Saturday 27 September 2014--Belgium is a country of two parts: northern, industrial, Dutch-speaking Flanders; and southern, agrarian,
French-speaking Wallonia. Bruges is the French name for the Flemish city the locals call Brugge, and for one reason or another (or maybe none),
English speakers use the French name. I usually try to adhere to local custom in such things, but "Bruges" is too deeply ingrained. I am,
however, well on guard against speaking French, the only language other than English in which I have any proficiency at all. My understanding
is that some Flemings will take offense at the presumption that they speak French, and it's better to address them in English. Good thing, I
guess, as the town is very popular with British tourists.
It's Bloody Tourist Day in Markt this morning--lots of Japanese as well as Brits, and a smattering of just about everything else. I'm pleased with myself for making it to breakfast and getting out at a reasonable hour. My mission for the day is to find a hat, as I seem to have left mine on the plane.
One of my whisky forum friends has opined that the four nights I have booked here is too much, and I see his point soon enough. It's not a big town. But I know from experience that I will not get full use of my first days over here. Yesterday was almost a total loss, and today I poop out at about 2:00 (without having found a suitable hat). I have lunch and a beer at the Rembrandt, and then retire to the hotel for a long nap.
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Wednesday 27 September 2000--Dreary morning. Got all my stuff packed up and drove through the fog to the airport. I wondered if my flight would be canceled...it was. Taking off in the fog is no problem, but landing is, and the plane I was to take from Shetland to Aberdeen had to come from Aberdeen first. I sat and read the paper while a planeload of people queued up to reschedule. Finally I rebooked for Friday and reclaimed my rental car.... Came back to town to find another room. It's session night at The Lounge Bar!
Monday 27 September 2004--We boarded our plane for Trondheim in the morning and were over Norway when the Norwegian air traffic controllers went on strike. We were forced to return to Amsterdam. We spent the whole afternoon in the airport trying to find out what was going on. KLM was not much help.... There was little information to be had, and much of what we heard turned out to be false. Finally resigned ourselves to a flight tomorrow night, and decided to spend the night in Amsterdam.
Sunday 27 September 2010--Not a great start.... Flight (Hartford to JFK, then JFK to Paris and on to Newcastle) delayed... delayed some more...then finally canceled. After checking out a few options, I decided to stay at a Days Inn near the airport, and do it all again tomorrow.
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I'm out again at 6:30, and find 't Brugs Beertje for a beer or two. It's one of Bruges' best-known beer pubs, a classic brown café. These are so named because the walls were stained brown with nicotine, back when smoking was allowed inside. I can't tell you how happy I am that it no longer is.
Out on the street, I overhear an American couple consulting their phone for directions to De Garre, another highly regarded beer pub. I ask if I might join them. Brendan and Jessica are from Minnesota, and so, I think, are innately incapable of being unfriendly. The phone takes us down a side street, and then tells us to turn right into a narrow alley. There is De Garre, plain as day now that we are looking directly at it; but I'd never have found it on my own. We each make a selection from the lengthy beer menu, and swap travel stories before going our separate ways.
I have moules et frîtes for dinner--how can you not?--at Le Grand Café Belfort, just across from the Rembrandt; and then a nightcap at the latter. It's been a short day, but a very good one.