‘In Bruges’

Ellie’s Week 7

Week seven has been a tale of two parts, after leaving Kenny and Alice’s we headed to Matt’s mums to sort out the remnants of paperwork we had left there and organise last minute insurances, european breakdown cover and the like.

Neither of us are huge fans of paperwork (in fact it is something I hate with a vengeance), especially when something you think will take 30 mins, actually turns into 3 hours of having achieved absolutely nothing.  Suffice to say at one point I think I got so stressed I almost had an out of body experience and turned an unhealthy looking shade of beetroot.  Matt’s response to this was to generally avoid me at all costs, especially when I was on my fifth phone call to EE as I put myself in desperation into the hands of one of the upgrade team hoping that he would be able to unravel the mistakes of the four previous phone calls without making new ones …(time will tell how successful this has been once I receive the bill for the first month of my ‘new tariff’ with allegedly  inclusive european minutes and texts!).

The silver lining of this unfortunate phase was the fact we were staying with Lynn and Martin (Matt’s mum and stepdad). Although we only caught a brief glimpse of Martin (who was off on other Grandfatherly duties), we spent time with Lynn who’s calming presence and logical advice helped to lessen our administrative pain. She watched patiently, completely unfazed, as we turned her living room into a our own kind of paper recycling plant, with unwanted envelopes and an array of piles in various stages of ‘sorting’.

Another highlight was a brief reprieve from paperwork in the form of a lovely lunch with Eve, who came to meet me at ‘Pilio’, a newly opened Greek bistro in Heathfield.   Run by a husband and wife team, their authentic Pilion cooking, provided a delicious accompaniment for our long awaited catch up.  It was great to see Eve, who’s wicked sense of humour, honest expressions and boundless enthusiasm I had been missing, and despite of being desperate to get back on the road, I found it rather sad having to say an ‘official’ goodbye.

All worries began to fade however, when at 4am on Friday morning we boarded a newly spruced and containerised Heidi (Matt having been hard at work shelving and organising cupboards) and at last set off for Dover.

Caffeine-ed up and throughly excited we navigated the bemusing maze that is Dover ferry port and waited for embarkation.  The crossing was a speedy one in comparison to our journey to and from Ireland, and before we knew it we had arrived at Dunkirk.

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Matt looked as happy as a clam driving for the first time on the right side of the road (for Heidi anyway) and we arrived at our campsite with no hitches.  After speedily setting up Heidi (yes, I am starting to nearly be able to meet Matt’s official definition of the word speedy), we walked over the bridge of a picturesque canal and found ourselves in Bruges.  Yes thats right ‘IN XXXX-ING BRUGES!’.

What can I say… whilst not being either a Cockney gangster or Irish assassin myself,  I’m still with Harry and Ray on this one.  I LOVE BRUGES! It really is a fairytale city, everywhere you look there is beautiful architecture, cobbled roads, horses and traps, canals and of course swans.  The buildings have a very Bruegelian feel as though they have been taken straight out of a painting from the flemish renaissance and everywhere you walk you are taunted by the delicious aromas of pralines, chocolates and waffles.

There are 50 chocolate shops in Bruges, and with it being quite a tiny city, this means one virtually on every corner.  So we walked around happily oggling the exquisitely merchandised window displays brimming with tiny praline acorns, chocolate dipped oranges, sugar pumpkins and other autumnal fare.  For me it was like a kind of gastronomic torture as I longingly looked, but could not touch (as unfortunately gluten and dairy tend to be major components of things that are that deliciously sticky and sweet).  Matt for his part was blown away in admiration but surprisingly managed to resist all temptation of chocolates and waffles of any kind (I think that this had something to do with the exorbitant price tags, which though not conspicuous enough to deter the jubilant sugar-high tourist, were not a match for Matt’s sharp eyed, nifty calculations…after all one waffle was equivalent 18 small beers from Lidl). He even resisted the chocolate spanners that were obviously designed for sweet toothed builders!

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Despite resisting all sugary temptations we did allow ourselves one treat.  After our second day admiring the scenery we stopped at ‘Bar-n’, a trendy looking gin bar, for an early evening drink.  There we sat and watched the world go by, me enjoying one of the best gin and tonics I have ever had (I will definitely be purchasing a bottle of Gin Mare when we get to Spain) and Matt happily slurping a Bruges Zot.

As well as being awash with chocolate shops, Bruges was also overflowing with sculptures and installations in celebration of the Bruges Triennial 2015.  Every open air space was filled with three dimensional artist’s impressions or ‘Odes to ‘the concept of ‘city’’’. In spite of the allure of the plethora of artistic commentaries on ‘the dynamics of a metropolis’, we both felt more drawn to the ‘Cartoonale Brugge 2015’ (an exhibit of entries to the annual cartoon competition from a wealth of talented cartoonists). This year’s expansive competition theme of ‘Freedom’ gave the cartoonists plenty of scope to showcase their talents, comment on current issues, demonstrate their razor sharp wit and let off some political steam (often at the expense of the politicians)… suffice to say, it was right up our street!

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After spending two days enjoying the wonders of Bruges, we headed south to Rochefort (home of the Rochefort brewery) where we spent a night wild camping in a peaceful carpark by the river.  This, our second night of wild camping, was partly successful (to the extent that our chemical toilet was now operational) and partly unsuccessful (to the extent that we had innocently parked under a rather large oak tree… not realising that this would dramatically magnify the sound of any rain… thus leading to a rather sleepless night!).  Our bleary eyes were soon brightened, however by a fresh coffee in the local patisserie followed by a tasty croissant for Matt as we planned the next step of our journey…

Ellie x


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