Day 1,612 of Traveling the World | Troyes, France | July 2, 2022

Ancient! Charming! Unusual! Authentic! The City of Troyes amazed us, and is probably one of the most unique cities we have visited in our travels. A fire destroyed most of the city in 1524. When they rebuilt, it was in the style of half-timbered houses. The Old Town overflows with them! They have kept them up, painted them in vibrant colors, and preserved this tradition for almost 500 years! It is amazing, and you can feel the history of bygone days as you walk the streets. So, we have started with photos of buildings, as they make Troyes what it is. By the way, don’t pronounce it as we did – Troy-ess. It is Twa! If you pronounce it the way we would in English, the locals will have no idea what you are saying. We have the same problem with the French word for butter – beurre. As hard as we have tried, even with their coaching, we still can’t pronounce it so they know what we are saying.

The city is also known for its high number of churches. We just can’t understand how, for hundreds of years, they have supported behemoth buildings, just a block or two from one another. We put in photos of two of the most noteworthy churches, but figured that was enough.

When we drove out of Troyes, through the new part of the city, it was quite ordinary – just office buildings and block houses. The treasure is in the Old Town. Are you ready for a tour? We have started with the oldest, least renovated building that we encountered…and we loved it!

This house was the least “modernized” that we saw – it looks like a movie set for a 16th century movie! Notice that the roof in the middle leans slopes to the right, just as you might expect from that time, as the home builder likely had no level or any sophisticated tools, really. There is something to love about it, nevertheless. It is authentic and accomplished its purpose of providing a family home.
Lots of the former houses are now retail shops downstairs, apartments upstairs.
The little roof overhang adds a little character.
This orange building stands out!
This duo is on the main shopping street in the Old Town, Emile Zola Boulevard.
It gets dizzying as you walk down various streets and see the same architecture everywhere.
The Town Hall of Troyes.
A beautiful, ancient complex in the city. This is the former Hotel de Vauluisant, now the Vauluisant Museum of the city’s historical past. As we walked into the courtyard, a man came out, crossed his arms, shook his head, and looked to the giant doors – he was closing for lunch!
The very beautiful Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul.
Those gorgeous arches again! The columns in here are massive!
The cathedral’s stunning rose window.
We must have walked down a dozen streets that looked just like this. We stopped for coffee on this one just to watch the world go by.
Three fabulous facial expressions. All of them are gargoyles on the Church of St. Urbain.
A combination of styles!
It was funny to see “San Diego, CA” on a t-shirt (for €12!) in a tiny souvenir shop in Troyes.
This was across from our coffee shop. We would love to know why they decided on Rosa Parks (for a burger joint, no less )!
The utterly gorgeous Church of the Madeleine. The ornamentation over the main aisle is called the “Jube” or Gallery. It was the work of the master mason of Troyes, Jehan Gailde, from 1508-1515. It is called “stone lace” and includes depictions of animals, grotesques, and figures in period clothing.
The back of the Jube. You can see how it connects the exposed staircase.
Beatrice Guillermin and Matthieu Lejeune were rehearsing for a concert they were performing. Listen to a little harp and cello!
These sculptured trees added some pizazz to this street.
The famous Ruelle des Chats – Cat Alley. Apparently, this used to be a normal walkway, but the houses have tilted and meet at the top, forming a shaded walkway.
Another view of Ruelle des Chats, this time from the inside.
LOVED the name of this hair salon – The Metamorphoses!
A teenage boy was sitting alongside this woman with the brimmed hat, and we thought it was a couple until we got closer. He moved away as we took the photo, being polite, and then moved back once we were done.
Do you just love the bottom of this water spout?? We spotted quite a few like this around town.
A creative way to showcase their glasses for sale!

Day 1,610 of Traveling the World | Reims, France | June 30, 2022

Reims is a Cathedral Town, and yet so much more was happening here! We found the cathedral to be truly magnificent. We gaped in wonder inside (as we usually do!), wondering about the people who had built this masterpiece, and how they were able to accomplish construction at this height without modern equipment or building techniques. It is a stunning church in which you just sit with your mouth open, amazed. What was neat was that for once, we couldn’t see it all over the Old Town as we wandered the streets. We knew it would be massive, and tall, but we turned a corner and it was suddenly there in front of us, in all of its proud beauty. It was really a thrill.

Reims also has a lively pedestrian street just jammed with restaurants and cafes. Everyone was out, drinking something. We visited what felt like one park divided by a highway and some roads, but the locals name them as three different parks. There is an interesting looking ancient Roman ruin in Reims, the Cryptoportique, which is a lovely ancient colonnade from the second century. We walked and walked to see it, as it was free, and open every day from 2 pm to 6 pm. When we arrived at 3:00 pm, it was closed. A restaurant worker shrugged and said, “It is not open today.” A British man, also wishing to enter, also told us it was closed. “But Google Maps says it is open every afternoon from 2 pm!” we said. He also shrugged and said, “That’s Google Maps!”

In Reims there is also Carnegie Library, free to enter and look around. It is situated just behind the cathedral and is in Art Deco style. We found it to be just beautiful, a little chunk of architectural history. All in all, the city is very vibrant and alive, filled with things to see, great food and shopping, and very welcoming. We are enjoying every minute that we are in France.

Reims Cathedral. Height: 266 feet! It makes you wonder, with no modern technology, how the construction workers built that massive a structure in the 1200s!
You can see in the previous photo that the three front arches are lined with statues of saints. At first, we thought this figure on the right was sculpted to be bound. When we got closer, we realized the bindings were a heavy plastic and were bolted to the wall, probably to keep it from falling on someone.
The inside arches just loom over you on the main aisle. We sat in here for quite a while, looking up, feeling the immensity and grandeur of the environment. We were awed. How many people worked on completing this? How many died doing this work? How many were scared to be on rickety scaffolding, so high up, in pre-OSHA times???
Looking to the rear of the church, this set of rose windows with a vertical panel in between is most impressive.
A close-up of the gorgeous lower rose window was just necessary for your viewing pleasure. It is so detailed and intense! And…check out the engravings in the stone on the sides of it!
This is the side aisle. Because it is a narrower aisle, the arches and vaults are condensed, creating an unforgettable image.
This far shorter, more intimate set of arches is no less impressive.
These stupendous windows in a rear chapel are by Marc Chagall, and date to 1971.
The Andrew Carnegie Library, the Bibliotheque. It was built during the Art Deco period in the 1920s.
Oh, yeah! The chandelier, the wallpaper, the iron-grated windows and doors – all Art Deco and just glorious.
Ready for your close-up?
The beautiful Reading Room, accented with a stained glass skylight and fabulous tall windows.
Walking down a street, we came upon the old Art Deco Opera House. If you can enlarge this, look at the wavy-line architecture and the stained glass up close, as it is really lovely. We don’t know what the refurbishment/remodeling will bring, as the city has a new opera house.
The main pedestrian drag – an entire street called the Place Drouet d’Erlon. (Usually, “Place” means Plaza or Square.) You can see the Sube Fountain down a little ways.
The Fountain of Solidarity, also on the main drag.
The historic Porte de Paris, a city gate, that one reviewer called “a feast for the eyes.” We agree!
Kiosque a Musique – the kiosk of music, or in English, a bandstand!
Two peaceful scenes in the Jardin d’Horticulture...
…which was a real break from all the tourists in town.
The Porte de Mars, the longest preserved Roman arch in the world. It was built between the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and was rediscovered in the 16th century. It took another 300 years to clear and restore it. Magnificent!
Two thousand years old, and we can still see the carved features and other elements.
A large fountain that the children were using as a swimming pool. If you can see the little boy laying on his stomach near the front – he was body surfing along the surface!
The Chapel of Our Lady Queen of Peace, but more commonly called the Foujita Chapel after the Japanese-born artist Tsuguharu Foujita, who painted all of the remarkable frescoes in this tiny chapel.
The chapel was consecrated on October 1, 1966, and donated to the City of Reims two weeks later. It is listed as a historic monument.
This is Foujita’s depiction of the Seven Deadly Sins…don’t they look nasty???
Our Lady of the Harvest. We love how Foujita has Mary casually sitting on a cask of wine, holding grapes, as the harvest is gathered.
All of the stained glass windows in the chapel at the far end had skulls, skeletons, and little demons like you see at the very top.
We just liked the way this house looked!
A museum, half-timbered and turreted.
A beautiful half-timbered building, now with an array of retail shops at ground level.
A Venetian Carousel. Every European town seems to have at least one carousel – we counted three in Reims!

Day 1,607 of Traveling the World | Brussels, Belgium | June 27, 2022

One of our fondest memories of our European honeymoon in 2003 is visiting Brussels for two days, and needing a break on Day 2, we found a small square, ordered some drinks, and sat and watched the world go by for a few hours. It was a good plan, and one we still subscribe to: don’t try to do everything in every place without rest! This time, we did walk somewhere every day we were here, although rain threatened each day. We explored on our own, met with new friends who also got rid of their home to just travel, took a free walking tour, wandered the streets aimlessly, and walked to a local church for a concert.

We had the best guide on our free Sandemans walking tour! Fraser is Scottish but has been a tour guide here for 14 years, even though he hardly looks old enough! He was fun and funny, and we saw the highlights of the city, learned a lot, and went back to see some of the places that we had just breezed by on tour. We met two couples who had also been on our tour in Antwerp, and we met new friends from Ireland. That is the best part of this life of ours – meeting and chatting with people from all over, and finding out about life in their corner of the world.

We went to Notre Dame du Finistere Church for the weekly Monday afternoon organ recital, only to be surprised with an hour-long organ concert with four soloists. It was glorious. Everyone came in, and turned their chairs to the rear of the church, toward the organ. We did likewise. Nobody applauded after the first five pieces, so neither did we. Out of the blue, they applauded for the next piece, then not again until the end. We just follow the locals! Beneath the organ pipes, on three sides, you can see inscriptions in Latin. We translated them: (1) They shall rise up from the ends of the earth, singing to the Lord with instruments. (2) The ends of the earth scatter at the sound of the pipe organ. (3) From the ends of the earth, praise the Lord with strings and organ.

Please don’t take offense, but in the photos you will see the most famous statue in all of Belgium, dating to the 15th century! People search the city for it, thinking that it certainly will be prominent, in the center of a city square, of course. But it is tiny, in a corner, and now apparently is always costumed according to the day or season. The city museum holds his array of costumes! Every souvenir store sells replicas, in all colors, no less. Chocolate shops sell him in Belgian chocolate form. It is like a mania. If you know what the statue is, you are smiling by now. If not, see him in the photo below! But squint – or enlarge your screen, as he is hard to see!!

Beautiful Brussels! Looking down the hill at the Jardin du Mont des Arts. You can use the City Hall tower for directional guidance in this area. The pretty clump of trees on the extreme left can be seen close up in the next photo.
They’re nice to look at, huh?
Opened in 1899, Old England was a department store housed in an Art Nouveau building. Today it is a museum of musical instruments, holding about 2,000 items!
The Royal Palace of Belgium.
16th Century Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. A wedding was taking place, and our tour guide remarked that it must be one of Brussels’ elites, as not everyone can be married there.
The Queen’s Gallery Shopping Arcade. It is opposite the King’s Gallery, which looks identical, and the main business in each appears to be Belgian chocolate shops.
Here is one of the chocolate shops, Neuhaus, founded in 1912. We liked the leaded glass insets above the shop window.
Our tour guide, Fraser, of Sandeman’s Tours. We have NEVER had a tour guide like him! He verbally parried with guests, asked trivia questions, spoke like a Shakespearean thespian, cracked jokes, and most importantly – knew the history of Brussels inside and out. He was the best! (Behind him to the left is THAT statue!)
This is actually a more modern advertising sign for Breda Beer, as it was founded in 1538!
Everything down this street, starting with the church of St. Nicholas, is named after St. Nicholas, since he evokes smiles and joy.
A cute shop – with no room for a name!
We walked through the LGBTQ area of Brussels and saw lots of street art like this.
A pretty Art Nouveau mosaic advertising La Terrasse restaurant.
Jammed with visitors (don’t ask us why!) is the famous, infamous (tiny, tiny) statue of the Manneken Pis. He now has a “dresser” who changes his costumes. Yes, as you can surmise, it means “the little boy pees,” and is one of the best-known symbols of Brussels and Belgium. The statue was in place by 1619, although it is first mentioned in a document dating to 1451!
Guild halls on the Grand Place, the largest square in Brussels and called the most beautiful in all of Europe.
These mutts are for sale, along with the Manneken Pis statues on their left. Actually, the statues are EVERYWHERE in Brussels, and are the favorite souvenir for purchase!
Guild halls across the square. We were gathering for a free tour, and so were about 10 other groups – hence, the umbrellas to “find your way.”
Grote Markt Huis, on the Grand Place, mainly used for exhibitions.
City Hall, also on the Grand Place, whose tower can be seen from most points in the Old Town.
Brussels City Museum is housed in this building with stunning architecture. In here, you can see the 1,000 costumes designed for the Manneken Pis!
A pretty pedestrian street decorated with garlands of silk flowers.
See? A view of the tower led us around this part of Brussels!
Originally built in 1697, this gorgeous building, Le Roy d’Espagne, was named for Charles II of Spain. It is the baker’s guild headquarters. We were attracted to the lovely gold statue on top.
Our Lady of Finistere Concert, with the inscriptions below the pipes.
An impromptu parade of college students. She looks like…the Queen of Beers???
A chocolate shop with its old facade, in French. In Brussels, Dutch, Flemish, French, and English are all spoken!
A colorful high-heeled camel.
A sad excuse for a funny sign…but it’s funny because it’s not!
This is called “The Cyclist,” featured outside of a bar/restaurant in Brussels.
This was a sandwich at Fritland, one of the best places for Belgian fries in Brussels. There is some sort of meat under the fries. We were shocked that anyone could eat bread loaded with fries!

Day 1,604 of Traveling the World | Antwerp (Antwerpen), Belgium | June 24, 2022

The legend as to how Antwerp got its name is the best story, so we have to start with it. The green fountain in the first two photos depicts the legend of Brabo, who killed a giant who demanded a high toll for ships entering the city. If crews couldn’t, or wouldn’t, pay the toll, the giant cut off their hands. Brabo was fed up and wasn’t going to take it any more. He fought the giant, cut off his hand, and threw it into the river. So, Antwerpen comes from the two words, hand werpen, meaning “to throw a hand.”

The city has quite an ancient history, having been invaded and occupied by both the Romans and the Vikings. The River Scheldt brought commerce and trading to the city, making it the leading port in medieval times, but it also made the city vulnerable to invaders. In the photos, we will show you a few things the Romans and Vikings left behind.

We found this off-the-beaten-track city to be quite wonderful, but didn’t schedule enough time to explore it fully. We took a tour to get an overview, but still missed most of the main shopping street and pedestrian walk, the Meir. We would also love to see the central train station one day, as it is very ornate and said to be the one thing you should not miss in the city (but unfortunately, we missed it!). There are also several museums we would love to explore, but there just wasn’t enough time. In the future, we plan to visit fewer cities wherever we go, but stay longer.

Grote Markt Antwerpen, the main square. You can see the beautiful Town Hall behind the Brabo statue.
The Brabo Statue, dating to 1887, with Brabo at the top throwing the hand of the Giant Druon Antigoon into the river. We loved that the fountain has no boundaries, such as a wall or fencing. The fountain spurts into the surrounding square. Sometimes the fountain is turned off, and if you are standing adjacent when it turns on again, unknowing, you will get wet! The next day after taking this photo, there was a little boy standing under it and splashing, just laughing and having the time of his life.
These guild halls from the 16th and 17th centuries are quite beautiful. (Some are reproductions, but we don’t know which ones.) Each represented a certain guild (occupation), and showed off their status, power, and wealth. The gold statues on the roof represented their profession.
More guild halls across the street.
In the Handschoenmarkt square is this lovely old well, with an elaborate black wrought iron top.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerpen can be seen from many points in the Old Town. The outside is covered with scaffolding. As with most old buildings and churches, there is always something that needs to be done! (And again, notice the McDonald’s in the Old Town!)
The Het Steen, Antwerp’s castle and oldest building, sits on the river. Some of the lower parts were established by the Vikings, and it “grew into” the castle it looks like today.
Another view of Het Steen, which, additionally, was used as a prison from 1549 to 1824.
At the castle’s entrance is this statue. Meet Lange Wapper, a Flemish folklore giant and trickster. This statue is by Albert Poels and dates to 1962.
This statue at Het Steen is dedicated to all “who have resisted and fought for the liberation of Antwerp, September 4, 1944 – September 4, 1989.”
A view of the Scheldt River, which brought invaders, and then prosperity, to Antwerpen. It is still the second-largest port in Europe after Rotterdam.
We liked this collection of buildings!
The beautiful baroque tower of St. Paulus Church.
Our tour guide, Flip, who is doing tours “for fun” in his retirement. (Even though he lived in the US for a few years, he had never heard of Flip Wilson, the only other Flip we know of. We enlightened him.)
On our tour, Flip pointed out what is left of the old towns defensive walls – the dark stone on the right near the man with the blue shirt. You can see on the walkway that where the rest of the wall was torn down, the city paved it in dark stone as a remembrance. There is another part of the cobblestone, back just beyond our group, that is different from that you see in the front. It dates from Viking times!
Vleeshuis, the Butcher’s House, built between 1501-1504 of red brick and white sandstone. As an ancient guild hall, it provided space for 62 butchers to prepare animals for sale.
St. Charles Borromeo Church, opened in 1621 as the Jesuit Church of Antwerp and dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. There originally were 39 ceiling pieces by Peter Paul Rubens that were destroyed by fire in 1718.
These angels, and a bank of carved medallions and other figures, did survive the fire. They were carved by Jan Pieter van Baurscheidt. We liked how they look as though they are dancing, holding drums above their heads (but we confess we couldn’t find info as to what they are supposed to be holding).
Antwerpen had one of the first stock markets in the world, originally kind of a trading post. These are the three Stock Exchange buildings as they progressed – the first, on top, is now a cafe. The third, on the bottom right, was originally an open air building, but they built upward, and the date of 1872 is when the roof was placed.
When you climb these steps, you are on the highest “hill” in Antwerp!
A glorious array of 14 items – our Moroccan Salad from Msemen Moroccan Restaurant. It was so good! – a feast for both the eyes and tastebuds!
This is Msemen’s pretty back yard seating area. We also had a msemen, a grilled Moroccan bread stuffed with ricotta cheese, honey, cherry tomatoes, greens, sunflower seeds, paprika, chickpeas, and spicy olives. It was heaven, as was the salad above. With mint tea, and followed by a dessert made of couscous with cream, we were stuffed – and VERY happy!
One of the many fun streets we got to walk.
These are on the corners of many buildings in Antwerp – shrines to the Virgin Mary, all topped with an umbrella-type top, shielding Mary and her baby from the sun and rain.
Such a pretty shop!
We loved this takeoff on “Antwerp!
The Wild West lives….in Belgium! Gotta love that embroidered men’s shirt with two horses!
We liked the name of this exhibition, although we initially thought it was a publication.

Day 1,602 of Traveling the World | Bruges, Belgium | June 22, 2022

“Bruges is very touristy! You don’t want to go there – go to Ghent instead.” That was the advice from a man we met in the laundromat last week, who helped us buy tokens for the machines. But we had visited Bruges years ago and had a very positive memory of it. Besides, we made hotel reservations in July 2021, so we were heading for Bruges regardless of his opinion. Are we glad we did! It’s fa – bu – lous!

The entire Old Town and all of its buildings are a World Heritage Site. There are towers everywhere, gorgeous facades, Dutch architecture buildings and houses, Belgian beer, and Belgian chocolate, chocolate, chocolate just EVERYWHERE! In fact, there are so many chocolate shops that the city has banned any more from opening their doors – they have decided that enough is enough. Only 17 of the hundred or so that we have passed are artisanal – that is, actually made in Bruges. The others have chocolates imported from China and other countries, which is not what you want when purchasing “Belgian chocolate.”

There is also a lot of water in Bruges – as in canals! It makes for a very pretty walk around town as you cross ancient bridges decorated with flowers. All of the squares are very lively and are just beautiful, already filled with lots of tourists. When we drove into Belgium from France a few days ago, it was very strange. We saw no people out, and there were few cars on the road. It was as if time had stopped, or like the beginning of a weird horror movie. All was well as we arrived in Bruges, as it was jammed with people and activity.

City Hall on Burg Square was pretty impressive, with its towers, flags, and ornamentation. But it is nothing compared to the Gothic Room inside. Wait until you see it! It took our breaths away, and we snapped many pictures, sat down just to soak it all in, then took more pictures. We did not want to leave. You will see why, but the photos probably won’t do it justice. If you are ever in Bruges, with all there is to see, do, and eat, City Hall’s Gothic Room is the one stop you MUST make. It is thrilling, to say the least.

Beautiful, beautiful Bruges – called the Venice of the North. It is cross-crossed by canals whose bridges are almost always festooned with flowers.
Except for the cars, this view down the street looks like it did hundreds of years ago, with a bridge, ancient buildings, and cobblestone.
A row of striking Dutch-architecture houses. The best indication of the Dutch influence is the single large window on the top floor, initially designed to move large items onto the top floor. In the Netherlands you will often see a wooden arm (like a 4×4) sticking out for several feet above that window. They would attach a pulley system to that arm to lift the items to the level of the window. This style of home is everywhere in Bruges.
We love arcades. This is the only one we saw in Bruges.
Horse-drawn carriage rides on Grote Markt, the main square in Bruges. In the back is the towering Belfort – if you climb to the top, it is only 366 steps! (No, we did not partake!) We heard its carillon, which plays every 15 minutes, and it was charming.
This interesting building is now an interactive history museum called the Historium, but was built between 1910-1914 as a private residence, although it has never been used as such.
Adjacent to the Historium is the Provinciaal Hof, the Provincial Court. Construction began on the building in 1887 and wasn’t completed until 1920. In the 13th century, this site was the Water Hall, where boats would come to the doors via canals and unload cargo. It was demolished in 1787, and the canal is now covered by the cobblestones of the square. We took a walking tour of the town and were told by the guide in several locations that we were standing above a canal that had been made subterranean. As time has gone by it has become more important to make room for cars to travel around town than boats.
The Jeruzalem Kerk, a private chapel complex built as almhouses for the poor and a chapel for the Adornes Family, who have continuously lived in Bruges from the 15th century.
Inside, there is this downstairs altar, built of skulls and symbols of Christ’s Passion, and an upper, more traditional altar.
This is the upper altar, with a huge vaulted dome – the dome seen in the photo of the chapel’s exterior.
A view from the upper altar to the lower area. The pulpit on the left is strange – the only way in is to leap from one of the stairs into it! (Jan sort of tried it, as Mike looked on in horror, even though the gate to the pulpit says No Entry, but we were afraid the entire structure would break and tumble down.) The white area in the middle is where the tomb of the original owners/builders will go once they (the tombs, not the bodies) have been restored.
A view of the opposite side (where there is no pulpit that we could try to break into).
This is a small sacristy off the upper altar area. Note how worn the stone steps are! When you walk on them, it is very uneven and slippery. We found steps like this in several places in Bruges – well-worn, indented steps.
The Brugse Vrije dates to the 12th century, was used partly as a courtroom, and is still used as a museum on the first floor with offices in use above. It is so beautiful and pristine! The gold stands out in Burg Square, along with the Ukrainian flag!
A beautiful gold-decorated archway and walkway, to the right side of the Brugse Vrije, as seen in the previous photo. As the Vrije (“Liberty” or “Justice”) was a courtroom, this walkway connects to City Hall.
The interior of the Vrije, the ancient courtroom. This is the front fireplace, decorated richly in carved wood, along with the ceiling! There is a piece of wood that had to be cut out due to termites, and they think this glorious woodwork may have to be dismantled to eliminate the infestation.
This table had two gold vessels that we tried to figure out…turns out they were used for ink, as this was a courtroom. The same people who made the laws, judged the cases (conveniently). The cord in the middle was pulled to signal that it was time to hear the next case.
The theme of the courtroom in the Vrije was punishment and retribution, as we were told by a friendly guy named Tommy, who works in the museum. This painting was on the wall, showing a man being skinned alive.
City Hall, built in 1376. This former palace was the seat of the Count of Flanders for many years. If you think this is impressive, wait until you see the inside!!!
The Gothic Room, upstairs in City Hall, looking forward toward the fireplace, one of the most magnificent rooms we have ever laid eyes on. We think it beats out Versailles!
The Gothic Room, looking toward the back of the room. We couldn’t get enough of it.
The side view, with sunshine pouring in.
The opposite side across from the windows, richly painted and ornamented with Bruges history.
That ceiling!!!
We liked this poster in the adjacent museum, announcing a jousting tournament in Bruges from July 24-28, 1907. It appears that the prize is gold.
We liked this array of towers along the canal.
The flags – the bicycles – the people – the glorious facades! All of it is really neat. This is another side of Grote Markt, opposite the Belfort.
On the left of this roof are two snails! In ancient times, when there were no street signs, people would put sculptures atop their homes to tell people which was theirs. No idea why they chose snails, but they are still there after many generations.
The exterior of the Basiliek van het Heilig Bloed (Basilica of the Holy Blood) on Burg Square. The Upper Chapel holds a Holy Blood relic, said to be a piece of cloth that Joseph of Arimathea used to wipe Jesus’ body. It made its way to Bruges in the 1200s and is exhibited daily for a few hours under the close watch of a church minister.
This is the highly decorated main chapel, but the relic is brought on in a side altar to the right of this main area.
You can’t see it very well, but the Holy Blood relic is kept in a glass container with gold ends and just looks like a white cloth with some red stains. People filed up onto a viewing platform to look at it. The person keeping watch is a woman in vestments who looks like a priest or deacon, but this is a Catholic Church, so clearly she is not.
Another pretty scene along one of the canals.
Believe it or not, THIS is a beer pipeline….or rather, a place that trucks can drive up to, pull out a hose, and fill up on beer. It is in the De Halve Maan Brewery, the only actual brewery left in Bruges. This project was paid for through crowdfunding – if you donated at least €7,000, you get free beer for life!
Some creepy chocolate mask thingies – don’t know how they sell these!
A clothing store with a cool name.
Selling chocolates and happiness! Yes, please.
Some goofy flamingos in a shop window. What can we say? We liked ‘em.
Saint Jan’s Street? A fan of Saint Jan? Mike nods his head vigorously. Jan says – not so fast! I’m no saint! (But ever aspiring to be better.)

Day 1,598 of Traveling the World | Lille, France | June 18, 2022

Lille, France, is one of those large, small towns. But now that we’ve looked at the city’s statistics, that might not be entirely true, as it has a population of about a quarter of a million people. The feeling is that of a small town, however. The Old Town in the city center is very compact and very walkable. There are two enormous churches in the Old Town, but only one of them is a cathedral. There are ancient buildings and a modern train station. Every restaurant has outdoor seating, regardless of the view offered. We passed an Italian restaurant whose view was of buildings covered in graffiti across the street, and we wondered why anyone would eat there rather than in one of the pretty squares, or along the pretty cobblestone streets. We can only guess that the food makes it worth it, but we didn’t verify that ourselves.

We caught a little of the European Heat Wave here that we have been hearing so much about on the news. It was very hot walking from place to place, and even relatively short walks felt oppressive. One thing we have found in France is that the businesses don’t provide us with much humor. In other places, we are always seeing goofy windows and funny signs in front of businesses. We did see a lighthearted barber shop, as you will see below, but it isn’t overtly funny, just subtly. And now, we are off to Belgium once again!

Lille Chamber of Commerce Building with its stunning Belfry.
Opera de Lille, built between 1907 and 1913.
This magnificent structure is a newspaper headquarters. The facade is decorated with the coats of arms of the cities related to the newspaper. On top of the building are three golden statues representing the areas of Flanders, Hainaut, and Artois.
Vieille Bourse de Lille, the glorious 17th century Stock Exchange.
The Bourse’s inner courtyard, comprised of 24 identical houses, formerly used by the traders. Today the courtyard hosts mostly booksellers, chess players, and florists.
Notre Dame de La Treille Cathedral of Lille, built in stages over many generations between 1856 and 1975! The modern facade completed the construction in 1999. The rather plain exterior is now covered in scaffolding, but the Gothic inside is thrilling.
This is the entrance to the church, taken from the altar. Its stunning window is said to represent the cycle of death and resurrection, and (somewhere) features astronauts and UFOs.
A contemporary statue is framed in the soaring arches.
La Sainte Chapelle, featuring a statue of Mary from the 12th century. It is a chapel behind the main altar, but looks like a complete church all on its own.
Some of the contemporary Stations of the Cross…all of them were quite moving.
A modern Death and Resurrection.
One pretty street in the medieval Old Town.
A building with an arch leading to another street off the Bourse plaza.
The pretty – and lively! – square where the Bourse is located. If you look carefully at the back bank of buildings, a McDonald’s is hiding there. Every ancient, honored place in France seems to have a McDonald’s.
Another view down a cobblestoned pedestrian street.
We liked the architecture, and brightness, of this building.
St. Maurice Catholic Church. If you didn’t know better, you might think this is the cathedral…it is huge, soaring, takes up quite a lot of space – and, who would think a relatively small city could support two massive churches?
St. Maurice has left the “high altar” in the back, with the altar at the front and the ambo for reading scripture in the middle of the assembly. The chairs faced all directions. It was beautiful to see.
A great face on a building, up close.
All pink! Note the pretty bicycle in the back
…and they sell a – Donutshake! It looks incredible, but how do you deconstruct it? With a fork, spoon, straw, or fingers? One thing for sure – it looks messy!
We like the concept of a barber shop with a bar named “Vilians” that uses King Kong with a bow tie as a mascot. It all seems to fit, right?
OH DADDY DAY! Happy Father’s Day to all the dads who read our stuff!

Day 1,596 of Traveling the World | Dunkirk (Dunkerque) and Calais, France; De Panne, Belgium | June 16, 2022

Visiting the beaches of the Northeast coast of France/Northwest coast of Belgium is quite an experience. First, it is very windy on the beaches, which makes it chilly when you are out of the sun. Second, you apparently don’t need to see any water when you visit – getting sun is the important thing. And third, views of the beach are somewhat obstructed by rows and rows (and rows and rows) of beach huts. They are small cabanas, and act as a refuge from the wind as well as a place to store your beach items and clothing for the day. It is very different from other beach areas we have been to.

First up, Dunkirk was our favorite beach, although we favor the French spelling, Dunkerque. (Why do we anglicize actual names, instead of honoring the way the country itself spells things??) There is a small area with beach huts (in the photo below painted as “Malo -Les-Bains”), but most of the rest of the beach is wide open. It has restaurants, crepe/waffle/and ice cream stands, and loads of people. There was a basketball tournament taking place, and grandstands were set up for spectator viewing. Of course, Dunkirk is known for its beaches in 1940, as 300,000 soldiers waited for evacuation back to Great Britain, just 50 miles away or so by sea. We watched the movie Dunkirk the night before to refresh our memories about the historical importance of the area. It is quite sobering to see the calm beach today, and imagine it crowded with over a quarter of a million desperate soldiers.

Downtown Calais was more enjoyable than its beach. Town Hall can be seen from around the city, and it is some stunning architecture. The sculpture of the Burghers of Calais in front of it is very moving…and magnificent! The beach was jammed with beach huts, some not in great shape, which made the beach seem a bit degraded. Many people sunbathed in Calais with no view of the water whatsoever, which we found so strange.

De Panne, Belgium is the location of our hotel, just over the border from Dunkerque. Ditto on the beach huts crowding the beach. But we must say, it was very crowded, with both children and adults enjoying the boardwalk area, eating, walking, and biking. We can just imagine it in another month, in the middle of summer, bursting at its seams.

We visited these three cities yesterday. Today we are taking a break, resting and reading in our hotel room. We try not to treat our travels as a vacation, where every single thing needs to be seen (there will be other years, after all), but as our life. Lying here on the bed and sitting in the chair, with the window open, we are feeling the breeze and listening to various birds cooing a hundred times in a row. It is nice. We have a view of trees and gardens, and there is no traffic noise. And Mike just “put the kettle on” for some afternoon tea. Heaven!

Dunkirk’s beach was very inviting. This is the reason people come here.
There was a basketball competition in this area of the beach. We saw several boys with Lakers shirts!
After the basketball court area was the children’s playground – you can see that the giant slide is a castle.
Not intentionally, we captured a photo of Bikini Beach with a woman in a full burqa walking by.