Friday 26 September 2014--When I chose to fly on Icelandair last year, my one regret was missing Amsterdam, KLM's hub. In the course of
planning this year's trip, it occurred to me that Icelandair flies into Amsterdam, and many other European cities as well. And so this morning
I am flying from Reykjavik to Brussels, on my way to Bruges. I'm finally going to tick Belgium off the list. The flight path cuts across Scotland
and northern England, and looking out my window on the left side of the plane, I see a lot of familiar places, including some I will visit on
the ground in the coming weeks: Lewis, Fife, the Northumberland coast. A preview of coming attractions. I couldn't have planned that.
There is much that I did plan, and quite possibly a good bit of it will go as I planned it. I am certain that some will not--there's always something. Lots of things, usually. One thing I am pretty sure of is the fact that on Tuesday, 21 October, I will pass my 365th night in Scotland. Thus I will have spent a year there, a year of (mostly) October. I would not have believed that possible in 1998, when I first visited. That trip was three weeks, and nothing was booked ahead. I remember driving willy-nilly all over the country, trying to see everything, because I didn't know if I'd ever return. The next few trips were similar.
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Tuesday 26 September 2000--Tomorrow I fly to Aberdeen. I have enjoyed Shetland and am a little sad to be leaving. I don't know if I'll ever come back. I did not see the broch at Mousa, and I would like to someday. But I realized something a few days ago while driving around. I scour the Ordnance Survey map, find a broch out at the end of the road somewhere, and drive out there only to find a pile of rubble--which I knew all along it would be. But it doesn't matter, because I've had a nice ride. So, maybe, with Mousa and my trip to Shetland; the end wasn't what I had in mind, but there was plenty interesting along the way.
Life is much the same.
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Major airports always seem enormous the first time you pass through them, and so it is this morning in Brussels. I follow the luggage signs on a long and tortuous route to the carousels. The good thing is that I don't have to pass through customs, having done so in Iceland*, although it would have been nice to get a Belgium stamp in my passport. A train takes me to Brussels' central station, and another northwest to Bruges. I walk the kilometer or so from the station to my hotel, my large rolling duffel clacketing along behind me on the pavement. Arrive at about 3:00 and check in. It's a small hotel, nice enough; I've opted for one of the cheap rooms, with an interior window. It's a place to sleep, and after a quick wee dram of the Old Pulteney I bought at Keflavik, I do just that.
I set out early in the evening to see about some dinner. There are several restaurants in Simon Stevinplein, a pretty little square just steps from my hotel; and quite a few more in Markt, the large central square a few streets away. In fact, it seems as though there is a little square full of terrasses every time you turn a corner here--anywhere there is space on the sidewalk, or an alleyway that can be closed off. It's very charming. But I'm feeling lousy after my long trip, and silly as it may sound, I don't feel inclined to deal with cuisine. I want a kebab. Wander around until I find a typically multi-ethnic and nondescript fast-food shop that satisfies my craving, just outside the town center.
Stop briefly back at the hotel. It's 9:00 now, and I still feel crummy, enough so that I consider for a moment going to bed...without any beer. Huh, don't be stupid, Mr Tattie Heid--cuisine is one thing, but you're in bloody Belgium, after all. Drag myself out and find het Hof van Rembrandt in Eiermarkt, a terrassed alleyway behind Markt. Long lists of bottled beers are standard in most of the restaurants and bars here, but the ten draft choices in the Rembrandt seem to be the largest selection in town. I start with the familiar La Chouffe, followed by a Bourgogne de Flandres. I feel a bit better, I guess. I think I like Bruges...I'm not with it enough to have much of an opinion yet.
*Iceland's proposed membership in the EU is on hold, but it is a signatory to the Schengen agreement, which allows for free movement within participating European countries.