Spring is on its way in Brugge, Belgium. I know it by the weather: rainy and chilly one day, sunny and mild the next. The trees are starting to bloom, crocuses are out everywhere and in the chocolate stores, chocolate eggs are making their appearance. I feel lucky to be spending a week in my country of origin.
Here, in Brugge, we are close to the North Sea. The train ride from Brussels takes us through wet flatlands where brick farmhouses hunker down against the rain and mist coming across the sea. By the time the train stops at the Brugge station, there is enough blue in the sky to patch a Dutchman’s britches.
Our walk across the canal and up the narrow cobblestone street makes us feel as though we’ve entered another time period. Our home away from home is a medieval almshouse with a door suited for the shorter people of long ago. Its staircase roof line and red tile roof are the typical details of its Belgian architecture. Inside, a black and white tiled floor reminds me of a Van Eyck painting and the 15th century fireplace now suited with a modern fire pit provides a cozy corner for our evenings.
Brugge brings me back to my roots. Though I hear Flemish all around me instead of the French I grew up with, the smells and the sights are very familiar. Bicycles are as numerous as cars and don’t seem to mind the bumpy cobblestones. People walk leisurely down the streets, carrying grocery bags filled with produce from the market. Even though this day is wet and cold, the market is still set up on the Markt, the big square where the old, tall brick belfry presides. Even the “french fry” (called frites in Belgium) sellers are there, offering piping hot wares in paper cones. The warmth and the substance of the potato play well in this country of winter rain and dampness.
As day one changes to day two, the sun comes out. We take a long walk following the canal where windmills stand against the wind. Meandering through the streets as they crisscross the numerous canals, I slowly find my bearings unlike Jim who relies on me to know which cathedral we are circling and where our favorite cafe is.