The Rose Red Cafe finished serving breakfast to hotel guests at 10 a.m., twenty minutes ago. The first neighborhood beer fans likely won’t be here for another hour, so for now, Edith Piaf and I have the place to ourselves.
Today, Lorne and I are exercising the “long elastic of love” clause in our relationship, a metaphor coined by a psychologist at the college where I used to teach. “Couples on vacation somehow expect to spend 24/7 with each other for several weeks in a row, and to always agree on how to spend every minute of that time. If they saw the connection between them as a long elastic, rather than a knotted rope, they’d come home from their holidays a lot happier.”
With this advice in mind, Lorne left two hours ago to seek out and photograph more WW I monuments. I’m just about finished my third cup of coffee, and with the help of my Lonely Planet guide book, I’ve started a list of the places in Brugge I’m planning to visit today.
First up is a set of windmills on the edge of town. The route takes me through a quiet, less-touristed neighborhood, a welcome break from the busy Markt area where we’ve been spending most of our time. I pass a few backpackers coming from a youth hostel, and women pausing to chat with each other while sweeping the sidewalks outside their homes.
I’m coming to a whole new appreciation for Lorne’s medieval street navigation skills. Lonely Planet book open in one hand, I squint up at the small “straase” signs, perched high on the sides of bulidings. After a few wrong turns, I find the right street and am rewarded by a string of windmills, their arms rotating briskly in the morning breeze.
Next, I head towards the Markt with a shopping mission in mind. Brugge’s central square has 9 streets leading from it, which then fan out into a network of other streets leading to other squares. I put my map away and wander, up one street, down a little alley, around a curve, across a cobbled marketplace. I ogle the food in the shop windows, and try on clothes whose prices also make my eyes pop.
All this adventuring is making me hungry, so I consult the list I made at breakfast for the name of the waffle shop in Brugge, at least according to Lonely Planet. For 3 euros, I get a waffle that’s crisp on the outside, warm and chewy on the inside, drenched in chocolate sauce. I sit in the restaurant’s street level dormer window, savoring every bite.
After I’ve used up several napkins wiping the chocolate off my face, I continue my journey. I come around a corner and find a weaver at a loom who has attracted a small crowd of onlookers. His wife is selling the scarves he’s making at a nearby table, and I wonder how many I can fit into my luggage. I settle on my absolute favorite, and notice another woman selling jewellry, all handmade, nothing for over 8 euros. Three pairs of earrings and a necklace later, I realize the afternoon is starting to wear on. My legs are telling me they need to sit down, so I find a ticket booth for a canal cruise and join the lineup.
Brugge is called “The Venice of the North,” and the little boat tour provides some spectacular views of the city from the water. It’s too bad that the boat’s captain decides to narrate mostly in French, reserving his English commentary to flirt in a bad imitation of Sean Connery with the young woman from England who’s seated next to him. Good thing I can already identify most of the major buildings myself.
I have one more stop to make on the way back to the Rose Red to rendezvous for a beer with Lorne. Ever since the night we arrived, I have been admiring a purse in the window of a lace and brocade shop around the corner from the hotel. The purse is decorated with poppies, which will always remind me of this vacation.
As the store owner wraps up my purchase, he asks me where I’m from, and smiles warmly when I tell him I’m from Canada.”We love Canadians in Brugge. Did you know it was the Canadians who liberated Brugge in 1945? They came over the only bridge that the Nazis hadn’t bombed. We call that bridge “The Buffalo Bridge” in honor of those men from your country. I can show you where it is on the map.”
I smile at the irony that I originally planned this solo trip around Brugge to have a break from touring war monuments. Now, I’ve discovered one that I’m sure Lorne isn’t even aware of.
As I walk back to the hotel, I realize that I’ve appreciated today’s long elastic. But now, I’m looking forward to a relaxing evening, sharing our individual discoveries together over a good beer and a tasty dinner.