Chocolate heaven and minor mayonnaise disasters

Published: June 8th 2017
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Geo: 51.2094, 3.22523

Breakfast was a beautifully presented spread of cereals, several kinds of bread, hard-boiled eggs (still warm), meats and cheese, yogurt, and fruit, including yellow cherries. I sat with Heidi, and she told me about spending the month prior to the tour doing hotel research for the tours. It sounds exhausting!

Our guide for the day, Danielle, turned out to be Christian's (from Brussels) wife. She was very fashionable with her red and orange scarf, red sweater, red leather jacket, and red Armani sunglasses. She showed us beautiful old buildings, including the oldest brick house in Bruges. Close to it was a house made of white stone, built at a time when pretty much everyone had a house made of wood. Obviously, whoever could afford a non-wooden house was very wealthy. Even today, the Belgians refer to a wealthy person as being "stone rich."

Bruges's haunted house used to be a convent. Across the canal was a monastery. One of the brothers fell in love with Sister Agnes and crept across the canal one night and forced himself upon her. When she rebuffed him, he strangled her, and now, says Danielle, sometimes late at night you can see the light from a candle moving between the windows.

Danielle also pointed out the wrought iron decorations on the facades of the older houses. They were put there to screw the heavy wooden beams of the interior to the exterior walls. Some are strictly utilitarian, but others are in done in pretty shapes, like fleurs-de-lys or anchors.

We walked a route similar to the one Rolinka led us on yesterday, and when we got to the Burg square, there was an old-fashioned bus that looked like something the von Trapps would ride around in. In this case, it was hired for a wedding, and we watched the bride get out and be escorted into the town hall by her father. Belgians must be married in front of the mayor before they can have a church wedding.

Bruges also has a sort of Bridge of Sighs, which stretches between the court and the town hall. Danielle couldn't tell us what the usual punishments were, but she was ready to punish the cyclists who were ignoring the signs and biking in the narrow alley. At the next bridge, she pointed across the canal to the hotel that was used in "In Bruges" as Ken and Ray's hotel. It's

Gablestone at the old Tanners' Guild.
a very old house, but the wooden front was only put on about a hundred years ago.

We then made our way to the Church of Our Lady to see Michelangelo's Madonna and Child. It's a smallish statue, maybe about three feet high, and was one of young Michelangelo's first commissions. It was supposed to go in the cathedral in Siena, but then the bishop was elected pope, and Michelangelo was never paid. Eventually it was bought by a rich family from Bruges and put behind the altar in this church. It's really rare to see a Michelangelo statue north of the Alps. Napoleon took a fancy to it and spirited it away. It made its way back, only to be stolen by Goering during the war. In 1945, an American GI found the statue in a salt mine in Austria. Eisenhower made sure it was returned to Bruges, and that is why the people of Bruges all like Ike. Danielle said she still has her "I like Ike" pin.

After the church we went to the Memling Museum, housed in an old hospital (more of a hospice, really). There was a good altarpiece painted by Memling that in one section showed John the Divine dreaming about the Apocalypse. There was also a large reliquary painted to show the martyrdom of St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins. Turns out, Ursula only had 11 virgins, there having been a misinterpretation of the Roman abbreviation for "11 holy virgins," which could also be read as Roman numerals for 11,000. Imagine traveling with 11,000 young girls in the fourth century!

And then we went across the road to Chocolaterie Sukerbuyc (no idea how to pronounce that), and Monsieur himself gave us a demonstration in his kitchen of how to make chocolate. It's a lot to do with the correct temperatures for the liquid chocolate and keeping it moving (reminded me of Willy Wonka: "It's churning my chocolate. It's actually churning my chocolate!"😉. He showed us how he makes chocolate cups for fillings and also the enrobing machine for more solid chocolates. It was all very interesting - and he clearly loves his work - and it smelled like heaven. As we left, we were all given a small box of beautiful chocolates. I love Bruges! By the way, he said that the only way to tell if chocolate isn't good anymore is to taste it. If you see a white bloom on the chocolate, you can take a hairdryer to it for a moment, and that white bloom (which is crystallized cocoa butter) will melt back into the chocolate and be fine.

I walked with Dawn and Jeff back to the Markt and waited while they climbed the bell tower. Rolinka happened by while I was waiting, so we had a nice chat for a while. She was concerned about a tour member who initially was hugely excited about being on the tour, but has lately been opting out of group activities. Rolinka invited her to the breakfast room for a coffee this morning, but the woman never showed up. Rolinka wonders if this woman is truly not feeling well or if she's unhappy. I told Rolinka that if she runs into the woman, she should tell her to look me up for dinner.

I kept waiting for Dawn and Jeff (what I didn't realize was that there was a 40-minute wait just to climb the tower, which would then take another half hour to go up and back down again), and eventually got some frites mayonnaise from a stall at the bottom of the bell tower.
Edible chocolate boxEdible chocolate boxEdible chocolate box

He is the only chocolatier in Bruges that does the designs on the edible chocolate boxes.
The mayonnaise was surprisingly good but as I was standing there, a gust of wind blew a couple of fries out of the container, and I got a huge blob of mayonnaise on my jeans. My black jeans. I guess you can't really tell, but I'm sure it's all I'll see now every time I wear them.

Speaking of frites, Danielle told us why we call them "French" fries even though they are a Belgian creation. Thinking of the language differences now, I'm not sure I buy it, but it's as good an explanation as any. Belgians are big fish eaters and would fry their fish in oil. In the winter, however, they couldn't fish. Instead, they would use the oil to fry potatoes that had been "frenched," or cut in the French style. Anyway, my frites were good.

When I got tired of waiting for the climbers, I walked back to the Burg square to see the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The Basilica's relic is a vial containing (supposedly) drops of Jesus' blood. There's a side chapel with an elevated altar where the relic is kept. You wait at the bottom of the stairs, and when the person in
front of you is done, you climb the stairs, put some money in a box, and then can view the relic, behind which sits a priest. You are encouraged to take whatever time you need and can lay your hand on the plexiglass case that holds the vial. The vial is very pretty, all gold and precious jewels, and the contents look like a piece of cloth with a stain. And when you're done, the priest silently hands you a leaflet. It's surprisingly affecting.

As I left, I ran into Dawn and Jeff; they had finally been able to go up and down the bell tower. If I'd waited maybe two more minutes, I probably would've been there when they came down. We decided to all try to meet up for dinner later.

I went back to the hotel for a few minutes and then went to the Jeruzalemkerk a few minutes' walk away. It was originally a private chapel for a noble family, and it was used in "In Bruges" as the Basilica of the Holy Blood. In other words, the Veneration of the Holy Blood that Ken is so keen to do in "In Bruges" is a real thing, but the Basilica wouldn't allow filming inside so the Jeruzalemkerk acted as its double. I think it worked better because the Jeruzalemkerk is dark and kind of spooky, whereas the Basilica is brighter and prettier.

I got lost walking back into town. I somehow ended up very far south and quite a ways west of the Church of Our Lady. And despite what Rolinka says, you can't just look for the bell tower to guide you back to the Markt. All the houses are so tall that you can't see anything else. But I eventually found the street I wanted and did some window shopping (and some actual shopping), then walked back to the Adornes.

I did some hand washing and am trying out my new, stretchy clothesline. I'm hoping everything will be dry by morning so I can take it all down, and the housekeeper won't have to clean the bathroom with my frillies hanging all over the place.

Went to dinner with Dawn and Jeff at Carlito's, a little Italian place that had mostly been taken over by a hen party and by a large Chinese family (I think the Chinese were having an even better time than the hen party). I had a tasty penne all'arrabbiata and a Peroni, and we chatted about this and that. Jeff does IT at Starbucks ("Could you be any more of a Seattleite?"😉 and Dawn once sat through a tornado at a Starbucks. Between the three of us, we've been on 20 tours, not including this one.

So I'm back in my room now, and I can hear two things: a mosquito (but I can't see the little bugger) and what sounds like the drums of a marching band. I hope the drums stop sometime in the next half hour, and I hope the mosquito has a heart attack. Oh … the rest of the marching band seems to have caught up. Oy.


5th May 2013

Aren't you seeing all the beautiful lace for which Bruge is famous? Lace in windows might be all you'd see, except in the lace shops. Wanna hear about our trip to Elma today? Didn't think so!
8th May 2013

Are you taking orders now for your hand-made chocolate? :p
8th May 2013

10th May 2013

I'm still fixated on the chocolate with chili peppers which in my mind is simply an abomination. Soooo, very happy to NOT hear that your next encounter with a chocolatier made "hot chocolate"!!

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