The highlight of my excellent adventure was the city of Bruges in Belgium. I had never been in a city with so many well-preserved medieval buildings. The city has narrow streets with names like Blind Donkey Alley and picturesque canals with swans paddling along enjoying the sunshine. From the 12th to 15th century, Bruges was the chief commercial city of the world. All the major sights can be seen in the course of a 90-minute walk. The shopping and restaurants are exceptional.
Michelangelo's Madonna and Child is housed in the Church of Our Lady. It is the only work of his that left Italy during his lifetime. The church is exquisite.
Just as we entered, music started to play - a Gregorian chant. I had the chance to light a candle for a special intention. It was an emotional moment for many of us on the tour - complete tranquility.
Our walking tour continued around the market area and along the canals. We spent some time in Begijnhof, a convent which housed laysisters starting in the 11th century. In practice, the convent was a place where wealthy families sent daughters who didn't want to marry for one reason or another, widows and any other woman who was in some way inconvenient to have around.
This is one of my favorite pictures. We had beautiful, sunny weather for our time in Bruges.
And then there was the chocolate. My cousin and I stepped into a beautiful candy shop called Roose's Chocolate world where a gorgeous array of chocolates were on display. We spent the better part of a half hour making our order with the very patient shopgirl.
I have paid attention to chocolate all my life and I've never seen anything like what I saw in Bruges. Chocolates, each with its own flavor filling came in the shapes of mice, hedgehogs, pyramids, euros, shells, swans and frogs.
I saw some beautiful examples of lace in the window displays. I treated myself to a couple small pieces which I will treasure.