Where Brugge is:
- Get a map.
How to get into and out of and around Belgium:
- Thalys. The Belgian high-speed train. Belgium is too small to need high-speed to get around it. The trains exist to get you in and out. Book first class in advance and save money. First class comes with food and beverage that, outside the train, would cost up to half your ticket price.
Lunch with Thalys
- Any other train, if you like moving slowly and don’t feel like eating or drinking for some reason. Or the Thalys doesn’t go there when you want to go there.
- Well, it’s not that big a country anyway.
- I really don’t see why you’d want to drive. What’s relaxing about that? Also, beer. This is Belgium.
Things to do in Brugge:
- Beer. Germans made beer pure; Belgians made beer interesting.
- Look around.
- Take photos.
- Some other food who cares French fries or something with one of the eighty-three sauces you can put on it maybe a sausage too if you must.
How to get around in Brugge:
- Walk. The old cute part is not very large. The streets are medieval-style: stone, not all that wide, pedestrians and vehicles often mixed together watch where you’re walking and what’s coming at you there are cars and they go fast
- Local bus. Good to get to and from the train station. Goes on the same streets as you walk on. Somehow manages to go in both directions on a street not quite wide enough for one.
- Bike. Stay at a hotel that has bikes. Bike in the park along the canal that rings the oval heart of town. Bike up and down the streets. Pro tip: when a sign says Uitgezonderd it means “excepted” – so if the sign is a No Entry or One Way sign and it has a picture of a bike and it says Uitgezonderd, that means you can go that way even though the cars can’t. Oh, by the way, watch out for the cars holy cow.
Follow that woman. She will lead you to beer
- Take a horse carriage if that sort of thing turns you on and you have the money flopping around and you forgot you were going to buy beer and chocolate with it.
- Drive? Not. Don’t do it. Locals blast through in their cars. You are not local. There are canals and stone walls and people. And you will be drinking a lot of beer.
What to see in Brugge:
- Look, dude, it’s an outrageously cute medieval town. Bring a camera. You’ll only be taking the same pictures as one hundred sixty-five other people today, but you’ll want pictures to remember it by, especially if you drink all that beer, and to prove to other people that it exists.
Congratulations! You are the 5,783,624th person to take this picture. The slight tilt gives an authentic impression of squiffiness
- Yes, Brugge and Bruges are the same place. We call it Bruges but that’s the French name and they all speak Flemish (Dutch) there so I prefer to call it Brugge, which also allows me to surreptitiously clear my throat on the gg, because that’s how you say the gg. But if you say Bruges people think of that movie.
They only take the plastic off when company is coming over
- OK, you want specifics? See the churches. See the streets. See the canals. See the bridges over the canals. That’s what the name of the place comes from, the Flemish word for “bridges.” Walk walk walk walk. Bring a map or you are doomed, even though you can see the Belfort tower on the market square from many places in town. Seeing it and getting to it are different things.
Brugge is canal retentive
- The inside of a brasserie.
- Chocolate shops. These are easy to find. Simply start walking. You will see several soon enough. If you don’t succeed, go to the market square and follow a horse-drawn carriage. You will pass some. Watch where you step, these are real horses, with asses behind them… sitting on the carriage, driving.
- The inside of another brasserie.
What to eat in Brugge:
- The little dish of cheese they bring with the beer.
- Frites, maybe from a truck in the market square, doused with a sauce you would never have thought of putting on French fries but is good. Curryketchup? Samurai? Andalouse? All of the above? 50 cents each.
- Seriously, did you skip the part about beer? Have a sausage. Whatever.
- Yes, of course they have restaurants. Are you there to eat or are you there to drink beer?
What beer to drink in Brugge:
- Tripel Van de Garre. This is the house beer of Brasserie van de Garre. It is sweet with lemon notes and a lasting ring of bitterness around the back of the tongue. It comes with a big head. It is 11% alcohol. They limit customers to three each. You get to Brasserie van de Garre by going along Breidelstraat just off the market square, through a little doorway off the south side, and down a rough cobbled alley. This alley is a sobriety test. If you can’t make it to the brasserie, you’re done for the evening. If you’re in the brasserie and can’t make it out, well, shucks.
Abandon all sobriety, ye who enter here
- Anything by Gulden Draak. Nice, caramelly, and strong.
- Anything by Boon if you like sweet fruity beers. Kriek means “cherry,” by the way. Do not expect the fruity beers to be strong.
- Definitely have a lambic. Anyone’s lambic. Lambic is made by sticking the wort (liquid) up in the attic and throwing open the window and letting the local airborne yeast get it going. Look, you’re not in Germany. Belgian beer is Saturnalia for your mouth.
- Gueuze. Heh heh.
- Oh, did I mention that gueuze is really sour? I gueuze I forgot. Well, it is. And super interesting. You just ordered one and you can’t finish it? Fine, give it to me, I’ll finish it for you.
- Literally anything else that looks interesting. Especially if it’s on tap. Unless the bartender makes a little face when you ask about it.
Tripel van de garrulous.
What to buy in Brugge:
- Don’t bother with clothing unless you have a pressing need. It’s the same as everywhere else and no cheaper.
- Don’t bother with trite souvenirs unless you have friends who really like them, in which case go ahead, there’s plenty to be found.
- Chocolate, obviously! Some for you, some for your friends, and some for you.
- Yes, beer. Buy some bottles in a store too, for when you get back to your hotel.
Our hotel room
Where to stay in Brugge:
- Well, we stayed at the Adornes Hotel, and it was nice, we would go back. Good breakfast too. Yes, yes, OK, we had real food at breakfast, cold cuts and fruit and cheese and pastries and muesli and tea and juice. Then we went cycling on free hotel bikes and then we went beering.
Before beer and bike, breakfast
- If you want to look at other options, go on TripAdvisor. Look at the reviews. Make sure to look at the pictures. If many of the guest pictures of a hotel feature a steep, narrow, long staircase, that means you will have to drag your bags up and down it. Our hotel had an elevator, although you had to cower at the back as though hiding from a hitman or you would interrupt an electric eye by the door and it would stop.
Whether Brugge (Bruges) is like that movie:
- Minus the hitmen. I think.
- And the dwarf.
- Have another beer, you might see them anyway.
I’d like you all to meet Miss Chievous.
She’s got a lot of fun to give us.
With eyes so wiley and mouth so devious,
She’ll trick you to thinking she’s Miss Chievious
(She isn’t now, though you should know
She had that name centuries ago).
She’s a little imp, a sylph, a sprite,
A naughty mistress of delight;
When it comes to fun that could end in grief,
She’s the boss-girl – she’s Miss Chief.
It’s Friday evening and you’re bored stiff?
Just wave a little handkerchief,
Put on your tail coat and your waistcoat –
Or kevlar vest, and grab your mess kit –
Her boat to fun’s docked at the quay.
She’ll teach you to be wild and free!
She’ll have you dangling on a gunwale
Quaffing Cognac with a funnel,
Held inverted by a boatswain
Mostly naked till half frozen;
Sneaking peaks and stealing victuals –
Blancmanges and peanut brittles,
Caesars spiked with sauce from Worcester –
Then she’ll say, “Come meet my sister.”
If your tongue is free from injury,
Just wait till she comes out in… lingerie!
For that’s how she breeds fascination:
She ever foils your expectation.
If you make your chief Miss Chief,
You’ll end up hanging from a cliff
And see Miss Chievous just above it…
But mark my words, boy, you will love it.
I encourage you to read this through for yourself first. But you may thereafter watch this video of me reading it, if you wish:
My latest article for TheWeek.com is a quiz. It’s a really hard quiz (but also fun):
But after the quiz I explain just why it’s so hard to tell them apart. So do it… and live long and fill that prescription!
its international punctuation day so ive given punctuation the day off after all on mothers day were supposed to give mothers the day off right im also giving capital letters the day off because why not they can go and have a nice lunch with the punctuation marks
i have recently talked about how much less useful the apostrophe is than we generally believe it is i would not say the same about other punctuation marks nor capital letters although people often have a very hard time getting capitalization rules straight
to celebrate id like to present another poem from my book songs of love and grammar please buy it or ill think you dont like me
i met a woman young and fair
who liked her skin to feel the air
now im not wedded to convention
but i felt some apprehension
when i got to know her better
and she sent me this short letter
it is time that i should tell
i keep my text au naturel
i know that this will sound uncouth
but i believe in naked truth
in every place and situation
shed the chains of punctuation
doff the clothes of upper case
and stand revealed on white space
now i dont mind it being nude
but naked text at first seemed crude
however now its plain to see
that form and sense are both more free
and so we read our morning papers
sprawled in bed we serve up capers
in the kitchen we grow flowers
in the garden we take showers
in the bathroom we go hiking
on the mountains its our liking
to go swimming every day
in the pond in a cafe
sip a coffee or just run
on the trail our life is fun
my only cause for consternation
is some miscommunication
if my lover should insist
on writing on the shopping list
get some mustard greens and tea
do i buy two things or three
and now i have this little note
that concerns me and i quote
darling i think love is great
with others i would hesitate
to give my all to none but you
i feel open can you too
as i read it twice im guessing
if shes offering her blessing
to monogamous relation
or some other situation
its one thing when going shopping
now im faced with chamber hopping
in this textual revolution
can i find a real solution
My article this week for TheWeek.com is on dashes – the title is rather provocative, but the text is useful:
To go with it, I present another poem from my book Songs of Love and Grammar:
My boyfriend is the dashing type.
He writes – whips off – with vim – and hype.
He goes – he comes – cycle completing –
and yet – I feel – he may be cheating.
Last week he sent a note – “Dear N –
I hope – so soon – we join – again!”
But then – missent – another too –
“Dear M—can’t wait—to meet—with you!”
From N – to M—his life’s a whirl!
He’s dashing—yes – from girl to girl!
I think I should have picked a man
with more breath & attention span.
I’ll find & marry someone bland
who’ll come & stay with ampersand.
My latest article for TheWeek.com is about the generic names for drugs and where they come from:
Inspired by the topic, I made a video for your entertainment:
Sometimes in the tall grass of your text you will find – or insert – subtle interruptions, like panthers gliding through, making momentary disturbance and then leaving all as before: places where the author may slip little side theses between pairs of parabolas to set them apart from the parent clause. Asides, in short.
A parenthesis is an aside: it is something put in beside. The word parenthesis was assembled in Greek from παρα para ‘beside, around’, ἐν en ‘in’, and θέσις thesis ‘placing’. Originally, parenthesis (singular) refers to the aside itself, the text that is indicate by a shift in vocal tone, a turning away of the head, a setting apart in the text, before a return to the tone, position, or flow as before. When the practice came about of setting it apart with these curves ( ), the entire assemblage was first called a parenthesis, but since the bumpers travelled in pairs it just made sense, ultimately, to refer to them in the plural. And the plural in this case is a Greek-derived plural: just as we say theses rather than thesises, we say parentheses.
Or you could just call them panthers if you think you could get away with it. They do have that sleek, sometimes predatory nature. Allow me to cover parentheses in greater depth with a poem from my book Songs of Love and Grammar (available at lulu.com or amazon.com; also available as an ebook from the same sites).
Parentheses: cradled hands holding your message,
neatly bestowing a soft little blessage
(so much more peaceful than the visual rackets
that may be created by using square brackets).
They’re a velvet ink bag to soften hard words
(or a little surprise gift, loaded with turds).
Say your friend (a co-worker) sends you an email
suggesting (or foisting) an unattached female –
a little blind date (or myopic at best)
who’s eager to meet you (or willing when pressed).
Are you free (it’s been set up) on Friday at 9?
You can meet (if she shows) at the Savoy to dine.
She’s heard all about you (it goes without saying)
and she says you sound nice (she’s been told that you’re paying).
So you put on your suit (Goodwill, $10.98)
and comb down your hair (not much work) for your date.
She’s awaiting, with perfume (or bug spray) anointed,
and she seems quite demure (probably disappointed).
You order some drinks (loosen up things a notch);
her tastes are refined (she takes single-malt Scotch).
You make conversation (one word at a time);
you find she’s quite eloquent (just like a mime).
You think that she’s pretty (the drink’s kicking in),
and she smiles dreamily (she has moved on to gin).
The food comes (at last) and it’s simply divine
(like food offered to gods – burnt and sprinkled with wine).
Your date has filet mignon (charcoal briquette);
you went for the chicken (to stay out of debt).
For dessert, it’s Napoleon (from water loo)
and the chef’s special (leftover) tiramisù.
The mood is romantic: you look in her eyes
(or, anyway, somewhere ’twixt forehead and thighs).
You feel that she’s warmed to you during the meal
(it’s the closeness that comes from a mutual ordeal).
You call for the cheque and slap down your gold card
(two full meals and twelve drinks, tax and tip, damn that’s hard).
You offer to walk her home (can’t hurt to try);
she accepts (she’s afraid she’ll fall over, that’s why).
When you get to her door, you make as to kiss
but she blushes and turns (she’s afraid she would miss).
But the evening ends well – witness plans that you make
to talk in the morning (she’ll nudge you awake).
Ah, parentheses – they let you keep your composure
and charm (while still offering total disclosure).
A word such as by is really too basic and multifarious to do a tasting of the usual sort on it. Instead, I present a poem – another from Songs of Love and Grammar.
Joined by fate by April
Last fall I was hit by a stop sign
by a truck that failed to stop;
the driver was caught by a red light
and sent off to jail by a cop.
I was taken away by an ambulance
and laid by a nurse in a bed
in a hospital built by a river
and by morning was back from the dead.
I was kept in a room by the river
by the nurse to heal and stay.
I was seen by my bed by the window
by the nurse twice every day.
I was healed by the power of beauty:
I was struck by the nurse’s face
and blown away by her lovely lips
by the time I left that place.
The nurse was known by April
by friends and by people about
and, by George, she was called by the next month
by me to ask her out.
By April she had been courted
by me for half a year
and by then it was time for a ring
to be given by me to my dear.
We were wed by a tree by a lake
by a hill by the moon by a priest
and the joining by God was feted
by the stars by our friends by a feast.
Now I’m joined in my life by April
and by fate we will never be parted,
and my wall is bedecked by the stop sign
by which this all was started.
By the wall a cradle’s been placed,
and by April all will know why:
by and large, my April’s grown pregnant,
and we’ll have a child by and by.