Wednesday 27 December 2023

A year is just a drop in time

It seems that time has been running away from me again. It simply beggars belief that I'm already half-way through my Christmas break.

So far, the days have had more than just a hint of indolence. The latter, however, was mostly of the forced variety due to a nasty but thankfully short-ish head cold which joined forces with the weather in throwing a spanner in the works on Christmas Day in particular.

All of this was still in the future on Saturday the 9th of December, so let's cast our minds back to that day. Although, not having made much of a journal entry for that day, there isn't a lot I can tell you about it apart from the fact that it was another dark, dismal and utterly wet day. 

We were able to nip outside to make outfit photos between showers, though, so that I can at least show you what I was wearing.

This navy fit and flare dress with its green and sky blue abstract motifs - I've never been able to determine what they are supposed to be exactly - hadn't been worn for far too long and was shouting the loudest when I opened my wardrobe's doors.

At my waist I added a green fabric belt which used to belong to another dress, and threw a green Dralon and wool blend cardigan on top, to which I pinned an elaborate blue flower corsage. 

Obviously, I was wearing a pair of matching opaques, while further accessories included a green wooden Les Cordes necklace (charity shopped) and a lime green Miracle brooch (flea market find).

We weren't in the mood to hit the charity shops, so it was to be a day of gentle pottering and starting a new book which had been languishing in my TBR pile since Summer. 

Bought in a Shrewsbury bookshop back in June, Gone To Earth was written by local author Mary Webb and published in 1917. Its protagonist, Hazel Woodus, is the daughter of a Welsh gypsy and a crazy bee-keeper, and is happiest living in her forest cottage in the remote Shropshire hills. Its prose is very atmospheric and lyrical and its subject a magical yet chilling story of fear, desire, love and violence, both spiritual and physical, and inevitably ending in tragedy. I loved it although it was by no means an easy read.

At first glance, the weather gods seemed to be on their best behaviour on Sunday, the sun having done away with the eternal gloom when we drew the curtains. 

We were up early-ish as we had plans. But first, let's get dressed for the day ahead. Helped by Bess, of course, who was basking in the rays of the low December sun streaming in through our spare room - a.k.a. the blue room and doubling as dressing room and study - windows.

First outing for the greyish brown and orange Trevira dress I found at Think Twice back in September.

There's a tiny bit of green in its pattern too, which I took as the lead for my accessories. Both the beaded necklace and the semi-elastic belt with its gold-tone lion's head buckle were charity shopped, the latter only a couple of months ago. The swallows-in-flight brooch is modern, bought in Cardigan during one of our Pembrokeshire holidays.

My Marigold yellow cardigan is one of my charity shopped Zoë Loveborns and, if I remember correctly, the tan leaf brooch I pinned to it was a flea market find. On my feet, my comfortable tan No Stress lace-up ankle boots!

And then we were off, picking up our friend Inez along the way, the sun still very much in evidence and adding sparkle to the raindrops which were lingering on our car's side mirrors.

Our destination for the day: the December edition of our beloved indoor flea market in Mechelen.

Admittedly, we hadn't been there since early Spring, and for various reasons had missed the first two editions of the new season which started in October.

We were delighted to see that there was a good mix of stalls, which we browsed to our heart's content, exclaiming over the wonderful and often curious items on offer. 

If in need of a hot water bottle, there was a choice between a rubber heart-shaped one or an old-fashioned ceramic bed warmer ...

I swooned over the feathered green hat and marvelled at the collection of eye-wateringly expensive ammonites.

The box of diminutive pink bathroom furniture and choice of tiles had sisters in many different colour options and must have been a travelling salesman's samples. If money and space hadn't been an issue, I might have been tempted to buy them all!

I was briefly considering to buy the poor guy in the centre as a companion for Idina, but I think she might have turned up her nose at him ...

With so many aisles of stalls to browse, we interrupted the serious business of rummaging for a round of rolls washed down with old-fashioned filter coffees!

Doesn't Inez look gorgeous in her turquoise dress! It came from a charity shop in Welshpool, but as I was never wearing it, I gifted it to her.

And now, without further ado, let's have a look at the things which did come home with us!

The small hanging kitchen cabinet - it only measures 50 x 30 x 15 centimeters - needs a good clean and a bit of TLC but will fit a little corner in our kitchen perfectly.

The small black lady's head and the wooden and papier-maché shop dummy both came from Rita's pitch, while the 1930s German ceramic biscuit jar came from a random stall.

I'd spotted the head plaque on the left on Tanja's Facebook page last month and was delighted when she told me it hadn't sold yet and that she would put it aside for me. Both she and the lady with the polka-dot headscarf picked up from a random stall will be joining the wall of heads above the mantelpiece in the blue room!

The end of year madness at the office continued in the year's penultimate working week. When my boss asked me whether I thought a certain order would still be shipped out before the Christmas holidays, I told him I needed a crystal ball to reply to his question. Having a great sense of humour, he sent me a fortune teller cartoon in return, which in my turn prompted me to stage this photo with the office crystal ball. Because, yes, we do have one of those: it is in fact one of a pair of massive glass door knobs which used to be in my colleague's 1960s apartment when she bought it. Apparently, she didn't like them or the doors they were on, and donated them both to me. 

While Inez and me were having our usual mid-week cappuccino catch-up at the Think Twice coffee shop, we were surprised to see that one of their sales was in full swing. What's more, prices were down to € 4 already, so that we decided to have a quick peek. Well, what can I say? We both made purchases, mine being a groovilicious velour blouse and a funky jumper!

Then Friday the 15th of December rolled along. It was a cloudy day but dry for once, the mercury still flitting around the 10°C mark. 

I had to go in to work, but thankfully only for half a day, the afternoon presenting the perfect opportunity to put up our tree.

After 20+ years, assembling our faithful faux fir has become a doddle, particularly when you've got a feline helper. Remembering last year's shenanigans, we weren't all that much surprised when she climbed into it less than a minute after we'd put in the lights! Can you spot her among the branches in the photo on the bottom right?

Later that week, I shared the above photo with Unco-Jerry, the animal shelter we adopted her from, who promptly put it on their Facebook page. Wouldn't you know that the little minx got well over 140 likes?

Fast forward 12 days later, and she has only climbed into the lower reaches of the tree two more times and accidentally dislodged only one ornament. We are keeping our fingers crossed that one of these years we might be able to use our vintage and heirloom ornaments again, but for now we are limiting ourselves to mainly wooden and fabric ones. 

I might or might not publish another post before the year is up but in case of the latter, Jos and I already wish you all a happy and healthy 2024. May all - or at least some - of your wishes come true!

Thursday 21 December 2023

Humdrum weeks

Back in April 2020, just a couple of weeks into Belgium's first lockdown, I decided to put down my thoughts, feelings and fears into a journal. Something which I hadn't done since my teenage years. Fast forward to today, and my journal is still going strong. Well, perhaps the latter is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is still alive, even if at times all I'm jotting down at the end of the day is a quick recap of what I've been up to.

Nevertheless, my journal has been a lifesaver when it comes to blogging. My working weeks tend to be a bit humdrum, particularly when the darkest days are upon us, with one week segueing into the next without much to distinguish one from the other. Without my daily journal entries they would all become a bit of a blur.

My entry for November's final Monday mentions that it was dark and rainy all day, the atrocious weather making it feel quite a bit colder than the 7°C the mercury had insisted on climbing to.

On my way home, the windows of the tram had misted up, the condensation conspiring with the rivulets of raindrops which kept streaming down them in blurring the view. I had to keep wiping them so that I wouldn't miss my stop, and then made a run for it to the car park where Jos was waiting for me. 

Once inside the car, I dried my glasses and removed the beret I was wearing, putting it in my lap. It was only the next morning that I noticed my beret - a lovely purple mohair one - was missing and realized that it must have dropped from my lap when I got out of the car. To cut a long story short, thankfully I got it back, although the poor thing was soaking wet and looking more than just a little dishevelled after having had to spend the night out on the street. 

Tuesday's weather was in total contrast to Monday's, deliciously sunny but cold, with highs of about 4°C.

Disaster struck at the office though, as we had to contend with techie problems - a major hiccup at the cloud service we are using - which lasted all day. While we could only guess at the amount of work which must have been piling up, we couldn't do a damn thing, and as we had no Internet or even Wi-Fi, I couldn't even catch up with blogland. 

In the end, I took a longer than usual lunch break and went for a walk, during which I somehow ended up at one of the Think Twice shops where I found this gorgeous Diolen C&A blouse!

On my way back to the office, I wandered into this tranquil courtyard complete with beautiful organic ponds in which sculptures are floating. Lying at the back of a renovated historic building with a couple of upmarket shops and five luxury lofts, they are part of a posh residential estate combining historical and contemporary architecture. It's alright for some!

Wednesday brought us a mixture of sunshine and showers, with the temperature stuck at Tuesday's 4°C.

But while at the office the techie problems had finally been resolved, I'd woken up with a sticky throat and hyperactive sinuses. Thankfully, apart from a runny nose and raspy voice I wasn't feeling too bad.

My lunchbreak walk took me to yet another Think Twice shop where a Nordic style jumper and an embroidered Kangol beret were waiting for me.

On the menu for Thursday 30 November: temperatures diving towards freezing point, a pea-souper fog, what would have been my Mum's 88th birthday and the news of the passing of Shane MacGowan. I got my favourite Pogues song, A Rainy Night in Soho, playing on repeat in my head ever since.

Fatigue had caught up with me on Friday - we were the First of December by now - but unfortunately I had to go into the office, even if it was only for half a day. Joined by Bess, I spent most of the afternoon reading and napping on the sofa.

This must have done the trick as I felt completely rejuvenated on Saturday, when the weather gods had sunshine and freezing temperatures in store for us. 

Time to dress in some Winter finery, which included a burnt orange faux suede skirt with generous pockets - last year's retail buy - and a charity shopped purple and silver C&A jumper. My faux fur gilet and burnt orange beret were charity shop finds as well.

The jumper's asymmetrical collar always invites the wearing of an extra brooch, so I pinned an orange and brown beaded one to it in addition to the fluffy orange one on the jumper itself.

Making the most of the sunny day, we walked into town to run a couple of errands, while the rest of the day was spent reading and doing some gentle pottering. 

Then, in search of a burgundy faux fur gilet which has been missing since last Winter, I had the brainwave of having a look in the suitcase on top of my wardrobe. It wasn't there but, much to my surprise, it was full of vintage clothes, presumably meant for selling on my flea market stall in July 2020. As that market obviously never happened, I apparently forgot all about them. There's more, but for now the dress, jumper and blouse below have ended up where they belong, which is back in my wardrobe!

Sunday was gloomy, with sub-zero temperatures and snow in afternoon.We only briefly braved the elements for outfit photos in the passageway: the things one does for blogging!

I'm sure you'll recognize the green and off-white striped polyester knit vintage dress I found at Think Twice the other week, but let me take you through the rest of my outfit.

There's a much neglected bottle green suede jacket, a tan belt with rectangular self-buckle, my orange tiled necklace, a yellow beret and a pair of green suede lace up ankle boots, which were all charity shopped over the years.

My orange perspex ring was last year's flea market find, while the orange opaques are the only retail buy in my outfit. 

Last but not least, the hand painted vintage brooch came from Rosie's vintage and antiques shop in Bishop's Castle, snapped up on the first day of our Shropshire holiday last June.

The weather was its usual mixed and mainly wet bag in the first week of December.

By Monday, we were back above freezing point, and any snow which had the dignity to lie down in the first place had disappeared completely overnight. 

On my way to the office that morning, I stopped to take a photo of the Xmas light display on the façade of Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini's shop. The dark tower looming in the background is where I am heading: it's the Art Deco skyscraper opposite my office, whose ongoing renovations have been the bane of my office days for well over two years now.

I'm whizzing through the week before my proof-reader, Jos, tells me my post is a bit too long and winding.

Suffice it to say that it was start of the usual end of year madness at work. Oh, and I had a hairdresser's appointment during Wednesday's lunch break, hence my freshly cut short fringe!

So, let's skip the rest and go straight to Friday the 8th of December, my final Friday off of the year.

It might have been grey and rainy, but it was a good mail day!

You'll be pleased to know that I finally got the confirmation that I can start my 4-day weeks in April with an end of career time credit allowance from the government. I knew I was entitled to this but it's good to have it officially in writing! 

I was wearing some posh labels in celebration, all charity shopped obviously:

- Bottle green and off-white checked River Woods skirt, with pockets!
- Tan pleated leather belt by the Spanish Massimo Dutti label
- Orange waffle knit cardigan by Belgian label Pauline B.
- Tan lace-up ankle boots by No Stress

The dotty aubergine blouse is from Think Twice and my accessories are a mix of charity shop and flea market finds.

Tomorrow will be my last day at work before we close down for Christmas, and I'll be breathing a huge sigh of relief upon closing the office door behind me. Just the thought of not having to get up at the crack of dawn or share my commute with a horde of Xmas shopping zombies after work is pure bliss!

Now, before I sign off, here's what I found on that Friday's charity shopping spree.

The pinkish Tweed skirt is originally from Zara and a perfect companion for all three of the tops. The orange broderie anglaise blouse with its ruffled yoke is from Next, the maroon long-sleeved knit containing a generous touch of Lurex is by Only and, finally, the short-sleeved pink, green, grey and white striped jumper is from Vero Moda.

Would you believe I found two more handbags? 

It was impossible to pass up the tweed shoulder bag from the Scottish fair trade label Earth Squared for the ridiculous price of € 3,90. Similar bags are priced at £45.99 on their website. The mock croc bag with its tapestry panels came home with me as well. 

My final buy was the sage green fringed scarf, a colour which was still lacking from my collection.

I'm wishing all my friends and readers a wonderful Christmas, whichever way you choose to celebrate it (or not). See you on the other side!

Friday 15 December 2023

Never cared much for November

Sadly, our little getaway wasn't nearly enough to sufficiently top up my batteries, especially since their charger wasn't solar powered. Having to return to the drudgery of the office the very next day wasn't any help either, nor was the murky and grey day we woke up to on Monday. 

On the upside, catching up on work was a doddle, as things had been rather slow during my absence. 

The monotony of my working week was briefly interrupted by a cappuccino fuelled catch-up with my friend Inez on Wednesday and a rummage at Think Twice on Thursday, when this glorious green and off-white striped polyester knit vintage dress insisted on coming home with me.

In spite of it having been a bit of a slow week, I wasn't at all ready to face a regular five-day one, so I once again dipped into my rapidly diminishing holiday allowance and took Friday 24 November off.

I am so counting down the days until the official start of my four-day weeks on the 1st of April - and that's no joke - by which time, we'll have said our goodbyes to Winter and enjoyed the first in a long string of Spring days. Well, one can only hope ...

For now, we were faced with yet another dark and dismal day in which rain played the main part.

My outfit was put together in an effort to steal its limelight, and what better way to boost one's mood on a rainy day than by wearing a favourite frock?

One of my dark floral Diolens, this cowl-necked and bishop-sleeved beauty has been gracing my wardrobe for many years. To add even more pizzazz, I picked up the orange in its pattern with my opaques, belt, necklace, ring and fluffy brooch. I found the latter lurking among my flower corsages but I haven't got the faintest idea of its origins. Whatever the case, I thought it did its job of standing out among the blowsy flower print perfectly.

The chunky orange short-sleeved cardigan is by the  Belgian Terre Bleue label and was a charity shop find in December 2021. The brooch I pinned to its shawl collar - a posy of pale pink flowers - is modern and came from Akotee, a shop selling an array of quirky things just a stone's throw from my office.

My fake snake ankle boots were a retail buy as well. They were a sales bargain from New Look when they closed down their Belgian shops at the end of 2019.

When we were making the most of the briefest of dry spells between showers to take outfit photos in the passageway, we were supervised by Bess from her perch on the kitchen table! 

There's only so much pottering and ticking off lists of chores you can do on days like these so, after lunch, we hopped into our car for a trip to the charity shops. Or rather shop, singular: we only visited the three-floored one in the neighbouring town of Duffel.

After negotiating the preparations for the Christmas market which would be taking place on Saturday, I descended the stairs to the clothing and textiles department in the basement.

It had been ages since I last found any covetable handbags and had been dutifully averting my eyes from any possible contenders due to my self-imposed handbags ban. However, I'm prepared to make an exception for tapestry ones, so the vinyl bag with its tapestry panel (top) and the modern tote bag with its Art Deco style pattern were swiftly added to my cart.

Other finds included a green Summer top with ice cream cone print by Only, a vintage orange and brown striped Dralon long-sleeved top, a handful of necklaces, a cute wooden rabbit brooch and a yellow and navy patterned Zoë Loveborn cardigan.

My star find was lurking among a rail of boring and lacklustre outerwear but its zingy colours were calling me from afar. How fabulous is this vintage Ben Nevis mohair cape? Its price: a mere € 8,99. I later spotted its twin on Etsy for over € 80.

Back at Dove Cottage, Bess joined me and my current read on the sofa. She loves nothing better than making herself comfortable on our laps, which she does when getting half a chance.

The weather was marginally better on Saturday, when there were a handful of sunny spells mixed in with the inevitable showers.

And no, we did not sneak off to Shropshire overnight. With next year's Summer holiday just over six months away, it was time to book our Shropshire cottage for next June before it was snapped up by someone else.

While Jos ran an errand, I photographed Friday's finds and then swept the sitting room, hallway, stairs and dining room.

Then, after lunching on Jos's delicious homemade soup, we went on yet another charity shopping trip, this time visiting two. On our way home from the two-floored charity shop in Mechelen, we stopped for a quick rummage at the small shop in the village of Reet.

But first, let me show you what I was wearing that day.

With the temperature back into the single digits, I dug out the vintage grey, white and black plaid, 100% wool skirt. The diamond patterned blouse has some grey in it as well, and with its pattern echoing that of the skirt, it couldn't have been a better match. It was my first purchase from Antwerp's latest Think Twice shop back in February.

More diamonds feature in the vintage red and white marled wool waistcoat, which was another Think Twice find. Both my necklace and stretchy belt were charity shopped, while the brown celluloid mushroom brooch was picked up at the indoor flea market in April 2022.

Now, without further ado, let me introduce you to the catch of the day!

First up are two dresses, which both happened to be in shades of blue. Shop # 1 provided the vintage long-sleeved textured polyester one, while the short-sleeved dress with its green flower pattern and front zip found in shop # 2 is from the Belgian retro label Who's That Girl.

The two knits came from the first shop as well: the dotty grey jumper is from Mango and the chunky orange and off-white cardigan is by Who's That Girl's sister label Wow To Go.

As I completely forgot to make a journal entry on Sunday,  I haven't got the faintest idea on how I spent the day. One thing is certain, though: I must have done a spot of ironing, as the vintage Lapidus of Sweden dress I'd set my heart on wearing that day was quite wrinkled.

I picked up its tan flower pattern with my belt - a naughty retail buy a couple of years ago - and a vintage leaf brooch. My necklace and ring, with their zebra-esque stripes, were flea market finds.


With the temperature set to plummet towards freezing point in the days ahead, I dug out the fluffy orange cardigan I charity shopped back in October.

I've nearly made it to the end of November now, only a couple of days to go. But that, I'm afraid, will be for my next post.

See you soon!

Saturday 9 December 2023

A Bruges deluge

The weather forecast for our second day in Bruges was looking quite horrendous. Indeed, when we woke up on Saturday the 18th of November and tentatively lifted a corner of our bedroom curtains, our view of the rain-soaked meadow didn't exactly spur us into action. It was, in fact, all we could do to drag ourselves from the cozy confines of our bed and get ready for breakfast.

Our room being in an annex meant that we had to brave the rain which kept falling from the canopy of grey sky without any let-up. That's when we realized that our umbrellas were in the car! 

Thankfully, the breakfast room, in the main part of the B&B, is just a hop, skip and a jump away, so that we got there without getting completely drenched.

Mouthwatering aromas had lured us past the kitchen and into the breakfast room proper, where all kinds of delicacies were on offer as always. 

Apart from the usual choice of breads and croissants, to be savoured with cheese, charcuterie, smoked salmon or a selection of homemade jams, there were some freshly baked mini apple turnovers and a plate of utterly moreish vanilla pancakes. 

But we started with a healthy dose of fruit and yoghurt and glasses of homemade apple and pear juice!

We lingered a long time over breakfast, discussing our options. At Veronique's suggestion, we were all set to (re)visit nearby Loppem Castle, our previous one dating back to August 2021. It was a good thing I had the presence of mind to google the property, only to find that it had closed for the Winter season on the 13th.

Never mind, there's always Bruges, which obviously has plenty of bad weather options!

With all that dithering and lingering, it was late morning before we set off, making use of one of the B&B's umbrellas to get to our car which was parked just beyond the gate in the background.

I selected the Sunweb umbrella (not linking because they're not my thing) especially to hit home the irony of the situation.

We had decided upon the award-winning Gruuthuse Museum, which we knew would keep us occupied for a couple of hours.

I had worked out the shortest way to get there from the 't Zand car park as the rain had brought its friend the wind, which tugged at our umbrellas, which we had to hold on to fast to keep them from being blown inside out. 

For some reason, however, we almost instantly missed a turn. Well, it would have been unheard of if we hadn't got even a little bit lost, wouldn't it? Our mishap was soon redeemed by the fact that I spotted a familiar sight beyond a parking lot belonging to a meeting centre. Dodging a couple of puddles, we made our way across it, which turned out to be even more of a shortcut!

The presence of the wind also made it feel quite a bit chillier than the 8°C insisted by the thermometer, so that it was quite a relief to get into the shelter of the museum's ticket office. Being a Saturday, we were surprised there weren't any queues, so that soon our tickets were purchased, after which we made our way across the courtyard to the museum's entrance (above, top right).

This was by no means our first visit here - which was on our 25th Wedding Anniversary in February 2020 - but there's so much to see here that I'm sure it won't be our last. In fact, our visit may already have been on the cards when we found the museum guide in a charity shop earlier this year!

As for award-winning: at the annual European Museum of the Year Awards ceremony, the Gruuthuse Museum was awarded the "Portimão Museum Prize – Europe’s Most Welcoming Museum" in 2021. 

Stepping into the majestic entrance hall (below, top left), we were directed to a room of lockers big enough to hang up our coats and leave behind our soggy umbrellas.

The museum is housed in the former Gruuthuse Palace, a city palace whose origins date back to 1425.

It was restored at the end of the 19th century by the Bruges city architect, Louis Delacenserie, who created a completely new interior in neo-Gothic style. For example, he designed several lavishly decorated fireplaces. 

The fireplace in the room with its fabulous tiled floor room (above, bottom left and top and bottom right) is replete with elements referencing to Louis (or Lodewijk) de Gruuthuse (1427-1492), the palace's most famous owner.

Although it appears to be made from stone, appearances can be deceptive: parts of it are made of wood, which has been plastered and painted so that the whole structure has the look of stone.

"Plus est en vous" or "There is more in you."  It was the life motto of Louis de Gruuthuse, the man who endowed this city palace with its grandeur. That's him in the portrait on the top right.

But who was he? Also known as Lodewijk van Brugge (Louis of Bruges), lord of Gruuthuse, prince of Steenhuize, lord of Avelgem, Haamstede, Oostkamp, Beveren, Tielt-ten-Hove and Spiere and Earl of Winchester! If that isn't enough of a mouthful, he was a Knight of the Golden Fleece too.

Via inheritance and acquisition, Louis of Gruuthuse came to possess various estates with which he earned his living. A major source of income was the tax which he was allowed to levy on (almost) every imported or locally brewed tonne of beer, known as the "Gruut tax".

It didn't end well for Louis, though. Being one of the executors of Mary of Burgundy’s will when she died at a young age, he came into conflict with Mary’s widower, Maximilian of Austria. In 1485, his possessions were confiscated and he was even imprisoned in Mechelen for three years. Louis was released when the political situation changed but, when Maximilian returned to power in 1489, it put a definitive end to Louis’ career. In 1491, he was accused of treason at a chapter meeting of the Order of the Golden Fleece and fell out of favour. He passed away in his palace in Bruges before a court ruling was issued.

In the museum one can journey through three crucial periods in the history of Bruges. First of all, there is the city’s Burgundian heyday, followed by the previously underexposed period during the 17th and 18th Centuries, before finishing with the "rediscovery’" of Bruges in the 19th Century neo-Gothic style that is so typical of the city today. 

These three periods are brought to life by more than 600 exhibits, each of which has its own story to tell. 

From majestic tapestries to Gothic stained glass, from elegant wooden sculptures to refined historical lace, from the paintings of different periods to a 17th and 18th Century dinner table, set with silver cutlery and luxurious Chinese porcelain. 

If we were surprised at the lack of queues in the ticket office, we were even more - and pleasantly - surprised at having most of the museum's rooms practically to ourselves. No dodging the crowds here  which, judging from our glances through the leaded windows, seemed to insist on being gluttons for punishment by walking around rain and windswept Bruges wielding an assortment of umbrellas. 

If you're outside and look up at the Gruuthuse palace's façade from the the courtyard at the back, you might be able to spot this tiny stained-glass window (above, top left), which is known as the smallest Gothic window in Bruges. It is said that the Lords and Ladies of Gruuthuse used the small window to see who arrived by boat on the canal below. 

A contemporary stained glass design was installed during the extensive five year renovations of the museum, which took place between 2014 and 2019.

I enjoyed playing around with my camera, making a series of distorted snapshots of the courtyard and the umbrella wielding crowds.

The highlight is undoubtedly the authentic late 15th Century oratory which forms the link between the Gruuthuse Palace and the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady) next door. 

Louis de Gruuthuse had this unique late Medieval jewel built in the 1470s. From here, looking down on the church choir, he and his wife were able to follow the services conducted in the Church of Our Lady from the privacy of their home.

The chapel is finished with panelling made from the very best oak from the Baltic region, the vaulted ceiling richly decorated. Don't forget to look for the little angels that support the vaulted ceiling: almost all of them are still original, and each one has a different face.

Another must-see is the loggia or balcony on the second floor which offers one of the most iconic views in Bruges. 

The tiny humpbacked Bonifacius bridge must be one of the most photogenic bridges in Bruges. It is perpetually crowded and even on this most inclement of days there was a queue of people patiently waiting to cross it and make selfies. I wonder how many of them realize that this is actually one of Bruges' youngest bridges, built in 1910? But then again, it does blend in with its historic surroundings extremely well!

It was well past midday when we emerged from the museum onto the rainy streets of Bruges. We crossed the street to have a look at the menu of the restaurant opposite, but were horrified to see that a humble Croque Monsieur (toasted sandwich) would set us back € 18. We therefore decided to return to 't Zand and the many restaurants lining the square. Here, we had lunch at a much more reasonable price, after which we returned to our car and drove back to the B&B, picking up a baguette to have with the rest of our tapas board along the way.

The sun briefly rejoined us on Sunday morning, which made us toy with the idea of going for a walk before setting off on our journey home. However, we hadn't even made it through breakfast before the heavens opened again. Oh well, there is always next time. After all, this is only an hour away from home!

I'm leaving you now with my outfit of that day.

You've already caught a glimpse of my blue cord midi skirt, which was a naughty lunch break retail buy earlier that month. I wore it with another recent acquisition, a wide navy elasticated belt with Celtic knot style buckle. My Zoë Loveborn blouse is a favourite, picked up for next to nothing from the indoor flea market, while the chunky yellow cardigan and the orange beads were charity shop finds. 

Red cat brooch from the delightful Katshop, which recently had an unwanted visitor who smashed his bike through their window one night. All ended well, as the nasty specimen who did this thankfully got nicked, but I'm sure you can imagine the amount of work involved in clearing all the glass from the shop.

I'll be resuming my usual schedule in my next post. See you again then!