In a perfect world, it would have been nice to have a day at sea before landing at our first destination inn Bruges, Belgium. The majority of cruisers were still rummy from traveling. It’s fun to meet people from around the world; especially when there is time to sit and have a chat. Despite our cultural differences, we have so much in common. In essence, it was hard for everyone to get out of bed. We docked at 6:30 a.m. and headed to shore soon thereafter.
A healthy breakfast is a great way to get energy for a day of adventure, so we each individually staggered our way to the breakfast buffet. Personally, I feel the buffet is the easiest location for me to manage a healthy breakfast. I wanted to keep the calories down, so I could enjoy some food treats in Bruges (chocolate and waffles), our first stop.
I still felt like I was dragging, so I decided to have a bit more protein, without spending any more points. I hit the buffet and came up with this:
With a bit of re-arranging:
I had gone up to the buffet alone, and sat down at a table with my food. A younger British male voice next to me said “And are we traveling alone?” Startled, I turned to see a young teen boy eating by himself. Conrad, a most charming, humorous and gregarious 13 year old, struck up one of the more entertaining conversations I have ever had at 7:00 a.m. He thought it hilarious how Americans talk and perceive life. I have to admit I thought the same about him. According to my young gent, the British do it correctly, of course. He was fascinated with my breakfast, and when I started making my little salmon appetizers, he wanted to know if I always played with my food, and how I decided what to eat. He was eating a healthy breakfast, of course, which consisted of five different pastries.
I asked where his family was, and he said they had made him go to bed early so they could have an adventure in Bruges. He woke up ready to go and they wouldn’t get up and were still sleeping. Apparently bored, he came to the buffet looking for entertainment. There is a British section for breakfast items, which is where I had got eggs and the roasted tomatoes. Conrad laughed and said nobody ate that in England (at least he doesn’t) and said this was a clear case of “I say toe-mah-to and you Americans say “toe-may-to.” He also couldn’t believe we said “highway” for “motorway” and a number of other things.
Our family all wears glasses, and Conrad was wearing some Harry Potter look-alike spectacles. At one point, he took them off and asked if we really needed our glasses. We looked blankly at him and assured him that we do. I asked if he didn’t need to wear his, and he replied “Oh no. These are fake!” and handed them to me. And they were! I asked him why he would go to the bother of wearing fake glasses. He replied he thought they make him look more intelligent than he really is, so he wears them.
It was one of the more stranger, and yet entertaining, conversations I have ever had with a 13 year old boy. Watch out, he will probably be Prime Minister one day. He sort of reminded me of a teenaged version of Hugh Grant.
Charged up with food and coffee, we hopped the bus to Bruges – next stop Chocolate!
The charter bus dropped us off right outside the historic district, which is lined with shops selling lace, waffles, and of course, chocolate. The first building was a tea house and the second sold hand-made chocolates. George made a beeline for the front door. This is where the simile “like a kid in a candy shop” came from. It probably originated in Bruges. It didn’t matter that his gout hurt or his knees weren’t working; a piece of fantastic chocolate and the whole world looks better.
The shopkeepers we met were all charming, helpful, and spoke English. I swear the women were all thin and blonde. How do they make chocolates by the kilograms and still stay so lovely? There were dozens of kinds of candies to choose from.
I have been worrying about having a chocolate crisis in Bruges, ever since I heard it was our first cruise port. My typical trigger food technique is to avoid it entirely. If I don’t have the first piece, then I’m fine. Cave in at the beginning of the trip – and this could prove to be a problem. I really hate to come home looking like my thighs are riddled with truffles, disguised as cellulite.
Perhaps it was because I had been so concerned, that it didn’t seem to bother me! Or that there were so many chocolate stores, with so many tons of chocolate, that it created a mental chocolate apathy. That almost worried me more than eating a a couple of pounds! There were all kinds of signs selling chocolate by the kilogram. This is a serious chocolate town! I let George and Ellie wander around, choosing chocolates and I had fun looking at lace. They bought chocolate and I bought a lovely table runner.
Surprisingly, George did not buy a 15 pound box of chocolates. He chose a little here and there, and ended up with a modest brown paper bag filled with goodies. And he has not offered to share! And so far, I have kept my fingers out of it! There is so much food around this ship, that if I want some sweets, I can fall face first into a dessert bar at any time.
I did think I should not pass up trying something chocolate, so I settled on a waffle with chocolate sauce on it. Ellie and George, who had been munching chocolates, opted for strawberry sauce on there waffles. There are an abundance of little waffle shops. You walk to the counter and order the toppings of your dreams on this hot, crispy delight and walk off until you reach the next shop (two doors down) and do it all over again.
There is the walk up waffle place right off Hawthorne in Portland, where you walk to the window and order an incredible waffle with amazing toppings. It isn’t a restaurant, just a window. You may know all about it. They are delicious, but pricey. I hadn’t realized that our waffle place is styled after these amazing shops. Let me just say, that I could have a more serious waffle addiction than chocolate. That could be a real problem.
Not wanting this to be a total food binge day, we took a canal ride through the city, and under the stone bridges built in the 1500’s. Like Conrad, we wanted to look intelligent, so we next went to a hospital and apothecary museum. Ellie, who wants to be a doctor, was excited to see old medical tools from the middle ages.
It was a fascinating museum, but the multiple cups of coffee had worked their bladder magic and I needed a restroom. We left George in search of it and saw a lady washing her hands in an open door to the restroom. We went in and I notice a large open window with two urinals right next to it. The window opened into a canal, filled with tourists going by. We ourselves had just gone by there, and I was thinking that we could have easily had a view something besides old buildings. Ellie was totally shocked, and we were laughing about it when we walked out. We then also discovered that we had been in the men’s bathroom. We had seen a lady in there and assumed it was for both genders. It’s lucky we didn’t give a show to some poor man coming in to do his business!
We left the bathroom and realized we had also lost George. It wasn’t a huge museum, it had three main rooms. It had been a hospital from the 1500’s up until the 1970’s, and while looking for George we kept getting caught up in the beautiful paintings. We figured he had to be just ahead of us.
But George was no where to be found. The staff didn’t remember him, and we even climbed up a staircase and found a huge empty attic space. It would have been more remarkable, except that George wasn’t there.
I started to get a bit panicky. Could he be in the bathroom we had vacated? He had just eaten three pounds of chocolate. Heck, we had already breached it once, so back in we went. No men at the urinals, nor the stalls. He hadn’t pulled our trick and went to the women’s bathroom. I went outside on the very busy street and couldn’t find him. His cell phone was shut off, of course. He hasn’t been feeling well, and I didn’t want to scare Ellie, but I was concerned he had taken ill and collapsed somewhere.
George often wanders, and always has been hard to keep track of. I once lost him in the Amsterdam airport when he went to find a bathroom and we nearly missed our flight. Cell phones were invented for people like George, and when it isn’t working – my world can quickly fall apart.
Another 20 minutes went by and I was truly getting frantic. I wouldn’t leave Ellie, so we decided to leave the museum and check the streets. Sure enough, after a few minutes, we saw his bald head wandering a block ahead of us, among a multitude of tourists. This is when it is handy to have a distinctive bald husband. He is always easy to spot – if he is there.
I was nearly in tears and told him I was worried he had taken ill, or something worse. He looked blankly at me (as he always does) and said he had been looking for us. Rather than shove a waffle up his nose (waste of a delicious treat), I made all of us promise to stay in eyeshot of each other. I’m not worried about losing a kid – only old men. Keeping my cool, I quit yelling after about 20 minutes.
There’s nothing like a crisis to make a person religious, so we next went to the oldest church in Bruges, which also houses the only Michaelangelo statue outside of Italy. It was, without surprise, totally amazing. It is called Mother and Child which is, of course, Mary and Jesus.
George was totally worn out by this point. My hollering didn’t help, I’m sure. He had to sit out the church and wanted to head back to the ship. The only big ticket tourist item we hadn’t tried was Belgian Beer, which he had been looking forward to trying. Too much chocolate, however, had taken away the beer fever, so we missed this special treat. I’m not a beer drinker, and Ellie had better not be fan, so we turned back to the bus and took the ride back to the ship.
Bruges was more than lovely and the people charming. Both George and I could see ourselves living there for a bit. For fantasy fun we checked out the prices and were astounded at how reasonable it is to live there. Oh please, let that winning lottery ticket be mine!
Back on the ship, Ellie drug me to the Fitness Center and we had a great workout on the treadmill and this weird machine that works your core. You lean against a ball cut in half and raise your legs up in the air. Totally strange, but oh my, did I feel it in my stomach! Ellie did it effortlessly; I thought I might pop something serious.
After a lovely dinner, Ellie and I went to a dazzling musical act in the theatre, a walk around the ship and finished off with a snack in the buffet before hitting bed around 1 a.m. We are living the life! Tomorrow is a day at sea.