In Bruges

This is our €15 per night pied-à-terre in the centre of, I’m certain, the prettiest place I’ve ever visited with the boat. The plan was to stay a few days. Then a month. The current thinking is to forget the Burgundy build altogether and remain for ever after. The hot cherry & dark choc waffles at Chez Albert have already been seamlessly incorporated into our diet as a fourth square meal of the day.

The harbourmaster runs a pretty tight ship (no pun intended). We all moor facing the same way, bin bags must be stickered and we’re to fill in the gaps pronto when other boats move off. I like the efficiency and order of it all. The whole city runs like this.

There’s also a charmingly inverted vehicluar pecking order. When we’re rattling around over the cobbles on our bikes, it’s gratifying to note car drivers courteously giving way. Segregated lanes and even separate cycle traffic lights make it even easier to two-wheel here. And check out the bike storage at the train station (above), with nearby Ghent’s park parking (also, above) just as well-used and accommodating.

There has been a lot of time to eat and drink and read. The Moroccan place on Hoogstraat more or less takes care of the first two by itself. Book-wise, Tom Fort’s Channel Shore for some research, and then Alexander Masters’ and Simon Garfield’s great diary reads: A Life Discarded and A Notable Woman respectively. The latter has added booksellerly appeal because its subject, Jean Lucey Pratt, ran a local bookshop for 25 years until the early ’80s. There’s some lovely snippiness between her obvious passion for the job and (most) customers. On Sunday, 23rd August 1959: “‘It is a struggle, isn’t it?’ said accountant K., for once sympathetically, as he surveyed last year’s figures with me. ‘You need a bigger shop,’ and suggested little sidelines such as tobacco, sweets and stationery. Oh God help me! I will not descend to that level.”