explosion happened just outside our bedroom window. I felt the vibration and saw the red flash. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

(Ah, come on, you know it wasn’t a tragedy. It’s just another interesting part of Dutch customs – that I’ll explain tomorrow.)

(Photo Gallery)


Blogger Gaye said...

Chocolate--be still my heart!! Venture on Paul; sounds like ya'll are having such fun. I'm looking forward to the explosion story, and also thankful it wasn't a tragedy...

12/31/2005 08:55:00 AM  

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