21 September 2006


While my parents were in town, Marie-Noëlle, Laurent's mum, treated us all to a night at "Alegria" by Cirque du Soleil.... It was incredible - the lights, the shows, the costumes... The most memorable act for me was that of the "snake women".... a couple of Chinese (?) sisters (?) who were able to bend themselves in ways and places that did not look humanly possible (below). It was fascinating, if but a little freaky....


We also spent time in Bruges (a famous city about an hour out of Brussels). It was lovely, although at times the horse-and-carriages and tourist boats on the canals made it feel a bit like an amusement park.

Off one of the main streets we found the peaceful beginhof. A beginhof is a little cluster of houses, centred around a garden and church, and surrounded by a protective wall. Beginhofs tend to date from the 12th Century and were originally constructed for and inhabited by a catholic order of unmarried or widowed women known as the Beguines. Basically, with the Crusades and the resulting gender-imbalances, many women found themselves without much chance of marriage and ended up establishing or joining such religious communities instead. (I'm sure that piece of trivia will come in very handy for you all).

The beginhof in Bruges dates from the 13th Century and is still well preserved. It was beautiful inside - whitewashed houses surrounding a grassy, tree-filled coutyard: A peaceful little island for the Benedictine nuns that still live there... (unfortunately I didn't have a picture of the beginhof so I've stuck one in of mum and dad scoffing their icecreams instead.... )

Although it was a nice break from dodging the other tourists on the sidewalks, we decided to get back on the streets and explore. As a warning (?) to all the chocoholics out there - in Bruges you can count on every second shop to be overflowing with pralines, white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, truffles, chocolate-dipped fruits, chocolate-covered almonds, liquer chocolates, chocolate-coated coffee beans... Life's tough in Belgium.


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