Oh, how I prefer Bruges to Paris! (And, as it turns out, Brussels!)
Everything slows down a little bit in Bruges. The buildings are prettier, the people are nicer, even the tourists are more pleasant to be around. The shopping is more fun and the chocolate more plentiful.
Somewhere along the hour-long train journey from Paris to Brussels I came down with a cold. By the time I got to Bruges, the sun was setting, it was starting to rain, and I was sick. My first hotel choice was booked full; so was the second. I was threading my way between crowds.
I told myself resolutely that my third choice wasn’t my last hope, because God surely had a plan, and there were of course more than three hotels in Bruges. My third choice had been my first choice, except for I initially read the guide as saying it was 15 minutes from the center instead of 5, and when I rang the bell at the Royal Steward Bed & Breakfast I had a good long minute to contemplate my position.
A woman opened the door and I said, in a Puddleglummish sort of way, “Are you all booked?” And she looked at me in a slightly puzzled way and said, “No, I have a room.” And I nearly wept with joy. Her name was Maggie, living (with her Belgian husband) in Bruges from Scotland for nearly forty years, and she had just had a cancellation.
She set me up in the most charming double (complete with mirror-faced wardrobe and chandelier) with a hot-water heater for midnight tea. She fetched me an extra warm, fluffy comforter and told me not to worry about details until tomorrow. She then encouraged me to go to the bistro right on the corner and have some soup before bed.
I almost cried.
She proceeded to mother me in a kindly way all week, reproving my “San Francisco winter” jacket and lending me a proper down jacket. I went out and bought my own “Bruges winter” jacket, which was quite fun and not at all too expensive. She worried about me eating enough and drinking all my tea.
At breakfast she would pour her tea and join me, talking with me and the other guests about all the funny things that had happened and people she’d met (and who had met each other) at her humble abode.
And when her scheduled guests arrived to take all the rooms, she moved me up to a personal spare bedroom that her sister usually takes when she visits.
I spent the most pleasant, relaxing days of my trip there, and everyone must go see her when you come to visit.
Because you will come visit, won’t you?