First off, I'll say that Belgium wasn't our originally planned destination for vacation this year; it was Paris, again. Paris, however, did not go on sale and Belgium did.
I've been to Belgium before, about 7 years ago, a really brief trip, but I liked what I saw. We flew into Brussels but decided to spend most of our time in Bruges, which is about 60 miles away. Bruges is almost painfully picturesque. Two world wars rolled by the town on either side with only minor damage, and all in all, it looks like a trip back in time to my favorite childhood fairy tale books.
We stayed at a hotel which for some reason had a large naked man floating in the air almost directly outside (portrait of the artist, apparently). It made it very easy to find our way back to the hotel.
After we settled in, and had a very well-earned lunch (starting my seafood extravaganza with fish soup, while Mario had his first batch of mussels), we walked. Bruges is a great walking town; there are a lot of parts that are pedestrian-only, though the unpredictability of the driving in the regular parts of town make up it.
We walked over to the Markt Square, which has an enormous tower (anyone who saw the movie In Bruges will remember it). Mario wanted to climb the tower, which was fine by me. I gave him the camera and decided to stay on the ground. It's 366 steps to the top, which wouldn't kill me, but they're very tight and circular, and that might. My knees do not like circular stairs. Go figure.
We also managed to find, while window-shopping and drooling at windows of the chocolate shops, . . . a fabric store. Christiaen, on St. Amindstraat, was one of the stores recommended to me in Bruges, and she's definitely worth a visit. The owner, a redhead wearing lime green and purple, who looked no more than 40, said she's had the shop for 25 years and is pleased that there seems to be a renewed interest in sewing. She said that young girls are taking it up out of nowhere, because most of their mothers don't know how to sew. Her fabrics were beautiful, if expensive, and she had a selection of Burda, Knip Mode and Ottobre magazines, most of which I had and all of which were in Dutch.
Because I can't manage to go anywhere without snoop-shopping store windows and following people with really cool clothes, I had to take a picture of this woman's coat. A LOT of the prints I saw in Belgium were this large and almost photographic, and while it might not be a coat you'll wear for years, putting this on would definitely cheer me up on a dark day.
After covering what seemed like most of the town, we wandered back to the naked man (a/k/a the hotel) for a nap before dinner. Though we'd slept on the flight, the time change was catching up to us, and a 2 hour nap put us right. We ventured back out around 7:30, refreshed and in search of food. We found a restaurant not far off the Markt Square where I had salmon in a mousseline sauce and Mario had rabbit braised in beer.
It was raining lightly, but not so much that we couldn't walk around some more and admire the floodlit buildings, and plan what we were going to do the next day.