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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Finals Week

Final exams are over, and Phil has finished grading his students' tests and papers. It is time for our own finals.

Our final trip to Bruges, for example: Sister Biggie and husband Gary flew to Belgium the day after our return from Ireland. They visited our apartment, where we made them large quantities of Belgian food.

We took them to Dulle Griet, where they were sporting enough to try the giant Kwaks (though Biggie did not enjoy having the waiter take her shoe! And Phil had to finish the beers).

Because of their ridiculously huge quantity of luggage (and heavy luggage, too -- Aer Lingus nearly had to fly another plane over to carry it, apparently), they rented a car. With GPS, of course, which they promptly named Katrien. Katrien was not as good at her job as the Irish Brigit, though. She had a little trouble locating the actual position of the car, and then became quite incensed when we didn't follow her directions.

Still, we found Bruges. It was just as fabulous as on our other visits. And while you East Coasters were sweltering or cowering from the tornadoes and golf-ball sized hail (does it even come in other sizes?), we had sunshine and low 70s.

We revisited some sights (though it was all new to Biggie and Gary), and made it to the Chapel of the Holy Blood, which holds a vial of Christ's blood that is taken out every day from 2 to 4. That part we missed, though Phil and I've seen it before. But the Chapel is pretty spectacular, as befits a place where Christ's blood is kept.

We bought the necessities of life in Bruges: chocolates, lace, beer, waffles, frites. Then we drove on to Damme -- Katrien had improved -- and ate at the wonderful restaurant Siphon, where Kries and Annie had introduced us to eel.

Only since there were no Belgians watching, we had steak, which really was just as good.

Our final museum visit in Gent: the amazing Stad Museum, which details the history of the city. There's one room that's entirely a high-tech map. At last, at last, we sort of understand Gent's configuration of rivers and canals. Four rivers! Canals intersecting, linking, paralleling! No wonder we've spent five months getting hopelessly lost. 

The museum is in the old Bijloke abbey, and it contains some remarkable illuminated manuscripts, a beautiful dining hall, and the story of the city's Great Theft of the 1930s -- the stealing of two of the panels from the Van Eyck Adoration of the Mystic Lamb in St. Bavo Cathedral. Only one panel was ever recovered.

Our final trip to Brussels. 
Bruegel the Elder
We went to admire the Bruegels at the Musee des Beaux Arts.

Bruegel the Younger

The occasional Lucas Cranach

And some Bosch apocalypticism
Visited the Beer Museum on the Grand Place. Ate train-station waffles.

Had drinks at A La Mort Subite, a cafe from the 1920s where Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Stein wouldn't have looked out of place.

Moules and waterzooi, of course

Dined at 't Kelderke.

We still have our final meals with Jo and with Kries and Annie to anticipate. And should I get too sentimental about it all, I have only to remember the conversation I had today with a woman at our local park:

She: That mother duck had four or five ducklings with her the other day.
I, pointing: Maybe they're over there?
She: No. Probably the rats ate them.

Oh well.

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