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Bruges - Sept 18 - Days 3 & 4

A more leisurely start to the day meant we didn't make breakfast until gone 9am. Such holiday decadence. However one of the reasons we were so late was that we were dealing with the aftermath of Karen wanting the window open overnight. As a consequence we had both been bitten several times by the fiendish Belgian Mosquitoes.

Today we turned right out of the Hotel and wandered along the streets of the oldest part of the City. We saw the Swans which the City protect as supposed repentance for their killing of someone called Longneck hundreds of years ago. A nice story.

Our wanderings took us close back to the Train Station which perked Karen tremdously up as she remembered it was the location of Bruges only Starbucks so predictably we were forced to make a detour off our route to the City Centre.

Once Karens caffeine levels were back at an acceptable level we headed to the Church of Our Lady to see the Madonna of Bruges Statue that was the subject of The Monument Men film. The Statue itself is quite small and unassuming but Karen claimed she could tell it was by Michelangelo.

From here we walked to the Market Square and were delighted to find the Market in full flow. We walked around the stalls and ended up buying some bread, chicken and fruit for lunch which we ate on a bench listening to a Carillon concert being played in the large bell tower.

After this we decided to walk to the Jerusalem church which is a full replica of the original church in Bethlehem before it burnt down. However when we got there we found it is still a private chapel and they were charging to get in. I was strangely offended by this principle and refused to pay to get in. I think that churches/chapels should be open and accessible to all for free. I reasoned we would be in there less than 2 minutes and so we satisfied ourselves by walking round the outside instead.

From here we walked back to the Windmills on the River and sat and watched some boats glide past for a while. Then we strolled back into the Centre pausing at a lovely Cafe on one of the bridges to have some drinks watching the tourists whizz by on boat tours.

On the way back to the Hotel we went into the Church of the Holy Blood to see the vial that is said to contain said blood. It was all a bit strange to be honest. The church was itself was worth seeing. We had to go singularly onto a small stage to pass by the vial which was being guarded by a priest and invited to make a donation. The vial has never been opened and it is therefore said that you cannot prove it is not Holy Blood. Hmmm. There are several of these in churches around the world and I would have thought that advances nowadays in DNA testing you could at least determine if they all came from the same source and perhaps carbon date it? Karen said that this wasn't the point and it was all to do with your own personal belief system.

As we knew we had an early start the next day we decided to walk to one of the nearby squares that evening to eat. We settled upon a Pizzeria and had some excellent pizzas. Our nights sleep was again marred by the ruddy mosquitoes that got into our room again. In the middle of the night I could hear them buzzing around me and so kept putting the light on trying to kill the blighters. In the morning I had been bitten 18 times on my back alone. I therefore started the day tired and grumpy.

We had checked out of the Hotel the previous evening as we were leaving at 6.30am. This was too early for breakfast so it was a nice touch for the owners to leave a takeaway breakfast outside of our door. We walked as dawn was breaking to the Train Station and were in good time for the 6.54am to Brussels. This time it was new fairly empty new rolling stock and we arrived on time. It was a smooth and easy transfer through the Eurostar checkin. The train left onetime and we were soon whizzing back to London.

It was in London that the fun started. As part of Karens birthday present earlier this year I had managed to book some tickets to see Hamilton later this afternoon. The trouble was we had some luggage with us albeit quite small. The theatre did not have storage facilities nor it seems do the main train stations unless you are prepared to pay £25 per item. So I had booked storage near Liverpool Street through an online company called Luggage Hero. We found the location quite easily and checked it in. As you do so, you start a timer on the App. They were taking the luggage from us and got me to start the timer. As I did this they asked what time we were going to collect to which I replied 7pm. They suddenly informed me they closed at 6pm. I was flabbergasted as the web advertises a 24 hr service. So we got the luggage back and stopped the timer after 1 minute 58 seconds and was promptly charged £6. I was not happy at all (and subsequently complained and got the money refunded). Karen was also most calm during all of this especially as we stood on the street wondering what to do.

Fortunately I did have a Plan B which was another luggage storage online company which was actually cheaper but slightly further away. I made the booking on my phone and we walked to the other side of Spitalfields market and found the shop that offered secured storage facilities. This one was open 24 hrs so with some relief we left our bags.

We had arranged to meet our friend Smita for lunch at a restaurant near Baker Street and had a lovely catch up with her. I first met Smita through a supplier I used to deal with at work over 10 years ago and we have always kept in touch.

From here we made our way to Victoria to see Hamilton. The show has been so hyped that we were really looking forward to it. Now it is a terrific show, with a great story. It brings the musical genre up to date with its use of rap and hip hop styles. The performers are excellent. But is it worth all the hype though with tickets in New York exchanging hands for $20000? I'm not sure any show is worth that amount of hype.

We both however really enjoyed the show and would like to see it again sometime. I downloaded the soundtrack afterwards. It was also interesting seeing the audience who were much younger than you would expect at a musical. A lot of them were also word perfect singing along to the show. Alexander Hamilton certainly was an interesting man and someone who played an unheralded role in the foundation of the USA.

After this we went back to Liverpool Street and caught the train back to Norwich.

All in all a really enjoyable trip and one that concluded with me now voting to save Bruges if they do ever decide to flood the rest of Belgium. And for any Hamilton aficionados 'You'll be back'.

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