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BruggeOctober 1, 2006

I’m at work, and while I would love to finish up the Venice Chronicles, I don’t have the technology to do so, the pictures being at home. But I DO have the pictures from the end of my trip.

So here’s what we’ll do. I’m all PMS-y and prone to wild bursts of organization and lists, so you’ll get a very small dose here.

Chapters of Lala’s and Rachael’s European Tour 

  1. Brussels (blogged, check)

  2. Venice (you saw some, not all, but really, that might be enough)

  3. Back to Belgium, where we join The Whoreshoes (will blog when Lala is home with that camera and its pictures)

  4. More Belgium, in which Rachael is alone

So I’m skipping ahead to number four. Just watch me!

See, I thought it would be an adventure, me in Europe with no camera. One of the things I love best about travel is not only BEING there, but SEEING differently. I see it once with my eyes, and then again with through the camera lens. Framing things makes them different, doesn’t it? I can sit in a square that I’ve spent hours in before, and then I hold the camera up and see something that I never noticed.

I left Lala and our jointly-owned camera in the band house, everyone still asleep. I had a full day extra, having pushed back my ticket a day, and I wasn’t going to hang with the band anymore. I saw their first gig in Europe. I can see as many shows as I like while at home. But I was in Belgium, for the first time ever and I intended to see more of it. By myself. I love traveling by myself.

I left the house, trundling my suitcase, my backpack on my back. I walked in the direction that Ludo, the girls’ driver and soundman, had pointed when I asked about a bus that could take me to the train station. Oooh! Really, I was just out and about in a small Belgian town (Herentals), and it wasn’t very exotic at all, just people driving to work and wheeling prams, but to me it felt so foreign and exciting.

I found the bus and waited for it, trying to blend in, failing miserably. I can fake it in Italian, to a certain extent. I can’t fake ANYTHING in Flemish or French. I know how to apologize, though, and isn’t that the most important part of communicating in a foreign language?

From a note I wrote in my diary at the busstop:

The weather is perfect. It’s that dry, autumnal windy warmth, the kind that always makes my blood stir, to write, to move, to love. If I were at home in this weather, I’d want to be someplace like this, somewhere, traveling in a foreign land, so it’s good I’m here.

I got the bus, then got the train, and then got another train and ended up in Brugge. It had taken longer than I had thought it would to get there, almost three hours, not the simple hour and a half, and while I’d enjoyed the travel immensely, knitting and staring out the windows, listening to music, watching the green unroll, when I stepped off the train, I was suddenly very, very tired.

I was SO tired. I was suddenly sad that I was so far from Lala, in this far-away country, and maybe I should have stayed with her, and it looked like it might rain, and what did Brugge really have, anyway?

I made the decision that I would just move my feet. I would put my suitcase in a luggage locker, go find a square and have a coffee, and then maybe I would just get on the train and head back to Brussels. Give up on this new city. Too much, too many hours of traveling, had all added up.

So I walked. I got to a square and with jaded eyes, I got out the map that I was given at the Tourist Info Center. No point, really.

I got out the slip of paper upon which I written the name of the only yarn store in town that I could find info about online. I found its address on my map. Yes, of course. The train station was at the very south of town. The yarn shop was at the very north tip of town. As far apart as they could be.

Sigh.

How important was yarn, really? I mean, come on.

Well, I suppose I could take a cab.....

That was it! I’d flag down a cab. I’d seen a bunch of them flying around town. I would cop out and catch a cab, look at yarn, and get the hell out of dodge.

I started walking.

You can guess the rest, right?

No cab anywhere, none to be had. I saw the whole damn city on foot, and it was glorious. Such a gorgeous old lady of a city, all cobblestones and canals (strange, how they smelled so much like the Venetian ones, that smell that I love).

Oh, yes. I almost forgot to say: I lasted approximately fifteen minutes there before I marched into a store and bought a disposable camera. Click for bigness.

Bru2_1

Look at that sky!
 

Bru3

I love windows.

Bru1

You can take the bus, or the horse.

And of course, Stikkestek (Walweinstraat 3. Tel: (050) 34 03 45.)

Bru7

Such a nice owner, and I came out with all SORTS of goodies. Well, okay, only two different kinds (can't remember which, since I'm at work and can't go run to the yarn room to check) but have since seen BOTH yarns at my LYS. Damn. Oh, well, they were way cheaper there.

Then I left the yarn store, rambled out, and took a strange little side alley that looked promising. (I learned that from my mother. Who is not, as it sounds, a hooker; she is just adventurous that way.) And DUDE, did it pay off. The little alley led into a wider alley, and then into a tiny pocket-sized park with THIS in the middle:

Bru6

Strangest thing ever. Really, it was a park, with benches and trash cans and families playing and a woman strolling through looking like she was on her way to work, and SHEEP in the middle. I believe all parks should have this. And free yarn, while we're at it.

Bru4

Imagine that strange, warm, dry wind while you look at the above picture. Those leaves were scrit-scritching as they swirled.

Bru5_1

Good window.

Bru8

Good water.

Bru9

Me, happy as hell I went to Brugge.

And quickly, because I've written enough already, the end of the trip: I left Brugge and trained to Brussels, got a hotel room with a BATHTUB and then got tired-of-travel again. I almost took a bath and went to bed, knowing I'd have to get up early to catch another train to the plane.

But I made myself move. No copping out. I went to the gay district (north-west of Grand Place), and had pasta on a sidewalk outside a leather-bear bar. I was joined by a group of kids who were loud and crazy and nice. One of the guys introduced me to another girl who walked up, and I understood enough French to know she said, "How do you say bon apetit in English?" I said, "Bon apetit." She laughed and said, "Bon apetit!" I raised my fork to her.

I left, and trolled the streets looking for a girl-bar. Doesn't that sound bad? But honestly, trolling for girl-bars in Brussels is like looking for an apple in the library. Kind of hard to find, but someone has one somewhere, and it's pretty darn innocent. When I saw the girl crying out front on the steps, another cradling her head and whispering things in her ear, brushing the hair out of her tear-streaked face, I knew I'd found the place. I had a beer with my people and just watched. I just liked being there. The only person I spoke to was a straight guy who offered me a cigarette. I walked back through the square, where groups of people sat on the ground, singing and eating and hanging out.

It's good to push past that Don't Wanna part of yourself, isn't it? Proven again.
Thus endeth my Belgium-alone section.

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Comments

Thank you for this post - makes me want to go to Brugge! I've been to Brussels, so Brugge is next on the list.

Beate

gorgeous post, wonderful pictures. I've so enjoyed hearing about your travels.

You're sooo right about Don't Wanna...how it invariably winds up at Glad I Did. I've loved this trip. Where are *we* going next?

So glad you took those extra steps, and shared them with us.

Oh you are so right about odd little alleyways in Belgium!!!! I was there in, oh 1991 (need to go back)-and the best adventures were found in exploring these odd little alleys that led to amazing places!!!!Thanks for reminding me.

I'm one of your lurkers, love your stuff, you are so generous to share your life with the world! I count you (both) as my friend even though we will never meet!

I'm so glad you got the camera look at what we all would have missed ;) The descriptions were super but do you think any of us would have believed that there was a sheep in a park without pictures hehehe

Yay Brugge! So glad you got there. Wasn't it as wonderful as I told you? LOVE Brugge!

(yay)

I was JUST in Brugge two weeks ago, and I did NOT see that yarn shop! Where'd you find it!

Ah! I'm so glad you went!

I'm glad as hell you wrote (and really, I _always_ love your writing) and I love that someone else shares my intense love of traveling alone. :-)

Bon apetit indeed!

I've spent the past eighteen months pushing past the Don't Wanna. You ARE right of course!

Tell me you didn't take the cigarette . . . I quit a pack a day (plus) habit more than 20 years ago and found myself longing for a ciggy as I wandered past an outdoor cafe in Stratford (Ontario), this weekend. I was last there in 1982, newly pregnant with Thing 1, and just learning to be a non-smoker. Place can re-trigger old longings I guess. Kept walking and had a couple of lovely post-Don't Wanna adventures. . .

Lovely writing. Thanks. g

Brilliant! I love your travel posts! Lovely, lovely pictures...and that strange, warm, dry wind is my favorite, too.

I love Brugge too... I love that your view doesn't include lots of other tourists. I loved it so much both times I went there, but most of the people I saw were other tourists.

Thank you for your wonderful essays. I love the pictures. I'm in love with windows also. We don't have nice enough windows in the US.
Can't wait to see more pictures.
Dympna in San Francisco

Damn girl, that's the best self-portrait shot I think I've ever seen!

Oh, and how cute is the name Stikkestek?!?!

I like Brussels okay, but it wasn't my favorite. Brugge is a huge hit with me. Such a beautiful place, love all the cobblestoned streets. It's so picturesque. The best thing when traveling alone is to force yourself out of your comfort zone. It seems it always works out for me too.

Isn't Brugge where they make a lot of lace? Did you see any?

i'm glad you picked up a disposable camera.

You have such an eye for photos.

I had four days in England all to myself last year and will never recover, they were so beautiful.

Heavy sigh.

Oh hurrah for Brugge it has been one of those lovely places I've always wanted to go. Hurrah!

Your Brugge post just reminded me of walking the city walls when I was there. So very lovely. Unfortunately at that time I was dragged down by some slow walking partners which made me march along faster. I think I should have slowed down and enjoyed the scenery a bit more!

I fell in love with Brugge this summer! My husband and I went there for a few days. The chocolate, the beer, the canals, the Brugge-yness of it all! Isn't it a little gem? It's just one of those magical places.

Wait just one minute, you went to Brugge and didn't even look at lace or chocolate? But it can be fun exploring by yourself. I love the shot of the first window. What was hanging in it though? It looks like some sort of glass balls between the window pane and the curtains. Can't wait to see the other photos.

I say the trip was worth it, if only for that fantabulous pic of you!! Wow does travel agree with you! Love it, you look like a goddess! thanks for the great stories! :-)

Sounds like a great day. I like to wander and see what happens when I travel too.

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.

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