Week 21 – Madrid and on to Bruges

  • Saturday – we have really hit the wall. After five months of sightseeing and activity the Camino has finished us off – we are knackered. We will consider coming back to Madrid because even though we did the open bus thing today we were hot and bothered, so sat on the bus for the entire lap, hopped off, found a nice café for lunch, and went shopping in Zara.
  • Sunday was the end of the Vuelta bike race a few blocks from our apartment so all the roads were blocked off – it was just a mess, so we went no where.
  • Madrid is a beautiful city with untold to see but right now is too hot and too crowded – we have decided to cut our stay in Benehavis a few days short and come back here for a few days before we depart end November. Segovia can wait until then.
Cathedral De La Al Mudena
Palacio Real – the queue to get in was about an hour in the hot sun
About every 15 minutes the guards swap sides – it was over 30oC – no fun at all
The city has many of these beautiful 19th century buildings – not a boring glass phallus to be seen
  •  Sunday – Adrienne sat on the couch all day in her nightie and binge watched some Finnish crime thriller on Netflix – too hot, too tired – we’ll start again tomorrow. I went for a walk and found a number of “ladies” who offered me a deep and meaningful relationship – I was prepared to believe they were genuine – cynical Adrienne suggested they may have been less than pure of mind and spirit…..
  • Monday we flew to Paris and drove on to Bruges in Belgium – Spain and France are still very dry and brown – the hot summer has really drained the rural landscape. We arrived in Bruges – our B&B Antares is very modern, very spacious, and everything works – sometimes the lack of historical charm, but fast internet and a shower bigger than a dog kennel, can be rather nice.
  • Tuesday morning – sunny but our first “cold” day, (19oC), since April in NZ. We headed into Bruges armed with lots of local knowledge from our host, and it just got better at every turn. The city fathers have created a beautiful, liveable, city and we love it.
The council chambers in the market square
The bell tower in the market square made famous in the movie “In Bruges”
The bar beside the bell tower – this photo is for Fabian, Donna and Monica – The Budapest Trio were instrumental in one of the funniest nights ever here – we laughed until we cried
We did the canal boat tour – sometimes the overtly touristy stuff is really good. Bruge is called the Venice of the north, but we think it’s much better!!
In Europe they actually consider people before profit – this is an abbey in the centre of Bruge – all are invited to walk in the huge gardens and reflect quietly.
  • We walked about 10 km on the cobble stoned streets but were a couple of broken old crocks at the end of the day – travel hint – if you are walking in these old cities – never mind looking fashionable – wear good runners or hiking boots – the cobbles are tougher than the Camino on groins, knees and ankles.
  • Wednesday we went to Ypres and Passchendaele. We started in Ypres with the “In Flanders Fields” museum in the beautifully reconstructed 13th century Cloth Hall. The museum manages to convey the facts and the horrors in a way that reveals the utter pointlessness of it all, and does not glorify or denigrate the naive young men that were used as cannon fodder by both high commands.
    Ypres town hall. At the end of WW1 there were no walls higher than 6 feet, and they completely rebuilt it from photos and drawings
    We climbed the tower – almost 300 small spiral steps

    Worth the climb
  • We then went to Tyne Kot Cemetery near Passchendaele- the largest resting place for Australians and New Zealanders outside of Oz and NZ.

    3500 Kiwis became “pink mist” – too much to comprehend
  • We found Adrienne’s great uncle George Neal’s headstone. He is in the Oxford Road Cemetery near Ypres. It is a small cemetery by comparison with Tyne Kot, (12,000 graves), with “only” 853 graves, but as you will see from the photos is kept in perfect condition. He was killed in the 3rd battle for Ypres in 1918. It was pretty special as we think we may be the first family to visit in 100 years. We even found him in the archives in the Ypres museum. I don’t want to be ghoulish but the fact that he is described completely on the headstone means he was intact – many of the gravestones have the insignia “Known unto God” – this means it was just bits of flesh and bone, and in some instances the headstones are packed side by side – mass graves because the parts could not be differentiated, and no uniform identified – very sobering stuff.
  •  We placed some white roses on the headstone but there is no lack of care and attention for these souls. Our governments screw up a lot, but have got the preservation of our fallen soldiers right.
Great uncle George Neal – Died 30.1.1918
The CWGC keeps these cemeteries in beautiful condition
Oxford Road Cemetery – 1914 – 1918
  • Thursday and we both woke up feeling “back in the room” after some days of being somehow fatigued after the Camino. We headed for Damme, a small town outside of Bruges surrounded by canals and walking tracks. The weather was mild and we found ourselves in “the Camino meets the Canal du midi” – it was beautiful, but again reinforced that we do not want to be in big cities. We walked about 10 km along beautiful tree-lined canals and headed into town for a well earned beer and more reflection on our next steps. We just do not want to be in the rat-race,  the Dordogne is looking good for 2021!!

Where else could you rather be??

Adrienne was going left and right
Bike training for the locals, while we had a beer





One thought on “Week 21 – Madrid and on to Bruges”

  1. What an incredible, goosebumpy experience visiting Adrienne’s great uncle’s place of rest at the Oxford Rd Cemetery. Pretty amazing.

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