Bruges is the last stop before steaming to Southampton, UK to end our cruise.
Bruges. I like the way Bruges just rolls off the tongue. The last time were in Belgium was 1975, when Alison and I were in Brussels on business with Scott Paper Company. Wow – 38 years ago!
We sailed into the port and docked at 7am. The port is relatively small, and the cruise ship(s) are mixed in with containers and military, etc. They did have a passenger bridge, which was nice, but virtually nothing on the docks – when you’re ready, hop off the boat and get on a bus.
Bruges, as we know it, is relatively small, but goes back to the 11th or 12th century. It is known for its chocolate, lace, and piggy backs on Antwerp for diamonds – and, simply, being quaint, which it is. There are three sections to Belgium; the Flemish 60% (Dutch), French 30%, and the smallest portion of less than 10% German. The population of Belgium is about 11 million, and Bruge, the second largest city is, well, small. They got into shipping / transportation rather late in the game, with their ports being built, bombed, re-built, bombed again, and re-built again. At this point, they are expanding the port resources, which will be good.
After a vigorous walk on the deck, and breakfast in the Grand Dining Room, which was almost empty, we reported for our excursion departure at 9:45. Bus #19 departed at 10, and we arrived in Bruge by 10:30. The first portion of our excursion was a walking tour of the city; quaint squares, churches, changing architecture, 300+ Madonna statues, a review of the city, then and now. It was all good stuff, but you could tell that we were all “excursioned out”. We had an OK 30 minute canal tour – with a younger/satirically funny guide, which was a nice break.
More walking, and we landed at our designated meeting point, and given almost 2-1/2 hours of free time for lunch and shopping. It was actually warm enough – with our jackets on – to sit at an outdoor restaurant in the square. Barry and I had macaroni and ham, Alison had lasagna, and Marion had a Panini. We also had a local beer. Did you know that each kind of beer has its own glass? The beer was good and the food plentiful. For dessert? What else, we shared a couple of Belgian Waffles.
We managed to find the square and the meeting spot, on-time, extended our group walk by another several minutes, and made it back to the bus, and on to the ship by 4pm or so. Our room was made up, as usual, but it was sad to see our suit cases on top of the bed, a reminder that we have to pack and leave our bags out for pickup by 10:30 tonight. With mixed feelings, we are ready to leave the ship, but not ready to give up the somewhat luxurious lifestyle!