Timeline: August 2nd – 4th
We decided to use toll roads this day to cut down on driving time and give us the opportunity to make a stop in Rouen, a town Joanna and I visited in 1984 and known for where Joan of Arc was martyred. In a little less than two hours we were parking near the river and walking into the main square, home to a reconstructed market place on the site of the former fish market and the large cross to commemorate where Joan was burned alive.
With just an hour or two to spend we couldn’t do Rouen justice, which is a shame as it has a nice old center and beautiful cathedral. But Brugge was calling and we took off, soon gaining the open road and access to non-toll freeways, which would be our home for the next part of the trip as we travel through the Netherlands, Germany and Austria.
A canal and sections of the original wall surround the central part of Brugge and I was a little concerned that we might have some clearance problems with the bikes on top of the car. This proved not to be the case and we arrived with little fuss at the Hotel Fevery, parking across the property on a narrow street, feeling lucky to have found the spot
We checked in while Paul Asselman and his friendly and helpful staff assisted us with bringing in our luggage and moving our bikes to a garage down the street near in the same garage where we would be parking the car (ten Euros per night, a bargain). One of the staff members asked us about our plans for the night and when I mentioned that we would like to dine at Tom’s Diner, he concurred it was a good choice and that we would need to go that night, as they would be closed Sunday and Monday.
He volunteered to make a reservation for us and by the time we got up to our rooms, had called to say we could go at 6pm; he’d secured their last table given that they know them well there. With a bit of time to relax, we enjoyed a round (or two) of pastis and then walked the few blocks to the restaurant. This would be the second time for Joanna and I, having visited in 2007. I’d remembered how good the food was and recent glowing reviews on Trip Advisor had convinced me of the need to return.
It is nice when you are traveling to revisit a familiar scene and such was the case with Tom’s, they’ve expanded the back of the property and created a nice bar and seating area, what appears to be a welcoming addition. We were seated and ordered a round of drinks, then our meals.
We started with the warm Camembert and mango compote, a delectable Filet Mignon Carpaccio and for main courses, Tom’s signature Meatloaf, Chicken Roulade with Truffle Sauce, and the Nordzee Tongfillet (beautifully cooked and presented sole stuffed with cauliflower). One downside to eating in Europe is the practice of taking leftover food home is unheard of. You must eat all of your food, which can be a problem if the portion sizes are large.
Too stuffed to eat any desert we walked towards the center of town as the Fevery folks had advised us there would be free concert that night in Burg Square, which is adjacent to the Markt Square. Known as the historic heart of Brugge, a summer long concert series is held there and we were fortunate to stumble upon one of the nights. There is something about seeing any kind of musical event in this type of surrounding, all of the modern trappings needed to produce it surrounded by centuries old buildings.
The concert series, the Moods Festival runs for about three weeks featuring some famous and not so famous groups. Not long after we found a place to sit on the steps of an old building (with a good view of the stage just at the back of the plaza), the opening act Ewert and The Two Dragons played a highly entertaining set of guitar based folk rock with a number of memorable melodies. To our left was another plaza filled with cocktail and picnic tables supporting the beer wagon and food concession operating there.
I walked a block or two away to find a store selling bottled beer and returned with three bottles of fine Belgian ales and we spent the rest of our stay listening to good music on a warm summer’s eve. Around the time the headliner came on, The Magic Numbers, Joanna and Bev went off in search of a waffle for desert, returning with one covered in strawberries and whipped cream, delightfully good. We listened to about half of the second set and decided to head back to the room, particularly as it had rained earlier and looked to do so again.
It’s difficult to describe just how magical these moments can be. The long day, the sites seen, a pleasant night’s rest ahead, a good meal, and a random concert at the heart of an old, old town. They are rare these moments; not every trip produces one. When you do get lucky, it’s a gift to be savored and recalled time and time again. I believe that if you ask Beverly which was her favorite town or place on the trip, she’d immediately answer Brugge. And I think it was that magical first day that laid the foundation.
Joan of Arc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_of_Arc
Hotel Fevery: http://www.hotelfevery.be/en/
Tom’s Diner: http://www.tomsdiner.be/index.cfm?langue=EN
Burg Square: http://brugesbelgium.ca/attractions/burgsquare.html
Markt Square: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markt_(Bruges)
Moods Summer Series: http://www.moodsbrugge.be/2014/the_magic_numbers_nl.asp