Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 1920

Stamps on her passport

Up at 5-30 - luggage ready at 6 - breakfast 6-15 and off at 7-30 for Dover. Fine view of Buckingham Palace and the Marble Arch where the Horse Guards are kept on duty. We passed fine orchards and gardens and the Chalk Cliffs of Dover. The island was named Albion from the white cliffs. We remembered the description of the ride from London to Dover as given in Tales of Two Cities and realized the changes that have taken place.

We were all expectancy when we reached Dover. Our Passports must be examined, and a permit secured to go aboard our vessel. Besides it was the English Channel and who has not heard of the terrors and agony of mind in crossing the Channel? We expected to see water come down the smoke stack!

But the weather man smiled! A bright sun, blue sky and calm waters was our portion and we had not one minute of discomfort. Went below and partook of a good dinner and everything tasted good. Then back to our chair on upper deck. How we do cross imaginary bridges that we never find! I surely crossed this one many times. Much of the time we were in sight of shore and excitement ran high as we neared the dock of Ostend, Belgium, our landing place. Giving up our landing permits, we are in the Customs House, where we have our first real glimpse of a foreign country. Foreign people, foreign speech, foreign dress, and foreign ways. Our first impression is of the great physical strength of the men working at the dock. Some of the boxes and trunks they lifted were better fitted for a horse.

Soon we are taken to our train which is to carry us to our destination, which is Bruges. The train proved to be a very fine German one which had been given to Belgium under the conditions of the Armistice.

Reaching Bruges we are taken to Hotel Du Sablon, owned by Belgians, but catering to American tourists. We soon learned that this hotel had been the German Headquarters during the war - that 70 German officers had been quartered here, how the women were made to cook for them and the men to dig German trenches. The beautiful dining room, with polished floor had contained horses, goats, chickens, etc., and required weeks of hard work, after the Germans evacuated, before it could be made clean.

Perhaps the one thing in Bruges, that I most wanted to see was the old Belfrey, built in 1280, and made memorable by Longfellow. -

“In the market place of Bruges

Stands the Belfrey old and brown;

Thrice consumed, thrice rebuilded

Still it watches o’er the town.”

From our window, we had a good view of the Belfrey, and with much interest we listened to the chimes (40 bells) that rang out every 15 minutes, day and night. They were not very musical to our tired ears at night, but it did not matter, for I never heard them. It is a great advantage to be a good sleeper on such trips as this. I am not sure whether the beds were so much better than the ordinary ones, or whether it was because we were so tired, that we slept so well, but we always woke refreshed and “good as new.”

We had a turn through some of the streets and glimpses into the windows of the funny little shops before we retired for the night, even if we were tired. This happened to be the time of their Annual Festival or Fair called the Kirmess. I have read how these people, whom we find to be a combination of simplicity and shrewdness, in wooden shoes, dance upon the village green etc. during the Kirmess, so we went. But we found a scene, much as we would see in America. Merry-go-Round, Fakirs, Magicians, circus performers, freaks and a wheezy Calliope. So we did not tarry long.

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