Market Square in Brussels
I’ve said before that meeting people is one of the best parts of travel. We’re not only fortunate in that we have friends around the world, but we are also learning we have friends of friends who are happy to take us in for a few days. Our next stop was one of those times.
From Holland we took a bus to Bruges. It’s a charming little city in Flanders, the Flemish (Dutch) part of Belgium, with more canals and quaint streets. We were picked up there by my good friend Brighid’s friend, Holly. Yes, two Hollys! Brighid and Holly grew up together in Modesto, CA. Holly got married to Christophe, a Belgian, and they’ve raised their family here. A few years ago, their three kids spent time in California with Brighid’s family. We were actually able to get to know them on our annual camping trip in the redwoods, so we were looking forward to seeing them again.
Holly drove us to the Belgian beach town of Duinbergen where we met up with her friend Karine (a friend of a friend of a friend!) who invited us all to spend the night in her apartment. As we sat on the beach drinking wine and watching the sunset, they told me about a unique and delightful Belgian children’s custom. During the summer, kids make flowers out of crepe paper and fasten them to sticks. Then, down on the beach, they’ll create a “store” out of sand by digging a big pit and lining the edge with their flowers.
Flowers can then be purchased with a special and increasingly hard to find shell called a couteaux (also known as a jackknife clam). The beach area is very safe, so the kids have the freedom to run around all day, playing and “buying” flowers from other kids. The summer season was winding down when we were there, so unfortunately so we didn’t get to see this in full swing but Karine had some to show us.
The next day we looked at the weather forecast and decided to cross our fingers and take a bike ride up the coast and into Holland. We had a great time – the scenery was beautiful and interesting and the bike paths were flat and often completely separate from cars. We passed by these old World War I bunkers where the French and the Belgians hid from the Germans.
We rode all the way to the Dutch town of Sluice and had a quick lunch … and then the rain started. Not just a sprinkle, but a full on drenching downpour. If I was home and going about my daily business, I’m sure I would have been annoyed, but I actually thoroughly enjoyed myself. It wasn’t too cold and it was too ridiculous not to laugh. We thought it would only take about 30 minutes to get back to the apartment but it ended up taking us 1.5 hours. Truly a memorable and bonding experience. 😂
We finally made it back, changed and hopped in Holly’s car to meet Koben at the Brussels train station. Koben felt like his new school wasn’t a good fit and many of his credits didn’t transfer, so decided to take the semester off and do a careful and thorough search for a new college. Being a bright and resourceful person, he realized he could do that just as easily in Europe! And of course he missed us and could see what a great time we were having. 😊Casey and I were super happy to have him join us and we’ve been having a great time since.
So we finally made it to Holly’s house in Merdorp, a tiny rural town in Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium. It was great to see the kids and meet her husband finally.
The next day we went to Bastogne to visit a museum and memorial about the Battle of Bulge but I think that’s a story for another day. I’m actually writing this on my phone from the Camino de Santiago. My legs are spent for the day so it’s the perfect activity from my bunk! I hope the formatting comes out ok, this’ll have to do for now. Anyway, thanks for reading and I love your comments and feedback. xo