We spent the late May Bank Holiday long weekend in Bruges, a.k.a. Brugge, Belgium. One thing we will undoubtedly miss about living in London is the incredible access to so many European destinations. We were up on Friday morning at a reasonable hour, zoomed through the Chunnel, and arrived in central Bruges in time for lunch and a local beer (very local, brewed right across the street)!
Bruges is an absolutely beautiful city, preserved in time due to a ruler who alienated the rest of Europe thereby causing Bruges to be blocked from trade for a while and precluded from the Industrial Revolution (according to our walking tour). It does, however, have a tendency to get crowded in the middle of the day thanks to throngs of cruise-going tourists who flood the city streets in large packs. The anti-seasickness patches behind many of their ears are dead giveaways.
Fortunately, we managed to avoid most of the headache of the crowds by staying just outside the city center and only venturing in to the city (by bike!) a couple of times during our visit, all in the earlier or later parts of the day.
While we didn’t actually set out to make this trip a “Dry Run” for our six-month journey, it did end up feeling like one. For us, this trip represented the first time we all felt ourselves actually shifting into the mindset that we intend to have while traveling. It definitely helped that the Airbnb we stayed in was a (truly) rustic cabin built by a Belgian couple on their own private ecological park.
Throughout our stay in/outside Bruges we played just about everything by ear and it was fantastically refreshing. On one afternoon, the two of us spent a few hours one afternoon just laying underneath a tree meditating, reading and napping while Bodhi napped in the cabin nearby. When he woke up, we let him crawl around on the grass in the nude and he just couldn’t stop grinning. We tried the same, to similar effect.
The other great thing about our choice of accommodation was the hosts. The wife (and grandmother), Chantal, clearly loves sharing this little piece of heaven on Earth that she’s lucky enough to have with others. She also told us how she completely turned her own health around a few years ago by changing to a natural, local diet, which she now shares with her guests. One morning, breakfast included an amazing “egg pancake” made with herbs from around their property. Heather and I each had a bite, and Bodhi gobbled down the rest!
We were so excited about being immersed in nature that we decided to sleep with the cabin door open during the trip (although the door to Bodhi’s room was closed). On the last night, we were awakened in the middle of the night by some ruffling and Heather’s scream scared a creature off of the dresser, scurrying back outside. We were convinced that it was a raccoon, but in the morning Chantal let us know that she’s only ever seen raccoons “in her dreams” and it is 99% likely to be one of the precocious neighborhood cats. Heather, who’s had a life-long on-again/off-again love affair with cats, seemed like she would have been more relieved if it was a raccoon.
At the end of our stay, Chantal wrote a lovely Airbnb review for us, even if her English wasn’t perfectly precise.
“Corey and her friend were realy frienly people who are interested in all kind of thinks. The wether was perfect and the 3 nights were too short. Realy a nice couple with a 9month old litle boy who was so perfect.” -Chantal, Airbnb Host
The three nights were definitely too short, which is why we are so grateful that this trip was just a preview of the types of days we plan to make for ourselves while on the road. Despite having been born in Central London, it is clear that Bodhi is happiest amongst nature, just like us. Sharing all of these experiences with him–like seeing him open his arms into the wind like he was flying as we zipped around on bikes–made us really appreciate how much fun it is to serve as Bodhi’s tour guides on Earth.
While we were waiting on the platform for the train back to London, Corey had a totally chilled out Bodhi in the backpack carrier. They were listening to some music and both dancing just a little bit. A young guy approached them, asked Corey whether he spoke English, and then said, “I just wanted to tell you that you make parenting look cool, man.” I guess we’re doing something right.
PS – Corey took the Featured Image for this post shortly after sunset, around 10:30 p.m. Those who have seen the movie In Bruges may recognize this location; the hotel window that Colin Farrell jumps from towards the end is on the left.