The Beauty of Bruges


A very long time ago, when I was blonde, long-haired, and underweight, my uncle proudly told me how he always gave up chocolate for Lent.  Being young and impressionable (and more than a little competitive) I thought that giving up chocolate sounded like a good sacrifice but I went a step further, I decided to give up both chocolate AND ice-cream.

If you know me at all, you know how improbable that sounds.

Fast forward a decade or so and my new wife (also my current wife, just so there is no confusion) asks me, “Why are giving up something for Lent?  You’re not Catholic!”

Up to that point, I don’t think I realized that observing Lent was a Catholic thing.  In fact, I still don’t know what the actual rules are regarding Lent…

No matter, by then the habit was ingrained.

And every year I continue to give up chocolate and ice-cream for Lent, though I readily admit to numerous lapses and several requests for papal dispensation. My worst failing is forgetting to check on the exact date of Ash Wednesday.  It’s a convenient lapse…

Which is a long-winded way of approaching this week’s image, which was captured in Bruges, Belgium, April 16, 2017.  Which just happened to be Easter Sunday.  

The end of Lent.

The day I traditionally gorge on chocolate.

Imagine surviving four weeks at home with a family that celebrates almost every achievement by eating ice-cream.  Contemplate living four weeks with a wife who calls her nightly square of Swiss dark chocolate “medicine.”  Follow that with two weeks travelling though Holland, visiting some really nice restaurants and watching so many others enjoy their chocolate and ice-cream.

Is frozen yogurt allowed?

Imagine all of that and then landing in Bruges on Easter Saturday.  In case you don’t know, Bruges is home to some of the best chocolate made anywhere in the world.  And it’s everywhere!  On every street corner.  In every cafe.  The best chocolate in the world.

I remember treating myself that Sunday morning.  I walked into a cafe and ordered a hot chocolate.  It wasn’t an ordinary hot chocolate.  It was a cup of steamed milk and a solid square of chocolate which was gradually, sensuously, melted, absorbed, infused with the milk.  And then savoured, savoured… every last drop.

Unbelievably good.

Anyway, in the brief moments when I could pull myself from the chocolate shops and cafes, I happened upon this scene, beautifully lit and reflected.  And found the wherewithal to capture it to the best of my ability.

Some days, life really is a bowl of chocolate-covered strawberries.

And some days, for six weeks starting this February 14 — two days before I leave for Tanzania — life is bereft of ice-cream and chocolate.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to need some help to make it through…

- Mike