Sunday, September 06, 2015

In Bruges (and other places)

Having been back in Blighty since Friday evening, it's time for some Belgian waffle...

Despite Trip Advisor forewarning us that our chosen destination would be cheap and cheerful, we weren't quite prepared for a chalet in need of a good clean, heaters and plug sockets hanging off the walls and a curious inventory that included two coffee percolators but no chopping boards. Still, we muddled through (at least there was no fear that assorted kids might wreck the place) and the on-site facilities - bikes, "midget golf" and particularly the swimming pool - were all very welcome.

When we did venture out, it was into nearby seaside town De Haan on a couple of occasions, plus Blankenberge to the north, Ostend to the south and Bruges inland. While the beaches and wide pedestrian promenades were appreciated, our party was less collectively enthusiastic about the astoundingly flat countryside (ideal for a cycling holiday, admittedly) and the multi-storey apartment blocks lining the shores - even if building upwards seems to have been a safeguard against urban sprawl.

We were less equivocal about the Belgian people, though, who were unfailingly warm and friendly, often crossing the street to offer assistance to us befuddled-looking Brits rather than waiting to be asked and then regarding it as an imposition. You have to love a nation whose men ensure that the moustache isn't the exclusive preserve of the hipster; who have "slagroom" with their waffles and a children's character called Plop whose face figures on packets of ham and who has his own theme park; and whose Icelandic fishing trawlers are restored so faithfully that the walls of the cabins are decorated with pornographic images.

I spent the week fighting, and losing, my own personal Battle of the Bulge, thanks to the abundance of chocolate, waffles and particularly delicious beer. Those monks certainly know what they're doing. It's little wonder that former Newcastle central defender Philippe Albert has filled out a bit since his Schmeichel-chipping glory days...

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