Are you sitting comfortably? In this post, I'll continue where I left off, and tell you what we did on the third day of our little holiday back in April.
But before I regale you with an account of our adventures on Thursday, let's have a look at what I was wearing.
I'd packed a choice of short-sleeved dresses, and that day I picked out one of my beloved Diolens, in bright tomato red printed with white flowers and green dots. Additionally, it's got a V-neck and one hell of a dagger collar!
A jade green cardigan went on top (it's looking decidedly greener in real life), to which I pinned a red cat brooch, a recent Think Twice find. Further accessories were a green beaded necklace, a green ring and a white vinyl belt with an oddly shaped buckle.
I'm in my gold slippers here, a pair of ballerinas which are faithful travel companions. Obviously, I didn't wear them out that day, although the ankle boots I did wear didn't do my back any good after a day's trawling of the city streets.
Seeing these photos, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was another glorious day, but alas it was not. We took the photos in the early evening when we were back at our B&B, sitting out on our little terrace when the sun had decided to pay us a brief visit after all.
Unfortunately, it had been a cloudy and rather chilly morning we'd woken up to, and while we were having breakfast, we noticed it was raining lightly. Thankfully, it had stopped by the time we started out, but due to the weather's uncertainty, we changed our initial plans for the day and went to Bruges instead.
From the car park, we wandered through a maze of cobbled back streets, soon losing our sense of direction, until we spotted the lofty spire of the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady), which dominates the Brugian skyline with its 115,5 m high tower. Building work on the current church began in 1225, and it was crowned with its spire in the 15th Century.
Shortly afterwards, we passed a private car park on our right, with a complex of weathered brick buildings behind it, where groups of people could be seen strolling through the courtyard.
Consulting our map, I saw that this must be the Oud Sint-Jan (Old St. John) site, a former hospital, its origins dating back to the 12th Century, and the spot where one of the earliest infirmaries in medieval Europe once stood. When the hospital closed down in 1976, its spacious wards were revamped into a unique cultural site, as well as a congress and events centre.
We emerged from this peaceful oasis upon the busy Mariastraat (Mary Street) which, with the much visited Beguinage virtually around the corner, is lined with chocolate, waffle, lace and souvenir shops jostling for clientele. Here, you have to be careful not to be swept up by the never-ending stream of people crowding the pavements or be trampled under the clip-clopping hooves of the poor horses tasked with drawing the many carriages which pass this way.
Pranged between two of the streets' shops is a whitewashed gateway, ignored by most of the tourists intent on spending their money on postcards and sweet or tacky souvenirs.
Shall we go inside?
Hidden away from prying eyes and the hustle and bustle in Mariastraat is one of the 46 small groups of almshouses which can be found all over Bruges, most of them, like here, clustered around a cosy courtyard.
As good an opportunity as any to show you the teal vintage coat I was wearing, chucked into the car minutes before we left home, in case the weather turned cold. It's a good thing I did, as that day I was glad of its warmth.
Back on Mariastraat, we soon spotted a narrow alleyway between houses, which led to another group of almshouses, its courtyard entered through an iron gate in a creeper-clad wall.
Jos was wearing his warm Loden, which he too decided to bring at the last moment. Note the splashes of colour provided by his ochre trousers and orange shirt!
The courtyard backed onto a canal, from where the magnificent Sint-Janshospitaal (St. John's Hospital), which backs onto it on the opposite side, can be glimpsed and from where, hidden away behind a bank of wisteria, the tourists in the passing boats can be spied upon.
Below is a better view of St. John's Hospital, taken from the spot where Mariastreet bridges the canal.
Rather confusingly, this is a different building than the Old St. John mentioned earlier.
St. John’s Hospital has an eight hundred-year-old history of caring for pilgrims, travellers, the poor and the sick. Now it is a museum where you can marvel at the impressive collection of archives, art works, medical instruments, as well as six paintings by Hans Memling.
After braving the crowds in the epicentre of tourist-land, we neared our first destination, the enchanting Groenerei (Green Quay), whose tree-lined, cobbled quayside borders a particularly romantic stretch of canal crossed by several old stone bridges.
This has to be one of Bruges' most picturesque locations, yet, apart from those on board of the ubiquitous canal boats, there were relatively few people about.
Admittedly, we too had never made it here before, and might not have done so now if we hadn't been prompted by the lithograph by a French artist we bought at last month's flea market.
It was lunch time by now, so we made our way towards the Markt, where we once again joined the crowds. Finding ourselves a table on the covered terrace of our favourite of the tourist restaurants, St. Joris, there was an American couple who'd landed in Bruges while on a cruise seated at the table next to ours. I might have gained a fan there, as the lady positively gushed over my outfit, nodding knowingly when I told her my dress was vintage!
The thick blanket of grey above us didn't show any sign of dispersing and at some point, the sky seemed to be darkening, with a promise of imminent rain.
Still, we were determined to start a walk I'd earmarked and which would show us the quiet side of Bruges, where hardly any tourists venture, as most of them aren't inclined to leave the golden triangle of tourist attractions.
We'd hardly walked 10 minutes before laying eyes on the imposing St. Walburga's Church, the building of which began in 1619.
It is the most richly decorated church in pure Baroque style in Bruges.
Its literally dazzling interior boasts stunning architectural details and elaborately decorated church furniture.
As we entered, we could hear baroque music playing through the sound system. A sign admonished us to be quiet, so we tiptoed around the church, hardly daring to make photographs lest our shutters would make too much noise, when suddenly the silence was rudely shattered by a particularly resonating organ point, which almost literally made us jump!
Continuing on our way past the atmospheric Hansa Quarter, where the former mansions of the wealthy international merchants, who established themselves here between the 13th until the 15th Century, line the wide canals, the dark and moody clouds had increased in intensity.
The rain held off until we were safely inside the Museum of Folk Life, housed in the row of whitewashed 17th Century single-room cottages on the top left. The sign on the bottom left belongs to the traditional on-site café (which is actually what a pub is called in Belgium), and - should there be any doubts - translates as "In the Black Cat".
Looking back the way we'd arrived on this quiet, cobbled street, you can see the tower of the 15th-century Jerusalem Chapel, a jewel of medieval architecture which we must put on our itinerary during a next visit.
The museum's contents, laid out as a classroom, a milliner's shop, a pharmacy, a confectionery shop and a grocery shop, amongst others, are a feast for the eyes.
I swooned over the child sized green tapestry coat!
The tailor was not the only occupant in the tailor's shop! I wonder, is he or she the black cat the café was named after?
It had stopped raining by the time we'd gone around the museum and had a drink in the café.
However, we still had a long way to go, and my feet were starting to hurt me - I know, wrong footwear, but the ankle boots I was wearing never gave me grief before.
Anyway, we thought we'd call it a day and cut our walk short. It was still quite a trek back to the city centre and our car park, though, so we made a stop for cappuccino and cherry crumble along the way.
Now, if I haven't been able to convince you that Bruges is well worth a visit, maybe the city's official video, called Bruges in 60 seconds, will do the trick!