Bruges (Brugges, Brugge)

Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s old with so much new. We found the town pronounced and spelled several different ways. Bruges, like rouge with a B in front is how most tourists pronounced the quaint Belgian city, but the locals called it Brugggghhh, like starting to say blue in french, but then moving the G sound to the back of the throat and kind of squeezing the finish. I never got it right.

One of my friends at the San Francisco Writers Studio told me about Bruges. “It’s ok if you like medieval towns,” she’d said. “What with cobble stone streets, canals, quaint cafes, and boutique clothing stores,” and we did like all of that.

The trip from Amsterdam to Bruges was relaxing, if a bit underwhelming, until we got off the train in Antwerp. I remember being stunned to a stand still looking up at the massive train station clock. It had been decorated to fill the entire end of the station. It didn’t seem real. We both took photos hoping to capture the elegance of the structure. We probably have 15 images, none show the full grandeur. But our commuter train to Bruges was late so we got to sit in the station, sip coffee, and watch people coming and going in the afternoon glow. We’ve since watched Hugo, to visit that feeling again. There’s something about a train station.

antwerp clock

antwerp coffee

The train to Bruges moved along at a snail’s pace, past Ghent and several other small towns. Medieval architecture sprung from the skyline, like pillars of inspiration.

In Bruges we found the bus to our AirBnB and sat for the 10 minute ride to our new hood. It was a quiet little street, with several homes sporting sculpted gardens. Our place came with two bikes that we rode into town for groceries and dinner. We rode home in the dark, feeling alive and quite free.

bruges garden

In Bruges, we walked down narrow streets, and from time to time could see the spires of one of several church steeples. We managed a stop at each.

entering bruges

 

There’s something about these old churches. Structures that are built over centuries, over generations. Who had the original concept? How did it change as time changed, as wars were fought, as sons died, as children became adults, and they too died.

Someone suggested that we see the Colin Ferrell movie In Bruges. I’d tried it some years back and didn’t make it very far. I found Ferrell’s constant negativity hard to swallow, but in the movie’s defense, the photography is stunning. There are shots from the water, from towers. It’s really a great overview of the city. And there’s a seriously twisted relationship between Ferrell and the guy who played Mad-Eye Moody in Harry Potter movies.

What I didn’t see was the well-developed retail scene. As we approached the city our first day we saw shoppers carrying bags from the well-known shops you might see in San Francisco, Milan, or Rome. There were great little cafes, cobble-stone streets plazas, bicycles nestled in ivy. Reflections in the water,and church towers framed by a maddening sky.

ivy bike

 

church and sky Bruges

We had a snack at the Pigeon House. Great little stop for local color. They honor the pigeons who race from as far away as Spain, all the way back to Belgium. The bird is stamped into chocolate medallions.

pigeon house

Speaking of which, Belgian waffles. We only had one, but what a treat. We sat in the back of a little cafe, watched what a nearby table was eating and ordered what they had, one waffle with creme fresh and dark chocolate. The waffle was large but light. We filled a corner with cream and another with chocolate. We took our time. We shared. Donna took her spoon, and with the delicacy of a fine surgeon poured a teaspoon full of chocolate and ate it in one bite.

I gotta say that the town held me from the first steps. Narrow streets, cool old doors, and canals.

bruges red door

bruges square

One afternoon we were drawn to a bridge by a sound that I couldn’t place. It was musical, like a steel drum, but nuanced with a humming sound. We came across this troubadour playing a Hang Pan and blowing into a diggerydo. He provided a sound that seemed both primitive and contemporary all at once. Since our return we hear Hangman on our streaming stations just about every day.

 

I could go on and on about Bruges, but our next stop is Paris. So you gotta move on.

Copenhagen 

I read a lot of blog posts before arriving here but was still surprised by the vibrancy of this city. The people are fit and friendly. The metro runs fast and smooth deep beneath the city. The terminals and escalators are sleek and clean. 

We found a small, quiet restaurant in the Norrebro neighborhood. The restaurant, called Gonzo, was lit with candles and hosted by a young woman who made us feel right at home. We met an expat from Iran who seconded a tip we received on the Metro about going to Louisiana. Not the state in the US but the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art which is 45 minutes north of Copenhagen on the coast. We are visiting it today, with our friend Lisbeth who lives in Christianshavn. 

On day two we did the stroll through Nyhavn which felt like an upscale Fishermans Wharf in our San Francisco. The buildings are colorful, the tour boats are spacious and the beer was flowing. We kept walking. 


We wandered through Christiania, a neighborhood with lots of graffiti, people enjoying a good meal at outdoor food stands and Cannabis for sale in a street fair environment. No photography allowed but I grabbed a graffiti shot as we left. 

And on the way home from our 31st anniversary dinner we used restrooms at the metro stop. 

Restroom in metro looks like art museum.

Chilly Birds With My Lovely

We hadn’t been to Sacramento’s Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, for birding, the past couple of years.  It’s a dream come true in the right conditions, and yesterday was one of those days.  At 4 pm the temperature was around 44 degrees, damp, with just enough of a breeze to send the wind through my jeans. Glad we brought the Rav4, since the road was rutted with plenty of potholes and slippery with mud.

There were Snow Geese, Black Neck Stilt, Northern Shoveler, Pintale, Cinnamon Teal, Common Egret, Great Blue Heron, a murmuration of Starling, Coot, Canada Geese, Red Shouldered Hawk (though we had misidentified it before running into some locals with expensive glass who let us peep through their spotting scopes.) There was a Plover I could not identify and at least one Swallow that disappeared before we got a decent look.

We saw a flock of Snow Geese take off maybe 1/2 mile away and right beneath them a storm of rusty shaded ducks took off and filled the sky. Our spotting scope friends said they saw an Eagle swoop in and that’s what spooked the mass.  There’s something about that many birds in one place that fills me with joy.

On our way out we stopped for this sweet little reflection pond.  Back toward the Snow Geese, the sky was strewn with ribbons of migrating birds, going in so many directions.  At one point there was a murmuration of geese, that broke into dozens of Vee formations, some of which flew right over us.

If you’re ever in the area, give yourself time to wander around, and bring mud boots. And remind me to bring more than one set of binoculars, and my Lumix camera with the 600mm lens.

Twas the Twelfth Day of Christmas

wreath-1

Twas the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, stockings galore, a fire in the fire place, a full cup of coffee, and a strong west swell.  Not that I’m surfing, since my back is not back from its hiding place yet.

The day is crisp and clear. Surfers were surfing before I rose from the bed.  We are busy at work preparing food for our family who will join us for presents in the not too distant future.

Thanks to Mollie for making this fabulous Twelve Days of Christmas Wreath.

Merry Christmas to all.  May this day bring you peace and joy.

Twas the Ninth Day of Christmas

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Twas the Ninth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a ribbon of spun cloth and my 100th Follower, All Things That Dogs Blog.  It’s set in a retro Apple framework.

My brother and his wife raise Guide Dogs for Guide Dogs of America.  Our mom was legally blind by the time I was twelve, but it sure didn’t stop her from catching us poking each other or grabbing cookies from the jar. She said she had eyes in the back of her head, and they seemed to work just fine. 20-20 hind sight, I’d guess you’d say.

I’m sure she would love to see Bev and Allen’s current Guide Dog in Training, Bud.  Hats off to them for guiding 17 Dogs into service. So go Bud, Go.  You’ll be number 18 if you keep your nose clean and pass all your tests.

Bev and Allen have brought unwavering love and devotion to train all those dogs who bring their skills to those who cannot see.

bud
Bud – Guide Dog in Training.

I am grateful for my vision.  I am grateful for my family.  I am grateful to be alive.

 

Twas the Seventh Day of Christmas

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Twas the Seventh Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a turtle and some thoughts on current events.  There are two turtles in our Christmas wreath.  I found the first on the third day of Christmas.  With all the horrific news, this turtle may want to pull inside and hide in a hole.  Or maybe it’s me.  But why?  Compared to Allepo, Berlin, and Turkey it’s pretty darn tame outside.  But the news seems slanted toward one catastrophe after another. I bring it home, over and over.

Then I remember to breathe and an old adage springs from my subconscious.  When I don’t have time to meditate two times a day, I need to meditate three times a day.  Or when I don’t have time for one walk, I may need two.  And when current events pile up and spill on the floor, maybe take time to do something fun.

So I printed a nice photo for my dad’s Christmas Present.  A simple photo in a lovely little frame of him, me, my son, and his daughter.  Four Generations, you can see it here.  I’m not the first in the family to pull this off, but it’s the first time I’ve been in the photo.

May you find time to make yourself happy.

 

Dog Days of Summer

The waves have been small in the dog days. Fires burn the state and cast a faint filter on coastal light bringing fall into focus a shade early.  Our street is strewn with red and yellow leaves. I’m betting on an early winter but I have been wrong the past three years.

Got a few waves this week.  Check it out.