Mitch & Jill Spike Visit Fellow Section 1 Pal in Belgium
(Right) Christian VanMechelen and his lovely wife, Martine met us at the ship when we arrived in Belgium.  They got up early in the morning and drove almost completely across the country to meet us.
(Left)  Chris and Martine were wonderful hosts.  We rode with them to the beautiful city of Bruges (in French) or Brugge (in Flemish).  The language skills of the Belgian people are remarkable -- most natives speak at least two or three languages.  This is one of many canals that run through Bruges.  Chris said he had always wanted to take a canal ride here in a boat, but had never done it, so we were happy to join him!
(Right) Ah, yes... Chris felt it was worth the wait.  The weather was beautiful and the sights around this historic medieval city were magnificent.
(Left)  This was one of our favorite places to visit "Choco-Story" -- the Chocolate Museum.  The Belgians are known for producing some of the finest chocolate in the world (I can personally vouch for that), and the museum showed us the history of this important commodity that began with the Mayans and Incas.  Chris, Martine, and Jill are shown standing in front of a cocoa tree.
(Right) Another passion in Belgium is beer, and as much as we tried to become connoisseurs at the Academy, I found that there was much to learn.  Jill and I pose in front of a brewery before our scheduled tour.  "Brugse Zot" (Bruges Idiot) is the pride of the traditional brewery "De Halve Maan", whose earliest reference dates back to 1546.
(Left) Chris & Martine can be seen among our group on our tour of the brewery.
(Right) Brewing and drinking beer is an art form in Belgium.  Each brewer (there are many hundreds) has a special glass designed for their beer, and that beer is only served in its corresponding glass.  On the right is only a small sample.  Most of the ones with stems that look like a challis are produced at breweries inside of monasteries.
(Left)  When served beer in Belgium, the beer is served only in its special glass.  The beer must be at the perfect temperature, filled to a particular level, with the exact size head of foam.  The brewers label is always facing the patron when the beer is served.  I tried to get a photo of a beer when it was served, but it was hot and Jill was thirsty and, well you know...
(Right)  We ate twice while we were in Bruges (not including chocolate stops).  This was an interesting meal -- Chris and I had plates of different kinds of raw meat, then between us there was a super-heated flat stone.  We placed the meat on the stone and it cooked right in front of us.  Later, we stopped for authentic Belgian waffles (mmmmm), and French Fries (which were actually invented in Belgium!)
(Left)  I've never been very cultured, but after this Art Appreciation course, I started coming around.  The bulge around my waist is an optical illusion caused by the lighting and camera angle.


(Right)  This wasn't in Belgium, but later on in Gibraltar.  Totally unrelated, but I thought it was a cool picture.  ("What is that nasty growth you have on you?"  "That's a monkey."  "No, I was talking to the monkey.")
Many thanks to Chris and Martine for being such wonderful hosts.  This was the highlight of our whole trip.  ~  Mitch & Jill