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On Being Boring

I moved from London to Brussels with my husband nearly 10 years ago. When I told people we were moving, the news was greeted with bemusement: why did we want to move to a city that was possibly the most boring place on earth? Ten years later and I can honestly say that I've had more fun here than I ever did living in London. It might not be the most exciting city in the world but it is a fantastic place to live. It is full of hidden treasures that you probably never get to see as a tourist: wonderful shops, amazing food, great museums and galleries, beautiful architecture, a forest (yes, a whole forest), and so much more... And if that doesn't convince you, well, get on a train and you could be in Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne or, yes, London in no more than a couple of hours... Which other city can you say that about?

In Bruges

A visit to Bruges, with Sir Ralph of the Nardell who honored us with his presence for a few days over the holidays. Now, you’ll have to forgive me because, since being given my iPod back in October, I’ve barely picked up my big camera, so I was a bit rusty. I tried to warm up with some pictures of the train station. Unfortunately, without a timer and a long-enough exposure time to blur all the people, you get… well… people in your shots. Still, I’m a fan of the symmetry and curvy lines.I’ve been to Bruges before – it would be embarrassing if I hadn’t after 10 years in Belgium – but I don’t think I’ve ever taken a camera before. I certainly never noticed how pretty it was before. I must have gone blind-folded. Or maybe Ralph just makes everything look better ;-b Unfortunately, no-one told Bruges Ralph was going to be there with his camera so they didn’t clear out all the tourists before his arrival. And hellzapoppin there were a LOT of tourists. But like hundreds of thousands of them. And I do not like a crowd. Especially not one that ruins a pretty picture. So I took lots of pictures of side streets and roofs. There were tourists everywhere, but even they couldn’t get onto the roofs.See, look: side streets…… and roofs.And sunshine flare. Because despite the fact that it felt like my arms were going to fall off from the cold, the sun did come out and shine a little bit.Look: more flare… And more roofs (did you notice the sparkle of light on the lamp-post? I know, I liked that too).When I win the lottery, I am going to buy this building so I can tell people I live in a house the color of strawberry ice-cream. But I might have to move it out of Bruges, away from the armies of militant tourists.In the following picture, we’ll be using flare to wash out and distract from the constant stream of tourists thronging the banks of the river. Look at the pretty light! Ahhh…Oh! More river shots! That’s another place there are few tourists on a freezing cold winter’s day: in the water. Yey! I can guarantee you though that as I was taking these, I was been pushed and nudged on all sides by crowds of people taking exactly the same pictures. All except Ralph that is who will have stood somewhere really clever and got a really unique shot. He’s good at photography like that.And finally… Ta-da! The tower the guy jumps off in In Bruges. Quite how he managed to “land” in the square is a mystery though, since the tower goes out on the way down. But who am I to question the laws of Hollywood physics?Because Ralph was a guest of honor, we couldn’t take him just anywhere for lunch now could we? Only the finest of fine Belgian cuisine would do. Chips it was then. You’re welcome, Ralph.Another shot of the river from the same spot as before, but maybe an hour later and with less sunlight to hide the tourists… And my favorite shot of the day (although not technically the best): Charlie rocking out to Bach (played on the accordion – and the crowd went wiiiild).We walked and walked and walked that day. Charlie and Amélie walked their little legs off in the cold, with barely a complaint. We wanted to avoid the worst of the rush-hour out of Bruges for our return journey since we’d been some of the last people to get seats on the train on the way out and the idea of having to make my poor exhausted kiddos stand all the way back home in a crowded carriage was not a good one. We got to the station early and had one of the most delicious coffees ever (I don’t think I’ve ever needed a warm beverage quite so much). Then, when the train came, Amélie magically spotted a set of four unoccupied seats so we rushed on and snuggled up. I think we all immediately turned bright pink from the warmth (Amélie’s cheeks are not photoshopped in the picture below. If anything, I think they were even rosier in real life). By the time the train pulled out of the station about 10 minutes later, it was packed with people standing between the seats all along the carriage. We were very lucky.And then we were home. Back at the station and back to my poor attempts at something a bit different. Again with all the annoying people? Did no-one get my memo to clear the ticket hall? Tsk.Film fans: add necessary joke about Bruges and fairytales here. I’m going to bed. Goodnight!

6 January 2013 - 12:50 AM raph (dah) - I am sitting here smiling like a crazy person. I remember standing right next to you as you took so many of these and thinking "i can't wait to see what she sees." SO love them all, Cass! The flare, the light, the adorable streets and the &^%$ fairytale-like quality of *&^% Bruges! You captured it all, and I'm so lucky to have experienced this day with you all. THANK YOU. p.s. SO LOVE that Charlie rocking out shot, and of course Amelie's rosy cheeks! And that first one of her taking your photo! Awesome, you.

6 January 2013 - 7:17 PM Angie - Bruges looks fabulous - even with all those pesky people. It looks like you all had an amazing day out! There is nothing, NOTHING like the powerful feeling of smugness you feel when you've bagsied the prime seat/s on a train! Well spotted, Amélie :)

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