August 18, 2017: We’re BAAAACK!

Walt and I are tired but very happy to be back aboard Braesail after two weeks of adventures in the ancient cities of Leuven, Bruges, and Ghent in Belgium, and in Amsterdam, Holland. We traveled by plane, subway, intercity train, canal boat, solar-powered train, city tram, bus, and ferry, AND on foot in Leuven (where Walt participated in two liturgical studies conferences and presented an excellent paper-with-discussion on the theology of the reconciliation of peoples), Bruges, and Ghent in Belgium and in Amsterdam, Holland. We both loved sight-seeing and wandering about in these cities, with their winding cobbled streets, colorful and diversely-decorated buildings, lush parks, towering church spires, echoing chimes, swarms of bicycles, and busy central squares, surrounded by street cafes, from which one can book tours via canal boat, bus, and horse-drawn carriage. I toured the city of Leuven by “Sun Train” and its famous Town Hall on foot; spent hours in its excellent museum; visited the square in front of the huge main library of Leuven’s Catholic University (founded in 1425); strolled by and through parks and gardens (the vast Botanical Garden is especially delightful!); and spent time in a half-dozen beautiful old churches. I enjoyed three hour-long carillon concerts that were performed in three different bell towers, attended a performance of lieder by 20th-century Belgian composers (Walt turned pages for the amazing pianist who accompanied the wonderful soprano soloist), and was privileged to hear a marvelous presentation of some of the organ music of Bach arranged for choir and a small ensemble of Baroque stringed instruments. Walt and I attended the conference worship services, shared some outstanding meals with friends in various outdoor cafes, and joined the Societas Liturgica conferees at their outstanding 50th anniversary banquet. I was able to do some music research, some recorder practicing, some reading, and some writing in the well-appointed 4th-floor walk-up apartment we rented for 10 days.

Leuven Great Market
The Round Table hotel/restaurant, the Town Hall, and St. Peter’s Church in central Leuven
Leuven University Library Square
The main library of the University of Leuven seen from the side

After our arrival in Leuven, we spent a day touring the delightful city of Bruges by canal boat and on foot before the first of Walt’s conferences,

Bruge Central Square
Central town square in Bruges

and following them we took the train to Amsterdam,

Amsterdam canals
Amsterdam canal bridges seen from a canal boat

our trip being marred by the theft of Walt’s backpack from the overhead luggage rack right above us while the train was stopped in Antwerp for about 20 minutes and we both closed our eyes and drowsed for a bit. Walt has a cable lock that he usually uses to secure the backpack, but on this trip, we had to change trains several times and he decided not to bother with it. About $4,000 worth of goods were stolen, including his laptop computer, and his passport was also among the lost items, so we had to spend time in the police office in Amsterdam and at the US Consulate near the famous Rijksmuseum (The Museum of the Netherlands) and the Concertgebow so that he could report the theft and obtain an emergency passport. We did have some wonderful times in the city, which we toured by canal boat, tram, bus, and subway as well as on foot; we attended Sunday Mass in the Oude Kerk, the oldest building in Amsterdam, and viewed most of the fascinating displays in the Rijksmuseum, the most unusual of which was a special collection of “prayer nuts,” walnut-sized hinged boxwood objects that one opens to reveal tiny, intricate carvings depicting religious scenes upon which one meditates.

Amsterdam Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam viewed from the area outside the US Consulate

As we were waiting for the train to take us from Amsterdam to Ghent, I noticed that my small black clutch purse containing my driver’s license, some cash, and all my credit cards was missing! I had had it the previous day, and must have let if fall out of my larger purse or inadvertently left it somewhere following a purchase. I was about ready to cry after all the hassle surrounding Walt’s stolen backpack that we were experiencing, blaming myself for my inattention. I cancelled my credit cards, and will go about replacing the other items after our return to Everett in about five weeks.  AAARGH!!

In Ghent, we spent quite a bit of time in St. Bavo’s Cathedral, where we were able to see and learn about the Ghent Altarpiece–the “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”–a large and complex 1432 polyptych containing 12 panels on each side that is considered a masterpiece of European art and one of the world’s greatest treasures. We visited other churches as well, saw the “Castle of the Counts,” the medieval Butchers’ Hall, the 13th-century fortress called the “Castle of Gerald the Devil”, and a large book fair, and did a great deal of walking around the city’s central squares, sampling such characteristic dishes as Belgian waffles, hot chocolate, french fries, and “Ghent noses,” nose-shaped candies with firm gel exteriors and soft gel interiors that come in various fruit flavors (blackberry is the best!).

Ghent Central Square with canal
Canal boats in central Ghent
Ghent Town Square
Ghent’s central town square

After having traveled from Ghent to Brussels to Reykjvik to Seattle to Vancouver and finally back here to Port Hardy on August 17-18, and having dealt with at least some insurance matters and replacement of lost items, I will see if jet lag will lay me low. If not, I’ll  begin to write daily blog posts once again. Be sure to read the entries made by Martin from August 3-6 when he and his friend Hans enjoyed putting Braesail through her paces!


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