Sunday, September 2, 2012



this is not Edith

We took a side trip from Paris to spend a couple of days visiting our friend Edith in Belgium. Then we returned to Paris for a few days before beginning our journey south through France to the Charentes, then Midi PyrĂ©nees for a home exchange.

But now, Belgium ...

Edith lives in Knokke, a coastal resort town about a half hour by train from Bruges. We first visited her there in the great deep-freeze of December 2009. We wanted to see Bruges in the summer. The weather this trip was perfect.

Hugs, memories, renewed friendship and laughter with Monk's Head cheese and Malheur Beer!
- and we got to meet wonderful daughter Margot

I had to capture these compelling masks in Knokke.  The little face in the eye was a bonus.

A colleague of Edith let us borrow his apartment on the beach for the two nights we were there. Thank you so much, Phillippe. We hope you will come to White Rock some time so we can put you up at our (near) beach home.

this is not Phillippe

Albertstrand is the happening beach street, pedestrian and bicycle promenade.  It that is the heart of Knokke on good summer days. 

Rather unique sculptures stand out along the strand.

Bicycles prevail here, for people of all ages. One has to be very vigilant on foot to avoid getting run into by a two-wheeler, or if you are on one yourself be very adept and in focus to survive the mad bicycle traffic.

The clear coastal air on the shores of the North Sea was exhilarating.


It was a nice break from the big city atmosphere of Paris.

We were not alone with these thoughts. The Knokke beaches in summer have wide appeal. While I did not plunge into the cold North Sea, I did wade in after a very long bicycle ride on the promenade. The water was bracing. This is not the Med! 

This beach bar is decidedly European. It just does not look much like a scene from North America.

Seaside Knokke is a summer destination for Parisians and other landlocked Europeans who. In the month ofAugust they leave the cities for the oxygenated countryside and large natural bodies of water.

From Paris to Knokke was a few short train rides, about 90 minutes in all. This common mode of travel in Europe is always a bit of an adventure for North Americans. We departed Gare du Nord in Paris, to Brussels then took a connecting train through Bruges to Knokke. 

Joanne bought 1st Class tickets online at home without really intending to but the price was good and meal service with wine was better than the airplane flight to Europe.

We stopped for about three hours in Brussels to have a look around before travelling on to Bruges/Knokke.

Grande Place is a magnificent square surrounded by commercial buildings erected during the Hanseatic League of the early middle ages.

Looking up with a longer lens we see intricate details of the architecture. Look again at the photo above and follow along left to right.

The Hanseatic League was a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds throughout Northern Europe.

Each of the rooftops of these buildings represented a guild.

... and looking even closer

Before catching the next train we had to satisfy a craving. Belgian french fries with mayo, totally have to be the best. There is even a Frites Museum in Bruges.

Notice all the bicycles under the canopy. Edith met us at the station and said she could not remember when she was last here with her car. Except for the   ride to her apartment, we never used a car while we were in Knokke. 

BRUGES in the summer is like so many other European destinations in July and August: rather overrun with tourists. C'est la Vie!

Bruges is a beautiful old city, often referred to as Venice of the north because of its extensive canals and early history as an important seaport and commercial centre. Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Yes, we did the canal boat ride and we were surrounded by a riot of languages, lap dogs, cameras ... 

I tried to get a seat at the bow, but to no avail. I needed Kris' long arms to get over the heads,  so above is a sample of canal boat hairstyles.

Thirsty after the boat ride, we stopped for lunch at the Halvemoon Brewery and had a Zot beer, one of their best on tap. 

Joannes was Mother Superior in the convent here before I met her then she had a fall and became a mermaid. I rescued her when I was a sailor on the deep blue sea and we have been living happily ever after.

Back in Knokke we had an evening with Edith and her friend Phillipe from Versailles. 

We met his son and daughter, Joffre and Marie at Club Gotha

This hot spot is where you will find all the young and beautiful, the stars and wanna-bees. It was dark, loud, crowded and smoky. I guess I'd be guilty of agism by saying that I felt like I was in Star Wars bar. Joanne did not join us. She crashed early - good choice.

Paris has many faces, and for Phillipe, there really are few real Parisians. Ask a French person where they are from and they will say, Provence, or Poitiers, or Limoges ... but not from Paris. They may live there and refer to themselves as Parisians, but they are always from somewhere else.

Ahh, the cross the Parisians have to bear. The stereotypical view is that the rest of France do not care much for Parisians, and the latter are not very accepting of the former. 

We took a taxi back to the train station for our return to Paris:
the Edith walking bicycle taxi. 

Many thanks Edith for a wonderful time. we are looking forward to seeing you in our part of Canada.

For more travel photography with local information visit Gary Karlsen's website. 

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