Thursday, September 3

Mostly OT: Beer, chocs and knitting....

Had a fantastic long weekend in Bruges (Belgium) - took the Eurostar to Brussels, and the ticket covers you for onward travel to any station in Belgium. It's really reasonable, too - £29.50 for London St Pancras to Brussels (one way) and just £9.50 for the Rugby to London bit.

St Pancras is a wonderful building (and you can walk to it from Euston). I'm afraid I don't remember it from before the reconstruction work, I may have gone through the tube station as a child. The Eurostar terminal is airy and light and has a fantastic roof, and all the shops are fronted with glass, so you can still see the building. Apparently there's a champagne bar on the upper level; but we were both too excited to hang around for long. I was instructed to get "food for the excited traveller" so got some tuna sarnies.

Out hotel was a pleasant 10 minute walk through the Minnewater park to the edge of the city centre. A lot of the streets are cobbled, and there are strict building and noise level codes in the city, so new buildings are built in the style of the old ones, and there are no thumping nightclubs or their attendant hen/stag parties. Even the hotel was built around an existing building - not a red brick Hotel Ibis as is common in the UK.

Alas the exchange rate is no longer in favour of us Brits, and couple that with 21% sales tax and 16% service charge, food and clothing are pretty pricey, but you do get decent amounts and the food itself was excellent. Bruges is a maze of streets with sudden appearances of squares with pavement cafes - every time you think you've seen it all, you discover another little nook and cranny. It has an amazing amount of churches with bells, so the skies are rarely silent, and it is ringed with canals - we took a trip around one on the last day. We hunted down some haunts recommended by friends and found nearly all of them. Alas, the Hobbit (all you can eat ribs and beer) was closed for holidays, and when we did find Stamine de la Garre it was shut (as was the lace museum, which was a bit of a walk). However, we checked out the Belhof (bell tower), a Salvador Dali exhibition, the cathedral and two other churches, the chocolate museum and the lamp museum (almost completely empty but very interesting from an engineering point of view). Might check out the frites museum (chips I'm guessing) - hoping their older exhibits are models and not actual potato!

We also sat around in various bars and watched the world and his horse-drawn carriage (with manure catchers - they think of everything!) go by. We found the pub featured in the Hairy Bikers, where they have a beer menu of some 300+, and bumped into some pub owners from Cambridge who suggested a few beers. I tried banana and passionfruit beers, and also Graal, which was kind of gingery. I like cold beer but my taste tends towards sweet, I often pick WKD Blue or pear cider or... well, depends on the mood. I drank a lot of Kriek - a lambic cherry beer - but I think I need to learn to pace myself because my guts complained all week. I'm used to more veggies and a lot less beer/fizz I think! Tried waterzooi, a kind of soup or thin sauce with chicken in it, and flemish stew (beef in local beer) and waffles. Brought back over 2kg of chocolate, because it is three times as cheap over there.

What else can I say? Had fantastic weather all weekend, it only rained as we headed back to the station. Killed some time in Brussels - not so keen, it's your normal noisy city with traffic jams and roadworks and faceless office blocks. The one bar we tried (only 'cause I needed to pee) wasn't very friendly and the bathroom - "Strictly Customers Only" - was rather nasty and incredibly ironic. To be fair to Brussels, nowhere looks great in the rain - we finally managed to find the main square and took a few piccies, and then decided we'd rather get out of the rain and get back to our suitcases before we got completely lost.

I would really like to go back again, someday. Bruges beats Antwerp and Brussels into a cocked hat I think. Photos here - far too many to choose from. The snapper was mostly the Cog.

Yes, I did get some knitting done, once I realised I'd gone wrong and frogged back some 30 odd rows. Don't tell me I never post any knitting content! It's acres of stocking stitch though, so nothing worth photographing.

We all had a go at beaded knitting at KnitWits last night. I didn't get time to practice last week, so it was a group effort, and kudos to Linda M for making a sample beforehand.

I'm back in the UK now for some time (unless work calls again) so I can hopefully crack on and work on some projects. The WIP list is getting too long!

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