One year ago today we waved goodbye to our San Clemente house and hit the road to our first destination in Monterey, California. Since then we’ve had so many Adventures they are hard to count and since we’re not quite done, we’ll wait on the counting for a little while longer. But it’s a big milestone for us so we didn’t want to miss making note of it.
Today’s Adventures took us to the medieval city of Bruges, Belgium. A short 1 hour train ride from Brussels, this city near the coast of the North Sea had its heyday from the 12th to 15th Century as a capital of trade. It was likely the home of the first stock exchange in 1309.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, however, the connections to the sea which had allowed for its trade to flourish began to fill with silt and Bruges began to lose economic prominence to Antwerp and never recovered.
It started a revitalization in the second half of the 19th century by achieving another first – becoming the first tourist destination. At the time it attracted wealthy French and English tourists and today it attracts 8 million visitors from all over the world.
The attraction is the very well preserved buildings and canals – many nearly unchanged from the golden 12th to 15th century period. Although Bruges was occupied by enemy forces in both WWI and WWII, during neither time did it sustain any damage. Whereas many European cities have a few medieval buildings – Bruges’ historic area truly is a whole medieval town.
We wandered through the streets for a while just enjoying the scenery, grabbed some lunch and then (as we often do) headed over to the local park hoping for an interesting playground. As we’ve mentioned, the kids are too old to be entertained by most playgrounds these days, but sometimes we’ll find one that holds their attention.
Today was a good one. It had some climbing structures, a big swing and a rope contraption that kept them busy for hours. And a cafe across the street for Mom and Dad – what could be better?
After the park we did the touristy thing and took a boat ride through the canals. It was a great way to see the architecture and really get a sense for the history – it really felt like things hadn’t changed in 500 years.
We’d worn ourselves out pretty well, to the point where CreeperPuppy was dozing on the boat. But we had one more task before we left town – Street Waffles!! We got them with no toppings and ate them while we walked – just like true Belgians. They were warm, sugary and delicious. The taste was similar to funnel cakes you get from the fair.
It was a sweet way to end our 365th day of travel.