Row, row, row your boat, merrily along the canals of Bruges

What are a pink-sneaker clad Auntie and a Kid to do whilst traipsing along cute as a postcard Brugge, but jump feet first into one of those picturesque canals and see what all of the hoopla is about?  Not about to get our tootsies soaked, nor swim with the dolphins, the ever so clever ingenious worldwide hopper (moi, who else?) lined up with the best and rest of them and paid her 7 Euros for a 30 minute boat ride along the endless miles of waterways that classified this Belgian hamlet as the Venice of the North.  And so it was on a bright and sunny July morning, that Miss Perfect Niece (sporting an unusually rare good mood) and I set out and about, craftily pretending to be locals out for an oh so boring afternoon cruise (who were we kidding?) and queue in a snaking line so that we could hop on a boat with 12 other day-trippers who were just as anxious as us to live out that picture perfect postcard fantasy moment.  That is, if your idea of fun is being squished in like a sardine with a cast of malcontents not even worthy of their own reality television program – such as (listed in order of annoyance, ranging from somewhat mildly irritating to downright over the top aggravating):

I need all of the space that I can get, foul-mouthed self absorbed big-wig, his imposing presence a huge pain in the you know what, garnering attention for all of the wrong reasons, an elbow shoving undignified foreigner unable to appreciate the quaint charm of a medieval Belgian town, focused solely on obtaining that once in a lifetime National Geographic moment in time, oblivious as to how many people he takes out along the way.  Adding insult to injury, this type of self absorbed jerk is the one in a thousand of buffoons, who, unfortunately, taints the stellar reputations of truly appreciative visitors who’ve jetted thousands of miles from across the pond for a glimpse into the past of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Then, coming in at second place, is the Illusion of a Perfect Family, with Mrs Mom and Pop lining up their four not so adorable darlings, all under the age of 8, who have their own agendas on how to effectively disrupt a pleasant afternoon canal cruise, a mini cyclonic force of uncontrollable temper tantrum rants of the Academy Award runner up kind.  From dribbling spit to escalating wails, their screeching crescendos deafening even the hard of hearing, one can only hope and pray for a massive tidal wave to at least momentarily startle the irritating little brats into quieted submission.  Not an actual tidal wave, of course, but you get my drift.

And then, la piece de la resistance, or the icing on the cake, and number three on my list of fellow travellers I never ever want to share even a smidgen of boat space with, lest be exposed to pathogens of the germinating kind, the get a hotel room newly met or newly-wed tonsil hockey gropers who truly have no desire to see the sights, focused exclusively on tearing the other’s garments off, misfits on a family oriented Disney waltz along the canal lined waterways.

And finally, number four on my list of tourists to stay clear off, the over cautious freak-a-zoid middle-aged Auntie who sports water wings and a life jacket, lest the vessel accidentally tip over and fling her into the not so deep canal, an annoyingly irritating passenger persistently questioning the abilities of the tenured captain, is someone you most definitely don’t want to sit beside on your next boating venture.  Quite the embarrassment to her 16 year old cooler than cool niece, this terrified and petrified scared of her own shadow day-tripper is quite the pathetic sight indeed, making a mountain out of a molehill on a routine half hour glide along the calmest of waterways in all of Europe.  Like seriously?  Who is that dingbat?

Yikes!!   Okay….I confess….that would be no-one else but you know who!   Double yikes!!  Okay then, on that note, time to sign off until the New Year, as the Kid and I continue to traipse around Bruges, our pink-sneakered feet jumping from one adventure to yet another. 

Come make friends with all sorts of personalities, squished in a tinier than tiny rowboat, sailing around the picturesque canals of medieval Bruges.  Come follow us on our escapades throughout Europe and our (mine, actually) uniquely fascinating perspective on life abroad.

Next blog – Stay tuned for the continuation of my adventures across the pond, as my next blog will be posted on Wednesday January 8th, 2014!!

Miss Pink Sneakers will be taking a bit of time out to rest, relax and enjoy the holiday season, indulge in some vino, do some of writing and, most importantly, start planning the next 2014 travel adventure!!

Wishing all of my faithful readers a wonderful holiday season and a very Happy New Year!!  Thank you all for reading, learning and laughing!!

Almost trapped in the Middle Ages

Ever wonder what it’s like to live in a postcard?  Well, come to canal lined medieval Bruges and find out. And this is exactly what the Kid and I did, as we meandered along this UNESCO World Heritage site, gawking in appreciative wonder at antiquated cathedrals and trodden passageways.  Ambling along the cobblestoned paths, each inquisitive step a stroll back in time, our pink sneakered feet rarely tired of aimless wandering, as we explored the hidden nooks and crannies of this Gothic town.  Even my reluctant walker niece enthusiastically traipsed for miles on end, mesmerized by the age old history and architecture of the Flemish capital.  Surrounded by miles upon miles of seemingly endless canals, Brugge is a magical fairy tale in the making, gifting visitors a wondrous glimpse into the past.  A land that time forgot, its cathedral spires forming an alluring back drop to imagined story book romances, this Belgian Venice of the North does not disappoint - a virtual history lesson in the making.

And then we stumbled upon the Historium.  Housed in a centuries old edifice, this interactive multi-media experience offers a unique perspective on what life would have been like in medieval Belgium.  A trail of illuminated footprints guides visitors from one elaborately themed set to another, as if magically transporting a 21st century globe-trotter smack dab in to the Middle Ages.  The tour lasts approximately 35 minutes and you are ushered through seven realistically themed sets, each thematic room depicting a scenario of a day in the life of Jacob and Anna.

 Part love story, part tale of a struggling apprentice to master painter Jan van Eyck, this historical journey through 15th century Brugge both educates and delights.  We follow Jacob on his determined quest to win the heart of Anna, as he chases both his muse as well as an annoyingly vocal parakeet, along the cobblestoned alleyways and canal lined waterways.

Quite the history buffs, both the Kid and I were giddy in anticipation of stepping back in time, anxious to be witness to a snippet of the past and traipse alongside Jacob and leap back into 1435 Bruges.  Paying our 11 Euro admittance fee, we eagerly crossed the threshold into the first of 7 lifelike sets, and found ourselves in a semi darkened room with a few props and a large movie screen.  And then the unthinkable happened.

 The main entranceway wall slid seamlessly shut, much like an elevator door closing, effectively “trapping” us in this enclosed space.  Now, for normal people like the Kid and 99.9% of the general populace, this would not pose any sort of an issue or nary a thought even worth considering, but for claustrophobic “you name it, I have it” phobic loony-tunes moi, this is somewhat of a seriously huge issue of gigantic proportions. My main focus of thought instantly shifted from being mesmerizingly seduced by the romanticism of an antiquated love story, to a now frantic attempt to figure out how to claw my way out of this confining enclosure, desperate to escape to the freedom of fresh air and outdoor green spaces.  With timed sensors dictating the opening and closing of each lifelike set, I had not an inkling of a clue as to when, or, most importantly, “if”, the doors would ever slide open again, frantically counting down the seconds until the audio clip and film ended, so that I would be able to bolt and escape.  Escape?  Escape to where?  The next room?  On to the next themed set?  There are only seven of them to get through, you know. 

Sweat cascading like rivers down my back, my breathing becoming more and more laboured, I honestly have to say all that I remember from my Historium interactive experience was scouting out the Exit signs and counting down the minutes until I was able to high tail it to freedom and park myself in the Historium’s 2nd floor Grand Beer Café’s panoramic terrace and swill back a few Belgian ales and calm my frayed nerves into a nirvana like comatose state.  A much needed beverage of the intoxicating kind, my Belgian Kriek worked its charm, as I spent the remainder of the day languishing in contended bliss.  No matter that it was only 11:00am in the morning, as neither a café au lait nor a double espresso would do the trick quite as well as a seductively soothing bubble bath for the mind.

It goes without saying that the Kid was appalled at her delusional Auntie’s undignified antics, rolling her eyes in disgust at the semi crazed escapades she once again was forced to endure - begging her mother never to let her travel with any one of her relatives, especially slightly lunatic, cuckoo, you know who, even if it did entail a barrel of laughs along the way – that is, until the next transatlantic journey.

Come traipse along with the Kid and I as we stumble into the past in medieval Bruges, where we literally came close to being trapped in the Middle Ages.  There’s always an adventure and a comical situation that we (me, actually) find ourselves in, rarely ever a dull moment….come discover travel from a uniquely different perspective…

Next week – where in Bruges do our pink-sneakered feet take us?  Stay tuned!!

You mean it's not free? Soda, vino or over-priced tap water?

Now that the Kid and I were comfortably settled into our Bruges hotel, our earlier setbacks virtually forgotten, it was time to lace up our sneakers and head out in search of fine Belgian cuisine and indulge in some moules, munch on a couple of frites and swill back a few bottles of cherry infused Kriek.  Luckily for us, our quaint hotel was located just a few metres off of the main square, an easy three minute traipse to cafés, shops and fine dining establishments catering to the indiscriminate tastes of tourist budget menus.  That is, if over-priced pizza, bread and tap water (huh?) qualify as fine gastronomic delicacies worthy of five-star glowing Michelin reviews.

Tummies grumbling, desperate to be fed anything that resembled food, be it stale crisps or unappealing rubber chicken, my niece and I would happily have been content to chow down on literally whatever at this point.  Reluctant to dine on plastic wrapped vending machine pre-packaged foodstuffs whilst miserably sequestered for hours upon end in a railway station, we had foolishly ignored our hunger pangs, instead envisioning a table laden with gourmet fare - a highly anticipated feast that we would treat ourselves to upon our arrival in medieval canal-lined Bruges.  What we hadn’t expected was to instead race into the very first restaurant that we stumbled across, regardless of the menu choices offered, anxious to sink our teeth into any type of grub.  And that is how we ended up in one of the denizens of random eateries that encircled the town’s main square, squished in like a sardine alongside the boatloads of other ravenous tourists. 

Quickly scanning the menu, I ordered a pizza Margherita, a ham and cheese stacked sandwich for the Kid and a lager for myself.  Mindful of the fact that soda costs an arm and a leg in Europe, more than double the price of vino at 5 Euro or more, I reminded Miss Niece that tap water is free, delicious and oh so yummy.  Too famished to protest the abject unfairness of her Coca-Cola-free lunch, le niece hungrily devoured her meal, washing it down with the free water. Oh, did I mention that tap water is free?  Well, apparently not, as this fine dining establishment had the audacity to charge us 2 Euro for the privilege of drinking regular water poured from a sputtering fawcett!  Had I been privy to the underhandedness of the shameless waiter who charged us for mere water, I would have gladly encouraged the Kid to order a Perrier or any other type of bubbling concoction, even le dreaded Cola at an exorbitant 5 Euros a pop, for that matter.

Leaving quite the unpleasant taste in our mouths, this initial welcome was not the most desirable of ways in which to acquaint ourselves with this quaint medieval town.  So, let this be a lesson to all of you would-be globe trotters.  Take the time to scout out prospective dining establishments and read the fine print on the menus, as in my haste to satiate our rumbling tummies, I perhaps had neglected to notice that even tap water was subject to a 2 Euro payment fee.  Nonetheless, I no longer objected to the Kid ordering the occasional Coca-Cola with her dinner, as hey, it could be worse, as she could instead be guzzling that oh so yummy over-priced common tap water by the truckloads, consequently breaking the bank and bankrupting me into a penniless existence. 

Come dine on gastronomic delicacies by washing it all down with some yummy, exorbitantly over-priced tap water, which costs a pretty penny or two, so why not indulge in some cheapo vino instead?  Come traipse around Europe with the Kid and I as we amble, meander and stumble on ahead in our quest to discover new found adventures.

Next week – where else in Bruges do our pink-sneakered feet take us?  Stay tuned!!